The Revolutionary Writings of Alexander Hamilton
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The Parliament was not contented with introducing arbitrary power and Popery in Canada, with its former limits; but they have annexed to it the vast tracts of land that surround all the colonies. Does not your blood run cold, to think that an English Parliament should pass an act for the establishment of arbitrary power and Popery Edition: current; Page: [ 30 ] in such an extensive country? If they had any regard to the freedom and happiness of mankind, they would never have done it. If they had been friends to the Protestant cause, they would never have provided such a nursery for its great enemy; they would not have given such encouragement to Popery.
The thought of their conduct, in this particular, shocks me. It must shock you, too, my friends. Beware of trusting yourselves to men who are capable of such an action! They may as well establish Popery in New York, and the other colonies, as they did in Canada. They had no more right to do it there than here. Is it not better, I ask, to suffer a few present inconveniences, than to put yourselves in the way of losing every thing that is precious?
Your lives, your property, your religion, are all at stake. I do my duty. I warn you of your danger. If you should still be so mad as to bring destruction upon yourselves; if you still neglect what you owe to God and man, you cannot plead ignorance in your excuse. You are told, the schemes of our Congress will ruin you. You are told, they have not considered your interest; but have neglected or betrayed you.
It is endeavored to make you look upon some of the wisest and best men in America as rogues and rebels. What will not wicked men attempt! They will scruple nothing that may serve their purposes. In truth, my friends, it is very unlikely any of us shall suffer much; but let the worst happen, the farmers will be better off than other people. Many of those that made up the Congress have large possessions in land, and may, therefore, be looked upon as farmers themselves.
You see the absurdity of such a supposition. The merchants, and a great part of the tradesmen, get their living by commerce. These are the people that would be hurt most by putting a stop to it. It is a false assertion that the merchants have imported more than usual this year. That report has been raised by your enemies, to poison your minds with evil suspicions.
If our disputes be not settled within eighteen months, the goods we have among us will be consumed; and then the materials for making clothes must be had from you. Manufactures must be promoted with vigor; and a high price will be given for your wool, flax, and hemp. It will be your interest to pay the greatest care and attention to your sheep. Increase and improve the breed as much as possible.
Kill them sparingly, and such only as will not be of use toward the increase and improvement of them. In a few months we shall know what we have to trust to. If matters be not accommodated by spring, enlarge the quantity of your flax and hemp. You will experience the benefit of it. All those articles will be very much wanted; they will bring a great deal higher price than they used to do. And while you are supplying the wants of the community, you will be enriching yourselves.
Should we hereafter find it necessary to stop our exports, you can apply more of your land to raising flax and hemp, and less of it to wheat, rye, etc. By which means, you will not have any of those latter articles to lie upon hand. There will be consumption for as much of the former as you can raise; and the great demand they will be in will make them very profitable to you. Patience, good Mr. Kill them sparingly, I said. What objection have you to the phrase? Pray, then, for the future spare your wit upon such occasions, otherwise the world will not be disposed to spare its ridicule.
And though the man that spares nobody does not deserve to be spared himself, yet will I spare you for the present, and proceed to things of more importance. Pardon me, my friends, for taking up your time with this digression, Edition: current; Page: [ 32 ] but I could not forbear stepping out of the way a little to show the world I am as able a critic and as good a punster as Mr. I now return to the main point with pleasure.
By this time I flatter myself you are convinced that we are not disputing about trifles. It has been clearly proved to you, that we are contending for every thing dear in life; and that the measures adopted by the Congress, are the only ones which can save us from ruin. This is sufficient to confute that insinuation. But to confirm it, let me observe to you, that the merchants have not been the foremost to bring about a non-importation.
All the members of the Congress were unanimous in it; and many of them were not merchants. The warmest advocates for it, everywhere, are not concerned in trade; and, as I have before remarked, the traders will be the principal sufferers, if it should continue any time.
The making of a non-importation agreement, did not depend upon the merchants; neither will the breaking of it depend upon them. The Congress have provided against the breach of the non-importation, by the non-consumption agreement. Hence, you may perceive the reason of a non-consumption agreement. Edition: current; Page: [ 33 ] It is to put it out of the power of dishonest men to break the non-importation.
