Book III. The Little Lion
Chapter XII

The next few years may be passed over quickly; they are not the most interesting, though not the least happy of Hamilton's life. He returned home on furlough after the battle of York Town and remained in his father-in-law's hospitable home until the birth of his boy, on the 22d of January. Then, having made up his mind that there was no further work for him in the army, and that Britain was as tired of the war as the States, he announced his intention to study for the bar. His friends endeavoured to dissuade him from a career whose preparation was so long and arduous, and reminded him of the public offices he could have for the asking. But Hamilton was acquainted with his capacity for annihilating work, and at this time he was not conscious of any immediate ambition but of keeping his wife in a proper style and of founding a fortune for the education of his children. His military ambition had been so possessing that the sudden and brilliant finish at York Town of his power to gratify it had dwarfed for a while any other he may have cherished.

He took a little house in the long street on the river front, and invited Troup to live with him. They studied together. He had been the gayest of companions, the most courted of favourites, since his return from the wars. For four months even his wife and Troup had, save on Sundays, few words with him on unlegal matters. His brain excluded every memory, every interest. For the first time he omitted to write regularly to Mrs. Mitchell, Hugh Knox, and Peter Lytton. All day and half the night he walked up and down his library, or his father-in-law's, reading, memorizing, muttering aloud. His friends vowed that he marched the length and width of the Confederacy. He never gave a more striking exhibition of his control over the powers of his intellect than this. The result was that at the end of four months he obtained a license to practise as an attorney, and published a "Manual on the Practice of Law," which, Troup tells us, "served as an instructive grammar to future students, and became the groundwork of subsequent enlarged practical treatises." If it be protested that these feats were impossible, I can only reply that they are historic facts.

It was during these months of study that Aaron Burr came to Albany.

This young man, also, was not unknown to fame; and the period of the Revolution is the one on which Burr's biographers should dilate, for it was the only one through which he passed in a manner entirely to his credit. He was now in Albany, striving for admittance to the bar, but handicapped by the fact that he had studied only two years, instead of the full three demanded by law.

While Burr did not belong to the aristocracy of the country, his family not ranking by any means with the Schuylers, Van Rensselaers, Livingstons, Jays, Morrises, Roosevelts, and others of that small and haughty band, still he came of excellent and respectable stock. His father had been the Rev. Aaron Burr, President of Princeton College, and his mother the daughter of the famous Jonathan Edwards. He was quick-witted and brilliant; and there is no adjective which qualifies his ambition. He was a year older than Hamilton, about an inch taller, and very dark. His features were well cut, his eyes black, glittering, and cold; his bearing dignified but unimposing, for he bent his shoulders and walked heavily. His face was not frank, even in youth, and grew noticeably craftier. He and Hamilton were the greatest fops in dress of their time; but while the elegance and beauty of attire sat with a peculiar fitness on Hamilton, seeming but the natural continuation of his high-bred face and easy erect and graceful bearing, Burr always looked studiously well-dressed. In regard to their height, a similar impression prevailed. One never forgot Burr's small stature, and often commented upon it. Comment upon Hamilton's size was rare, his proportions and motions were so harmonious; when he was on the platform, that ruthless test of inches, he dominated and controlled every brain in the audience, and his enemies vowed he was in league with the devil.

