November 23, 1788
I thank you, my dear sir, for yours of the loth. The only part of it which surprises me is what you mention respecting Clinton. I cannot, however, be lieve that the plan will succeed. Nor, indeed, do I think that Clinton would be disposed to exchange his present appointment for that office, or risk his popularity by holding both. At the same time the attempt merits attention, and ought not to be neglected as chimerical or impracticable.
In Massachusetts the Electors will, I understand, be appointed by the Legislature, and will be all Federal, and ’t is probable will be, for the most part, in favor of Adams. It is said the same thing will happen in New Hampshire, and, I have reason to believe, it will be the case in Connecticut. In this State it is difficult to form any certain calculation. A large majority of the Assembly was doubtless of an Anti-federal complexion, but the schism in the party, which has been occasioned by the falling off of some of its leaders in the Convention, leaves me not without hope that, if matters are well managed, we may procure a majority for some pretty equal compromise. In the Senate we have the superiority by one. In New Jersey there seems to be no question but that the complexion of the Electors will be Federal, and I suppose, if thought expedient, they may be united in favor of Adams. Pennsylvania you can best judge of. From Delaware, Maryland, and South Carolina, I presume, we may count with tolerable assurance on Federal men; and I should imagine, if pains are taken, the danger of an Antifederal Vice-President might itself be rendered the instrument of Union. At any rate, their weight will not be thrown into the scale of Clinton, and I do not see from what quarter numbers can be marshalled in his favor equal to those who will advocate Adams, supposing even a division in the Federal votes.
On the whole I have concluded to support Adams, though I am not without apprehensions on the score we have conversed about. My principal reasons are these: First, he is a declared partisan of deferring to future experience the expediency of amendments in the system, and (although I do not altogether adopt this sentiment) it is much nearer my own than certain other doctrines. Secondly, he is certainly a character of importance in the Eastern States; if he is not Vice-President, one of two worse things will be likely to happen. Either he must be nominated to some important office, for which he is less proper, or will become a malcontent, and give additional weight to the opposition to the government. As to Knox, I cannot persuade myself that he will incline to the appointment. He must sacrifice emolument by it, which must be of necessity a primary object with him.
If it should be thought expedient to endeavor to unite on a particular character, there is a danger of a different kind to which we must not be inattentive—the possibility of rendering it doubtful who is appointed President. You know the Constitution has not provided the means of distinguishing in certain cases, and it would be disagreeable to have a man treading close upon the heels of the person we wish as President. May not the malignity of the opposition be, in some instances, exhibited even against him? Of all this we shall best judge when we know who are our Electors; and we must, in our different circles, take our measures accordingly.
I could console myself for what you mention respecting yourself, from a desire to see you in one of the executive departments, did I not perceive the representation will be defective in characters of a certain description. Wilson is evidently out of the question. King tells me he does not believe he will be elected into either House. Mr. Gouverneur Morris set out to-day for France, by way of Philadelphia. If you are not in one of the branches, the government may sincerely feel the want of men who unite to zeal all the requisite qualifications for parrying the machinations of its enemies. Might I advise, it would be, that you bent your course to Virginia.
Labels: Works of Alexander Hamilton