Is this a slavish regulation? Or is it a hardship upon us to submit to it? Surely not. Every sensible, every good man must approve of it. Whoever tries to disaffect you to it ought to meet with your contempt. Take notice, my friends, how these men are obliged to contradict themselves. What signified making them if they did not provide some persons to see them executed?
Must a few bad men be left to do what they please, contrary to the general sense of the people, without any persons to control them, or to look into their behavior, and mark them out to the public? The man that desires to screen his knavery from the public eye will answer, Yes; but the honest man, that is determined to do nothing hurtful to his country, and who is conscious his actions will bear the light, will heartily answer, No. The high prices of goods are held up, to make you dissatisfied with the non-importation. If the argument on this head were true, it would be much better to subject yourselves to that disadvantage for a time, than to bring upon yourselves all the mischiefs I have pointed out to you.
Should you submit to the claim of the Parliament, you will not only be oppressed with the taxes upon your lands, etc. Large duties will be laid upon them at home; and the merchants, of course, will have a greater price for them, or it would not be worth their while to carry on trade. The present duty upon tea is preparatory to the imposition of duties upon all other articles.
Do you think the Parliament would make such a serious matter of three pence a pound upon tea if it intended to stop there? It is absurd to imagine it. You would soon find your mistake if you did. For fear of paying a somewhat higher price to the merchants for a year or two you would have to pay an endless list of taxes, within and without, as long as you live, and your children after you.
But I trust there is no danger that the prices of goods will rise much, if at all. The same Congress that put a stop to the importation of them, has also forbid raising the prices of them. The same committee that is to regulate the one, is also to regulate the other. All care will be taken to give no cause of dissatisfaction.
Confide in the men whom you, and the rest of the continent, have chosen the guardians of our common liberties. They are men of sense and virtue. They will do nothing but what is really necessary for the security of your lives and properties. A sad pother is made, too, about prohibiting the exportation of sheep without excepting wethers. Truly I am not such a conjurer as to be able to inform him, but, if you please, my friends, I can give you two pretty good reasons why the Congress have not excepted wethers.
One is, that for some time we shall have occasion for all the wool we can raise; so that it would be imprudent to export sheep of any kind. And the other is, that if you confine yourself chiefly to killing wethers, as you ought to do, you will have none to export. The gentleman who made the objection must have known these things as well as myself; but he loves to crack a jest, and could not pass by so fair an opportunity. If you cannot sell your sheep to advantage, at a certain age, you cannot keep them to any profit.
You know what is for your own interest better than he can tell you. And we all know that, in a little time, if our affairs be not settled, the demand for wool will be very great. You will be able to obtain such a price as will make it worth your while to bestow the greatest attention upon your sheep. Will the weaver, shoemaker, blacksmith, carpenter, work for you without pay?
They will not be able to do without you; and, consequently, they cannot refuse to supply you with what you stand in need of from them. Where will the merchants and mechanics get food and material for clothing, if not from the farmer? And if they are dependent upon you for those two grand supports of life, how can they withhold what they have from you? I repeat it, my friends, we shall know how matters are like to be settled by the spring. If our disputes be not terminated to our satisfaction by that time, it will be your business to plant large parts of your land with flax and hemp.
Those articles will be wanted for manufactures; and they will yield you a greater profit than any thing else. In the interim, take good care of your sheep. I heartily concur with the Farmer in condemning all illicit trade. Perjury is, no doubt, a most heinous and detestable crime; and, for my part, I had rather suffer any thing, than have my wants relieved at the expense of truth and integrity. I know there are many pretended friends to liberty who will take offence at this declaration; but I speak the sentiments of my heart without reserve. I do not write for a party. I should scorn to be of any.
All I say is from a disinterested regard to the public weal. The Congress, I am persuaded, were of the same opinion. They, like Edition: current; Page: [ 36 ] honest men, have, as much as was in their power, provided against this kind of trade, by agreeing to use no East India tea whatever after the first day of March next. I shall now consider what has been said with respect to the payment of debts, and stopping of the courts of justice. Let what will happen, it will be your own faults if you are not able to pay your debts.