Burr brought letters to General Schuyler, and was politely given the run of the library. He and Hamilton had met casually in the army, but had had no opportunity for acquaintance. At this time the law was a subject of common interest, and they exchanged many opinions. There was no shock of antagonism at first, and for that matter they asked each other to dinner as long as Hamilton lived. But Hamilton estimated him justly at once, although, as Burr was as yet unconscious of the depths of his own worst qualities, the most astute reader of character hardly would suspect them. But Hamilton read that he was artificial and unscrupulous, and too selfish to serve the country in any of her coming needs. Still, he was brilliant and fascinating, and Hamilton asked him to his home. Burr, at first, was agreeably attracted to Hamilton, whose radiant disposition warmed his colder nature; but when he was forced to accept the astounding fact that Hamilton had prepared himself for the bar in four months, digesting and remembering a mountain of knowledge that cost other men the labour of years, and had prepared a Manual besides, he experienced the first convulsion of that jealousy which was to become his controlling passion in later years. Indeed, he established the habit with that first prolonged paroxysm, and he asked himself sullenly why a nameless stranger, from an unheard-of Island, should have the unprecedented success which this youth had had. Social victory, military glory, the preference of Washington, the respect and admiration of the most eminent men in the country, a horde of friends who talked of him as if he were a demi-god, an alliance by marriage with the greatest family in America, a father-in-law to advance any man's ambitions, a fascination which had kept the women talking until he married, and finally a memory and a legal faculty which had so astounded the bar--largely composed of exceptional men--that it could talk of nothing else: it was enough for a lifetime, and the man was only twenty-five. What in heaven's name was to be expected of him before he finished? The more Burr brooded, the more enraged he became. He had been brought up to think himself extraordinary, although his guardian had occasionally birched him when his own confidence had disturbed the peace; he was intensely proud of his military career, and aware of his fitness for the bar. But in the blaze of Hamilton's genius he seemed to shrivel; and as for having attempted to prepare himself for practice in four months, he might as well have grafted wings to his back and expected them to grow. It was some consolation to reflect that, as aide and confidential secretary for four years to Washington, Hamilton had been a student of the law of nations, and that thus his mind was peculiarly fitted to grasp what confronts most men as a solid wall to be taken down stone by stone; also that himself acknowledged no rival where the affections of women were concerned. But while he lifted the drooping head of his pride, and tied it firmly to a stake with many strong words, he chose to regard Hamilton as a rival, and the idea grew until it possessed him.

In July Robert Morris, after some correspondence, persuaded Hamilton to accept the office of Continental Receiver for a short time.

Your former situation in the army [he wrote], the present situation of that very army, your connexions in the state, your perfect knowledge of men and measures, and the abilities with which heaven has blessed you, will give you a fine opportunity to forward the public service.

Hamilton, who had no desire to interrupt his studies, was placed in a position which gave him no choice; his sense of public duty grew steadily.

For my part [he wrote to Morris], considering the late serious misfortune to our ally, the spirit of reformation, of wisdom, and of unanimity, which seems to have succeeded to that of blunder and dissension in the British government, and the universal reluctance of these states to do what is right, I cannot help viewing our situation as critical, and I feel it the duty of every citizen to exert his faculties to the utmost.

But in spite of the onerous and disagreeable duties of his position, he continued to pursue the course of study necessary for admission to the bar as a counsellor. He also found time to write a letter to Meade. The following extract will show that the severity of his great task was over, and that he was once more alive to that domestic happiness to which so large a part of his nature responded.

You reproach me with not having said enough about our little stranger. When I wrote last I was not sufficiently acquainted with him to give you his character. I may now assure you that your daughter, when she sees him, will not consult you about her choice, or will only do it in respect to the rules of decorum. He is truly a very fine young gentleman, the most agreeable in conversation and manners of any I ever knew, nor less remarkable for his intelligence and sweetness of temper. You are not to imagine by my beginning with his mental qualifications that he is defective in personal. It is agreed on all hands that he is handsome; his features are good, his eye is not only sprightly and expressive, but it is full of benignity. His attitude in sitting is, by connoisseurs, esteemed graceful, and he has a method of waving his hand that announces the future orator. He stands, however, rather awkwardly, and as his legs have not all the delicate slimness of his father's, it is feared he may never excel as much in dancing, which is probably the only accomplishment in which he will not be a model. If he has any fault in manners, he laughs too much. He has now passed his seventh month.

Happy by temperament, Hamilton was at this time happier in his conditions--barring the Receivership--than any vague, wistful, crowded dream had ever presaged. His wife was adorable and pretty, sprightly and sympathetic, yet accomplished in every art of the Dutch housewife; and although he was far too modest to boast, he was privately convinced that his baby was the finest in the Confederacy. He had a charming little home, and Troup, the genial, hearty, and solid, was a member of it. In General and Mrs. Schuyler he had found genuine parents, who strove to make him forget that he had ever been without a home. He had been forced to refuse offers of assistance from his father-in-law again and again. He would do nothing to violate his strong sense of personal independence; he had half of the arrears of his pay, Troup his share of the expenses of the little house. He knew that in a short time he should be making an income. The cleverest of men, however, can be hoodwinked by the subtle sex. The great Saratoga estate of the Schuylers furnished the larder of the Hamiltons with many things which the young householder was far too busy to compare with his slender purse.

