The Conqueror by Gertrude Franklin Horn Atherton
Book V. The Last Battle of the Giants and the End
The humour and vivacity which had seldom been absent from Hamilton's face in life withdrew its very impress with his spirit. His features had something more than the noble repose, the baffling peace, of death; they looked as if they had been cast long ago with the heads of the Caesars. Gouverneur Morris, staring at him through blistered eyeballs as he lay in his coffin, recalled the history of the House of Hamilton, of its direct and unbroken descent--through the fortunate, and famed, and crowned of the centuries--from the Great Constantine, from "The Macedonian," founder of a dynasty of Roman Emperors, and from the first of the Russian monarchs. Throughout that history great spirits had appeared from time to time, hewed the foundations of an epoch, and disappeared. What long-withdrawn creators had met in this exceptionally begotten brain? Did those great makers of empire, whose very granite tombs were dust, return to earth when their immortal energies were invoked to create a soul for a nation in embryo? Morris reviewed the dead man's almost unhuman gift for inspiring confidence, exerted from the moment he first showed his boyish face to the multitude; for triumphing to his many goals as if jagged ramparts had been grass under his feet. He had been the brain of the American army in his boyhood; he had conceived an empire in his young twenties; he had poured his genius into a sickly infant, and set it, a young giant, on its legs, when he was long under twoscore. Almost all things had come to him by intuition, for he had lived in advance of much knowledge.
He communicated these thoughts to Troup, who left the room with him, his head bent, his arms hanging listlessly. "He might have come in some less human form," added Morris, bitterly. "This is the worst time of my life. I am not ashamed to say I've cried my eyes out."
"I have cried my heart out," said Troup.
The funeral took place from the house of John Church, in Robinson Street, near the upper Park. Express messengers had dashed out from New York the moment Hamilton breathed his last, and every city tolled its bells as it received the news. People flocked into the streets, weeping and indignant to the point of fury. Washington's death had been followed by sadness and grief, but was unaccompanied by anger, and a loud desire for vengeance. Moreover, Hamilton was still a young man. Few knew of his feeble health; and that dauntless resourceful figure dwelt in the high light of the public imagination, ever ready to deliver the young country in its many times of peril. His death was lamented as a national calamity.
On the day of the funeral, New York was black. Every place of business was closed. The world was in the windows, on the housetops, on the pavements of the streets through which the cortege was to pass: Robinson, Beekman, Peal, and Broadway to Trinity Church. Those who were to walk in the funeral procession waited, the Sixth Regiment, with the colours and music of the several corps, paraded, in Robinson Street, until the standard of the Cincinnati, shrouded in crepe, was waved before the open door of Mr. Church's house. The regiment immediately halted and rested on its reversed arms, until the bier had been carried from the house to the centre of the street, when the procession immediately formed. This was the order of it:--
On the coffin were Hamilton's hat and sword. His boots and spurs were reversed across his horse. The fine gray charger, caparisoned in mourning, was led by two black servants, dressed in white, their turbans trimmed with black.
The military escorted him in single file, with trailing arms, the band playing "The Dead March in Saul," minute guns from the Artillery in the Park answered by the British and French warships in the harbour. But for the solemn music, its still more solemn accompaniment, the tolling of muffled bells, and the heavy tramp of many feet, there was no sound; even women of an hysterical habit either controlled themselves or were too impressed to give way to superficial emotion. When the procession after its long march reached Trinity Church the military formed in two columns, extending from the gate to the corners of Wall Street, and the bier was deposited before the entrance. Morris, surrounded by Hamilton's boys, stood over it, and delivered the most impassioned address which had ever leapt from that brilliant but erratic mind. It was brief, both because he hardly was able to control himself, and because he feared to incite the people to violence, but it was profoundly moving. "He never lost sight of your interests!" he reiterated; "I declare to you before that God in whose presence we are now so especially assembled, that in his most private and confidential conversations, his sole subject of discussion was your freedom and happiness. Although he was compelled to abandon public life, never for a moment did he abandon the public service. He never lost sight of your interests. For himself he feared nothing; but he feared that bad men might, by false professions, acquire your confidence and abuse it to your ruin. He was ambitious only of glory, but he was deeply solicitous for you."
The troops formed an extensive hollow square in the churchyard, and terminated the solemnities with three volleys over the coffin in its grave. The immense throng, white, still aghast, and unreconciled, dispersed. The bells tolled until sundown. The city and the people wore mourning for a month, the bar for six weeks. In due time the leading men of the parish decided upon the monument which should mark to future generations the cold and narrow home of him who had been so warm in life, loving as few men had loved, exulted in the wide greatness of the empire he had created.
It bears this inscription:
TO THE MEMORY OF
THE CORPORATION OF TRINITY HAVE ERECTED THIS MONUMENT IN TESTIMONY OF THEIR RESPECT FOR THE PATRIOT OF INCORRUPTIBLE INTEGRITY THE SOLDIER OF APPROVED VALOUR THE STATESMAN OF CONSUMMATE WISDOM
WHOSE TALENTS AND VIRTUES WILL BE ADMIRED BY GRATEFUL POSTERITY LONG AFTER THIS MARBLE SHALL HAVE MOULDERED TO DUST
HE DIED JULY 12TH 1804, AGED 47