Long-missing Alexander Hamilton letter put on public display

Alexander Hamilton wrote the letter to the Marquis de Lafayette as the British threatened French forces in Rhode Island

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A letter written by Alexander Hamilton in 1780 and believed stolen decades ago from the Massachusetts state archives is going back on display — though not exactly in the room where it happened.

The founding father’s letter will be the featured piece at the Commonwealth Museum’s annual July Fourth exhibit, Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin’s office says. It’s the first time the public is getting a chance to see it since it was returned to the state after a lengthy court battle.

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

Hamilton, the first secretary of the treasury who’s been getting renewed attention in recent years because of the hit Broadway musical that bears his name, wrote the letter to the Marquis de Lafayette, the French aristocrat who served as a general in the Continental Army.

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Dated July 21, 1780, it details an imminent 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 Massachusetts Archives decades ago. The letter, which was returned to the state, will be put on public display at the Commonwealth Museum July 4, 2022, for the first time since it was returned after a lengthy court battle. 

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 Massachusetts Archives decades ago. The letter, which was returned to the state, will be put on public display at the Commonwealth Museum July 4, 2022, for the first time since it was returned after a lengthy court battle.  (U.S. Attorney's Office via AP, File)

"We have just received advice from New York through different channels that the enemy are making an embarkation with which they menace the French fleet and army," Hamilton wrote. "Fifty transports are said to have gone up the Sound to take in troops and proceed directly to Rhode Island."

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It’s signed "Yr. Most Obedt, A. Hamilton, Aide de Camp."

A statue of Alexander Hamilton stands in New York's Central Park July 28, 2015. 

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

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

The letter was believed to have been stolen during World War II by a state archives worker, then sold privately.

This undated engraving shows the scene on 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. 

This undated engraving shows the scene on 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 that wanted to sell it. The auction house determined it had been stolen and contacted the FBI. A federal appeals court ruled in October that it belonged to the state.

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The Commonwealth Museum is open from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Monday.