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officer in the American army. Finishing his preparatory studies, he entered King's (now Columbia) College, where he soon "gave extraordinary displays of richness of genius and energy of mind.”
While in college Hamilton continued his habit of composition with great application and suc. cess. Some of his poetical productions are still extant, and evince no ordinary merit. His talent for satire was also exercised at this time. “John Holt, who then published a Whig paper in New York,” says Troup, "had, by his zeal in the American cause, drawn upon himself the invectives of all the ministerial writers; these invectives Hamilton burlesqued in doggrel rhyme, with great wit and humor. He also presented me with a manuscript of fugitive poetry, which I considered as a strong evidence of the elasticity of his genius, and have often lamented that it was lost with my books and papers during the war."
On the sixth of July, 1774, “the great mee ‘ing in the fields” was holden, to consider the rights of the colonies, and resist the tyranny of the Boston Port Bill, the earliest manifestation of the British Ministry's policy of compulsion. Here Hamilton appeared and first took part in the public deliberations. “The novelty of the atter pt,” says his son, "his youthful countenance, his slender and diminutive form, awakened curiosity and arrested attention. Overawed by the scene before him, he at first hesitated and faltered; but as he proceeded, almost unconsciously, to utter his accustomed reflections, his mind warmed with the theme, his energies were renewed, and after a discussion clear, cogent, and novel, of the great principles involved in the controversy, he depicted, in glowing colors, the long-continued and long-endured oppressions of the mother country; he insisted on the duty of resistance, pointed to the means and certainty of success, and described the waves of rebellion sparkling with fire, and washing back on the shores of England the wrecks of her power, her wealth, and her glory. The breathless silence ceased as he closed, and the whispered murmur, 'It is a collegian! it is a collegian!' was lost in loud expressions of wonder and applause at the eloquence of the young stranger.” In the winter of 1774 and early part of the year 1775, he published, anonymously, some powerful arguments favoring the pacific measures of defence recommended by Congress, and encouraging the policy of domestic manufactures as the means of rendering less necessary the use of foreign commerce. He also insisted upon the rights of the colonies to constitutional freedom, trial by jury, and freedom from taxation, except by their own consent. In this discussion he was opposed by Dr. Cooper, the President of the college of which he was a member, and many other wits and politicians of the ministerial side of the question, all of whom pronounced it absurd to suppose that so young a man as Hamilton could be their opponent. He was thenceforward the oracle of the patriots, and as such was beloved and honored by them.
On the commencement of the war in 1775, Hamilton was among the first to turn his attention to active military service. While yet a collegiate, he joined a body of volunteer militia in New York, and reduced his knowledge of the art of war to practice. In March, of the following year, having been appointed captain of a company of artillery, he entered the service and soon after attended at the battle on Long Island. His conduct at the action at White Plains, on the twenty-eighth of October of the same year, won the applause of Washington, and after the battles of Trenton and Princeton, in which he displayed unusual military talent and bravery, he was appointed to his staff, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel. He remained in the family of Washington until the spring of 1781, and during that severe and eventful period became the commander-in-chief's "principal and most confidential aid." He was a welcome associate with the officers of the army, and by his brilliant genius, the frankness of his disposition and the kindness of his heart, won the esteem and admiration of all around him. During this period, a principal portion of the correspondence of Washington devolved upon Colonel Hamilton. "The pen for our army,” says Troup, “was held by Hamilton; and for dignity of manner, pith of matter and elegance of style, General Washington's letters are unrivalled in military annals."
After the surrender of Burgoyne, in the fall of the year 1777, Hamilton was deputized to proceed to Albany, to procure from General Gates a reinforcement of troops, then necessary to reduce General Howe, who at that time held possession of Philadelphia. This negotiation he consummated with the greatest ability and judgment. At the battle of Monmouth, which occurred in the month of June following, he was on the field under the Marquis Lafayette, and displayed the greatest activity, skill and courage. The same year he was selected to meet the British commissioners for consultation respecting a general exchange of prisoners.
