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Alexander Hamilton


   In the early stage of the administration, a disagreement existed between Mr. Hamilton and the secretary of state, Mr. Jefferson, which increased till it issued in such open hostility, and introduced such confusion in the cabinet, that Washington found it necessary to address a letter to each, recommending forbearance and moderation. Mr. Hamilton was apprehensive of danger from the encroachment of the States, and wished to add new strength to the general government; while Mr. Jefferson entertained little jealousy of the State sovereignties, and was rather desirous of checking and limiting the exercise of the national authorities, particularly the power of the executive. Other points of difference existed, and a reconciliation could not be effected. In the beginning of 1793, after intelligence of the rupture between France and Great Britain had been received, Hamilton, as one of the cabinet of the president, supported the opinion that the treaty with France was no longer binding, and that a nation might absolve itself from the obligations of real treaties, when such a change takes place in the internal situation of the other contracting party, as renders the continuance of the connection disadvantageous or dangerous. He advised therefore, that the expected French minister should not be received in an unqualified manner. The secretary of state on the other hand was of opinion that the revolution in France had produced no change in the relations between the two countries, and could not weaken the obligation of treaties; and this opinion was embraced by Washington. The advice of Hamilton was followed in regard to the insurrection in Pennsylvania in 1794, and such a detachment was sent out under his own command that it was suppressed without effusion of blood. He remained but a short time afterward in office. As his property had been wasted in the public service, the care of a rising family made it his duty to retire, that by renewed exertions in his profession he might provide for their support, he accordingly resigned his office on the last of January, 1795, and was succeeded by Mr. Wolcott. When a provisional army was raised in 1798 in consequence of the injuries and demands of France, Washington suspended his acceptance of the command of it on the condition, that Hamilton should be his associate and the second in command. This arrangement was accordingly made. After the adjustment of our dispute with the French republic, and the discharge of the army, he returned again to his profession in the city of New York. In this place he passed the remainder of his days.

   In June, 1804, Colonel Burr, vice-president of the United States, addressed a letter to General Hamilton, requiring his acknowledgment or denial of the use of any expression derogatory to the honor of the former. This demand was deemed inadmissible, and a duel was the consequence. After the close of the circuit court, the parties met at Hoboken on the morning of Wednesday, July 11, and Hamilton fell on the same spot where his son a few years before had fallen, in obedience to the same principle of honor, and in the same violation of the laws of God and of man. He was carried into the city, and being desirous of receiving the sacrament of the Lord's supper, he immediately sent for the Rev. Dr. Mason. As the principles of his church prohibited him from administering the ordinance in private, this minister of the gospel informed General Hamilton that the sacrament was an exhibition and pledge of the mercies which the Son of God has purchased, and that the absence of the sign did not exclude from the mercies signified, which were accessible to him by faith in their gracious Author. He replied, "I am aware of that. It is only as a sign that I wanted it." In the conversation which ensued, he disavowed all intention of taking the life of Colonel Burr, and declared his abhorrence of the whole transaction. When the sin of which he had been guilty was intimated to him, he assented with strong emotion; and when the infinite merit of the Redeemer, as the propitiation for sin, the sole' ground of our acceptance with God, was suggested, he said with emphasis "I have a tender reliance on the mercy of the Almighty through the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ." The Rev. Bishop Moore was afterward sent for, and after making suitable inquiries of the penitence and faith of General Hamilton, and receiving his assurance that he would never again, if restored to health, be engaged in a similar transaction, but would employ all his influence in society to discountenance the barbarous custom, administered to him the communion. After this his mind was composed. He expired about two o'clock on Thursday July 12, 1804, aged about forty-seven years.

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Last modified June 4, 2004