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youthful conqueror was restrained by the clemency of the benevolent man: the butchery of the American garrison, at New London, would have justified and seemed to demand an exercise of the rigors of retaliation. This was strongly intimated to colonel Hamilton, but we find, in his report to his commanding of ficer, in his own words, that, "incapable of imitating examples of barbarity, and forgetting recent provocations, he spared every man who ceased to resist."
Having, soon afterwards, terminated his military career, he returned to New York, and qualified himself to commence practice as a counsellor at law. But the duties and emoluments of his profession were not then permitted to stifle his solicitude to give a correct tone to public opinion, by the propagation of principles worthy of adoption by a people who had just undertaken to govern themselves. He found the minds of men chafed and irritated by the recollection of their recent sufferings and dangers. The city of New York, so long a garrison, presented scenes and incidents, which naturally aggravated these dispositions, and too many were inclined to fan the flame of discord, and mar the enjoyment and advantages of peace, by fomenting the animosities engendered by the collisions of war. To sooth these angry passions; to heal these wounds; to demonstrate the folly and inexpediency of scattering the bitter tares of national prejudice and private rancor among the seeds of public prosperity, were objects worthy of the heart and head of Hamilton. To these he applied himself, and by a luminous pamphlet, assuaged the public resentment against those, whose sentiments had led them to oppose the revolution; and thus preserved from exile many valuable citizens, who have supported the laws and increased the opulence of their native state.
From this period, he appears to have devoted himself principally to professional occupations, which were multiplied by his increasing celebrity, until he became
a member of the convention, which met at Annapolis, merely for the purpose of devising a mode of levying and collecting a general impost. Although the object of this convention was thus limited, yet so manifold, in his view, were the defects of the old confederation, that a reform, in one particular, would be ineffectual; he, therefore, first suggested the proposal of attempting a radical change in its principles; and the address to the people of the United States, recommending a general convention, with more extensive powers, which was adopted by that assembly, was the work of his pen. *
To the second convention, which framed the constitution, he was also deputed as a delegate from the state of New York.
In that assemblage of the brightest jewels of America, the genius of Hamilton sparkled with pre-eminent lustre. The best of our orators were improved by the example of his eloquence. The most experienced of our statesmen were instructed by the solidity of his sentiments, and all were convinced of the utility and extent of his agency in framing the constitution.
When the instrument was presented to the people for their ratification, the obstacles incident to every attempt to combine the interests, views and opinions of the various states, threatened, in some of them, to frustrate the hopes and exertions of its friends. The fears of the timid, the jealousies of the ignorant, the arts of the designing, and the sincere conviction of the superficial, were arrayed into a formidable alliance, in opposition to the system. But the magic pen of Hamilton dissolved this league. Animated by the magnitude of his object, he enriched the daily papers with the researches of a mind teeming with political information. In these rapid essays, written amid the avocations of business, and under the pres
This information is derived from a respectable member of that convention, from the state of New York.
sure of the occasion, it would be natural to expect, that much would require revision and correction. But in the mind of Hamilton nothing was superficial but resentment of injuries; nothing fugitive, but those transient emotions which sometimes lead virtue astray. These productions of his pen are now considered as a standard commentary upon the nature of our government; and he lived to hear them quoted by his friends and adversaries, as high authority, in the tribunals of justice, and in the legislature of the nation.
When the Constitution was adopted, and Washington was called to the Presidency by his grateful country, our departed friend was appointed to the charge of the treasury department, and of consequence became a confidential member of the administration. In this new sphere of action, he displayed a ductility and extent of genius, a fertility in expedients, a faculty of arrangement, an industry in application to business, and a promptitude in despatch; but beyond all, a purity of public virtue and disinterestedness, which are too mighty for the grasp of my feeble powers of description. Indeed, the public character of Hamilton, and his measures from this period, are so intimately connected with the history of our country, that it is impossible to do justice to one without devoting a volume to the other. The treasury of the United States, at the time of his entrance upon the duties of his office, was literally a creature of the imagination, and existed only in name, unless folios of unsettled balances, and bundles of reproachful claims were deserving the name of a treasury. Money there was none; and of public credit scarcely a shadow remained. No national system for raising and collecting a revenue had been attempted, and no estimate could be formed, from the experiments of the different states, of the probable result of any project of deriving it from commerce. The national debt was not only unpaid, but its amount was a subject of uncertainty and conjecture. Such was the chaos from which the secretary was called upon to elicit
the elements of a regular system, adequate to the immediate exigencies of a new and expensive establishment, and to an honorable provision for the public debt. His arduous duty was not to reform abuses, but to create resources; not to improve upon precedent, but to invent a model. In an ocean of experiment, he had neither chart nor compass but those of his own invention. Yet such was the comprehensive vigor of his mind, that his original projects possessed the hardihood of settled regulations. His sketches were little short of the perfection of finished pictures. In the first session of Congress, he produced a plan for the organization of the treasury department, and for the collection of a national revenue; and in the second, a report of a system for funding the national debt. Great objections were urged against the expediency of the principles, assumed by him for the basis of his system; but no doubt remained of their effect. A dormant capital was revived, and with it commerce and agriculture awoke as from the sleep of death. By the enchantment of this "mighty magician," the beauteous fabric of public credit rose in full majesty upon the ruins of the old confederation; and men gazed with astonishment upon a youthful prodigy, who, at the age of thirtythree, having already been the ornament of the camp, the forum and the senate, was now suddenly transformed into an accomplished financier, and a self-taught adept, not only in the general principles, but the intri cate details, of his new department.
It is not wonderful that such resplendent powers of doing right should have exposed him to the suspicion of doing wrong. He was suspected and accused. His political adversaries were his judges. Their investigation of his conduct and honorable acquittal added new lustre to his fame, and confirmed the national sentiment, that in his public character he was, indeed, a man without fear and without reproach."
To his exertions in this department, we are indebted for many important institutions. Among others, the
plan of redeeming the public debt, and of a national bank to facilitate the operations of government, were matured and adopted under his auspices; and so complete were his arrangements, that his successors, though men of undoubted talents, and one of them a political opponent, have found nothing susceptible of material improvement.
But the obligations of his country, during this period, were not confined to his merit as a financier.
The flame of insurrection was kindled in the western counties of Pennsylvania, and raged with such violence, that large detachments of military force were marched to the scene of the disturbance, and the presence of the great Washington was judged necessary to quell the increasing spirit of revolt. He ordered the secretary to quit the duties of his department, and attend him on the expedition. His versatile powers were immediately and efficaciously applied to restore the authority of the laws. The principal burden of the important civil and military arrangements, requisite for this purpose, devolved upon his shoulders. It was owing to his humanity, that the leaders of this rebellion escaped exemplary punishment: and the successful issue was, in public and unqualified terms, ascribed to him by those, whose political relations would not have prompted them to pay him the homage of unmerited praise.
He was highly instrumental in preserving our peace and neutrality, and saving us from the ruin which has befallen the republics of the old world. Upon this topic, I am desirous of avoiding every intimation which might prove offensive to individuals of any party. God forbid that the sacred sorrow, in which we all unite, 'should be disturbed by the mixture of any unkindly emotions! I would merely do justice to this honored shade, without arraigning the motives of those who disapproved and opposed his measures.
The dangers, which menaced our infant government at the commencement of the French revolution, are no