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I have told you in what manner you may make as much out of your lands as ever: by bestowing more of your attention upon raising flax and hemp, and less upon other things. Those articles as I have more than once observed will be in the highest demand. There will be no doing without them; and, of course, you will be able to get a very profitable price for them. How can it be, that the farmers should be at a loss for money to pay their debts at a time when the whole community must buy, not only their food, but all the materials for their clothes, from them?
You have no reason to be uneasy on that account. As to the courts of justice, no violence can, nor will, be used, to shut them up; but, if it should be found necessary, we may enter into solemn agreement to cease from all litigations at law, except in particular cases. We may regulate lawsuits in such a manner as to prevent any mischief that might arise from them.
Restrictions may be laid on, to hinder merciless creditors from taking advantage of the times to oppress and ruin their debtors; but, at the same time, not to put it in the power of the debtors wantonly to withhold their just dues from their creditors when they are able to pay them. Disputes may be settled in a more friendly way. One or two virtuous neighbors may be chosen by each party to decide them.
If the next Congress should think any regulations concerning the courts of justice requisite, they will make them; and proper persons will be appointed to Edition: current; Page: [ 37 ] carry them into execution, and to see that no individuals deviate from them. It will be your duty to elect persons whose fidelity and zeal for your interest you can depend upon, to represent you in that Congress, which is to meet in Philadelphia in May ensuing.
Give me the steady, uniform, unbiassed influence of the courts of justice.
I have been happy under their protection; and, I trust in God, I shall be so again. I scorn to let my life and property depend upon the pleasure of any of them. Give me the steady, uniform, unshaken security of constitutional freedom. Give me the right to be tried by a jury of my own neighbors, and to be taxed by my own representatives only. What will become of the law and courts of justice without this? The shadow may remain, but the substance will be gone. I would die to preserve the law upon a solid foundation; but take away liberty, and the foundation is destroyed. The members of the Congress themselves are no more permitted to please their wives with a dish of tea, nor to cheer their spirits with a glass of wine, nor to sweeten their buttermilk with a spoonful of molasses, than you are.
They are upon a footing with you in this respect.
Alexander Hamilton, Benedict Arnold and a “forgotten” Publius - Journal of the American Revolution
I say, it is enough to make a man mad to hear such ridiculous quibbles offered, instead of sound argument; but so it is—the piece I am writing against contains nothing else. When a man grows warm he has a confounded itch for swearing.
I Edition: current; Page: [ 38 ] have been going, above twenty times, to rap out an oath, By Him that made me; but I have checked myself with the reflection, that it is rather unmannerly to treat Him that made us, with so much freedom. Thus have I examined and confuted all the cavils and objections, of any consequence, stated by this Farmer. I have only passed over such things as are of little weight, the fallacy of which will easily appear.
I have proved that their measures cannot fail of success, but will procure the most speedy relief for us. I have also proved that the farmers are the people who would suffer least, should we be obliged to carry all our measures into execution. Will you, then, my friends, allow yourselves to be duped by this artful enemy? Will you follow his advices, disregard the authority of your Congress, and bring ruin on yourselves and your posterity?
Will you act in such a manner as to deserve the hatred and resentment of all the rest of America? I am sure you will not. I should be sorry to think any of my countrymen would be so mean, so blind to their own interest, so lost to every generous and manly feeling. The sort of men I am opposing give you fair words to persuade you to serve their own turns; but they think and speak of you, in common, in a very disrespectful manner. I have heard some of their party talk of you as the most ignorant and mean-spirited set of people in the world. This is the character they give of you.
Bad men are apt to paint others like themselves. For my part I will never entertain such an opinion of you, unless you should Edition: current; Page: [ 39 ] verify their words, by wilfully falling into the pit they have prepared for you. I flatter myself you will convince them of their error by showing the world you are capable of judging what is right and left, and have resolution to pursue it.
All I ask is that you will judge for yourselves. I have stated a number of plain arguments. I have supported them with several well-known facts. It is your business to draw a conclusion, and act accordingly. I caution you, again and again, to beware of the men who advise you to forsake the plain path marked out for you by the Congress.
They only mean to deceive and betray you. Our representatives in General Assembly cannot take any wiser or better course to settle our differences than our representatives in the Continental Congress have taken. If you join with the rest of America in the same common measure, you will be sure to preserve your liberties inviolate, but if you separate from them, and seek for redress alone, and unseconded, you will certainly fall a prey to your enemies, and repent your folly as long as you live.
