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The Conqueror by Gertrude Franklin Atherton

Part 7 out of 10

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She had scored her point, and Hamilton sprang to his feet, his face as
white as her petticoats. "Madison's treachery!" he exclaimed. "It is
true he comes near me but seldom this Congress. I had attributed his
coldness to temperament. Can it be? So many forces would operate. There
is much jealousy and ambition in him. He can never lead my party. Is he
capable of deserting that he might lead another? One expects that sort
of thing of a Burr; but Madison--I have thought him of an almost
dazzling whiteness at times--then I have had lightning glimpses of
meaner depths. He is easily influenced. Virginia opposes me so bitterly!
Will he dare to continue to defy her? Can he continue to rise if she
combines against him? Oh, God! If he only had more iron in his soul!"

It was characteristic of him that he had forgotten his audience. He was
thinking aloud, his thought leaping from point to point as they sprang
into the brilliant atmosphere of his mind; or using its rapid divining
rod. He threw back his head. "I'll not believe it till I have proof!" he
exclaimed defiantly. "Why, I should feel as if one of the foundations of
the earth had given way. Madison--we have been like brothers. I have
confided deeply in him. There is little in that Report of yesterday that
I have not discussed with him a hundred times--nothing but the ways and
means, which I dared confide to no one. He has always been in favour of
assumption, of paying the whole debt. It is understood that he is to
support me in Congress. I'll hear no more. Dry your tears. You have
accomplished your object with a woman's wit. I believe you did but shed
those tears to enhance your loveliness, my Lady Godiva."


The immediate consequences of Hamilton's Report were a rise of fifty per
cent in the securities of the bankrupt Confederation, and a bitter
warfare in Congress. All were agreed upon the propriety of paying the
foreign loan, but the battle raged about every other point in turn. One
of the legacies of the old Congress was the principle of repudiating
what it was not convenient to redeem, and the politicians of the country
had insensibly fallen into the habit of assuming that they should start
clear with the new government, and relegate the domestic debt to the
limbo which held so many other resources best forgotten. They were far
from admitting the full measure of their inheritance, however, and
opened the battle with a loud denouncement of the greedy speculator who
had defrauded the impoverished soldier, to whose needs they had been
indifferent hitherto. Most of this feeling concentrated in the
opposition, but many Federalists were so divided upon the question of
discrimination that for a time the other great questions contained in
the Report fell back. Feeling became so bitter that those who supported
the assignees were accused of speculation, and personalities were hot
and blistering. Many of the strongest men, however, ranged with
Hamilton, and were in sight of victory, when Madison, who had hoped to
see the question settle itself in favour of the original holders without
his open support, came out with a double bomb; the first symptom of his
opposition to the Federal party, and an unconstitutional proposition
that the holders by assignment should receive the highest market-price
yet reached by the certificates, by which they would reap no
inconsiderable profit, and that the balance of the sum due, possibly
more than one-half, should be distributed among the original holders.
For a time the reputation for statemanship which Madison had won was
clouded, for his admission of the claims of the assignees nullified any
argument he could advance in favour of the original holders. But he had
his limitations. There was nothing of the business man in his
composition. One of the most notable and useful attributes of Hamilton's
versatile brain was excluded from his, beyond its comprehension. His
proposition was rejected by thirty-six votes to thirteen.

Then the hostile camps faced each other on the questions of the domestic
debt and assumption. In regard to the former, common decency finally
prevailed, but the other threatened to disrupt the Union, for the
Eastern States threw out more than one hint of secession did the measure
fail. Madison, without further subterfuge, came forth at the head of
his State as the leader of the anti-assumptionists. He offered no
explanation to his former chief and none was demanded. For a time
Hamilton was bitterly disgusted and wounded. He shrugged his shoulders,
finally, and accepted his new enemy with philosophy, though by no means
with amiability and forgiveness; but he had seen too much of the
selfishness and meanness of human nature to remain pained or astonished
at any defection.

When June came, however, he was deeply uneasy. On March 29th the
resolutions providing for the foreign debt and for paying in full the
principal of the domestic debt to the present holders passed without a
division. So did the resolution in favour of paying the arrears of
interest in like manner with the principal of the domestic debt. But the
resolution in favour of assumption was recommitted. The next day the
friends of assumption had the other resolutions also recommitted, and
the furious battle raged again. Finally, on June 2d, a bill was passed
by the House, which left the question of assumption to be settled by a
future test of strength.

The anti-assumptionists were triumphant, for they believed the idea
would gain in unpopularity. But they reckoned without Hamilton.


Jefferson had arrived on March 21st, and entered at once upon his duties
as Secretary of State. He disapproved of the assumption measure, but was
so absorbed in the perplexing details of his new office, in
correspondence, and in frequent conferences with the President on the
subject of foreign affairs, that he gave the matter little consecutive
thought. Moreover, he was dined every day for weeks, all the
distinguished New Yorkers, from Hamilton down, vying with each other in
attentions to a man whose state record was so enlightened, and whose
foreign so brilliant, despite one or two humiliating failures. He rented
a small cottage in Maiden Lane, and looked with deep disapproval upon
the aristocratic dissipations of New York, the frigid stateliness of
Washington's "Court." The French Revolution and the snub of the British
king had developed his natural democratism into a controlling passion,
and he would have preferred to find in even the large cities of the new
country the homely bourgeois life of his highest ideals.

No one accused him of inconsistency in externals. With his shaggy sandy
hair, his great red face, covered with freckles, his long loose figure,
clad in red French breeches a size too small, a threadbare brown coat,
soiled linen and hose, and enormous hands and feet, he must have
astounded the courtly city of New York, and it is certain that he set
Washington's teeth on edge. It is no wonder that when this vision rises
upon the democratic horizon of to-day, he is hailed as a greater man
than Washington or Hamilton.

Shortly after the final recommitment of the resolution in favour of
assumption, the Federalist leader met this engaging figure almost in
front of Washington's door, and a plan which had dawned in his mind a
day or two before matured on the instant. He had no dislike for
Jefferson at the time, and respected his intellect and diplomatic
talents, without reference to differences of opinion. Jefferson grinned
as Hamilton approached, and offered his great paw amiably. He did not
like his brother secretary's clothes, and his hitherto averted
understanding was gradually moving toward the displeasing fact that
Hamilton was the Administration; but he had had little time for
reflection, and he succumbed temporarily to a fascination which few

Hamilton approached him frankly. "Will you walk up and down with me a
few moments?" he asked. "I have intended to call upon you. You have
returned at a most opportune time. Do you realize, sir, that the whole
business of this nation is at a deadlock? There is nothing in this talk
of the North seceding, but so great is the apprehension that the
energies of the country are paralyzed, and no man thinks of anything but
the possible failure of the Government. I am convinced that assumption
is not only necessary to permanent union, to the solution of the
financial problem, but to the prosperity of the States themselves." He
then proceeded to convince Jefferson, who listened attentively,
wondering, with a sigh, how any man could pour out his thoughts so
rapidly and so well. "Will you turn this over in your mind, and let me
see you again in a day or two?" asked Hamilton, as he finished his
argument. "Let me reiterate that there is no time to lose. The
Government is at a standstill in all matters concerning the
establishment of the country on a sound financial basis, until this
subordinate matter is settled."

"You alarm and deeply interest me," said Jefferson. "I certainly will
give the matter my attention. Will you dine with me to-morrow? We can
then discuss this matter at leisure. I will ask one or two others."

The next day, at Mr. Jefferson's epicureous board, Hamilton played his
trump. Having again wrought havoc with his host's imagination, but by no
means trusting to the permanence of any emotion, he proposed a bargain:
if Jefferson would use his influence with the Virginians and other
Southern anti-assumptionists in Congress, he and Robert Morris would
engage to persuade obstinate Northerners to concede the Capital city to
the South. Hamilton made no sacrifice of conviction in offering this
proposition. There was no reason why the Government should not sit as
conveniently on the banks of the Potomac as elsewhere, and if he did not
carry the Union through this new crisis, no one else would. All his
great schemes depended upon his bringing the hostile States to reason,
and with his usual high-handed impatience he carried his object in his
own way.

Jefferson saw much virtue in this arrangement. The plan was an almost
immediate success. White and Lee of Virginia were induced to change
their votes, and assumption with some modifications passed into a law.
The Government, after a ten years' sojourn in Philadelphia, would abide
permanently upon the Potomac.


Mrs. Hamilton, albeit she had not a care in the world, sighed heavily.
She was standing before her mirror, arrayed in a triumph of art recently
selected by Mrs. Church, in London. On her head was an immense puff of
yellow gauze, whose satin foundation had a double wing in large plaits.
The dress was of yellow satin, flowing over a white satin petticoat, and
embellished about the neck with a large Italian gauze handkerchief,
striped with white. Her hair was in ringlets and unpowdered. She was a
very plate of fashion, but her brow was puckered.

"What is it?" asked her husband, entering from his room. "You are a
vision of loveliness, my dear Eliza. Is there a rose too few, or a hoop

"No, sir, I am well enough pleased with myself. I am worrying lest
General Washington ask me to dance. It will be bad enough to go out with
Mr. Adams, who snaps at me every time I venture a remark, but he at
least is not a giant, and I do not feel like a dwarf. When the President
leads me out--that is to say, when he did lead me out at the
Inauguration ball, I was like to expire of mortification. I felt like a
little polar cub trotting out to sea with a monster iceberg. And he
never opened his lips to distract my mind, just solemnly marched me up
and down, as if I had done something naughty and were being exhibited. I
saw Kitty Livingston giggle behind her fan, and Kitty Duer drew herself
up to her full height, which is quite five feet six, and looked down
upon me with a cruel amusement. Women are so nasty to each other. Thank
heaven I have a new gown for to-night--anyhow!"

