Composed when Hamilton was just shy of 15 years old, this letter to his friend Edward Stevens reveals Hamilton's early held belief in the importance of friendship and "character." The self-deprecating remark about building "Castles in the Air" seems ironic. It was Thomas Jefferson, Hamilton's chief rival and ideological counterpart, who earned the reputation as the idealist. Here, Hamilton appears to show the qualities of an idealist rather than a pragmatist.
This just serves to acknowledge receipt of yours per Cap Lowndes which was delivered me yesterday, the truth of Cap Lightbowen & Lowndes information is now verifyd by the presence of your Father and Sister for whose safe arrival I Pray, and that they may convey that satisfaction to your soul that must naturally flow from the sight of absent Friends in health, and shall for news this way refer you to them, as to what you say respecting your having soon the happiness of seeing us all, I wish, for an accomplishment of your hopes provided they are Concomitant with your welfare, otherwise not, tho doubt whether I shall be Present or not, for to confess my weakness, Ned, my Ambition is prevalent. That I contemn the grov'ling condition of a Clerk or the like, to which my Fortune &c condemns me and would willingly risk my life though not my Character to exalt my station, I'm confident, Ned that my Youth excludes me from any hopes of immediate Perferment, nor do I desire it, but I mean to prepare the way for futurity, I'm no Philosopher you see and may be justly said to Build Castles in the Air, my Folly makes me ashamed and beg youll conceal it, yet Neddy we have seen such schemes successful when the Projector is Constant. I shall Conclude saying I wish there was a war.
PS I this moment received yours by William Smith and am pleased to see you Give such Close Application to Study.
Reprinted from Broadus Mitchell, Heritage from Hamilton, 1957.