Hamilton now turned his attention to the finances of his country, which had become involved in great disorder. The depreciation of paper money, which had been issued in enormous quantities, destroyed public faith and credit, and the government and army were reduced to the severest distress and want. This pressure was more severely felt at hcad-quarters. Hamilton's position in the family of Washington gave him an opportunity of judging of its effect upon his chief, and he realized the necessity of immediate and decisive relief. In this situation he addressed an anonymous letter to Robert Morris, one of the first commercial gentlemen of the period, and then a delegate to Congress from Pennsylvania, in which he suggested a plan to place the financial affairs of the country upon a firm basis. The restoration of depreciated paper money, the currency and good faith of the country was to be brought about in a foreign loan, to the extent of two millions sterling, assisted by a vigorous taxation, and a United States Bank, to be supported by foreign as well as by domestic loans in the depreciated currency at a very low ratio. This bank was to be continued ten years, and was to rest on the basis of public and private faith-was to form the medium of circulation, absorb the depreciated paper, and supply the requisite loans to the government. This plan was in part adopted by Congress, through the agency of the Bank of Pennsylvania, a voluntary institution, which on the twenty-second of June, 1780, was reported to Congress and received their patronage. About this time Hamilton addressed a letter to Mr. Duane, a member of Congress from New York, in which he suggested the idea of a general convention for the reorganization of the government, and indicated the mode of urging its necessity upon the minds of the people, by “sensible and popular writings, which should conform to the views of Congress :” thus hinting at the idea which originated the Federalist, whose far-reaching views on national polity so eminently aided in the adoption of the present Federal Constitution. This is, without doubt, the ablest production on the affairs of the Union that appeared during the Revolution.*
Colonel Hamilton married the second daughter of General Schuyler on the fourteenth of December, 1780, and from that time became a citizen of the State of New York. In the following February he left the family of General Washington, but still continued in the army. Being now relieved from the duties of an aid, he again turned his attention to the situation of the country, which was then encompassed with difficulties and dangers. The public credit Fas hastening to an unfavorable termination. In this crisis he submitted the plan of a national bank to Mr. Morris, the superintendent of finance, as the only alternative that could give & sound paper credit to government and render it successful and safe. This plan was laid before Congress on the seventeenth of May; on the twenty-sixth it was adopted, and soon after incorporated under the name of the Bank of North America. That institution, with the aid of the Bank of Pennsylvania, which had been established during the previous year, was of inestimable service in restoring the credit of the country, developing its resources, and carrying on the concluding scenes of the war. This year Hamilton commenced a series of essays, under the title of The Continentalist, in which he examined and discussed the features of the original confederacy, and enumerated the powers with which it ought to be clothed. The later numbers of this series were not prepared until after the siege of Yorktown, at which Colonel Hamilton was present.
After his retirement from the family of Washington, he was exceedingly solicitous to obtain a separate command in some light corps. This desire was at last gratified, and he was attached to the division under the command of his friend the Marquis Lafayette, and distinguished himself in leading a night attack upon the British redoubts at Yorktown. This was the last act of Colonel Hamilton's military life. On the termination of the active duties of the war, he com. menced the study of the law, and in 1782 was admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court of New
* Life of Alexander Hamilton, by his son, vol. 1, pp. 284-305.
York. In the summer of the same year he was appointed a delegate to Congress, by the legis. lature of New York, and in the subsequent November took his seat in that body, where he continued until the autumn of the next year. In this station he manifested the strongest and most disinterested zeal for the welfare of the country, in upholding the honor of the government against the attacks of the discontents of the army and the clamor of public creditors. On the return of peace, and after the recovery of New York in the fall of 1783, he resumed the practice of law; but the public affairs still occupied his thoughts. In the latter part of the year 1784, his celebrated pamphlets, addressed “to the considerate citizens of New York," over the signature of Phocion, excited universal attention, and drew forth able replies, under the signatures of Anti-Phocionite, Mentor, and others.
Colonel Hamilton did not remain long out of public life. In 1786 he was elected to the General Assembly from the city of New York, and distinguished himself by his efforts to avert the dangers and evils that hung over the country. His services in settling the difficulties which existed at that time consequent upon the independence of Vermont, were eminent; and the devotedness he displayed in recommending the establishment of a federative republic, was prompt and energetic. He was appointed to attend the convention at Philadelphia in 1787, and after the adoption of the federal constitution by that body, he urged its ratification by an explanation and vindication of its principles, in that celebrated and immortal work, The Federalist.* On the meeting of the New York convention, Colonel Hamilton appeared as a member. The active part he had taken in the formation of the constitution, and his familiarity with its principles, rendered his situation one of great responsibility. This he sustained with the highest ability and success. His speeches on that occasion evince the wisdom of the commentator and the eloquence of the finished orator.
In 1789, Colonel Hamilton was placed at the head of the United States Treasury, where he remained until January, 1795. His success in restoring the public confidence, and placing the financial affairs of the nation upon a sure and solid foundation, is too well known to require notice here. “How he fulfilled the duties of such a place, at such a time," said the matchless Webster, “the whole country perceived with delight, and the whole world saw with admiration. He smote the rock of the national resources, and abundant streams of revenue gushed forth. He touched the dead corpse of the public credit, and it sprung upon its feet. The fabled birth of Minerva, from the brain of Jove, was hardly more sudden or more perfect than the financial system of the United States, as it burst forth from the conceptions of Alexander Hamilton." +
The war between England and the republic of France broke out during the period of Hamilton's secretaryship. As a member of Washington's cabinet, he advocated the proclamation of neutrality, and supported it in a series of vigorous and elaborate essays, under the signatures of No Jacobin and Pacificus. He also rendered signal service in advising the mission of Mr. Jay in 1794, and on the negotiation and completion of his treaty, he vindicated its wisdom and justice. He had now returned to the practice of his profession, and was enjoying an extraordinary share of business. As a commercial lawyer he was a great favorite with the New York merchants; and his profound knowledge in the law of nations, joined to his sterling qualities of mind and eloquence, placed him in the first rank of his profession.