He heard constantly from his friends in the army, and finally was persuaded to sit for a portrait, to be the common property of six or eight of them. Money was desperately tight, they could not afford a copy apiece, but each was to possess it for two months at a time so long as he lived; he who survived the others to dispose of it as he chose. For Hamilton to sit still and look in one direction for half an hour was nothing short of misery, even with Betsey, Troup, and the Baby to amuse him; and only the head, face, stock, and front of the coat were finished. But the artist managed to do himself justice with the massive spirited head, the deep-set mischievous eyes, whose lightnings never were far from the surface; the humour in the remarkable curves of the mouth, the determination and suppressed energy of the whole face. It was a living portrayal, and Betsey parted from it with tears. When she saw it again her eyes were dim with many tears. The last of its owners to survive fell far into poverty, and sold it to one of her sons. It is to-day as fresh, as alive with impatient youth and genius, as when Hamilton estimated portrait painters thieves of time.

Meanwhile a compliment was paid to him which upset his plans, and placed him for a short time in the awkward position of hesitating between private desires and public duty: he was elected by the New York legislature, and almost unanimously, a delegate to Congress. Troup brought him the news as he was walking on the broad street along the river front, muttering his Blackstone, oblivious of his fellow-citizens.

"Go to Congress!" he exclaimed. "Who goes to that ramshackle body that is able to keep out of it? Could not they find someone else to send to distinguish himself by failure? I've my living to make. If a man in these days manages to support his wife and child, there is nothing else he can do which so entitles him to the esteem of his fellow-citizens."

"True," said Troup, soothingly; "there certainly is nothing in that body of old women and lunatics, perpetually bickering with thirteen sovereign, disobedient, and jealous States, to tempt the ambition of any man; nor, ordinarily, to appeal to his sense of usefulness. But just at present there are several questions before it with which it is thought you can cope more successfully than any man living. So I think you ought to go, and so does General Schuyler. I know all that you will sacrifice, domestic as well as pecuniarily--but remember, you solemnly dedicated yourself to the service of this country."

"I'm not likely to forget it, and I am willing to sacrifice anything if I am convinced of my usefulness in a given direction, but I see no chance of accomplishing aught in Congress, of doing this country any service until it is a nation, not a sack of scratching cats."

Not only was great pressure brought to bear upon him, but he was not long convincing himself that it was his duty to take his knowledge of certain subjects vexing the Confederation, to the decrepit body which was feebly striving to save the country from anarchy. He had given little attention to the general affairs of the country during the past six months, but an examination of them fired his zeal. He accepted the appointment, and returned to his law books and his dispiriting struggle with the taxes.

In the autumn Hamilton received the second of those heavy blows by which he was reminded that in spite of his magnetism for success he was to suffer like other mortals. Laurens was dead--killed in a petty skirmish which he was so loath to miss that he had bolted to it from a sick-bed. Hamilton mourned him passionately, and never ceased to regret him. He was mercurial only among his lighter feelings. The few people he really loved were a part of his daily thoughts, and could set his heartstrings vibrating at any moment. Betsey consoled, diverted, and bewitched him, but there were times when he would have exchanged her for Laurens. The perfect friendship of two men is the deepest and highest sentiment of which the finite mind is capable; women miss the best in life.

In October Hamilton resigned the Receivership, having brought an honourable amount of order out of chaos and laid down the law for the guidance of future officials. November came, and he set off for Philadelphia philosophically, though by no means with a light heart. The baby was too young to travel; he was obliged to send his little family to General Schuyler's, with no hope of seeing them again for months, and a receding prospect of offering them a home in New York. His father-in-law, not unmindful that consolation was needed, drove him two-thirds of the distance, thus saving him a long ride, or its alternative, the heavy coach. In Philadelphia he found sufficient work awaiting him to drive all personal matters out of his head.