Hamilton laughed heartily; she always amused him, she was half his wife,
half the oldest of his children. "And you are fresher far than any of
them; let that console you," he said, arranging her necklace. "I am sure
both the President and the Vice-President will take you out; they hardly
would have the bad taste not to. And you look very sweet, hanging on to
Washington's hand. Don't imagine for a moment that you look ridiculous.
Fancy, if you had to walk through life with either of them."

Betsey shuddered and smoothed her brow. "It _would_ be a walk with the
dear General," she said. "I dare not dwell upon what it would be with
Mr. Adams--or anyone else! You are amazing smart, yourself, to-night."

"This new costume depressed me for a moment, for it is very like one
Laurens used to wear upon state occasions, but I had not the courage to
wear the light blue with the large gilt buttons, and the pudding cravat
Morris inconsiderately sent me; not with Jefferson's agonized eye to
encounter. The poor man suffers cruelly at our extravagance and

"He is an old fright," quoth Betsey, "and I'd not dance with him, not if
he went on his knees."

She looked her husband over with great pride. He wore a coat of
plum-coloured velvet, a double-breasted Marseilles vest, white satin
breeches, white silk stockings, and pumps. There were full ruffles of
lace on his breast and wrists. A man of to-day has to be singularly
gifted by nature to shine triumphant above his ugly and uniform garb,
whereas many a woman wins a reputation for beauty by a combination of
taste with the infinite range modern fashion accords her. In the days of
which we write, a man hardly could help looking his best, and while far
more decorative than his descendant, was equally useful. And as all
dressed in varying degrees of the same fashion, none seemed effeminate.
As for Hamilton, his head never looked more massive, his glance more
commanding, than when he was in full regalia; nor he more ready for a
fight. All women know the psychological effect of being superlatively
well dressed. In the days of our male ancestors' external vanities it is
quite possible that they, too, felt unconquerable when panoplied in
their best.

The ball that night was at Richmond Hill, the beautiful home of the
Vice-President and his wife, Abigail Adams, one of the wisest, wittiest,
and most agreeable women of her time. This historic mansion, afterward
the home of Aaron Burr during his successful years, was a country
estate where Varick Street now crosses Charlton in the heart of the
city. It stood on an eminence overlooking the Hudson, surrounded by a
park and commanding a view of the wild Jersey shore opposite. The
Adamses were ambitious people and entertained constantly, with little
less formality than the President. The early hours of their receptions,
indeed, were chilling, and many went late, after dancing was, begun or
the company had scattered to the card-tables. The Vice-President and his
wife stood at the head of the long drawing-room and said good evening,
and no more, as the women courtesied to the ground, or the men bowed as
deeply as their varying years would permit. The guests then stood about
for quite an hour and talked in undertones; later, perhaps, the host and
hostess mingled with them and conversed. But although Mrs. Adams was
vastly popular, her distinguished husband was less so; he was not always
to be counted upon in the matter of temper. This grim old Puritan, of an
integrity which makes him one of the giants of our early history,
despite the last hours of his administration when he was beating about
in the vortex of his passions, and always honest in his convictions,
right or wrong, had not been gifted by nature with a pleasing address,
although he could attach people to him when he chose. He was irascible
and violent, the victim of a passionate jealous nature, without the
saving graces of humour and liveliness of temperament. But his sturdy
upright figure was very imposing; his brow, which appeared to end with
the tip of his nose, so bold was the curve, would have been benevolent
but for the youthful snapping eyes. His indomitability and his capacity
for hatred were expressed in the curves of his mouth. He was always well
dressed, for although a farmer by birth, he was as pronounced an
aristocrat in his tastes as Washington or Hamilton. At this time,
although he liked neither of them, he was the staunch supporter of the
Government. He believed in Federalism and the Constitution,
insignificant as he found his rewards under both, and he was an ally of
inestimable value.

When the Hamiltons entered his drawing-room to-night they found many
people of note already there, although the minuet had not begun. The
President, his graceful six feet in all the magnificence of black velvet
and white satin, his queue in a black silk bag, stood beside his lady,
who was as brave as himself in a gown of violet brocade over an immense
hoop. Poor dame, she would far rather have been at Mount Vernon in
homespun, for all this pomp and circumstance bored and isolated her. She
hedged herself about with the etiquette which her exalted position
demanded, and froze the social aspirant of insufficient pretensions, but
her traditions and her propensities were ever at war; she was a woman
above all things, and an extremely simple one.

John Jay, now Chief Justice of the United States, was there, as ever the
most simply attired personage in the Union. His beautiful wife, however,
beaming and gracious, but no less rigid than "Lady Washington," in her
social statutes, looked like a bird of paradise beside a graven image,
so gorgeous was her raiment. Baron Steuben was in the regalia of war and
a breastplate of orders. Kitty Livingston, now Mrs. Matthew Ridley, had
also received a fine new gown of Mrs. Church's selection, for the two
women still were friends, despite the rupture of their families. Lady
Kitty Duer, so soon to know poverty and humiliation, was in a gown of
celestial blue over a white satin petticoat, her lofty head surmounted
by an immense gauze turban. General and Mrs. Knox, fat, amiable, and
always popular, although sadly inflated by their new social importance,
were mountains of finery. Mrs. Ralph Izard, Mrs. Jay's rival in beauty,
and Mrs. Adams's in wit, painted by Gainsborough and Copley, wore a
white gown of enviable simplicity, and a string of large pearls in her
hair, another about her graceful throat. Mrs. Schuyler, stout and
careworn, from the trials of excitable and eloping daughters, clung to
the kind arm of her austere and silent husband. Fisher Ames, with his
narrow consumptive figure and his flashing ardent eyes, his eloquent
tongue chilled by this funereal assemblage, had retreated to an alcove
with Rufus King, where they whispered politics. Burr, the target of many
fine eyes, was always loyal to his wife in public; she was a charming
and highly respected woman, ten years his senior. Burr fascinated women,
and adorned his belt with their scalps; but had it not been for this
vanity, which led him to scatter hints of infinite devilment and
conquest, it is not likely that he would have been branded, in that era
of gallantry, a devirginator and a rake. All that history is concerned
with is his utter lack of patriotism and honesty, and the unscrupulous
selfishness, from which, after all, he suffered more than any man. His
dishonesties and his treasonable attempts were failures, but he left a
bitter legacy in his mastery of the arts of political corruption, and in
a glittering personality which, with his misfortunes, has begodded him
with the shallow and ignorant, who know the traditions of history and
none of its facts. He was a poor creature, with all his gifts, for his
life was a failure, his old age one of the loneliest and bitterest in
history; and from no cause that facts or tradition give us but the blind
selfishness which blunted a good understanding to stupidity. Selfishness
in public life is a crime against one's highest ambitions.

Mrs. Hamilton kept a firm hold on her husband's arm, and her glance shot
apprehensively from Washington to the Vice-President. The latter could
not dance at present; the former looked as if petrified, rooted in the
floor. Betsey had a clever little head, and she devised a scheme at
once. She was the third lady in the land, and although many years
younger than Mrs. Adams, had entertained from her cradle. No one else
immediately following the entrance of her husband and herself, she did
not move on after her courtesy, but drew Mrs. Adams into conversation,
and the good lady by this time was glad of a friendly word.

"You will be detained here for an hour yet," said Betsey, sweetly. "Can
I help you? Shall I start the minuet? Dear Mr. Adams will be too tired
to dance to-night. Shall I choose a partner and begin?"

"For the love of heaven, do," whispered Mrs. Adams. "Take out Colonel
Burr. He matches you in height, and dances like a courtier."

Other people entered at the moment, and Betsey whispered hurriedly to
Hamilton: "Go--quickly--and fetch Colonel Burr. I breathe freely for the
first time since the clock struck six, but who knows what may happen?"

Hamilton obediently started in quest of Burr. But alas, Ames and King
darted at him from their hiding-place behind a curtain, and he
disappeared from his wife's despairing vision. Ten minutes later he
became aware of the familiar strains of the minuet, and guiltily glanced
forth. Betsey, her face composed to stony resignation lest she disgrace
herself with tears, was solemnly treading the measure with the solemnest
man on earth, clutching at his hand, which was on a level with her
turban. A turn of her head and she encountered her husband's contrite
eye. Before hers he retreated to the alcove, nor did he show himself in
the ball-room again until it was time to take his wife to their coach.

He escaped from the room by a window, and after half the evening in the
library with a group of anxious Federalists,--for it was but a night or
two after his dinner with Jefferson,--he retired to a small room at the
right of the main hall for a short conference with the Chief Justice. He
was alone after a few moments, and was standing before the half-drawn
tapestry, watching the guests promenading in the hall, when Kitty
Livingston passed on the arm of Burr. Their eyes met, and she cut him.
His spirits dropped at once, and he was indulging in reminiscences
tinged with melancholy, for he had loved her as one of the faithful
chums of his youth, niching her with Troup, Fish, and other enthusiastic
friends of that time, when to his surprise she entered abruptly, and
drew the tapestry behind her.

