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Alexander Hamilton’s long-lost letter goes on public display


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A letter written by Alexander Hamilton in 1780 that was allegedly stolen decades ago from the Massachusetts State Archives is once again on display – though not exactly in the room where it happened.

The founding father’s letter will be the featured piece in the Commonwealth Museum’s annual Fourth of July exhibition, the office of Commonwealth Secretary William Galvin said. It’s the first time the public has had a chance to see him since he was returned to the state after a long court battle.

It will be featured alongside Massachusetts’ original copy of the Declaration of Independence.

Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury who has garnered renewed attention in recent years due to the hit Broadway musical that bears his name, wrote the letter to the Marquis de Lafayette, the French aristocrat who served as general in the Continental Army.

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Dated July 21, 1780, it details an impending British threat to French forces in Rhode Island.

This image filed May 15, 2019, in federal court as part of a forfeiture complaint by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston, shows a 1780 letter from Alexander Hamilton to the Marquis de Lafayette, which was stolen from the archives of the Massachusetts decades ago. The letter, which was returned to the state, will go on public display at the Commonwealth Museum on July 4, 2022, for the first time since it was returned after a lengthy court battle.
(US Attorney’s Office via AP, file)

“We have just received from New York through various channels the advice that the enemy is making an embarkation with which he threatens the French fleet and army,” wrote Hamilton. “Fifty transports would have come up the Sound to pick up troops and go straight to Rhode Island.”

JULY 4TH QUIZ! HOW WELL DO YOU KNOW INDEPENDENCE DAY?

It’s signed “Yr. Most Obedt, A. Hamilton, aide-de-camp.”

Alexander Hamilton’s long-lost letter goes on public display

A statue of Alexander Hamilton stands in New York’s Central Park on July 28, 2015.
(REUTERS/Mike Segar)

The letter was forwarded by Massachusetts General William Heath to heads of state, along with a request for troops to support French allies, Galvin’s office said.

The letter was allegedly stolen during World War II by an employee of the state archives and then sold to a private individual.

Alexander Hamilton’s long-lost letter goes on public display

This undated engraving shows the scene of July 4, 1776, when the Declaration of Independence, drafted by Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Philip Livingston and Roger Sherman, was approved by the Continental Congress in Philadelphia.
(AP Photo)

It resurfaced several years ago when an auctioneer in Virginia received it from a family who wanted to sell it. The auction house determined it was stolen and contacted the FBI. A federal appeals court ruled in October that it was state-owned.

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The Commonwealth Museum is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays.

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