It was during this year of hard work and little result that he renewed an acquaintance with James Madison, Jr., afterward fourth President of the United States, and Gouverneur Morris, one of the most brilliant and disinterested young men in the country, now associated with Robert Morris in the Department of Finance. With the last the acquaintance ripened into a lifelong and intimate friendship; with Madison the friendship was equally ardent and intimate while it lasted. Madison had the brain of a statesman, energy and persistence in crises, immense industry, facility of speech, a broad contempt for the pretensions and mean bickerings of the States, and a fairly national outlook. As Hamilton would have said, he "thought continentally." But he lacked individuality. He was too patriotic, too sincere to act against his principles, but his principles could be changed by a more powerful and magnetic brain than his own, and the inherent weakness in him demanded a stronger nature to cling to. It happened that he and Hamilton, when they met again in Congress, thought alike on many subjects, and they worked together in harmony from the first; nevertheless, he was soon in the position of a double to that towering and energetic personality, and worshipped it. In their letters the two young men sign themselves, "yours affectionately," "yours with deep attachment," which between men--I suppose--means something. So noticeable was Madison's devotion to the most distinguished young man of the day, and a few years later so absorbed was he into the huge personality of his early friend's bitterest enemy, that John Randolph once exclaimed in wrath, "Madison always was some great man's mistress--first Hamilton's, then Jefferson's:" a remark which was safe in the days of our ancestors, when life was all work and no satiety.

Gouverneur Morris had sacrificed home, inheritance, and ties in the cause of the Revolution, most of his family remaining true to the crown. His education was thorough, however, and subsequently he had nine years of Europe, of which he left to posterity an entertaining record. Tall, handsome, a wit, a beau, notable for energy in Congress, erratic, caustic, cynical, but the warmest of friends, he was a pet of society, a darling of women, and trusted by all men. He and Hamilton had much in common, and to some degree he took Laurens's place; not entirely, for Laurens's idealism gave him a pedestal in Hamilton's memory which no other man but Washington ever approached; and Morris was brutal in his cynicism, placing mankind but a degree higher than the beasts of the forest. But heart and brain endeared him to Hamilton, and no man had a loftier or more burning patriotism. As for himself, he loved and admired Hamilton above all men. He was as strong in his nationalism, believing Union under a powerful central government to be the only hope of the States. Both he and Madison were leaders; but both, even then, were willing to be led by Hamilton, who was several years their junior.

The three young enthusiasts made a striking trio of contrasts as they sat one evening over their port and walnuts in a private room of a coffee-house, where they had met to discuss the problems convulsing the unfortunate country. Madison had the look of a student, a taciturn intellectual visage. He spoke slowly, weightily, and with great precision. Morris had, even then, an expression of cynicism and contempt on his handsome bold face, and he swore magnificently whenever his new wooden leg interfered with his comfort or dignity. Hamilton, with his fair mobile face, powerful, penetrating, delicate, illuminated by eyes full of fire and vivacity, but owing its chief attraction to a mouth as sweet as it was firm and humorous, made the other men look almost heavy. Madison was carelessly attired, the other two with all the picturesque elegance of their time.

"A debt of $42,000,000," groaned Morris, "interest $2,400,000; Robert Morris threatening to resign; delirious prospect of panic in consequence; national spirit with which we began the war, a stinking wick under the tin extinguisher of States' selfishness, stinginess, and indifference--caused by the natural reversion of human nature to first principles after the collapse of that enthusiasm which inflates mankind into a bombastic pride of itself; Virginia pusillanimous, Rhode Island an old beldam standing on the village pump and shrieking disapproval of everything; Jay, Adams, and Franklin, after years of humiliating mendicancy, their very hearts wrinkled in the service of the stupidest country known to God or man, shoved by a Congress not fit to black their boots under the thumb of the wiliest and most disingenuous diplomatist in Europe--much France cares for our interests, provided we cut loose from Britain; Newburg address and exciting prospect, in these monotonous times, of civil war, while peace commission is sitting in London; just demands of men who have fought, starving and naked, for a bare subsistence after the army disbands, modest request for arrears of pay,--on which to relieve the necessities of their families turned out to grass for seven years,--pleasantly indorsed by the Congress, which feels safe in indorsing anything, and rejected by the States, called upon to foot the bill, as a painful instance of the greed and depravity of human nature--there you are: no money, no credit, no government, no friends,--for Europe is sick of us,--no patriotism; immediate prospects, bankruptcy, civil war, thirteen separate meals for Europe. What do you propose, Hamilton? I look to you as your Islanders flee to a stone house in a hurricane. You are an alien, with no damned state roots to pull up, your courage is unhuman, or un-American, and you are the one man of genius in the country. Madison is heroic to a fault, a roaring Berserker, but we must temper him, we must temper him; and meanwhile we will both defer to the peculiar quality of your mettle."

