52 Cedar Street Hamilton’s Townhouse


A question arose as to whether Hamilton lived at 52 or 54 Cedar Street as Chernow states on page 695. Interview in Weehawken page 73 by Harold Syrett and Jean Cooke contains Hamilton’s June 23 letter from the Grange to William VanNess who served as Aaron Burr’s second. Van Ness will be played on Sunday by your charming host (me) That letter says “On Monday by Nine I shall be in Town at my house in Caeder Street No. 52, where I should be glad to see you.” It could have been 52, or 54 or both! While this letter was written from the Grange, Hamilton wrote the majority of his final correspondences from Cedar Street.

He had spent Sunday July 8 with his children playing on the grass.

The night before the duel Hamilton’s second, Nathaniel Pendleton visited Cedar Street to try to talk Hamilton out of it. Pendleton, being played by Hamilton College Professor Carl Rubino had been a federal judge in Georgia.  Fleming tells us Pendleton resigned with some problems, and moved to NY in 1796. Hamilton helped him get established in NY with an office at 17 Wall Street. Pendleton was Burr’s age 48 at duel time. He served as a Dutchess County judge until his death in 1821.  Speaking of the seconds, William Peter Van Ness’s cousin William W. argued the Croswell case with Hamilton, not William P.   William Peter was most famous for replying as Aristides to James Cheetham and DeWitt Clinton’s literary attacks against Burr, and for teaching law to Martin Van Buren. Van Ness was 26 in 1804.  His law office was at 10 pine Street.  In 1812, President Madison nominated him to be district court judge. He served until his death in 1826.

Back to Hamilton at Cedar Street.

He wrote a will naming John Church as one of three executors, which shows he was unsure of his assets versus debts. He wrote to his wife Eliza, and he wrote about the plans for New England to secede from the Southern states. He advised the Massachusetts federalists not to do it (and indeed after his death, they did not.) Remember that New England needed New York’s port that we are enjoying this morning, and they wanted NY to secede with them. This was an important issue in Burr’s election loss as governor of New York a few months before the duel. Burr’s brother in law Tapping Reeve in my home town of Litchfield, CT had also written favoring secession. About these letters, Joanne Freeman summarizes that “The attorney Hamilton was defending his reputation before the tribunal of posterity, explaining his decision to duel.” Chernow details the last days of Hamilton’s life. Also from Litchfield, former Treasury Secretary and future NY City businessman and eventually governor of Connecticut Oliver Wolcott Jr. visited with Hamilton at one of their residences or offices on the Monday before the Wednesday affair of honor. Hamilton visited his friend Robert Troup who was ill on Tuesday.  On Tuesday, as part of his law practice, at his Exchange place office, Hamilton made an appointment for 10 am on 711. He anticipated meeting Burr in Weehawken at 7am, and conducting his legal work by 10, but that was not to be the case.

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