The claim: Alexander Hamilton told Thomas Jefferson that there weren’t enough words to string together in the English language to express how much he wanted to hit him with a chair
Alexander Hamilton’s feud with fellow Founding Father Thomas Jefferson is well-chronicled, both in academic literature and on stage, but he didn’t tell Jefferson he wanted to hit him with a chair.
That is what a quote that has circulated online several times since at least 2019 would have you believe, though.
An image that appears to be a slide projected on a screen attributes to Hamilton, known for being a prolific writer, a loss for words in describing his disdain for Jefferson.
"There are approximately 1,010,300 words in the English language, but I could never string enough words together to properly express how much I want to hit you with a chair,” the image claims Hamilton said.
A search of Hamilton’s writings turned up no such quote, though, and experts who have written and edited texts about the first treasury secretary said he did not write it.
A Facebook user who shared the quote did not respond to a request for comment.
Hamilton and Jefferson feud
After the American Revolution, both Hamilton and Jefferson served in President George Washington’s Cabinet. Hamilton was secretary of the treasury and Jefferson was secretary of state.
But they also were political rivals, with hatred that ran so deep that Washington attempted to intervene in 1792 letters to both men, according to an article by Yale University scholar Joanne B. Freeman for the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association website.
“How unfortunate, and how much is it to be regretted.., that whilst we are encompassed on all sides with avowed enemies and insidious friends, that internal dissentions should be harrowing and tearing out vitals,” Washington wrote to Jefferson.
Their rivalry is a key plot point in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Hamilton: An American Musical” as well, with the two sparring over Hamilton’s plan to establish a national bank.
But did Hamilton really want to hit Jefferson with a chair?
If Hamilton wanted to hit Jefferson with a chair, it wasn’t recorded in writing.
A search of correspondence between the two on the National Archives did not return any results for the quote. The quote also was not found in a search of the digital version of “The Papers of Alexander Hamilton.”
The quote was not among those attributed to Hamilton in the 18th edition of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. It also was not part of Miranda’s Broadway musical.
Freeman said it is “definitely NOT a Hamilton quote.” She had called out the quote previously in a November 2019 Twitter post.
“People really want it to be true,” the “Alexander Hamilton: Writings” editor said in an email to USA TODAY. “Perhaps because there are some politicians that they want to hit with chairs?”
John Ferling, author of “Jefferson and Hamilton: The Rivalry that Forged a Nation,” backed up Freeman, telling USA TODAY, that “I think I can say with assurance that it is a bogus quote.”
“In fact, I recall very little in the way of correspondence between these two and what little there was focused entirely on business matters taken up by Washington’s cabinet in the early 1790’s,” he wrote in an email.
Our ruling: False
The claim that Alexander Hamilton told Thomas Jefferson that there weren’t enough words to string together in the English language to express how much he wanted to hit him with a chair is FALSE. USA TODAY could find no reference to the quote, and experts who have written and edited texts about Hamilton said the former treasury secretary did not write it.
Our fact-check sources:
George Washington's Mount Vernon, accessed April 8, "Jefferson and Hamilton, Political Rivals in Washington's Cabinet"
The Pulitzer Prizes, accessed April 8, Hamilton, by Lin-Manuel Miranda
The National Archives, accessed April 8, "Correspondence between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson"
The Papers of Alexander Hamilton Digital Edition, accessed April 8, Search
Twitter, Nov. 25, 2019, Joanne Freeman's 2019 Tweet about Hamilton quote
Joanne Freeman website, accessed April 8, Biography of Joanne Freeman
The Washington Post, Dec. 13, 2013, Review of "Jefferson and Hamilton: The Rivalry that Forged a Nation"
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Hamilton didn't threaten to hit Jefferson with a chair