Madison, who had not a grain of humour, replied gravely, his rich southern brogue seeming to roll his words down from a height: "I have a modest hope in the address I prepared for the citizens of Rhode Island, more in Hamilton's really magnificent letter to the Governor. Nothing can be more forcible--nay, beguiling--than his argument in that letter in favour of a general government independent of state machinery, and his elaborate appeal to that irritating little commonwealth to consent to the levying of the impost by Congress, necessary to the raising of the moneys. I fear I am not a hero, for I confess I tremble. I fear the worst. But at all events I am determined to place on record that I left no stone unturned to save this miserable country."

"You will go down to posterity as a great man, Madison, if you are never given the chance to be one," replied the father of American humour and coinage; "for it is not in words but in acts that we display the faith that is not in us. Well, Hamilton?"

"I must confess," said Hamilton, "that Congress appears to me, as a newcomer, rooted contentedly to its chairs, and determined to do nothing, happy in the belief that Providence has the matter in hand and but bides the right moment to make the whole world over. But I see no cause to despair, else I should not have come to waste my time. I fear that Rhode Island is too fossilized to listen to us, but I shall urge that we change the principle of the Confederation and vote to make the States contribute to the general treasury in an equal proportion to their means, by a system of general taxation imposed under continental authority. If the poorer States, irrespective of land and numbers, could be relieved, and the wealthier taxed specifically on land and houses, the whole regulated by continental legislation, I think that even Rhode Island might be placated. It may be that this is not agreeable to the spirit of the times, but I shall make the attempt--"

"Considering there is no spirit in the times, we might as well expect to inform its skull with genius by means of a lighted candle. You think too well of human nature, my boy; expect nothing, that ye be not disappointed, especially in the matter of revenue."

"I have no exalted opinion of human nature, but if I did not think more hopefully of it than you do, I should yield up that enthusiasm without which I can accomplish nothing. You have every gift, but you will end as a dilettante because your ideal is always in the mud; and it is only now and again that you think it worth while to pick it up and give it a bath."

"Right, right," murmured Morris, good-naturedly. "Would that I had your unquenchable belief in the worth while. Allied to your abilities it will make the new world over and upset the wicked plans of the old. Analyst and disbeliever in man's right to his exaggerated opinion of himself, how do you keep enthusiasm abreast with knowledge of human kind? Tell me, Hamilton, how do you do it?"

"I fear 'tis the essence of which I am made. My energies will have outlet or tear me to pieces. When there is work to do, my nostrils quiver like a war-horse's at the first roar and smoke--"

"Your modesty does you infinite honour; the truth is, you have the holy fire of patriotism in an abnormal degree. I have it, but I still am normal. I have made sacrifices and shall make more, but my ego curls its lip. Yours never does. That is the difference between you and most of us. Hundreds of us are doggedly determined to go through to the bitter end, sacrifice money, youth and health; but you alone are happy. That is why we love you and are glad to follow your lead. But, I repeat, how can you labour with such undying enthusiasm for the good of human kind when you know what they amount to?"