May God give you wisdom to see what is your true interest, and inspire you with becoming zeal for the cause of virtue and mankind! Intended as a further Vindication of the Congress, in answer to a Letter from a Westchester Farmer, entitled a View of the Controversy between Great Britain and her Colonies, including a Mode of determining the present Disputes, finally and effectually, etc. By a sincere friend to America. Tituli remedia pollicentur, sed pyxides ipsae venena continent—The title promises remedies, but the box itself poisons.
Printed by James Rivington, Samuel Seabury blasted back in the New York press on January 5, Their commercial interests will interfere; there will be no supreme power to interpose, and discord and animosity must ensue. The Farmer Refuted, printed by Rivington as a tract, appeared on February 23, The writer of the ensuing sheets can, with truth, say more than the generality of those who either espouse or oppose the claim of the British Parliament; which is, that his political opinions have been the result of mature deliberation and rational inquiry.
They have not been influenced by prejudice, nor by any interested or ambitious motives. They are not the spawn of licentious clamors, or popular declamation; but the genuine offspring of sober reason. To those who are inclined to doubt his sincerity, he begs leave to recommend a little more charity. To those who are possessed of greater candor, and who yet may be disposed to ask how he can be sure that his opinions have not been influenced by prejudice, he answers, Because he remembers the time when he had strong prejudices on the side he now opposes.
His change of sentiment he firmly believes proceeded from the superior force of the arguments in favor of the American claims. Though he is convinced there are too many whose judgments are led captive by the most venal and despicable motives, yet he does not presume to think every man who differs from him either fool or knave. He is sensible there are men of parts and virtue, whose notions are entirely contrary to his. To imagine there are not wise and good men on both sides must be the effect of a weak head or a corrupt heart. He earnestly entreats the candid attention of the judicious and well meaning, and hopes that what he has written may be read with as much impartiality and as sincere a regard to truth as the importance of the controversy demands.
I resume my pen, in reply to the curious epistle you have been pleased to favor me with, and can assure you that notwithstanding I am naturally of a grave and phlegmatic disposition, it has been the source of abundant merriment to me. The spirit that breathes throughout is so rancorous, illiberal, and imperious; the argumentative part of it is so puerile and fallacious; the misrepresentation of facts so palpable and flagrant; the criticisms so illiterate, trifling, and absurd; the conceits so low, sterile, and splenetic, that I will venture to pronounce it one of the most ludicrous performances which has been exhibited to public view during all the present controversy.
You have not even imposed on me the laborious task of pursuing you through a labyrinth of subtilty. You have not had ability sufficient, however violent your efforts, to try the depths of sophistry; but have barely skimmed along its surface. I should almost deem the animadversions I am going to make unnecessary, were it not that without them you might exult in a fancied victory, and arrogate to yourself imaginary trophies. But while I pass this judgment, it is not my intention to detract from your real merit.
Candor obliges me to acknowledge that you possess every accomplishment of a polemical writer which may serve to dazzle and mislead superficial and vulgar minds: a peremptory, dictatorial air, a pert vivacity of expression, an inordinate passion for conceit, and a noble disdain of being fettered by the laws of truth. These, sir, are important qualifications; and these all unite in you in a very eminent degree.
So that though you may never expect the plaudits of the judicious and discerning, you may console yourself with this assurance, that. You will, no doubt, be pleased with this further concession—to wit: that there is a striking resemblance between yourself and the renowned hero of the Dunciad. I might point out a variety of circumstances in which you both agree; but I shall content myself with having given the hint, and leave it to yourself and to your other 1 admirers, to prosecute a comparison, which will reflect so high lustre on the object of admiration.
Having thus briefly delivered my sentiments of your performance in general, I shall proceed to a particular examination of it, so far as may be requisite toward placing it in that just point of light in which it ought to stand. I flatter myself I shall find no difficulty in obviating the objections you have produced against the Full Vindication, and in showing that your View of the Controversy between Great Britain and the Colonies is not only partial and unjust, but diametrically opposite to the first principles of civil society.