"You wicked varlet!" she exclaimed. "What did you sow all this
dissension for, and deprive me of my best friends?" Then she kissed him
impulsively. "I shall always love you, though. You were the dearest
little chap that ever was--and that is why I am going to tell you
something to-night, although I may never speak to you again, Aaron Burr
is burrowing between my family and the Clinton faction. He hopes to make
a strong combination, defeat General Schuyler at the next election, and
have himself elected senator in his place. Why, why did you alienate us?
We are nine in public life--did you forget that?--and what was Rufus
King to you or to the country compared with our combined strength? Why
should John be preferred to Robert? You are as high-handed and arrogant
as Lucifer himself; and generally you win, but not always. Burr has seen
his first chance for political preferment, and seized it with a cunning
which I almost admire. He has persuaded both the Livingstons and the
Clintons that here is their chance to pull you down, and he is only too
willing to be the instrument--the wretched little mole! I shall hate
myself to-morrow for telling you this, for God knows I am loyal to my
people, but I have watched you go up--up--up. I should feel like your
mother would if I saw you in the dust. I am afraid it is too late to do
anything now. These two hostile parties will not let slip this chance.
But get Burr under your foot when you can, and keep him there. He is
morbid with jealousy and will live to pull you down."

"My dear girl," exclaimed Hamilton, who was holding her hand between
both his own, "do not let your imagination run away with you. I am very
well with Burr, and he is jealous by fits and starts only. Why in the
name of heaven should he be jealous? He has never given a thought to the
welfare of the country, and I have devoted myself to the subject since
boyhood. If I reap the reward--and God knows the future is precarious
enough--why should he grudge me a power for which he has never striven?
I know him to be ambitious, and I believe him to be unscrupulous, and
for that reason I have been glad that he has hitherto kept out of
politics; for he would be of no service to the country, would not
hesitate to sacrifice it to his own ends--unless I am a poor student of
character. But as to personal enmity against me, or jealousy because I
occupy a position he has never sought,--and he is a year older than I,
remember,--I find that hard to believe, as well as this other; he is not
powerful enough to unite two such factions."

"He has a tongue as persuasive from its cunning as yours is in its
impetuosity, and he has convinced greater men than himself of his
usefulness. Believe me, Alexander, I speak of what I know, not of what I
suspect. Accept the fact, if you will not be warned. You always
underrate your enemies. Your confidence in your own genius--a confidence
which so much has occurred to warrant--blinds you to the power of
others. Remember the old adage: Pride goeth before a fall--although I
despise the humble myself; the world owes nothing to them. But I have
often trembled for the time when your high-handed methods and your scorn
of inferior beings would knock the very foundations from under your
feet. Now, I will say no more, and we part for ever. Perhaps if you had
not worn that colour to-night, I should not have betrayed my
family--heaven knows! We women are compounded of so many contradictory
motives. Thank your heaven that you men are not half so complex."

"My dear friend," said Hamilton, drily, "you women are not half so
complex as men. You may lay claim to a fair share because your
intelligence is above the average, but that is the point--complexity is
a matter of intelligence, and as men are, as a rule, far more
intelligent than women, with far more densely furnished brains--"

But here she boxed his ears and left the room. She returned in a moment.
"You have not thanked me!" she exclaimed. "I deserve to be thanked."

Hamilton put his arm about her and kissed her affectionately.

"From the bottom of my heart," he said. "I deeply appreciate the
impulse--and the sacrifice."

"But you won't heed," she said, with a sigh. "Good-by, Alexander! I
think Betsey is looking for you."


Hamilton for many months was far too busy with the reports he sent to
Congress in rapid succession, above all with the one concerning the
establishment of a National Bank, to be presented at the opening of the
next Session, and with the routine of business connected with his
department, to interfere in politics. He warned General Schuyler,
however, and hoped that the scandal connected with the State lands, in
which Burr was deeply implicated, would argue for the statesman in his
contest with a mere politician. But Burr, in common with the other
commissioners, was acquitted, although no satisfactory explanation of
their astounding transactions was given, and General Schuyler lost the
election as much through personal unpopularity as through the industry
of Burr and the determined efforts of the Livingstons. Schuyler, the
tenderest of men in his friendships, was as austere in his public manner
as in his virtues, and inflexible in demanding the respect due to his
rank and position. Of a broad intelligence, and a statesman of
respectable stature, he knew little of the business of politics and
cared less. He took his defeat with philosophy, regretting it more for
the animosity toward his son-in-law it betokened than because it removed
him temporarily from public life, and returned with his family to
Albany, Hamilton was annoyed and disgusted, and resolved to keep his eye
on Burr in the future. While he himself was in power the United States
should have no set-backs that he could prevent, and if Burr realized his
reading of his character he should manage to balk his ambitions if they
threatened the progress of the country. Kitty Livingston he did not see
again for many months, for her father died on July 25th. Hamilton heard
of William Livingston's death with deep regret, for Liberty Hall was
among the brightest of his memories; but events and emotions were
crowding in his life as they never had crowded before, and he had little
time for reminiscence.

Congress adjourned on the 12th of August to meet in Philadelphia in
December. New York followed Washington to the ferry stairs upon the day
of his departure, weeping not only for that great man's loss, but for
the glory that went with him. "That vile Philadelphia," as Angelica
Church, in a letter to Betsey of consolatory lament, characterized the
city where Independence was born, was to be the capital of the Nation
once more, New York to console herself with her commerce and the
superior cleanliness of her streets. Those who could, followed the
"Court," and those who could not, travelled the weary distance over the
corduroy roads through the forests, and over swamps and rivers, as often
as circumstances would permit. Of the former was Mrs. Croix, whose
particular court protested it must have the solace of her presence in a
city to which few went willingly. Clinton heaped her with reproaches,
but she argued sweetly that he was outvoted, and that she should ever go
where duty called. "She felt politics to be her mission," and in truth
she enjoyed its intrigues, the double game she played, with all her
feminine soul. Hamilton would not help himself in her valuable
storehouse, but it pleased her to know that she held dangerous secrets
in her hands, could confound many an unwary politician. And she had her
methods, as we have seen, of springing upon Hamilton many a useful bit
of knowledge, and of assisting him in ways unsuspected of any. She
established herself in lodgings in Chestnut Street, not unlike those in
which she had spent so many happy hours for two years past, inasmuch as
they were situated on the first floor and communicated with a little
garden. Her removal was looked upon as quite natural, and so admirably
did she deport herself that even Mrs. Washington received her in time.

Philadelphia was a larger city than New York, with wide ill-kept
streets, good pavements, and many fine houses and public buildings.
Chestnut Street was the great thoroughfare, shopping district, and
promenade. It was a city renowned for social activity and "crucifying
expenses." Naturally its press was as jubilant over the revival of its
ancient splendour as that of disappointed New York was scurrilous and
vindictive. When the latter was not caricaturing Robert Morris,
staggering off with the Administration on its back, or "Miss Assumption
and her bastard brats," its anti-Federal part was abusing Hamilton as
the arch-fiend who had sold the country, and applying to him every
adjective of vituperation that fury and coarseness could suggest. There
were poems, taunts, jibes, and squibs, printed as rapidly as the press
and ingenuity could turn them out. If our ancestors were capable of
appreciating the literary excellence of their pamphleteers, as many of
those who have replaced them to-day could not, it must be admitted that
we do not rage and hate so violently. The most hysteric effusions of our
yellow press, or the caustic utterances of our reputable newspapers, are
tame indeed before the daily cyclones of a time when everybody who did
not love his political neighbor hated him with a deadly virulence of
which we know little to-day. We may be improved, merely commercialized,
or more diffuse in our interests. In those days every man was a
politician first and himself after.

The violence of party feeling engendered once more by the debates over
Hamilton's Report spread over the country like a prairie fire, and raged
until, in the North at least, it was met by the back fire of increasing
prosperity. As the summer waned farmers and merchants beheld the prices
of public securities going up, heard that in Holland the foreign loan
had gone above par, and that two hundred and seventy-eight thousand
dollars of the domestic debt had been purchased and cancelled at a cost
of one hundred and fifty thousand, saw trade reviving, felt their own
burdens lighten with the banishment of the State debt. To sing the
praises of the Assumption Bill was but a natural sequence, and from
thence to a constant panegyric of Hamilton. The anti-Federalist press
was drowned in the North by the jubilance of the Federal and its
increasing recruits, but in the South everything connected with the
Government in general and Hamilton in particular was unholy, and the
language in which the sentiment was expressed was unholier.

Meanwhile, Hamilton was established in a little house in Philadelphia,
at work upon his second Report on the Public Credit, and elaborating his
argument in favour of a National Bank. Betsey had been more fortunate
than many in getting her house in order within a reasonable time, for
others were camping in two rooms while the carpenters hammered over the
rest of the neglected mansions. Washington arrived in November and took
possession of the stately home of Robert Morris, although he grumbled
that the stables would hold but twelve horses. It was a splendid
mansion, however, and filled not only with the fine collections of the
rich merchant, but with many beautiful works of art that the President
brought from Mount Vernon. Congress opened on the 6th of December.

If Hamilton had given only an occasional half-amused, half-irritated
attention to the journalistic and pamphlet warfare in which he had been
the target, he now found a domestic engagement confronting him which
commanded his attentions and roused all the fighting Scotch blood in his
composition. Jefferson had done much and distressful thinking during the
summer recess. In the leisure of his extensive, not to say magnificent,
Virginia estates, and while entertaining the neighbouring aristocracy,
he had moved slowly to the conclusion that he approved of nothing in the
Administration, and that Hamilton was a danger to the Nation and a
colossus in his path. Assumption he held to be a measure of the very
devil, and fumed whenever he reflected upon his part in its
accomplishment. "I was made to hold a candle!" he would explain
apologetically. "He hoodwinked me, made a fool of me."

For a statesman of forty-seven, and one of the most distinguished and
successful men in the country, the literary author of The Declaration of
Independence, the father of many beneficent and popular laws in his own
State, a minister to foreign courts and one of the deepest and subtlest
students of human nature of his century, to find himself fooled and
played with by a young man of thirty-three, relegated by him to a second
place in the Cabinet and country, means--meant in those days, at
least--hate of the most remorseless quality. Jefferson was like a
volcano with bowels of fire and a crater which spilled over in the
night. He smouldered and rumbled, a natural timidity preventing the
splendour of fireworks. But he was deadly.

He and Madison met often during these holidays, and an object of their
growing confidence was James Monroe, the new Senator from Virginia.
Monroe was a fighter, and hatred of Hamilton was his religion. Moreover,
he disapproved with violence of every measure of the new government, and
everybody connected with it, from Washington down, Jefferson excepted;
Randolph he held to be a trimmer, and overlooked the fact that although
he himself had opposed the Constitution with all his words, he was one
of the first to take office under it. Jefferson needed but this younger
man's incentive to disapprove more profoundly not only assumption, but
Hamilton's design to establish a National Bank. That was the most
criminal evidence of an ultimate dash for a throne which the Secretary
of the Treasury, whose place in the Cabinet should have been second to
his own, but who was the very head and front of the Administration, had
yet betrayed. And as for the triumphal progress of Washington through
the States in the previous autumn, and again before leaving for Mount
Vernon upon the close of the last Congress, a king could have done no
more. The new Republic was tottering on its rotten foundations, and
Jefferson and his able lieutenants vowed themselves to the rescue.
Madison was the anti-government leader in the House, Monroe would abet
him in the Senate, and Jefferson would undertake the fight in the
Cabinet. It cannot be said that he liked the prospect, for he read his
fellow-beings too well to mistake the mettle of Hamilton. He was a
peaceable soul, except when in his study with pen in hand, but stem this
monarchical tide he would, and bury Hamilton under the dam.

"We are three to one," he said reassuringly to his coadjutors. "He is
brilliant. I do not deny it. But against a triple power--"

"He is worth any three men I ever knew," said Madison, drearily. "We
shall have to work harder than he will."

Jefferson lifted his pen, and squinted thoughtfully at its point.
Monroe, who was the youngest of the trio, laughed aloud.

And these were the forces of which Hamilton felt the shock shortly after
the convening of Congress.


On the 13th of December Hamilton sent to the House of Representatives
his second Report on Public Credit--no longer a nomen of bitter
sarcasm--and the Report in favour of a National Bank. Congress was once
more on edge. Since his first Great Report, it had considered and
wrangled over his successive Reports on State Debits and Credits, West
Point, Public Lands, Estimates, and Renewal of Certificates; and it had
lived through the hot summer on the prospect of the excitement which the
bold and creative Secretary would surely provide. Even his enemies loved
Hamilton in their way, for life was torpid when he rested on his

The anti-Federalists, had they needed an additional incentive for the
coming battle, a condition to rouse all their strength and mettle, found
it in the rapidly increasing prosperity of the country, which had raised
Hamilton to a height of popularity from which it would be an historic
triumph to drag him down. He was, indeed, almost at the zenith of a
reputation which few men have achieved. From end to end of the Union his
name was on every lip, sometimes coupled with a hiss, but oftener with
every expression of honour and admiration that the language could
furnish. Even in the South he had his followers, and in the North and
East it was hardly worth a man's nose to abuse him. He was a magician,
who could make the fortunes of any man quick enough to seize his
opportunities, and the saviour of the national honour and fortunes. His
fame obscured that of Washington, and abroad he was by far the most
interesting and significant figure in the young country. No wonder the
anti-Federalists trembled for the future, and with all the vigour of
hardened muscles fought his scheme for allying the moneyed classes with
the Government.

Hamilton made no secret of his design so closely to attach the wealthy
men of the country to the central Government that they must stand or
fall with it, coming to its rescue in every crisis; and time has
vindicated his far-sighted policy. But when the National Bank was in the
preliminary stages of its journey, certain of its hosts in Congress saw
but another horrid menace to the liberties of the people, another step
toward the final establishment of a monarchy after the British pattern.
The old arguments of subservience to British institutions in the matter
of funding, and other successful pets of the Secretary, were dragged
forth and wrangled over, in connection with this new and doubly
pernicious measure of a National Bank.

Hamilton recommended that a number of subscribers should be incorporated
into a bank, to be known as the Bank of the United States; the capital
to be ten million dollars; the number of shares twenty-five thousand;
the par value of each share four hundred dollars; the Government to
become a subscriber to the amount of two millions, and to require in
return a loan of an equal sum, payable in ten yearly instalments of two
hundred thousand dollars each. The rest of the capital stock would be
open to the public, to be paid for, one-quarter in gold and silver, and
three-quarters in the six or three per cent certificates of the national
debt. The life of the bank was to end in 1811. As an inducement for
prompt subscriptions a pledge would be given that for twenty years to
come Congress would incorporate no other.

It is odd reading for us, with a bank in every street, not only those
old diatribes in Congress against banks of all sorts, but Hamilton's
elaborate arguments in favour of banks in general, the benefits and
conveniences they confer upon individuals as well as nations. But in
those days there were but three banks in the Union, and each had been
established against violent opposition, Hamilton, in particular, having
carried the Bank of New York through by unremitting personal effort. The
average man preferred his stocking. Representatives from backwoods
districts were used to such circulating mediums as military warrants,
guard certificates, horses, cattle, cow-bells, land, and whiskey. They
looked askance at a bank as a sort of whirlpool into which wealth would
disappear, and bolt out at the bottom into the pockets of a few
individuals who understood what was beyond the average intellect. But by
far the most disquieting objection brought forward against this plan of
the Secretary's was its alleged unconstitutionality.

Monroe, although a new man, and speaking seldom, exerted a systematic
opposition in the Senate, and Madison, in the House, argued, with
lucidity and persistence, that the Constitution had no power to grant a
charter to any such institution as the Secretary proposed. Others argued
that the success of this new scheme would infringe upon the rights of
the States, and still others thundered the everlasting accusations of
monarchical design. Nevertheless, the bill for granting the required
charter passed both Houses by a handsome majority. The able Federalists
had contemptuously dissected the arguments against it with greater skill
than even Madison could command; and confidence in Hamilton, by this
time, practically was a religion. The bill was sent to Washington to
sign or veto, and the anti-Federalists, disconcerted and alarmed by
their signal defeat in Congress, rested their final hope on Jefferson.

The President, according to law, had but ten days in which to sign or
veto a bill: if he hesitated but a moment beyond the constitutional
limit, the bill became a law without his signature. It may safely be
said that these ten days were the most miserable of Washington's life so
far, although they were but the forerunner of many to come.

By this time the Cabinet had acquired the habit of assembling for
conference about a council table in the President's house. Washington
sat at the head of the table, with Hamilton on his left, and Jefferson
on his right. Knox, who would have frowned upon the Almighty had he
contradicted Hamilton, sat beside his Captain. Randolph sat opposite,
his principles with Jefferson, but his intellect so given to
hair-splitting, that in critical moments this passion to weigh every
side of a proposition in turn frequently resulted in the wrench of a
concession by Hamilton, while Jefferson fumed. As time went on,
Washington fell into the habit of extending his long arms upon the table
in front of him, and clasping his imposing hands in the manner of a

Jefferson began a tentative showing of his colours while the bill was
fighting its stormy way through Congress, and Hamilton was a brief while
perceiving his drift and appreciating his implacable enmity. The first
time that Jefferson encountered the lightning in Hamilton's eye, the
quivering of his nostril, as he half rose from his chair under the
sudden recognition of what he was to expect, his legs slid forward
limply, and he turned his head toward the door. Washington suppressed a
smile, but it was long before he smiled again, Hamilton would have no
hints and innuendoes; he forced his enemy to show his hand. But although
he wrung from Jefferson his opposition to the Bank and to every scheme
the Secretary of the Treasury had proposed, he could not drag him into
the open. Jefferson was deprecating, politely determined to serve the
country in his own way, lost in admiration of this opponent's intellect,
but forced to admit his mistakes--the mistakes of a too ardent mind. The
more bitter and caustic the sarcasms that leaped from Hamilton's tongue,
the more suave he grew, for placidity was his only weapon of
self-preservation; a war of words with Hamilton, and he would be made
ridiculous in the presence of his colleagues and Washington.
Occasionally the volcano flared through his pale eyes, and betrayed such
hate and resentment that Washington elevated his hands an inch. The
President sat like a stoic, with a tornado on one side of him and a
growling Vesuvius on the other, and exhibited an impartiality, in spite
of the fact that Jefferson daily betrayed his hostility to the
Administration, which revealed but another of his superhuman attributes.
But there is a psychological manifestation of mental bias, no matter
what the control, and some men are sensitive enough to feel it.
Jefferson was quite aware that Washington loved Hamilton and believed in
him thoroughly, and he felt the concealed desire to side openly with the
Secretary to whom, practically, had been given the reins of government.
Washington, rather than show open favouritism, even to Hamilton, to whom
he felt the profoundest gratitude, would have resigned his high office;
but the desire was in his head, and Jefferson felt it. The campaign
open, he kept up a nagging siege upon Washington's convictions in favour
of his aggressive Secretary's measures, finding constant excuses to be
alone with the President. Hamilton, on the other hand, dismissed the
subject when left alone with Washington, unless responding to a demand.
He frequently remained to the midday meal with the family, and was as
gay and lively as if Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe were in the limbo to
which he gladly would have consigned them. His nature was mercurial in
one, at least, of its essences, and a sudden let-down, followed by
congenial company, restored his equilibrium at once. But Washington
watched the development of the blackness and violence of his deeper
passions with uneasiness and regret, finally with alarm.

Hamilton, in truth, was roused to his dregs. The sneaking retreat of
Madison from his standard and affections, the rancorous enmity of
Monroe, with whom he had fought side by side and been well with whenever
they had been thrown together in the bitter winters of inaction; the
slow, cool, determined, deadly opposition of Jefferson, whom he
recognized as a giant in intellect and despised as a man with that hot
contempt for the foe who will not strip and fight in the open, which
whips a passionate nature to the point of fury, had converted Hamilton
into a colossus of hate which, as Madison had intimated, far surpassed
the best endeavours of the powerful trio. He hated harder, for he had
more to hate with,--stronger and deeper passions, ampler resources in
his intellect, and an energy of temperament which Jefferson and Madison,
recruited by Monroe, could not outweigh. He saw that he was in for the
battle of his life, and that its finish might be deferred for years;
for he made no such mistake as to underrate the strength and resources
of this triple enemy; he knew that it would last until one or the other
were worn out. Hamilton had no thought of defeat; he never contemplated
it for a moment; his faith in himself and in the wisdom of his measures
was absolute; what he looked forward to with the deepest irritation was
the persistent opposition, the clogging of his wheels of progress, the
constant personal attacks which might weaken him with the country before
his multitudinous objects should be accomplished. He suggested resource
after resource to his faithful and brilliant disciples in Congress, and
he determined to force Jefferson to leave the Cabinet.

"If he only would take himself out of that room with a defiant admission
that he intended to head the opposite party and fight me to the death!"
he exclaimed to Mrs. Croix, one day. "What right has he to sit there at
Washington's hand, a member of his Cabinet, ostensibly in its first
place, and at war with every measure of the Administration? He cannot
oppose me without involving the President, under whom he holds office,
and if he had a grain of decent feeling he would resign rather than
occupy such an anomalous position."

"He intends to force you to resign."

"You don't mean to say that he is coming here?" asked Hamilton, in
disgust. "Who next?"

"Mr. Jefferson succumbed quite three weeks ago," said Mrs. Croix, gaily.
"He amuses me, and I am instilling the conviction that no human being
can force you to do anything you don't want to do, and that the sooner
he retreats gracefully the better."

Hamilton shrugged his shoulders and made no answer. He had ceased
remonstrance long since. If it pleased her to think she was fighting the
battles he was forced to fight with undiminished vigour himself, he
should be the last to interfere with her amusement. She was a born
intrigante, and would have been miserable freckling her complexion in
the open sunlight. He was too grateful to her at this time to risk a
quarrel, or to condemn her for any of her violations of masculine
standards. It was to her he poured out his wrath, after an encounter
with Jefferson which had roused him too viciously for reaction at
Washington's board or at his own. His wife he spared in every way. Not
only was her delicate health taxed to the utmost with social duties
which could not be avoided, the management of her household affairs, and
an absorbing and frequently ailing family, but he would have controlled
himself had he burst, before he would have terrified her with a glimpse
of passions of whose existence she had not a suspicion. To her and his
family he was ever the most amiable and indulgent of men, giving them
every spare moment he could command, and as delighted as a schoolboy
with a holiday, when he could spend an hour in the nursery, an evening
with his wife, or take a ramble through the woods with his boys. He took
a deep pride in his son Philip, directed his studies and habits, and was
as pleased with every evidence of his progress as had he seen Madison
riding a rail in a coat of tar and feathers. He coddled and petted the
entire family, particularly his little daughter Angelica, and they
adored him, and knew naught of his depths.

But Mrs. Croix knew them. In her management of Hamilton she made few
mistakes, passionately as she loved him. It was in her secluded presence
he stormed himself cool, was indignantly sympathized with first, then
advised, then soothed. He was made to understand that the more he
revealed the black and implacable deeps of his nature, the more was he
worshipped, the more keen the response from other and not dissimilar
deeps. His wife was necessary to him in many ways, his Egeria in many
more. Although he would have sacrificed the last to the first, had it
come to an issue, he would have felt as if one-half of him had been
cruelly divorced. Few women understand this dual nature in men, and few
are the men who do not. It has been known to exist in those who make no
pretensions to genius, and in Hamilton was as natural as the versatility
of his intellect. When with one he locked the other in the recesses of
his mind as successfully as when at college he had accomplished
herculean feats of mental accumulation by keeping but one thing before
his thought at a time. What he wanted he would have, so long as his
family were in no way affected; and had it not been for Mrs. Croix at
this time, it might have been worse for Betsey. She cooled his fevers;
her counsel was always sound. And her rooms and herself were beautiful.
She had her way of banishing the world by drawing her soft blue curtains
and lighting her many candles. Had she been a fool, Hamilton would have
tired of her in a month; as it was, he often thought of her as the most
confidential and dispensing of his friends, and no more.

During the preceding two years of their acquaintance there had been many
quarrels, caused by furious bursts of temper on the part of the lady,
when Hamilton forgot her for a month or more. There were times when she
was the solitary woman of Earth, and others when she might have reigned
on Mars. He was very busy, and he had countless interests to absorb time
and thought. He never pretended to more than a romantic passion for her,
and deep as was her own infatuation, it was sometimes close to hate; for
she was a woman whose vanity was as strong as her passions. At this
time, however, he felt a frequent need of her, and she made the most of
the opportunity.


Meanwhile, Washington, deeply disturbed by the arguments in the press
and Congress against the constitutionality of the National Bank, had
privately asked for the written opinions of Jefferson and Randolph, and
for a form of veto from Madison. They were so promptly forthcoming that
they might have been biding demand. Washington read them carefully,
then, too worried and impatient for formalities, carried them himself to
Hamilton's house.

"For God's sake read them at once and tell me what they amount to," he
said, throwing the bundle of papers on the table. "Of course you must
prepare me an answer in writing, but I want your opinion at once. I will

Long years after, when Betsey was an old woman, someone asked her if she
remembered any incidents in connection with the establishment of the
great Bank. She replied, "Yes, I remember it all distinctly. One day
General Washington called at the house, looking terribly worried. He
shut himself up in the study with my husband for hours, and they talked
nearly all the time. When he went away he looked much more cheerful.
That night my husband did not go to bed at all, but sat up writing; and
the next day we had a Bank."

Hamilton's answer, both verbally and in a more elaborate form, was so
able and sound a refutation of every point advanced by the enemy that
Washington hesitated no longer and signed the bill during the last
moments remaining to him. Years later, when the same question was raised
again, Chief Justice Marshall, the most brilliant ornament, by common
consent, the Supreme Court of the United States has had, admitted that
he could add nothing to Hamilton's argument. It must, also, have
convinced Madison; for while President of the United States, and his
opportunity for displaying the consistencies of his intellect,
unrivalled, he signed the charter of the Second National Bank. Monroe,
whose party was in power, and able to defeat any obnoxious measure of
the Federalists, advocated; the second Bank as heartily as he had cursed
the first. His defence of his conduct was a mixture of insolent
frankness and verbiage. He said: "As to the constitutional objection, it
formed no serious obstacle. In voting against the Bank in the first
instance, I was governed essentially by policy. The construction I gave
to the Constitution I considered a strict one. In the latter instance it
was more liberal but, according to my judgement, justified by its
powers." If anyone can tell what he meant, doubtless his own shade would
be grateful.

Hamilton's second Report on the Public Credit had beer buffeted about
quite as mercilessly as the Report in favour of a bank. The customs
officers had, during the past year collected $1,900,000, which sufficed
to pay two-thirds of the annual expenses of the Government. There was
still a deficit of $826,000, and to meet future contingencies of a
similar nature, the Secretary of the Treasury urged the passage of an
Excise Bill.

Even his enemies admired his courage, for no measure could be more
unpopular, raise more widespread wrath. It was regarded as a deliberate
attempt to deprive man of his most cherished vice; and every argument
was brought forth in opposition, from the historic relation of whiskey
to health and happiness, to the menace of adopting another British
measure. The bill passed; but it was a different matter to enforce it,
as many an excise officer reflected, uncheerfully, whilst riding a rail.
On the 28th of January Hamilton sent in his Report in favour of the
establishment of a mint, with details so minute that he left the framers
of the necessary bill little excuse for delay; but it had the same
adventurous and agitated experience of its predecessors, and only limped
through, in an amended form, after the wildest outburst of democratic
fanaticism which any of the measures of Hamilton had induced. The
proposition to stamp the coins with the head of the President was
conclusive of an immediate design to place a crown upon the head of
Washington. Doubtless the leaders of the Federal party, under the able
tuition of their despot, had their titles ready, their mine laid.
Jefferson, in the Cabinet, protested with such solemn persistence
against so dangerous a precedent, and Hamilton perforated him with such
arrows of ridicule, that Washington exploded with wrath, and demanded to
know if neither never intended to yield a point to the other.

During this session of Congress, Hamilton also sent in Reports on Trade
with India and China, and on the Dutch Loan. He was fortunate in being
able to forget his enemies for days and even weeks at a time, when his
existence was so purely impersonal that every capacity of his mind, save
the working, slept soundly. By now, he had his department in perfect
running order; and his successors have accepted his legacy, with its
infinitude of detail, its unvarying practicality, with gratitude and
trifling alterations. When Jefferson disposed himself in the Chair of
State, in 1801, he appointed Albert Gallatin--the ablest financier,
after Hamilton, the country has produced--Secretary of the Treasury, and
begged him to sweep the department clean of the corruption amidst which
Hamilton had sat and spun his devilish schemes. Gallatin, after a
thorough and conscientious search for political microbes, informed his
Chief that in no respect could the department be improved, that there
was not a trace of crime, past or present. Jefferson was disconcerted;
but, as a matter of fact, his administrations were passed complacently
amidst Hamilton legacies and institutions. Jefferson's hour had come. He
could undo all that he had denounced in his rival as monarchical,
aristocratical, pernicious to the life of Democracy. But the
administrations of Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe, ran from first to
last on those Federal wheels which are still in use, protected within
and without by Federal institutions. But their architect was sent to his
grave soon after the rise of his arch-enemy to power, was beyond
humiliation or party triumph; it would be folly to war with a spirit,
and greater not to let well enough alone. But that is a far cry.
Meanwhile the Bank was being rushed through, and its establishment was
anticipated with the keenest interest, and followed by a season of crazy
speculation, dissatisfaction, and vituperation. But this Hamilton had
expected, and he used his pen constantly to point out the criminal folly
and inevitable consequences of speculation.


Congress adjourned while the excitement was at its height. Washington
went to Mount Vernon, the Cabinet scattered, and there was an interval
of peace. Philadelphia in summer was always unhealthy, and liable to an
outbreak of fever at any moment. Hamilton sent his family to the
Schuyler estate at Saratoga. Mrs. Croix had gone as early as May to the
New England coast; for even her magnificent constitution had felt the
strain of that exciting session, and Philadelphia was not too
invigorating in winter. Hamilton remained alone in his home, glad of the
abundant leisure which the empty city afforded to catch up with the
arrears of his work, to design methods for financial relief against the
time to apply them, and to prepare his Report on Manufactures, a paper
destined to become as celebrated and almost as widespread in its
influence as the great Report on Public Credit. It required days and
nights of thinking, research, correspondence, comparison, and writing;
and how in the midst of all this mass of business, this keen anxiety
regarding the whirlwind of speculation--which was involving some of the
leading men in the country, and threatening the young Government with a
new disaster; how, while sitting up half the night with his finger on
the public pulse, waiting for the right moment to apply his remedies, he
managed to entangle himself in a personal difficulty, would be an
inscrutable mystery, were any man but Alexander Hamilton in question.

I shall not enter into the details of the Reynolds affair. No intrigue
was ever less interesting. Nor should I make even a passing allusion to
it, were it not for its political ultimates. A couple of blackmailers
laid a trap for the Secretary of the Treasury, and he walked into it, as
the wisest of men have done before and since, when the woman has been
sufficiently attractive at the right moment. This woman was common and
sordid, but she was young and handsome, and her affectation of violent
attachment, if ungrammatical, was plausible enough to convince any man
accustomed to easy conquest; and the most astute of men, provided his
passions be strong enough, can be fooled by any woman at once designing
and seductive. Ardent susceptibility was in the very essence of
Hamilton, with Scotland and France in his blood, the West Indies the
mould of his youthful being, and the stormy inheritance of his parents.

But although Hamilton might succumb to a woman of Mrs. Reynold's type,
she could not hold him. After liberally relieving the alleged pecuniary
distress of this charmer, and weary of her society, he did his best to
get rid of her. She protested. So did he. It was then that he was made
aware of the plot The woman's husband appeared, and announced that only
a thousand dollars would heal his wounded honour, and that if it were
not immediately forthcoming, he would write to Mrs. Hamilton.

Hamilton was furious. His first impulse was to tell the man to do his
worst, for anything in the nature of coercion stripped him for the fray
at once. But an hour of reflection cooled his blood. No one was to blame
but himself. If he had permitted himself to be made a fool of, it was
but just that he should take the consequences, and not cruelly wound the
woman he loved the better for his vagaries. Moreover, such a scandal
would seriously affect the high office he filled, might indeed force him
to resignation; not only thwarting his great ambitions, but depriving
the country of services which no other man had the ability or the will
to render. And a few moments forecast of the triumph of his enemies, not
only over himself but possibly over his party, in case of his downfall,
was sufficient in itself to force him to terms. Few are the momentous
occasions in which men are governed by a single motive. Hamilton's
ambitions were welded into the future happiness and glory of the country
he had so ardently adopted. And if love of power was his ruling passion,
it certainly was directed to the loftiest of ends. To desire to create a
nation out of the resources of a vast understanding, controlled by
wisdom and honour, is an ambition which should be dignified with a
higher name. Small and purely personal ambitions were unknown to
Hamilton, his gifts were given him for the elevation of the human race;
but he would rather have reigned in hell than have sunk to
insignificance on earth. As he remarked once to Kitty Livingston, the
complexity of man so far exceeds that of the average woman, complexity
being purely a matter of brain and having no roots whatever in sex, that
it were a waste of valuable time to analyze its ramifications, and the
crossings and entanglements of its threads. Hamilton paid the money,
yielded further to the extent of several hundred dollars, then the
people disappeared, and he hoped that he had heard the last of them.
Fortunately his habits were methodical, the result of his mercantile
training on St. Croix, and he preserved the correspondence.


Hamilton looked forward to the next Congressional term with no
delusions. He polished his armour until it was fit to blind his
adversaries, tested the temper of every weapon, sharpened every blade,
arranged them for immediate availment. In spite of the absorbing and
disconcerting interests of the summer, he had followed in thought the
mental processes of his enemies, kept a sharp eye out for their new
methods of aggression. Themselves had had no more intimate knowledge of
their astonishment, humiliation, and impotent fury at the successive
victories of the invulnerable Secretary of the Treasury, than had
Hamilton himself. He knew that they had confidently hoped to beat him by
their combined strength and unremitting industry, and by the growing
power of their party, before the finish of the preceding term. The
Federalists no longer had their former majority in Congress upon all
questions, for many of the men who, under that title, had been devoted
adherents of the Constitution, were become alarmed at the constant talk
of the monarchical tendencies of the Government, of the centralizing
aristocratic measures of the Secretary of the Treasury, at the
"unrepublican" formalities and elegance of Washington's "Court," at his
triumphal progresses through the country, and at the enormous one-man
power as exhibited in the person of Hamilton. Upon these minds
Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe had worked with unremitting subtlety. It
was not so much that the early Federalists wished to see Hamilton
dragged from his lofty position, for they admired him, and were willing
to acknowledge his services to the country; but that the idea grew
within them that he must be properly checked, lest they suddenly find
themselves subjects again. They realized that they had been running to
him for advice upon every matter, great and insignificant, since the new
Congress began its sittings, and that they had adopted the greater part
of his counsels without question; they believed that Hamilton was
becoming the Congress as he already was the Administration; and
overlooked the fact that legislative authority as against executive had
no such powerful supporter as the Secretary of the Treasury. But it was
not an era when men reasoned as exhaustively as they might have done.
They were terrified by bogies, and the blood rarely was out of their
heads. "Monarchism must be checked," and Hamilton for some months past
had watched the rapid welding of the old anti-Federalists and the timid
Federalists into what was shortly to be known, for a time, as the
Republican party. That Jefferson had been at work all summer, as during
the previous term, with his subtle, insinuating, and convincing pen, he
well knew, and for what the examples of such men as Jefferson and
Madison counted--taking their stand on the high ground of stemming the
menace to personal liberties. The Republican party was to be stronger
far than the old anti-Federal, for it was to be a direct and constant
appeal to the controlling passion of man, vanity; and Hamilton believed
that did it obtain the reins of power too early in the history of the
Nation, confusion, if not anarchy, would result: not only was it too
soon to try new experiments, diametrically opposed to those now in
operation, but, under the tutelage of Jefferson, the party was in favour
of vesting more power in the masses. Hamilton had no belief in
entrusting power to any man or body of men that had not brains,
education, and a developed reasoning capacity. He was a Republican but
not a Democrat. He recognized, long before the rival party saw their
mistake in nomenclature, that this Jefferson school marked the
degeneracy of republicanism into democracy. Knowing how absurd and
unfounded was all the hysterical talk about monarchism, and that time
would vindicate the first Administration and its party as Republican in
its very essence, he watched with deep, and often with impersonal,
uneasiness the growth of a party which would denationalize the
government, scatter its forces, and interpret the Constitution in a
fashion not intended by the most protesting of its framers. Hamilton had
in an extraordinary degree the faculty which Spencer calls
representativeness; but there were some things he could not foresee, and
one was that when the Republicans insinuated themselves to power they
would rest on their laurels, let play the inherent conservatism of man,
and gladly accept the goods the Federal party had provided them. The
three men who wrote and harangued and intrigued against Hamilton for
years, were to govern as had they been the humblest of Hamiltonians. But
this their great antagonist was in unblest ignorance of, for he, too,
reasoned in the heat and height and thick of the fray; and he made
himself ready to dispute every inch of the ground, checkmate every move,
force Jefferson into retirement, and invigorate and encourage his own
ranks. The majority in both Houses was still Federal, if diminished, and
he determined that it should remain so.

As early as October his watching eye caught the first flash in the
sunlight of a new blade in the enemies' armoury. One Freneau had come to
town. He had some reputation as a writer of squibs and verses, and
Hamilton knew him to be a political hireling utterly without principle.
When, therefore, he heard incidentally that this man had lately been in
correspondence and conference with the Virginian junta, and particularly
that he had been "persuaded by his old friend Madison to settle in
Philadelphia," had received an appointment as translating clerk in the
Department of State, and purposed to start a newspaper called the
_National Gazette_ in opposition to Fenno's Administration organ, _The
United States Gazette_, he knew what he was to expect. Fenno's paper was
devoted to the Administration, and to the Secretary of the Treasury in
particular; it was the medium through which Hamilton addressed most of
his messages to the people. Naturally it was of little use to his
enemies; and that Jefferson and his aides had realized the value of an
organ of attack, he divined very quickly. He stated his suspicions to
Washington immediately upon the President's arrival, and warned him to
expect personal assault and abuse.

"There is now every evidence of a strong and admirably organized cabal,"
he added. "And to pull us down they will not stop at abuse of even you,
if failure haunts them. I shall get the most of it, perhaps all. I hope
so, for I am used to it."

He laughed, and quite as light-heartedly as ever; but Washington looked
at him with uneasiness.

"You are a terrible fighter, Hamilton," he said. "I have never seen or
dreamed of your equal. Why not merely oppose to them a massive
resistance? Why be continually on the warpath? They give you a tentative
scratch, and you reply with a blow under the jaw, from which they rise
with a sullener determination to ruin you, than ever. When you are alone
with your pen and the needs of the country, you might have the wisdom of
a thousand years in your brain, and I doubt if at such times you
remember your name; you are one of the greatest, wisest, coolest
statesmen of any age; but the moment you come forth to the open, you are
not so much a political leader as a warlike Scot at the head of his
clan, and readier by far to make a dash into the neighbouring fastness
than to wait for an attack. Are you and Jefferson going to fight
straight through this session?--for if you are, I shall no longer yearn
so much for the repose of Mount Vernon as for the silences of the tomb."

Washington spoke lightly, as he often did when they were alone, and he
had returned from Virginia refreshed; but Hamilton answered

"We both behaved abominably last year, and it was shocking that you
should bear the brunt of it. I'll do my best to control myself in the
Cabinet--although that man rouses all the devil in me; but not to fight
at the head of my party. Oh! Can the leopard change his spots? I fear I
shall die with my back against the wall, sir, and my boots on." "I
haven't the slightest doubt of it. But be careful of giving too free and
constant a play to your passions and your capacity for rancour, or your
character will deteriorate. Tell me," he added abruptly, narrowing his
eyes and fixing Hamilton with a prolonged scrutiny, "do you not feel its
effects already?"

By this time the early, half-unwilling, half-magnetized affection which
the boy in Hamilton had yielded to his Chief had given place to a
consistent admiration for the exalted character, the wisdom, justice,
and self-control of the President of the United States, and to a devoted
attachment. The bond between the two men grew closer every day, and only
the end of all things severed it. Hamilton, therefore, replied as
frankly as if Washington had asked his opinion on the temper of the
country, instead of probing the sacred recesses of his spirit:--

"There have been times when I have sat down and stared into myself with
horror; when I have felt as if sitting in the ruins of my nature. I have
caught myself up again and again, realizing where I was drifting. I have
let a fiend loose within me, and I have turned upon it at times with a
disgust so bitter and a terror so over-mastering that the mildness which
has resulted has made me feel indifferent and even amiable to mine
enemies. Whether this intimate knowledge of myself will save me, God
knows; but when some maddening provocation comes, after reaction has run
its course, I rage more hotly than ever, and only a sense of personal
dignity keeps me from using my fists. I am two-thirds passion, and I am
afraid that in the end it will consume me. I live so intensely, in my
best and my worst! I would give all I possess for your moderation and

"No, you would not," said Washington. "War is the breath of your
nostrils, and peace would kill you. Not that the poise I have acquired
brings me much peace in these days."

Hamilton, who had spoken dejectedly, but with the deep relief which
every mortal feels in a moment of open and safe confession, sprang to
his feet, and stood on the hearth rug, his eyes sparkling with humour.
"Confess, sir," he cried gaily. "You do not like Jefferson any better
than I do. Fancy him opposite to you day after day, stinging you with
honeyed shafts and opposing you with obstacle after obstacle, while
leering with hypocrisy. Put yourself in my place for an instant, and
blame me if you can."

"Oh," said Washington, with a deep growl of disgust, "o-h-h!" But he
would not discuss his Secretary of State, even with Hamilton.


The bombardment from Freneau's _Gazette_ opened at once. It began with a
general assault upon the Administration, denouncing every prominent
member in turn as a monarchist or an aristocrat, and every measure as
subversive of the liberties of the country. Vice-President Adams
received a heavy broadside, his "Discourses on Davila," with their
animadversions upon the French Revolution in particular and Democracy in
general, being regarded as a heinous offence against the spirit of his
country, and detrimental to the political morals of the American youth.
But although the _Gazette_ kept up its pretence of being an
anti-Administration organ, publishing in the interests of a deluded
people, it soon settled down to abuse of Hamilton.

That a large number of the articles were from Jefferson's damning pen
few of the Republican leader's friends denied with any warmth, and the
natural deductions of history would have settled the question, had not
Freneau himself confessed the truth in his old age. What Jefferson did
not write, he or Madison inspired, and Freneau had a lively pen of his
own. They had promising material in General St. Clair's recent and
disastrous defeat by the Indians, which, by a triumph of literary
ingenuity, was ascribed to the ease and abundance with which the
Secretary of the Treasury had caused money to circulate. But a far
stronger weapon for their malignant use was the ruinous speculation
which had maddened the country since the opening of the Bank of the
United States. It was not enough that the Bank was a monarchical
institution, a machine for the corruption of the Government, a club of
grasping and moneyed aristocrats, but it had been purposely designed for
the benefit of the few--the "corrupt squadron," namely, the Secretary
and his friends--at the expense of the many. The subsequent failure for
$3,000,000 of one of these friends, William Duer, gave them no pause,
for his ruin precipitated a panic, and but added distinction to his
patron's villany.

For a time Hamilton held his peace. He had enough to do, steering the
financial bark through the agitated waters of speculation, without
wasting time on personal recrimination. Even when, before the failure,
he was accused of being in secret partnership with Duer, he did not
pause for vindication, but exerted himself to alleviate the general
distress. He initiated the practice, followed by Secretaries of the
Treasury at the present moment, of buying Government loan certificates
in different financial centres throughout the country, thus easing the
money market, raising the price of the certificates, and strengthening
the public credit. He used the sinking-fund for this purpose.

There was comparative peace in the Cabinet, an armed truce being,
perhaps, a more accurate description of an uneasy psychological
condition. Hamilton had made up his mind not only to spare Washington
further annoyance, if possible, but to maintain a dignity which he was
keenly conscious of having relinquished in the past. The two antagonists
greeted each other politely when they met for the first time in the
Council Chamber, although they had crossed the street several times
previously to avoid meeting; and if Jefferson discoursed unctiously and
at length, whenever the opportunity offered, upon the lamentable
consequences of a lamentable measure, and indulged in melancholy
prognostications of a general ruin, in which the Government would
disappear and be forgotten, Hamilton replied for a time with but an
occasional sarcasm, and a change of subject. One day, however, a
long-desired opportunity presented itself, and he did not neglect it. He
was well aware that Jefferson had complained to Virginia that he had
been made to hold a candle to the wily Secretary of the Treasury in the
matter of assumption, in other words, that his guileless understanding,
absorbed in matters of State, had been duped into a bargain of which
Virginia did not approve, despite the concession to the Potomac.

About two months after Congress opened, Washington, as his Cabinet
seated itself, was detained in his room with a slight indisposition, but
sent word that he would appear presently. For a time, Randolph and Knox
talked feverishly about the Indian troubles, while Hamilton looked over
some notes, and Jefferson watched his antagonist covertly, as if
anticipating a sudden spring across the table. Hamilton was not in a
good humour. He was accustomed to abuse in Congress, and that it was
again in full tide concerned him little, for he was sure of ultimate
victories in both Houses; and words which were powerless to result in a
defeat for himself, or his party, he treated with the scorn which
impotence deserved. But it was another matter to have his private
character assailed day after day in the press, to watch a subtle pen
insinuate into the public mind that a woman imperilled her reputation in
receiving him, and that he was speculating in secret with the reckless
friend whom he had warned over and over, and begged to desist. Freneau
sent him three copies of the _Gazette_ daily, lest he miss something,
and he had that morning left Betsey in tears. Fenno was fighting the
Secretary's battles valiantly; but there was only one pen in America
which could cope with Jefferson's, and that was Hamilton's own. But
aside from his accumulating cares, it was a strife to which he did not
care to descend. To-day, however, he needed but a match, and Jefferson,
who experienced a fearful fascination in provoking him, applied it.

"I hear that Duer is on the verge of failure," he remarked sadly.

"Yes," said Hamilton; "he is."

"I hold it to be a great misfortune that he has been connected with the
Administration in any way."

"His connection was quite distinct from your department. I alone was
responsible for his appointment as my assistant. There is no necessity
for you to shed any hypocritical tears."

"What concerns the honour of the Administration naturally concerns the
Secretary of State."

"There is no question of honour. If Duer fails, he will fail honourably,
and the Administration, with which he is no longer connected, will in no
way be involved."

"Of those facts of course I am sure, but I fear the reflections in the

"Keep your own pen worthily employed, and the Administration will take
care of itself."

"I do not understand you, sir," said Jefferson, with great dignity.

"I am quite ready to be explicit. Keep your pen out of Freneau's
blackguard sheet, while you are sitting at Washington's right hand, at
all events--"

Jefferson had elevated both hands. "I call Heaven to witness," he cried,
"this black aspersion upon my character is, has been, entirely a
production of the imagination of my enemies. I have never written nor
inspired a line in Mr. Freneau's paper."

Hamilton laughed and returned to his notes.

"You do not believe me, sir?" demanded Jefferson, the blood boiling
slowly to his large face.

"No," said Hamilton; "I do not."