"Some are worth working for, that is one point; I don't share your opinion of general abasement, for the facts warrant no such opinion. And the battle of ideas, the fight for certain stirring and race-making principles,--that is the greatest game that mortals can play. And to play it, we must have mortals for puppets. To create a new government, a new race, to found what may become the greatest nation on the earth,--what more stupendous destiny? Even if one were forgotten, it would be worth doing, so tremendous would be the exercise of the faculties, so colossal the difficulties. I would have a few men do it all; I have no faith in the uneducated. The little brain, half opened by a village schoolmaster, is pestilential; but in the few with sufficient power over the many,--from whom will be evolved more and more to rank with the first few,--in those I have faith, and am proud to work with them."

"Good. I'd not have a monarchy, but I'd have the next thing to it, with a muzzle on the rabble. Perhaps I, too, have faith in a few,--in yourself and George Washington; and in Madison, our own Gibraltar. But the pig-headed, selfish, swinish--well, go on with your present plans. 'Tis to hear those we met to-night, not to analyze each other. Tell us all, that we may not only hope, but work with you."

"The army first. If retirement on half pay is impossible, then full pay for, say six years,--and the arrears,--paid upon the disbanding of the army. Washington, by the exercise of the greatest moral force, but one, that has appeared in this world, has averted a civil war--I am persuaded that horror is averted, and I assume that the country does not care eternally to disgrace itself by letting its deliverers, who have suffered all that an army can suffer, return to their ruined homes without the few dollars necessary for another start in life. I have resigned my claim to arrears of pay, that my argument may not be weakened. Then a peace establishment. Fancy leaving our frontiers to the mercy of state militia! I shall urge that the general government have exclusive power over the sword, to establish certain corps of infantry, artillery, cavalry, dragoons, and engineers, a general system of land fortifications, establishment of arsenals and magazines, erection of founderies and manufactories for arms, of ports and maritime fortifications--with many details with which I will not bore you. I shall urge the necessity of strengthening the Federal government through the influence of officers deriving their appointment directly from Congress--always, always, the necessity of strengthening the central government, of centralizing power, and of putting the States where they belong. It is federation or anarchy. Then--moderate funds permanently pledged for the security of lenders. I have preached that since I have dared to preach at all, and that is the only solution of our present distress, for we'll never get another foreign loan--"

"We've accepted your wisdom, but we can't apply it," interposed Morris. "Our only hope lies in your national government--but go on."

"A moment," said Madison. "This, in regard to the peace establishment: Do we apply a war congress to a state of peace, I fear we shall too clearly define its limits. The States may refuse obedience, and then the poor invalided body will fall into greater disrepute than ever."

"I have thought of that," replied Hamilton, "and if the worst comes to the worst, I have a radical plan to propose,--that Congress publish frankly its imperfections to the country--imperfections which make it impossible to conduct the public affairs with honour to itself or advantage to the United States; that it ask the States to appoint a convention, with full powers to revise the Confederation, and to adopt and propose all necessary alterations--all to be approved or rejected, in the last instance, by the legislatures of the several States. That would be the first step toward a national government. With that, all things would be possible,--the payment of our foreign loan, of our army, duties on foreign goods, which is a source of revenue to which they are incredibly blind; the establishment of a firm government, under which all will prosper that are willing to work, of a National Bank, of a peace army--"

"Of Utopia!" exclaimed Morris. "Hamilton, you are the least visionary man in this country, but you are God knows how many years ahead of your times. If we are ever on two legs again, you will put us there; but your golden locks will thin in the process, and that rosy boyish face we love will be lined with the seams of the true statesman. Only you could contemplate imbuing these fossilized and commonplace intellects, composing our Congress of the Confederation--mark the ring of it!--with a belief in its own impotency and worthlessness. You are not mortal. I always said it. When Duane gave me your letter to read, I remarked: 'He withdrew to heaven, and wrote that letter on the knee of the Almighty; never on earth could he have found the courage and the optimism.' No, Hamilton, I would embrace you, did my wooden leg permit me to escape your wrath, but I can give you no encouragement. You will fail here--gloriously, but you will fail. Mark my words, the army will go home cursing, and scratch the ground to feed its women. The States will have no peace establishment to threaten their sovereign rights, we will pay nobody, and become more and more poverty-stricken and contemptible in our own eyes, and in the eyes of Europe; we will do nothing that is wise and everything that is foolish--"

"And then, when the country is sick unto death," interrupted Hamilton, "it will awake to the wisdom of the drastic remedy and cohere into a nation."

