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Nearly Launching Several Duels Between the Livingstons and Hamilton at Federal Hall, Edward Livingston Slammed Hamilton: “Beware of Him or He Will Ruin You.”
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Available as part of The Alexander Hamilton Collection

On Saturday, July 18, 1795, a public gathering at New York’s City Hall nearly turned into a riot. News of a recently completed Treaty of Amity and Commerce with Great Britain, negotiated by John Jay and granting significant latitude to Britain, had arrived in the states. Tensions were high, and the meeting turned increasingly raucous. Hamilton attempted to defend the Treaty, but Republicans, carrying American and French flags, shouted down the former Treasury Secretary.

JAMES FARQUHAR. Autograph Document Signed, with ALEXANDER HAMILTON, Autograph Note on verso (though struck out), July 21, 1795. 2 pp.

Inventory #24643      

Complete Transcript

                                   New York, 21st July, 1795

My Dear Sir

            The subjoined is to the best of my recollection the precise words used by Mr Edward Livingston at the publick meeting last Saturday, command my services

                                    with great regard your very humble servant

                                    James Farquhar

                                    New York, 21st July, 1795

            I certify that Mr Edward Livingston did declare to a number of people in front of Federal Hall last Saturday, point to Alexander Hamilton, beware of him or he will ruin you.

                                   James Farquhar

[Docketing on verso:] 21 July 1795 / James Farquhar

[Docketing in Hamilton’s hand, struck out later:] Intimates that Edwd Livingston said of H pointing at him “Beware of him or he will ruin you”

James Farquhar (1742-1831) was born in Scotland and came to New York by 1757. He went to sea and served as a master of ships until 1774, when he married Elizabeth Curson and settled in New York City. He became a wine merchant and a vestryman at Trinity Church from 1784 to 1801. He served as a second in a duel in 1786. In 1800, he was appointed Warden of the Port. In the early nineteenth century, he led New York’s assembly dances (forerunner of debutante balls).

Historical Background

Hamilton wasn’t the only one trying to document what had been said on July 18th. Edward Livingston wrote to his mother, Margaret Beekman Livingston, on July 20, 1795: “Nothing can equal the Vexation of the tory party on discovering that their favorite leader [Hamilton] had lost his influence except the indecency with which the leader testified his Mortification—in the afternoon of Saturday a number of gentlemen of [both] parties accidentaly stopped at my Door. We entered into Conversation on the politics of the Day, at first cooly and afterwards with some Warmth between Peter [Peter R. Livingston] & Jo. [Josiah Ogden] Hoffman. It at last grew personal & Mr. [Rufus] King, myself and others interposed begging that if there were any personal disputes they might be settled elsewhere. Hamilton then stepped forward declaring that if the parties were to contend in a personal Way, he was ready that he would fight the Whole party one by one. I was just beginning to speak to him on the Subject [of] this imprudent declaration when he turned from me threw up his arm & Declared that he was ready to fight the Whole ‘Destestable faction’ one by one. — Maturin [Livingston] at this moment arrived, he stepped up to him told him very cooly that he was one of the party that he accepted the challenge & would meet him in half an hour where he pleased. Hamilton said he had an affair on his Hands already with one of the party (meaning a quarrel with Commodore Nicholson) & when that was settled he would call on him. Neither Nicholson nor Maturin have as yet heard from him. I mention this Circumstance particularly that you may Judge how much he must be Mortified at his loss of Influence before he would descend [to] language that would have become a Street Bully.”[1]

According to the New-York Gazette, “three stones were thrown at Mr. Hamilton, the second of which glanced his forehead but without material injury; one of the others struck another gentleman standing by him.”[2]

The Livingston cousins were all members of the prominent New York family which had migrated from Scotland in the seventeenth century. Edward (1764-1836) graduated from the College of New Jersey, and was an attorney, a Congressman from New York (1795-1801) and leader of the opposition to Jay’s Treaty, U.S. Attorney for New York, and mayor of New York City (1801-1803). Later, he served as Congressman (1823-1829) and U.S. Senator from Louisiana (1829-1831), and as U.S. Secretary of State (1831-1833). James (1747-1832) served as a colonel in the Revolutionary War and represented Saratoga in the New York State Legislature (1783-1794). Henry Brockholst (1757-1823) graduated from the College of New Jersey (Princeton) and served as a lieutenant colonel in the Revolutionary War. He was private secretary to John Jay (1779-1782), attorney in New York (1783-1802), judge of the State Supreme Court (1802-1807), and associate justice of the United States Supreme Court (1807-1823). Maturin (1769-1847) was a graduate of the College of New Jersey, an attorney, and a delegate to the New York State Constitutional Convention of 1801.


[1] Edward Livingston to Margaret Beekman Livingston, July 20, 1795, New-York Historical Society.

[2] The New-York Gazette and General Advertiser (New York, NY), July 20, 1795, 3:1.


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