The Conqueror by Gertrude Franklin Horn Atherton
Book IV. "Alexander the Great"
Hamilton reentered New York to the blaze of bonfires, the salute of cannon, and the deafening shouts of a multitude that escorted him to his doorway. Betsey was so proud of him she hardly could speak for a day, and his library was flooded with letters of congratulation from all parts of the Union. For several days he shut himself up with his family and a few friends, for he needed the rest; and the relaxation was paradisal. He played marbles and spun tops with his oldest boys, and dressed and undressed Angelica's doll as often as his imperious daughter commanded. Troup and Fish, now the dignified Adjutant-General of State, with his bang grown long and his hair brushed back, spent hours with him in the heavy shades of the garden, or tormenting a monkey on the other side of the fence. Madison came at once to wrangle with him over the temporary seat of government, and demanded the spare bedroom, protesting he had too much to say to waste time travelling back and forth. He was a welcome guest; and he, too, sat on the floor and dressed Angelica's doll.
The city was en fete, and little business was transacted except at the public houses. Bands of citizens awoke Hamilton from his sleep, shouting for "Alexander the Great." Anti-Federalists got so drunk that they embraced the Federalists, and sang on Hamilton's doorstep. The hero retreated to the back room on the top floor. The climax came on the 5th of August, in the great procession, with which, after the fashion of other triumphant cities, New York was to demonstrate in honour of the victory of the Constitution.
But, unlike its predecessors, this procession was as much in honour of one man as of the triumph of a great principle. To have persuaded New York, at that time, that Hamilton had not written the Constitution, and secured its ratification in the eleven States of the Union by his unaided efforts, would have been a dissipation of energy in August which even Clinton would not have attempted. To them Hamilton was the Constitution, Federalism, the genius of the new United States. And he was their very own. "Virginia has her Madison," they reiterated, "Massachusetts her Adamses--and may she keep them and be damned; other States may think they have produced a giant, and those that do not can fall back on Washington; but Hamilton is ours, we adore him, we are so proud of him we are like to burst, and we can never express our gratitude, try as we may; so we'll show him an honour that no other State has thought of showing to any particular man."
And of the sixth of New York's thirty thousand inhabitants that turned out on that blazing August day and marched for hours, that all the eager city might see, at least two-thirds bore a banner emblazoned with Hamilton's portrait or name, held on high. The procession was accompanied by a military escort; and every profession, every trade, was represented. A large proportion of the men who marched were gentlemen. Nicolas Fish was on the staff of the grand marshal, with six of his friends. Robert Troup and two other prominent lawyers bore, on a cushion, the new Constitution, magnificently engrossed. Nicolas Cruger, Hamilton's old employer, again a resident of New York, led the farmers, driving a plough drawn by three yoke of oxen. Baron Polnitz displayed the wonders of the newly perfected threshing-machine. John Watts, a man who had grown gray in the highest offices of New York, before and since the Revolution, guided a harrow, drawn by horses and oxen. The president, regents, professors, and students of Columbia College, all in academic dress, were followed by the Chamber of Commerce and the members of the bar. The many societies, led by the Cincinnati, followed, each bearing an appropriate banner.
And in the very centre of that pageant, gorgeous in colour and costume, from the green of the foresters to the white of the florists, was the great Federal ship, with HAMILTON, HAMILTON, HAMILTON, HAMILTON, emblazoned on every side of it. In the memory of the youngest present there was to be but one other procession in New York so imposing, and that, too, was in honour of Hamilton.
He stood on a balcony in the Broadway, with his family, Madison, Baron Steuben, and the Schuylers, bowing constantly to the salutes and cheers. Nicolas Cruger looked up and grinned. Fish winked decorously, and Troup attempted a salaam, and nearly dropped the Constitution. But Hamilton's mind served him a trick for a moment; the vivid procession, with his face and name fluttering above five thousand heads, the compact mass of spectators, proud and humble, that crowded the pavements and waved their handkerchiefs toward him, the patriotically decorated windows filled with eager, often beautiful, faces, disappeared, and he stood in front of Cruger's store on Bay Street, with his hands in his linen pockets, gazing out over a blinding glare of water, passionately wishing for the war-ship which never came, to deliver him from his Island prison and carry him to the gates of the real world beyond. He had been an ambitious boy, but nothing in his imaginings had projected him to the dizzy eminence on which he stood to-day. He was recalled by the salute of the Federal ship's thirteen guns to the president of the Congress and its members, who stood on the fort in the Battery.
After all, perhaps it was the proudest and the happiest day of his career, for the depths in his nature still slumbered, the triumph was without alloy; and he knew that there were other heights to scale, and that he should scale them. It was the magnificent and spontaneous tribute of an intelligent people to an enlightened patriotism, to years of severe and unselfish thought; and hardly an enemy grudged him his deserts. The wild feeling of exultant triumph which surged behind his smiling face receded before the rising swell of the profoundest gratitude he had ever known.
The day finished with a great banquet at Mr. Bayard's country-seat, near Grand Street, where tables were spread for six thousand persons, in a pavilion surmounted by an image of Fame, and decorated with the colours of the nations that had formed treaties with the United States. Later, there was a grand display of fireworks.