"Query," said Madison, "would it not be patriotic to push things from bad to worse as quickly as possible? It might be a case of justifiable Jesuitism."

"And it might lead to anarchy and the jaws of Europe," said Hamilton. "It is never safe to go beyond a certain point in the management of human affairs. What turn the passions of the people may take can never be foretold, nor that element of the unknown, which is always under the invisible cap and close on one's heels. God knows I have not much patience in my nature, and I do not believe that most of my schemes are so far in advance of even this country's development; but certain lessons must be instilled by slow persistence. I have no faith in rushing people at the point of the bayonet in times of peace."

"I think you are right there," said Morris. "But mark my words, you'll propagate ideas here, and the result in time will be the birth of a nation--no doubt of that; but you must rest content to live on hope for the present. I was a fettered limb in this body too long. I know its inertia."

He knew whereof he spoke. Hamilton won little but additional reputation, much admiration, half resentful, and many enemies. The army went home unpaid; the peace establishment consisted of eighty men; little or nothing was done to relieve the national debt or to carry on the business of government. Even his proposition to admit the public to the galleries of Congress, in the hope of interesting it in governmental affairs, only drew upon him the sneer that he could go out on the balcony and make his speeches if he feared his eloquence was wasted. He was accused of writing the Newburg address inciting the officers to civil war, because it was particularly well written, and of hurrying Congress to Trenton, when threatened by a mutinous regiment. But he worked on undaunted, leaving his indelible mark; for he taught the States that their future prosperity and happiness lay in giving up to the Union some part of the imposts that might be levied on foreign commodities, and incidentally the idea of a double government; he proposed a definite system of funding the debts on continental securities, which gradually rooted in the common sense of the American people, and he inveighed with a bitter incisiveness, which was tempered by neither humour nor gaiety, against the traitorous faction in the pay of France. He dissuaded Robert Morris from resigning, and introduced a resolution in eulogy of Washington's management of his officers in the most critical hour of the Union's history. But his immediate accomplishment was small and discouraging, although his foresight may have anticipated what George Ticknor Curtis wrote many years later:--

The ideas of a statesman like Hamilton, earnestly bent on the discovery and inculcation of truth, do not pass away. Wiser than those by whom he was surrounded, with a deeper knowledge of the science of government than most of them, and constantly enunciating principles which extended far beyond the temporizing policy of the hour, the smiles of his opponents only prove to posterity how far he was in advance of them.

The following extract from a letter of James M'Henry, Lafayette's former aide, and a member of the Congress, is interesting as a commentary on the difficulties of our hero's position while a member of that body.

DEAR HAMILTON: The homilies you delivered in Congress are still remembered with pleasure. The impressions they made are in favour of your integrity; and no one but believes you a man of honour and of republican principles. Were you ten years older and twenty thousand pounds richer, there is no doubt but that you might obtain the suffrages of Congress for the highest office in their gift. You are supposed to possess various knowledge, useful, substantial, and ornamental. Your very grave and your cautious, your men who measure others by the standard of their own creeping politics, think you sometimes intemperate, but seldom visionary: and that were you to pursue your object with as much cold perseverance as you do with ardour and argument, you would become irresistible. In a word, if you could submit to spend a whole life in dissecting a fly you would be, in their opinion, one of the greatest men in the world. Bold designs; measures calculated for their rapid execution; a wisdom that would convince from its own weight; a project that would surprise the people into greater happiness, without giving them an opportunity to view it and reject it, are not adapted to a council composed of discordant elements, or a people who have thirteen heads, each of which pay superstitious adorations to inferior divinities.

Adieu, my dear friend, and in the days of your happiness drop a line to your


At the end of 1783 Hamilton was convinced that he was of no further immediate use to the country, and refused a reelection to the Congress, despite entreaty and expostulation, returning to the happiness of his domestic life and to his neglected law-books. The British having evacuated New York, he moved his family there and entered immediately upon the practice of his profession.