In doing this I may occasionally interweave some strictures on the Congress Canvassed. To confirm or to add one friend to his country, would afford a more refined and permanent satisfaction to me than could possibly animate the breast of the proudest ministerial minion, though elevated to the pinnacle of his wished-for preferment, and basking in the sunshine of court favor as the despicable wages of his prostitution and servility.
I had no remedy you say but artifice, sophistry, misrepresentation, and abuse. Can you lay your hand upon your heart, and upon your honor plead not guilty? I can make a solemn appeal to the tribunal of Heaven for the rectitude of my intentions. I can affirm, with the most scrupulous regard to truth, that I am of opinion the conduct of the Congress will bear the most impartial scrutiny; that I am not interested more than as the felicity and prosperity of this vast continent are concerned; and that I am perfectly disengaged from party of every kind.
It is the most daring impudence and falsehood to assert the contrary! You, sir, and your adherents may be justly deemed a faction, because you compose a small number inimical to the common voice of your country. To determine the truth of this affirmation, it is necessary to take a comprehensive view of all the colonies. Throughout your letter, you seem to consider me as a person who has acted, and is still acting, some part in the formation and execution of public measures.
You tacitly represent me as a Delegate, or member of the Committee. Whether this be done with a design to create a suspicion of my sincerity, or whether it be really your opinion, I know not. Perhaps it is from a complex motive. But I can assure you, if you are in earnest, that you are entirely mistaken. I have taken no other part in the affair than that of defending the proceedings of the Congress, in conversation, and by the pamphlet I lately published. I approved of them, and thought an undeviating compliance with them essential to the preservation of American freedom.
I shall therefore strenuously exert myself for the promotion of that valuable end. In the field of literary contention, it is common to see the epithets artifice, sophistry, misrepresentation, and abuse, mutually bandied about. Whether they are more justly applicable to you, or to me, the public must decide. With respect to abuse, I make not the least doubt but every reader will allow you to surpass me in that.
Your envenomed pen has endeavored to sully the characters of our continental representatives with the presumptuous charges of ignorance, knavery, sedition, rebellion, treason, and tyranny—a tremendous catalogue indeed! Nor have you treated their friends and adherents with any greater degree of complaisance. You have also delineated the mercantile body as entirely devoid of principle; and the several committees, as bands of robbers and petty tyrants. These things being considered, it is manifest, that in my answer to your Free Thoughts I treated you with more lenity than you had a right to expect; and did by no means observe the strict law of retaliation.
None but yourself will think you can, with the least propriety, complain of abuse. I congratulate myself upon the sentiments you entertain of my last Edition: current; Page: [ 51 ] performance. Such is my opinion of your abilities as a critic, that I very much prefer your disapprobation to your applause. But with respect to the brilliancy of thought you speak of, give me leave to inform you, that I aimed at nothing more than justness of thought. I addressed myself to the judgment, not to the imagination.
In works where fancy is predominant, as is the case with yours, there is a better opportunity for displaying brilliancy of thought than where reason presides and directs. No wonder, then, if you have excelled me in this particular, since your plan is so much more favorable to it than mine.
I shall, for the present, pass over that part of your pamphlet in which you endeavor to establish the supremacy of the British Parliament over America. Man, in a state of nature you say , may be considered as perfectly free from all restraint of law and government; and then, the weak must submit to the strong.
I shall, henceforth, begin to make some allowance for that enmity you have discovered to the natural rights of mankind. For, though ignorance of them, in this enlightened age, cannot be admitted as a sufficient excuse for you, yet it ought, in some measure, to extenuate your guilt. If you will follow my advice, there still may be hopes of your reformation. Apply yourself, without delay, to the study of the law of nature. I might mention other excellent writers on this subject; but if you attend diligently to these, you will not require any others.
There is so strong a similitude between your political principles and those maintained by Mr. Hobbes, that, in judging from them, a person might very easily mistake you for a disciple of his. His opinion was exactly coincident with yours, relative to man in a state of nature. He held, as you do, that he was then perfectly free from all restraint of law and government. Moral obligation, according to him, is derived from the introduction Edition: current; Page: [ 52 ] of civil society; and there is no virtue but what is purely artificial, the mere contrivance of politicians for the maintenance of social intercourse.
