.. the delegates felt that Hamilton had gone too far and labeled him an extremist. Much of what Hamilton proposed in his speech would end up in the Constitution such as the prohibitions on ex post facto laws, bills of attainder, grants of nobility, religious tests for government positions, and the establishment of any religion. The executive being the commander-in-chief of United States forces, being able to appoint heads of departments and make treaties and pardons with the Senates consent and the idea of having electors to vote for the executives head office are also in the Constitution. The day after Hamilton made his speech, the delegates voted on the Virginia Plan to be the basis of the government. Lansing and Yates did a good job of keeping Hamilton in check.
He grew frustrated and soon left to resume his law practice. In August some of the delegates had left in disgust including Lansing and Yates. Upon hearing this, Hamilton returned to the convention to cast his vote and to sign the Constitution. Hamilton was still skeptical of the Constitution, but he felt that it was better than nothing. Hamilton said in his last speech that, “No mans ideas were more remote from the plan than his were known to be; but is it possible to deliberate between anarchy and Convulsion on one side, and the chance of good to be expected from the plan to the other.” Hamilton still felt that it should give more power to the federal government and less to the states. He was the only one to sign the Constitution for New York.
Alexander Hamilton and the Federalist Alexander Hamilton still had a long way to go before the Constitution could be ratified. Governor Clinton had started as early as July to form a defense against Hamilton and the Constitution. He started to write a series of essays entitled the Federalist. He wrote the essays under the pseudonym of Publius. The Clintonian/Anti-federalists had a majority over the Federalists everywhere but in Manhattan, Hamiltons district. Hamilton called on his friends John Jay and James Madison to help him out on the essays.
John Jay would only write four because he grew sick. The first Federalist appeared on October 27, 1777 and the last one appeared on May 28, 1788. The purpose of the essays was to gain support of the Constitution by explaining it. The Federalist is still considered one of the greatest works written on a constitutional government. Even Thomas Jefferson (the future rival of Hamilton) claimed the Federalist to be “..
the best commentary on the principles of government which ever was written.” New York held its Constitution convention on June 17,1788. The Anti-federalists out numbered the Federalists two to one. Hamilton called upon his power of persuasion to reverse the minds of the Anti-federalists. The Federalists decided to hold out as long as they could so they went over every piece of the Constitution. After more than a month of debating, the convention ratified the Constitution by a 30-27 vote.
New York did not need to ratify the Constitution since ten states already did, but New York had a geographical, commercial and population importance. Alexander Hamilton the Secretary of Treasury On September 11, 1789, Alexander Hamilton became the first secretary of the United States. He has a major task of setting up the nations economy before him. Part of his workload was the 54 million-dollar deficit from the Revolutionary War. Hamilton based his system after the British system, which uses a national credit. He felt that, “To be able to borrow upon good terms, it is essential that the credit of a nation should be well established..by good faith, by a punctual performance of contracts.” This Hamiltons plan that contained three basic provisions for the handling of the debt: As mandated by the Constitution, the foreign debt and interest would be paid in full according to the terms initially agreed to.
The principle of the domestic debt would be paid at par to the current bearers. The federal government would assume state debts with interest payments deferred until 1792. When he announced his plan to Congress in his Report on Public Credit, many were opposed to the ideas. One of them was Hamiltons friend James Madison. Madison felt that the people who originally bough the bonds would be mistreated since they later sold the bonds for a much lower value for cash. He also felt that those bought the bonds at a low value would be making a huge profit.
Madison was against the idea of assumption of the states debts too. Madisons home state, Virginia, had already paid off most of its debt and he thought that his constituents should not have to pay for the other states debts. A deal was made between Madison and Hamilton. Madison would get votes in Congress from Virginia and Maryland, if Hamilton would locate the capital on the Potomac in Virginia and Maryland. Hamilton also called for the first Bank of the United States.
