Our Collection

At the Institute’s core is the Gilder Lehrman Collection, one of the great archives in American history. More than 70,000 items cover five hundred years of American history, from Columbus’s 1493 letter describing the New World to soldiers’ letters from World War II and Vietnam. Explore primary sources, visit exhibitions in person or online, or bring your class on a field trip.

Hamilton, Alexander (1755-1804) to Francois Marquis de Barbe-Marbois

High-resolution images are available to schools and libraries via subscription to American History, 1493-1943. Check to see if your school or library already has a subscription. Or click here for more information. You may also order a pdf of the image from us here.

Log in
to see this thumbnail image

Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC00012 Author/Creator: Hamilton, Alexander (1755-1804) Place Written: Preakness, New Jersey Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 12 October 1780 Pagination: 2 p. : address ; 23 x 19 cm

A high-resolution version of this object is available for registered users. LOG IN

Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC00012 Author/Creator: Hamilton, Alexander (1755-1804) Place Written: Preakness, New Jersey Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 12 October 1780 Pagination: 2 p. : address ; 23 x 19 cm

Summary of Content: To Marbois, the secretary of the French Ambassador, who later served as Intendent of Santo Domingo and minister of finance under Napoleon, under whom he sold Louisiana to the U.S. Hamilton concludes his letter by agreeing with Marbois about America's "feebleness and temporary expedients" in military affairs; and notes that he views "our affairs in a gloomy light." Hamilton ends by mentioning rumors of a peace congress by the neutral powers at the Hague. (This may refer to the attempt by Catherine of Russia to mediate the dispute.) Place of writing supplied from Hamilton Papers.

Background Information: Notes: Syrett, Papers of Alexander Hamilton, 2: 471-72. Hamilton had written to Barbé-Marbois 17 August concerning obtaining the release from prison of Barbé-Marbois's brothers. Compare Hamilton to Milton's description of ...Hell in Paradise Lost 1. 62-64: "…yet from those flames / No light, but rather darkness visible / Serv'd only to discover sights of woe…."
Signer of the U.S. Constitution.
See More

Full Transcript: In my absence from Camp, the Commissary of Prisoners has no doubt informed you, that your Brothers were not at New York - I am sorry you were so long ...kept in suspense about an explanation which without a determined disposition to blunder ought to have been long since obtained -
I find, my Dear Sir, on the experiment in several ways, that I cannot regularly procure the New York papers in exchange for those of Philadelphia - The only certain mode would be to send a weekly flag for the purpose, but the General apprehensive of popular jealousies, thinks it would inconvenient. - I shall with pleasure continue to forward them as often as they come into my hands; but I will not give you the trouble of sending regularly those of Philadelphia, as the object you have in view cannot be answered by it -
We are again told of an embarkation on the point of sailing three days since. We have been so often [2] deceived that we are diffident of accounts of this kind; but the present come with a
degree of emphasis, that entitle them to attention - No [inserted: particulars] The want of money makes us want every thing else - even [struck: alle] intelligence.
I have received since my [struck: let] return several letters from you - I agree with you my Dear Sir that while we call to our friends for help, we ought to help ourselves; and I am mortified that we seem not to be in a disposition to do it - The late deliberations on our military affairs prove that we have not profitted by experience; - Still the same system of feebleness and temporary expedients.
Misfortune may at last [struck: make illegible] enlighten us; but it may [inserted: come too late to do any thing more] [strikeout] than to make our "darkness visible" and discover to us "sights of woe" - I confess I view our affairs in a gloomy light - We hear there is to be a Congress of the neutral powers to meet at the hague this winter to mediate a peace - God send it - we want one.
Permit me to repeat to you the assurances of my attachment.
A Hamilton
October 12th. 80

[address leaf]
Mr. De Marbois
Secretary of Embassy to
his most Christian
Majesty &c. &c.
Philadelphia
See More

People: Hamilton, Alexander, 1757-1804
Barbé-Marbois, François, marquis de, 1745-1837

Historical Era: American Revolution, 1763-1783

Subjects: EconomicsFrancePrisoner of WarTreatyGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyGlobal History and US Foreign Policy

Sub Era: The War for Independence

Order a Copy Citation Guidelines for Online Resources