The Conqueror by Gertrude Franklin Horn Atherton
Book IV. "Alexander the Great"
That afternoon the very memory of Eliza Croix fled before a mounted messenger, who came tearing into town with word of Virginia's ratification, of the great excitement in the cities of Richmond, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and New York, the processions in honour of this important conquest. There were tales also of fray and bloodshed, in which the Federals had retained the field; but, on the whole, the country seemed wild with delight.
But although this news did not produce the visible effect upon the opposition for which Hamilton had hoped, the anti-Federalist leaders were as fearful of hurrying the matter to the final vote as the Constitutionalists. Clinton stood like a rock, but he feared defections at the last moment, was conscious that his dominance over the minds of the men who had come to the Convention believing implicitly in his doctrine that union was unnecessary, concurring in his abhorrence of the new Constitution, was snapping daily, as Hamilton's arguments and acute logic fermented in their clarifying brains. Many began to avoid their chief. They talked in knots by themselves. They walked the forest roads alone for hours, deep in thought. It was evident that Hamilton had liberated their understandings from one autocrat, whether he had brought them under his own despotic will or not.
There was no speaking, and little or no business for several days. A few more amendments would be suggested, then an adjournment. It was like the lull of the hurricane, when nervous people sit in the very centre of the storm, awaiting the terrors of its final assault.
Hamilton had much leisure for several days, but he was too deeply anxious to give more than a passing thought to Mrs. Croix, although he was grateful for the help he knew she was rendering him. "If we were Turks," he thought once, "she would be an invaluable member of a harem. She never could fill my domestic needs, which are capacious; most certainly I should never, at any time, have chosen her for the mother of my children; but as an intellectual and political partner, as a confidante and counsellor, she would appeal to me very keenly. I talk to Betsey, dear child, because I must talk, because I have an egotistical craving for response, but I must bore her very often, and I am not conscious of ever having received a suggestion from her--however, God knows I am grateful for her sympathy. As the children grow older I shall have less and less of her; already I appreciate the difference. She will always have the core of my soul and the fealty of my heart, but it is rather a pity that man should be given so many sides with their corresponding demands, if no one woman is to be found able to respond to all. As for this remarkable creature, I could imagine myself in a state of mad infatuation, and seeking her constantly for the delight of mental companionship besides; but the highest and best, if I have them--oh, no! Perhaps the Turks are wiser than we, after all, for their wives suffer only from jealousy, while--most men being Turks on one plan or another--the women of the more advanced races suffer from humiliation, and are wounded in their deepest sentiments. All of which goes to prove, that the longer I delay a meeting with this high-priestess the better."
In a day or two he was hard at work again fighting the last desperate battle. The oppositionists had brought forward a new form of conditional ratification, with a bill of rights prefixed, and amendments subjoined. This, it would seem, was their proudest achievement, and, in a long and adroit speech, Melancthon Smith announced it as their final decision. That was at midday. Hamilton rose at once, and in one of the most brilliant and comprehensive speeches he had yet made, demonstrated the absurdity of conditional ratification, or the power of Congress to indorse it. It was a close, legal, and constitutional argument, and with the retorts of the anti-Federalists occupied two days, during which Hamilton stood most of the time, alert, resourceful, master of every point of the vast subject, to which he gave an almost embarrassing simplicity. On the third day occurred his first signal triumph and the confounding of Clinton: Melancthon Smith stood up and admitted that Hamilton had convinced him of the impossibility of conditional ratification. Lansing immediately offered as a substitute for the motion withdrawn, another, by which the State ratify but reserve to itself the right to secede after a certain number of years, unless the amendments proposed should previously be submitted to a general convention.
Adjournment followed, and Hamilton and his leaders held a long consultation at the Livingston mansion, as a result of which he wrote that night to Madison, now in New York, asking his advice as to the sort of ratification proposed by the enemy. It was a course he by no means approved, but it seemed the less of two evils; for if, by hook or crook, the Constitution could be forced through, the good government which would ensue was bound to break up the party of the opposition. He had a trump, but he hesitated to resort to a coercion so high-handed and arbitrary. His supposed monarchical aspirations were hurled at him daily, and he must proceed with the utmost caution, lest his future usefulness be impaired at the outset.
Madison replied at once that such a proposition could not be considered, for only unconditional ratification was constitutional; but before his letter arrived Hamilton and Smith had had another hot debate, at the end of which the anti-Federalist leader declared himself wholly beaten, and announced his intention to vote for the unconditional acceptance of the Constitution.
But although there was consternation in the ranks of the anti-Federalists at this momentous defection, Clinton stood like an old lion at bay, with his other leaders behind him, his wavering ranks still coherent under his practised manipulation. For several days more the battle raged, and on the night before what promised to be the day of the final vote, Hamilton received a note from Mrs. Croix.
Hamilton was very grateful for this note, and answered it more warmly than had been his habit. His friends were deep in gloomy prognostications, for it was impossible to delay twenty-four hours longer. He had made converts, but not enough to secure a majority; and his followers did not conceive that even he could put forth an effort more convincing or more splendid than many of his previous achievements. In consequence, his susceptible nature had experienced a chill, for he was Gallic enough to compass greater things under the stimulus of encouragement and prospective success; but this unquestioning belief in him by a woman for whose mind he was beginning to experience a profound admiration, sent his quicksilver up to a point where he felt capable of all things. She had scored one point for herself. He felt that it would be unpardonable longer to accept such favours as she showered upon him unsought, and make no acknowledgment beyond a civil note: he expressed his desire to call upon her when they were both in New York once more. "But not here in Arcadia!" he thought. "I'll call formally at her lodgings and take Troup or Morris with me. Morris will doubtless abduct her, and that will be the end of it."