In the early part of 1798, Colonel Hamilton again took up his pen in defence of his country, At this time he published a series of essays, under the title of Titus Manlius, in which he exposed the danger which was to be anticipated from the hostile position of France, and urged the necessity of determined resistance to the many depredations which were then committed apon American commerce, under the sanction and encouragement of that country. His suggestions were so correct, and his conclusions so just, that they were ultimately carried into execution, and won the applause of his countrymen. On the establishment of a provincial army in 1798, he was appointed inspector-general--a trust which did not prevent the practice of his profession, which he continued until his death, which occurred in a duel with Aaron Burr, on the twelfth of July, 1804. The particulars of this event are too familiar for repetition in this place.
* Vide note at page 126. + Works of Daniel Webster, vol. 1, page 199. # Vide Camillus, Works of Alexander Hamilton.
THE FEDERAL CONSTITUTION.
In the Convention of New York, on the ful surmises as the evidence of truth. Let us twentieth of June, 1788, the second section of consider the constitution calmly and dispassion
ately, and attend to those things only which the first article of the constitution having been
merit consideration. read, and the following amendment proposed, No arguments drawn from embarrassment or " Resolved, That it is proper that the number inconvenience ought to prevail upon us to adopt of representatives be fixed at the rate of one a system of government radically bad; yet it
is proper that these arguments, among others, for every twenty thousand inhabitants, to be
should be brought into view. In doing this, ascertained on the principles mentioned in the yesterday, it was necessary to reflect upon our second section of the first article of the con- situation; to dwell upon the imbecility of our stitution, until they amount to three hundred;
Union; and to consider whether we, as a State, after which, they shall be apportioned among this convention will be resolved to adopt no
could stand alone. Although I am persuaded the States, in proportion to the number of in- thing that is bad, yet I think every prudent man habitants of the States respectively: and that will consider the merits of the plan in connecbefore the first enumeration shall be made, the tion with the circumstances of our country;
and that a rejection of the constitution may inseveral States shall be entitled to choose double
volve most fatal consequences. I make these number of representatives for that pur- remarks to show, that though we ought not to pose, mentioned in the constitution;" Mr. Ham- be actuated by unreasonable fear, yet we ought ilton addressed the convention as follows: to be prudent.
This day, sir, one gentleman has attempted Mr. CHAIRMAN: The honorable member, to answer the arguments advanced by my honwho spoke yesterday, went into an explanation orable friend; another has treated him as havof a variety of circumstances to prove the ex- | ing wandered from the subject. This being pediency of a change in our national govern- the case, I trust I shall be equally indulged ment, and the necessity of a firm union; at the in reviewing the remarks which have been same time, he described the great advantages made. which this State, in particular, receives from Sir, it appears to me extraordinary, that the confederacy, and its peculiar weaknesses while gentlemen in one breath acknowledge when abstracted from the Union. In doing that the old confederation requires many matethis, he advanced a variety of arguments, which rial amendments, they should in the next deny deserve serious consideration. Gentlemen have that its defects have been the cause of our pothis day come forward to answer him. He litical weakness, and the consequent calamities has been treated as having wandered in the of our country. I cannot but infer from this, flowery fields of fancy; and attempts have that there is still some lurking, favorite imagibeen made to take off from the minds of the nation, that this system, with corrections, might committee that sober impression which might become a safe and permanent one. It is proper be expected from his arguments. I trust, sir, that we should examine this matter. We conthat observations of this kind are not thrown tend that the radical vice in the old confederaout to cast a light air on this important sub- tion is, that the laws of the Union apply only ject, or to give any personal bias on the great to States in their corporate capacity. Has not question before us. I will not agree with gen- every man who has been in our legislature extlemen who trifle with the weaknesses of our perienced the truth of this position? It is incountry, and suppose that they are enumerated separable from the disposition of bodies who to answer a party purpose, and to terrify with have a constitutional power of resistance, to ideal dangers. No; I believe these weaknesses , examine the merits of a law. This has ever to be real, and pregnant with destruction. Yet, been the case with the federal requisitions. In however weak our country may be, I hope we this examination, not being furnished with those shall never sacrifice our liberties. If, there- lights which directed the deliberations of the fore, on a full and candid discussion, the pro- general government, and incapable of embracing posed system shall appear to have that ten- the general interests of the Union, the States dency, for God's sake, let us reject it. But let us have almost uniformly weighed the requisitions not mistake words for things, nor accept doubt- l by their own local interests, and have only ex:
ecuted them so far as answered their particular and they are not complied with, what is to be convenience or advantage. Hence there have done? It has been well observed, that to coever been thirteen different bodies to judge of erce the States is one of the maddest projects the measures of Congress—and the operations that was ever devised. A failure of compliof government have been distracted by their ance will never be confined to a single State. taking different courses. Those which were to This being the case, can we suppose it wise to be benefited, have complied with the requisi- hazard a civil war? Suppose Massachusetts, tions; others have totally disregarded them. or any large State, should refuse, and Congress Have not all of us been witnesses to the un- should attempt to compel them; would they happy embarrassments which resulted from not have influence to procure assistance, esthese proceedings? Even during the late war, pecially from those States who are in the same while the pressure of common danger con- situation as themselves? What picture does nected strongly the bond of our Union, and this idea present to our view? A complying incited to vigorous exertions, we felt many dis- State at war with a non-complying State: Contressing effects of the impotent system. How gress marching the troops of one State into the have we seen this State, though most exposed bosom of another: this State collecting aux: to the calamities of the war, complying, in an iliaries and forming perhaps a majority against unexampled manner, with the federal requisi- its federal head. Here is a nation at war with tions, and compelled by the delinquency of oth- itself. Can any reasonable man be well disers to bear most unusual burdens. Of this truth, posed towards a government which makes war we have the most solemn proof on our records. and carnage the only means of supporting itIn 1779 and 1780, when the State, from the self-a.government that can exist only by the ravages of war, and from her great exertions sword ? Every such war must involve the into resist them, became weak, distressed, and nocent with the guilty. This single consideraforlorn, every man avowed the principle which tion should be sufficient to dispose every peacewe now contend for; that our misfortunes, in able citizen against such a government. a great degree, proceeded from the want of But can we believe that one State will ever vigor in the continental government. These suffer itself to be used as an instrument of cowere our sentiments when we did not specu-ercion? The thing is a dream—it is imposlate, but feel. We saw our weakness, and found sible—then we are brought to this dilemma: ourselves its victims. Let us reflect that this either a federal standing army is to enforce the may again, in all probability, be our situation. requisitions, or the federal treasury is left withThis is a weak State; and its relative station is out supplies, and the government without supdangerous. Your capital is accessible by land, port. What, sir, is the cure for this great evil? and by sea is exposed to every daring invader; Nothing, but to enable the national laws to and on the north-west, you are open to the in-operate on individuals, in the same manner as roads of a powerful foreign nation. Indeed, those of the States do. This is the true reathis State, from its situation, will, in time of soning of the subject, sir. The gentlemen apwar, probably be the theatre of its operations. pear to acknowledge its force; and yet while
Gentlemen have said that the non-compli- they yield to the principle, they seem to fear its ance of the States has been occasioned by their application to the government. sufferings. This may in part be true. But has What then shall we do? Shall we take the this State been delinquent? Amidst all our old confederation as the basis of a new system? distresses, we have fully complied. If New Can this be the object of the gentlemen? CerYork could comply wholly with the requisi- tainly not. Will any man' who entertains a tions, is it not to be supposed that the other wish for the safety of his country, trust the States could in part comply? Certainly every sword and the purse with a single assembly orState in the Union might have executed them ganized on principles so defective—so rotten? in some degree. But New Hampshire, who Though we might give to such a government has not suffered at all, is totally delinquent: certain powers, with safety, yet to give them North Carolina is totally delinquent. Many the full and unlimited powers of taxation and others have contributed in a very small pro- the national forces, would be to establish a desportion; and Pennsylvania and New York are potism; the definition of which is, a governthe only States which have perfectly discharged ment in which all power is concentrated in a their federal duty.
single body. To take the old confederation, From the delinquency of those States who and fashion it upon these principles, would be have suffered little by the war, we naturally establishing a power which would destroy the conclude, that they have made no efforts; and liberties of the people. These considerations A knowledge of human nature will teach us show clearly, that a government totally differthat their ease and security have been a princi-ent must be instituted. They had weight in pal cause of their want of exertion. While the convention which formed the new system. danger is distant, its impression is weak, and It was seen, that the necessary powers were while it affects only our neighbors, we have too great to be trusted to a single body: they few motives to provide against it. Sir, if we therefore formed two branches, and divided the have national objects to pursue, we must have powers, that each might be a check upon the national revenues. If you make requisitions I other. This was the result of their wisdom: