Colonial Hall -- Biographies of America's Founding Fathers

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Page 4

Alexander Hamilton


   General Hamilton possessed very uncommon powers of mind. To whatever subject he directed his attention, he was able to grasp it, and in whatever he engaged, in that he excelled. So stupendous were his talents, and so patient was his industry, that no investigation presented difficulties which he could not conquer. In the class of men of intellect he held the first rank. His eloquence was of the most interesting kind, and when new exertions were required, he rose in new strength, and touching at his pleasure every string of pity or terror, of indignation or grief, he bent the passions of others to his purpose. At the bar he gained the first eminence.

   He was an honest politician; and his frankness has been commended even by those who considered his political principles as hostile to the American confederated republic. His views of the necessity of a firm general government rendered him a decided friend of the union of the American States. His feelings and language were indignant toward every thing which pointed at its dissolution. His hostility to every influence which leaned toward the project was stern and steady, and in every shape it encountered his reprobation.

   With all his pre-eminence of talents, and amiable as he was in private life, General Hamilton is yet a melancholy proof of the influence which intercourse with a depraved world has in perverting the judgment. In principle he was opposed to dueling, his conscience was not hardened, and he was not indifferent to the happiness of his wife and children; but no consideration was strong enough to prevent him from exposing his life in single combat. His own views of usefulness were followed in contrariety to the injunctions of his Maker and Judge. He published the letters of Phocion, which were in favor of the loyalists after the peace. The Federalist, a series of essay's, which appeared in tile public papers in the interval between the publication and the adoption of the constitution of the United States, or soon after, and which was designed to elucidate and support its principles, was written by him in conjunction with Mr. Jay and Mr. Madison. He wrote all the numbers, excepting numbers 2, 3, 4, 5, and 54, which were written by Mr. Jay; numbers 10, 14, and 37 to 48 inclusive, by Mr. Madison; and numbers 18, 19, and 20, which he and Mr. Madison wrote conjointly. This work has been published in two volumes, and is held in the highest estimation. His reports while secretary of the treasury are very long, and display great powers of mind. Some of them are preserved in the American Museum. In the report upon manufactures, he controverts the principles of Adam Smith. In the papers signed Pacificus, written in 1793, while he justified the proclamation of neutrality, he also supported his opinion that we were absolved from the obligation of our treaties with France, and that justice was on the side of the coalition of the European powers for the re-establishment of the French monarchy, he published also observations on certain documents, &c, being a defense of himself against the charge of peculation, 1797; and a letter concerning the public conduct and character of his excellency John Adams, president of the United States, 1800. In this letter he endeavors to show, that the venerable patriot, who was more disposed than himself to maintain peace with France, was unworthy of being replaced in the high station which he occupied.

Source: Marshall, James V. The United States Manual of Biography and History. Philadelphia: James B. Smith & Co., 1856. Pages 169-174. (Some minor spelling changes may have been made.)

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