But the reason he ran into this absurd and impious doctrine was, that he disbelieved the existence of an intelligent, superintending principle, who is the governor, and will be the final judge, of the universe.
As you sometimes swear by Him that made you, I conclude your sentiments do not correspond with his in that which is the basis of the doctrine you both agree in; and this makes it impossible to imagine whence this congruity between you arises. To grant that there is a Supreme Intelligence who rules the world and has established laws to regulate the actions of His creatures, and still to assert that man, in a state of nature, may be considered as perfectly free from all restraints of law and government, appears, to a common understanding, altogether irreconcilable.
Good and wise men, in all ages, have embraced a very dissimilar theory. They have supposed that the Deity, from the relations we stand in to Himself and to each other, has constituted an eternal and immutable law, which is indispensably obligatory upon all mankind, prior to any human institution whatever. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries, and at all times. No human laws are of any validity, if contrary to this; and such of them as are valid derive all their authority, mediately or immediately, from this original.
Upon this law depend the natural rights of mankind: the Supreme Being gave existence to man, together with the means of preserving and beautifying that existence. He endowed him with rational faculties, by the help of which to discern and pursue such things as were consistent with his duty and interest; and invested him with an inviolable right to personal liberty and personal safety.
Hence, in a state of nature, no man had any moral power to deprive another of his life, limbs, property, or liberty; nor the least authority to command or exact obedience from him, except that which arose from the ties of consanguinity. Hence, also, the origin of all civil government, justly established, must be a voluntary compact between the rulers and the ruled, and must be liable to such limitations as are necessary for the security of the absolute rights of the latter; for what original title can any man, or set of men, have to govern others, except their own consent?
To usurp dominion over a people in their own despite, or to grasp at a more extensive power than they are willing to intrust, is to violate that law of nature which gives every man a right to his personal liberty, and can therefore confer no obligation to obedience. Hence it follows, that the first and primary end of human laws is to maintain and regulate these absolute rights of individuals.
Who was Alexander Hamilton?
If we examine the pretensions of Parliament by this criterion, which is evidently a good one, we shall presently detect their injustice. First, they are subversive of our natural liberty, because an authority is assumed over us which we by no means assent to. And, secondly, they divest us of that moral security for our lives and properties, which we are entitled to, and which it is the primary end of society to bestow. For such security can never exist while we have no part in making the laws that are to bind us, and while it may be the interest of our uncontrolled legislators to oppress us as much as possible.
To deny these principles will be not less absurd than to deny the plainest axioms. I shall not, therefore, attempt any further illustration of them. You have not detected any fallacy in them, but endeavor to overthrow them by deducing a false and imaginary consequence. My principles admit the only dependence which can subsist, consistent with any idea of civil liberty, or with the future welfare of the British empire, as will appear hereafter. It is an impropriety of speech to talk of an independent colony.
The words independent and colony convey contradictory ideas; much like killing and sparing. In what sense the dependence of the colonies on the mother country has been acknowledged, will appear from those circumstances of their political history which I shall, by and by, recite. The term colony signifies nothing more than a body of people drawn from the mother country to inhabit some distant place, or the country itself so inhabited.
As to the degrees and modifications of that subordination which is due to the parent state, these must depend upon other things besides the mere act of emigration to inhabit or settle a distant country. These must be ascertained by the spirit of the constitution of the mother country, by the compacts for the purpose of colonizing, and more especially by the law of nature, and that supreme law of every society— its own happiness.
In at 16 years old, Alexander Hamilton left the island of St. Croix and never looked back. He rarely spoke of his childhood and never returned. Alexander was in college in New York when the first stirrings of the Revolutionary War began. He was a quick study, worked hard, and never accepted less than his best from himself. He was intelligent, quick-witted, and sharp-tongued. He was very self-conscious about his appearance, his attire, and how others perceived him.
He also had a famous attraction to women and was known for his flirtatious chivalry. Perhaps the first impressions made on his political views were by men who were not trying to overturn the social order; they simply wanted to modify it. Hamilton embraced these views as well, causing others to accuse him of being pro-British. He was in favor of the Revolution and wanted the colonies to be free of Britain, but he feared the effects of long-term habitual disorder, showing very mature views for his age. This became a favorite way to broadcast his views and opinions.