Congress approved and on February 25, 1791 it was established with a twenty-year charter and $10,000,000 limit. This led to more conflict with Madison and Jefferson. They were against it because the Constitution did not give the power to set up a national bank to Congress. While Congress was still debating the bank, Hamilton presented them with his report, On the Establishment of a Mint. In his report he called for a bimetallic standard for the currency, coinage based on the decimal system, and the establishment of a mint in Philadelphia. Hamilton was very successful as the Secretary of Treasury. He accomplished everything he set out to do: redeem the credit of the United States, increased revenues, expand the supply of capital, and establish a standard currency.
Alexander Hamilton and the Republicans In the summer of 1787, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison created a political party, Democrat-Republicans. They both did not like “factions,” but they felt that something needed to be done stop Hamilton. They thought that Hamilton was exerting too much federal power and was infringing on the states. Their main argument was the national bank. The Republicans thought that it was unconstitutional and Hamilton felt that it was in Congress implied powers.
Over the years the rivalry grew harsher as both Jefferson and Hamilton attacked each other newspapers and throughout Washington, who wished that the two would get along. Another topic of debate between the two factions was foreign policy. Jefferson wanted to be aligned with France and Hamilton with Great Britain. Hamilton won his case with Washington when he sent John Jay to Great Britain and the Jay treaty was signed. There was opposition to it, but again Hamilton did what he did best, persuade.
The pro-French movement suffered a major setback due to the scandalous “X, Y, Z” affair. Hamilton soon turned away from his own party. In 1800, the Federalists nominated John Adams for president. Hamilton did not like Adams because he did not seek his advice on important issues as president. The election of 1800 ended up being a tie between Aaron Burr and Thomas Jefferson.
The Federalist House wanted to vote for Burr since Jefferson was their main antagonist. Alexander Hamilton hated and did not trust Burr and urged Federalists to vote for Jefferson. The state and national elections of 1800 was the end of the Federalists in power. Alexander Hamilton and the Infamous Duel Aaron Burr decided to run for governor of New York in 1804. He had asked for the Federalists support, but Hamilton refused to give him any and the Republican candidate soundly defeated Burr. Burr blamed his defeat on Hamilton and demanded Hamilton to apologize for his comments about him.
Hamilton refused and the date was set for a duel on July 11, 1804. The place was Weehawken, New Jersey, where dueling was still legal. Burr shot Hamilton in the abdomen and Hamilton shot in the air. Hamilton suffered the same fate as his son did three years earlier and on the following day he died. There was an immense outpouring of public grief at the news of Hamiltons death.
He had meant so much to the United States as it meant so much to him. He had created an economic system that would make the United States a global power in a short time. He was the first one to use the Constitutions extended powers in order to set up the national bank. He was one of the first to defend the freedom of the press (People v. Croswell 1804.) Hamilton kept a positive approach on America as he built for the future.
Jefferson even admitted, “We can pay off his debt in 15 years: but we will never get rid of his financial system.” He often felt that his efforts fell short for his country: “Mine is an odd destiny. Perhaps no man has sacrificed or done more the present constitution than myself..Yet I have the murmurs of its friends no less than the curses of its foes for my reward. What can I do better than withdraw from the Scene? Every day proves to me more and more that this American world was not made for me.” For doing what he did America owes much of its existence to a, as John Adams described Hamilton, “..bastard brat of a Scottish peddler.” Bibliography Bowers, Claude G. Jefferson and Hamilton. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1953. Cooke, Jacob E.
Alexander Hamilton. New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1982. Cooke, Jacob E. The Reports of Alexander Hamilton. New York: Harper & Row, 1964.
Finkleman, Paul “Hamilton, Alexander.” U.S. Government Leaders. Alan Greenspan- James Monroe. Volume 2. 309-602.
Pasadena CA: Salem, 1997. Nevins, Allan. “Hamilton, Alexander.” Dictionary of American Biography. Volume IV. New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1960.
Roche, John F. Illustrious Americans: Alexander Hamilton. Morristown NJ: Silver Burdett, 1967.