A Stolen Letter Written by Alexander Hamilton in 1780 Resurfaces

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tags: Founding Fathers, artifacts, Alexander Hamilton, Revolutionary history

A letter written by Alexander Hamilton during the Revolutionary War has resurfaced more than seven decades after the document was stolen from the Massachusetts Archives, federal authorities said.

The 1780 letter, addressed to Hamilton’s good friend the Marquis de Lafayette, came to light last November when an auction house in Virginia notified the Federal Bureau of Investigation after a South Carolina family tried to consign it for auction, according to a complaint filed Wednesday in Federal District Court in Massachusetts by the United States District Attorney’s Office.

An auction house researcher had discovered that the letter matched a copy of the correspondence on Founders Online, a National Archives and Records Administration website. It had been listed as missing.

Federal prosecutors are asking a federal judge to rule that the document be returned to its original owner. It is now in possession of the F.B.I. in Boston, a law enforcement official said Friday.

In 1950, a former Massachusetts Archives employee was arrested on charges of stealing and selling documents, including the Hamilton letter and original papers of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and other founding fathers, to rare-books dealers when he worked at that institution between 1937 and 1945, the complaint said. It does not list the name of the employee, or what happened to that person.

In the 1940s, Hamilton’s letter ended up in the possession of a rare books and documents dealer in Syracuse, who sold it to a now-deceased relative of the South Carolina family that tried to consign it last year with an auction house in Virginia, the complaint said. The family said it had inherited a collection that included the Hamilton letter.

The three-paragraph letter — now valued between $25,000 and $35,000, according to the Virginia auction house — warned Lafayette, the French general who commanded troops in several Revolutionary War battles, of pending danger from the British.

Read entire article at NY Times