He became a sort of "child of the revolution. He, like other political leaders of the time, hoped to solve the war in courtrooms and on paper, but like other year-olds, he craved martial glory. After the Battle of Lexington , volunteer militia sprung up all over the colonies and Hamilton joined one in New York.
As well as his college studies, he now began his own personal military education. He read all kinds of war strategy books until he was as knowledgeable as any officer, if not more. He was still writing and sending articles to the Journal , and, on top of this, he began preliminary legal studies. He never formally graduated from college because the Revolutionary War broke out. At the age of 21, Hamilton became a Captain of an artillery whose job was to protect New York. As in everything, he was a perfectionist and fastidious dresser, saying "smart dress is essential.
His bravery and hard work impressed his superior officers so much that they offered him promotions to work for them. Even though these promotions would increase his military rank, he had an unusually difficult time submitting to any man's authority and refused all of these offers. It wasn't long before word spread of his outstanding courage, excellent leadership skills, and fair-minded authority.
When a position opened up, he personally invited Hamilton to join his staff as an aide-de-camp. Hamilton didn't fully appreciate the advantage this position would give him, dreaded being chained to a desk, and craved the action of the battlefield, but he accepted the position and created a long-lasting alliance that was possibly the most important union in the Revolutionary War. Washington, as Commander of the Army, had important things to do and needed someone who could think for him and take care of matters without having to ask.
Colonel Hamilton functioned so well as Washington's proxy that Washington trusted him with critical political assignments, not just military ones, allowed him to sign off on military orders, and trusted him to give periodical updates to the Continental Congress. Hamilton accompanied him into battle, dealt with deserters and generals, negotiated prisoner exchanges with the British, and handled all manner of sensitive intelligence information.
He and Washington agreed on most things politically, but their personalities clashed sometimes. Hamilton did not enjoy submitting to authority, even someone as great as General Washington, but he respected him and believed that he was America, that his greatness and success were directly tied to the country's success or failure. If Hamilton believed in something, he gave everything for it. He believed in meritocracy concerning promotions in the military and in government.
He disdained the monarchist practice of appointing royalty and high class citizens to upper ranks, believing rather that men should have to prove their worth and work their way up the ladder. Naturally, when the French joined forces with the Continental army, demanding high-ranking positions, Hamilton was offended. They had the idea that if they offered freedom in exchange for several years service to the continental army, they could potentially swell the American ranks.
This idea was shot down, but it gives a glimpse of Hamilton's views on slavery and also of the American people. It is unclear if he ever owned slaves. He has records of purchasing them, but journal entries usually record these transactions as being for his father-in-law. Quoting Thomas Day, he said:. As to the negroes, you must be tender upon that subject He kept a dark and pessimistic view of people. He believed in the country, the cause he was fighting for, but he had very little faith in people.
In a letter to Laurens, he said, "There is no virtue in America. Before the war was over, he married Elizabeth Schuyler. His wife's family adored him.
Alexander Hamilton wrote a letter to his friend John Laurens describing his perfect wife, and Eliza Schuyler seemed to fit that bill to perfection. Hamilton referred to her as the "best of wives and best of women". Even after his death she worked to carry on his legacy and pushed to have his biography written. She worked with widows and orphans most of her life. She and Alexander had eight children.
She stayed with him even when he had an affair that was leaked to the press. The details of his affair with Maria Reynolds are well-known today because he was originally charged of mishandling funds. In order to clear his name, Hamilton had to make public the fact that he was paying Maria Reynold's husband to stay quiet about the affair. Hamilton wrote an entire booklet documenting the affair, choosing to destroy his personal reputation rather than tarnish his political one. Whether the couple targeted him for extortion or took advantage of his sticky situation Alexander never knew, but it is one of many reasons he never ran for president, in spite of his talents and vision for the country.
As a man who took such pride in his reputation and honor, his affair is especially baffling. Some slander of the time came out during his affair suggesting not only this affair, but that he had also had inappropriate relations with his sister-in-law, Elizabeth's sister Angelica Church. It is well-known that they were very close, and whether these rumors were true or not was never known.
The Federalist is widely acknowledged as the most important writing Hamilton ever set his pen to. The Federalist was originally written to convince New York to ratify the constitution.