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Alexander Hamilton Autograph Legal Form for Real Estate Transactions
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ALEXANDER HAMILTON. Autograph Manuscript, draft of payment form for sale of a farm and appurtenances, docketed (possibly by Eliza Hamilton) “dr[af]t of submission by special ag[reemen]t,” ca. 1782-1789.

Inventory #24623       Price: $3,500

Alexander Hamilton was admitted to the bar in 1782, and briefly established his practice in Albany, New York. After the Revolutionary War ended and the British left, Hamilton completed a term in Congress in 1783, and moved his practice to New York City, where he defended several Tories and British subjects. He returned to his law practice after serving as Secretary of the Treasury (1789-1795), and became one of New York City’s most prominent attorneys.

He is known to have prepared his own forms for common legal documents.[1] Here, “S C” and “S D” likely do not refer to particular litigants, but appear to be placeholder initials for Hamilton or a clerk to replace with actual names. This document presents the form for such a special agreement that could avoid a lawsuit or end it once in court.

A three-year internship was normally required before taking the bar exam, but in January 1782, Hamilton petitioned the New York Supreme Court for a special waiver. Given his service for four years as an aide to George Washington, the court granted his request. Hamilton began studying immediately, compiling study notes and analysis of old New York court cases into a manuscript titled Practical Proceedings in the Supreme Court of New York, which, although not published at the time, appears to have been seen and used from manuscript copies.  Those notes, and documents like this, show the systematic approach that Hamilton took with his legal practice.

The penciled date “1779” was added later, when his family was organizing his correspondence for eventual publication.  If correct, it would indicate that this is one of Hamilton’s earliest legal notes. We assign a date circa 1782-1789, which we think more likely, though it could have been done before, or when he returned to his practice after leading the Treasury Department, when Hamilton might have penned this form for one of his clerks to use.

Provenance

Descended in the Hamilton family; acquired by us at Sotheby’s, Alexander Hamilton: An Important Family Archive of Letters and Manuscripts, January 18, 2017.

Complete Transcript

And the said S D &c

doth &c

to and with the said S C his heirs Executors and administrators that if any sum of money shall be awarded to be paid unto the said S C by him the said S D that then he the said S D will forthwith pay unto the said S C such sum of money so awarded to be paid unto him and that the said farm with the appurtenances shall thenceforth be and remain charged and chargeable in law and equity for the payment of the said sum unto the sd S C his Executors or Administrations

                                                Penal[t]y &c <2>

[File Note, possibly in Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton’s hand:] drt of a Submission by special agrt

[penciled later:] 1779

Alexander Hamilton (1757-1804) was born on the island of Nevis and, in 1772, came to New York City, where he enrolled in King’s College (Columbia University) in 1773. When the British occupied the city in 1776, King’s College closed, ending Hamilton’s collegiate career. Hamilton became General George Washington’s aide-de-camp in 1777. After the war, Hamilton studied law and became one of the most eminent lawyers in New York. In 1782, he was elected to the Continental Congress, where he served until October 1783. In 1784, he founded the Bank of New York, which became one of the longest operating banks in American history. In 1786, Hamilton took the leading part at the Annapolis convention, which prepared the way for the great Constitutional Convention that met at Philadelphia in 1787, to which Hamilton was a New York delegate. In the same year, he conceived the series of essays afterward collected as The Federalist in support of the new Constitution, and wrote 51 of the 85 essays himself. Upon the establishment of the new government in 1789, President Washington appointed Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasury, and he restored the country’s finances to a firm footing. In early 1795, Hamilton resigned his office but remained the leader of the Federalist Party until his death in a duel with Vice President Aaron Burr.


[1] Julius Goebel Jr. and Joseph H. Smith, eds., The Law Practice of Alexander Hamilton: Documents and Commentary, 5 vols. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1964-1981), 2:218.


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