Jefferson brought his mighty fist down upon the table with a bang."
Sir!" he exclaimed, his husky voice unpleasantly strained, "I have stood
enough from you. Are you aware that you have called me a liar, sir? I
have suffered at your hands since the day I set foot in this country. I
left the peace and retirement that I love, to come forth in response to
a demand upon my duty, a demand I have ever heeded, and what has been my
reward? The very first act I was tricked into committing was a crime
against my country--"

"Were you in your dotage, sir?" thundered Hamilton, springing to his
feet, and bringing his own hand down with such violence that the lead in
his cuff dented his wrist. "Was your understanding enfeebled with age,
that you could not comprehend the exhaustive explanation I made of the
crisis in this country's affairs? Did I not give you twenty-four hours
in which to think it over? What were you doing--muddling your brains
with French wines?--that you could not reason clearly when relieved of
my baleful fascination? Were you not protected on the following day by
two men, who were more your friends than mine? I proposed a
straightforward bargain, which you understood as well then as you do
now. You realized to the full what the interests of the country
demanded, and in a rare moment of disinterested patriotism you agreed to
a compromise in which you saw no detriment to yourself. What you did not
anticipate was the irritation of your particular State, and the
annoyance to your vanity of permitting a younger man to have his way.
Now let me hear no more of this holding a candle, and the tricking of an
open mind by a wily one, unless you are willing to acknowledge that your
brain was too weak to grasp a simple proposition; in which case you had
better resign from public office."

"I know that is what you are trying to force me to do," gasped
Jefferson, almost speechless between rage and physical fear; for
Hamilton's eyes were flashing, his body curved as if he meditated
immediate personal violence. "But I'll not do it, sir, any more than I
or anyone else will be deluded by the speciousness of your language. You
are an upstart. You have no State affinities, you despise them for a
very good reason--you come from God knows where--I do not even know the
name of the place. You are playing a game. You care nothing for the
country you were not born in. Unless you can be king, you would treat it
as your toy."

"For your absurd personalities I care nothing," said Hamilton, reseating
himself. "They are but the ebullitions of an impotence that would ruin
and cannot. But take heed what you write, for in injuring the Secretary
of the Treasury you injure the prosperity of the country; and if you
push me too far, I'll expose you and make you infamous. Here comes the
President. For God's sake bottle your spite for the present."

The two men did not exchange a remark during the rest of the sitting,
but Jefferson boiled slowly and steadily; Hamilton's words had raised
welts under which he would writhe for some time to come. When the
Cabinet adjourned he remained, and followed Washington into the library,
under cover of a chat about seeds and bulbs, a topic of absorbing
interest to both. When their legs were extended before the fire,
Jefferson said, as abruptly as if the idea had but just presented

"Mr. President, we are both Virginians, and had cut our wisdom
teeth--not that for a moment I class myself with you, sir--while young
Hamilton was still in diapers."

"Children do not wear diapers in the West Indies," interrupted
Washington, in his gravest accents. "I spent some months on the Island
of Barbadoes, in the year seventeen hundred and fifty-one."

"Was he born In the West Indies? I had never heard. But, if I may
continue, I have therefore summoned up my courage to speak to you on a
subject close to my heart--for no subject can be so close as the welfare
of a country to which we have devoted our lives."

He paused a moment, prepared with an answer, did the President haughtily
warn him not to transgress the bounds of etiquette; but Washington was
staring at the fire, apparently recalling the scenery of the Tropics.

Jefferson continued: "In the length and breadth of this Union there is
not a man, not even the most ardent Republican, who has not implicit
faith in the flawless quality of your patriotism and in your personal
wisdom; but, and possibly unknown to you, sir, the extreme and
high-handed measures, coupled with the haughty personal arrogance, of
our Secretary of the Treasury have inspired a widespread belief, which
is permeating even his personal friends, that he entertains subtle and
insidious monarchical designs, is plotting to convert our little
Republic into a kingdom. Personally, I do not believe this--"

"I should hope not. You have always seemed to me to be a man of
singular wisdom and good sense. Therefore I feel sure that you are as
heartily sick of all this absurd talk about monarchism as I am. There is
not a word of truth in Mr. Hamilton's 'monarchical designs'; it is
impossible that you should not know this as well as I do. You must also
be as well aware that he has rendered services to this country which
will be felt as long as it remains united. It is doubtful if anyone else
could have rendered these same services, for, to my knowledge at least,
we have no man in the country who combines financial genius with an
unexampled boldness and audacity. He has emphatically been the man for
the hour, abruptly transferred from his remote birthplace, it has seemed
to me, by a special intervention of Providence; free of all local
prejudices, which have been, and will continue to be, the curse of this
country, and with a mettle unacted upon by years of doubt and
hesitation. I do no other man in public life an injustice in my warm
admiration of Mr. Hamilton's genius and absolute disinterestedness. Each
has his place, and is doing his part bravely and according to his
lights, many of them rendering historic services which Mr. Hamilton's
will not overshadow. His are equally indisputable. This unfortunate
result of establishing a National Bank was doubtless inevitable, and
will quickly disappear. That the Bank is a monarchical device, you, of
all men, are too wise to believe for a moment. Leave that for such
sensational scoundrels as the editors of this new _Gazette_ and of other
papers. I regret that there is a personal antipathy between you and Mr.
Hamilton, but I have not the least doubt that you believe in his
integrity as firmly as I do."

Jefferson was scowling heavily. "I am not so sure that I do, sir," he
said; inconsistent often in his calmest tempers, passion dissipated his
power of consecutive thought. "When Mr. Hamilton and I were on friendly
terms--before he took to annoying me with a daily exhibition of personal
rancour, from which I have been entirely free--he has often at my own
table avowed his admiration of the British Constitution, deprecated the
weakness of our own admirable instrument, tacitly admitted his regret
that we are a republic and not a kingdom. I have his very words in my
diary. He is committed out of his own mouth. I not only believe but know
him to be a lover of absolute monarchy, and that he has no faith that
this country can continue to exist in its present shape. It is for that
reason I hold him to be a traitor to the country with which he is merely
amusing himself."

"Sir," said Washington, turning to Jefferson an immobile face, in which
the eyes were beginning to glitter, "is a man to be judged by his
private fancies or by his public acts? I know nothing of Mr. Hamilton's
secret desires. Neither, I fancy, do you. We do know that he has
resigned a brilliant and profitable practice at the bar to guide this
unfortunate country out of bankruptcy and dishonour into prosperity and
every promise of a great and honourable future. Pray let the matter rest
there for the present. If Mr. Hamilton be really a liar and a charlatan,
rest assured he will betray himself before any great harm is done. Every
man is his own worst enemy. I was deeply interested in what you were
saying when we entered this room. Where did you say you purchased those
lily bulbs? My garden is sadly behind yours, I fear. I certainly shall
enter upon an amiable rivalry with you next summer."

And Jefferson knew better than to persist.


On January 28th Hamilton sent to Congress his Report on Manufactures,
and how anybody survived the fray which ensued can only be explained by
the cast-iron muscles forged in the ancestral arena. Hamilton had no
abstract or personal theories regarding tariff, and would have been the
first to denounce the criminal selfishness which distinguishes
Protection to-day. The situation was peculiar, and required the
application of strictly business methods to a threatening and immediate
emergency. Great Britain was oppressing the country commercially by
every method her council could devise. Defensive legislation was
imperative. Moreover, if the country was to compete with the nations of
the world and grow in independent wealth, particularly if it would
provide internal resources against another war, it must manufacture
extensively, and its manufactures must be protected. Such, in brief, was
the argument of one of the ablest State papers in any country, for whose
exhaustive details, the result of two years of study and comparison, of
research into the commercial conditions of every State in Europe, there
is no space here. The battle was purely political, for the measure was
popular with the country from the first. It was opposed by the planters,
with Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe in the lead. They argued that the
measure would burden the people at large; that the country was too
remunerative not to be able to take care of itself; that progress should
be natural and not artificial; that the measure was unconstitutional;
above all, as the reader need hardly be told, that no proposition had
yet been advanced by the monarchical Secretary of the Treasury so
"paternal," so conclusive of his ultimate designs. "To let the thirteen
States, bound together in a great indissoluble union, concur in erecting
one great system, superior to the control of transatlantic force and
influence, and able to dictate the connection between the old and the
new world," was but another subtle device to consolidate the States for
sudden and utter subversion when Hamilton had screwed the last point
into his crown. That in the Twentieth Century the United States would be
an object of uneasiness daily approaching to terror in the eyes of Great
Britain and Europe, as a result of this Report, even Hamilton himself
did not foresee, much less the planters; nor that it would carry through
the War of 1812 without financial distress. Above all, did no one
anticipate that the three Virginians, in their successive incumbencies
of the Executive Chair, would pursue the policy of protection in
unhesitating obedience to the voice of the people. The first result of
this Report was the great manufacturing interests of Paterson, New
Jersey, which celebrated their centennial a few years ago. Paterson was
Hamilton's personal selection, and it still throbs with something of his
own energy.

Meanwhile he was being elected an honorary member of colleges and
societies of arts and letters, and persecuted by portrait painters and
sculptors. Every honour, public and private, was thrust upon him, and
each new victory was attended by a public banquet and a burst of popular
applause. He was apparently invulnerable, confounding his opponents and
enemies without effort. Never had there been such a conquering hero;
even the Virginian trio began to wonder uneasily if he were but mortal,
if he were not under some mighty and invisible protection. As for the
Federalists, they waxed in enthusiasm and devotion. His career was at
its zenith. No man in the United States was--nor has been since--so
loved and so hated, both in public and in private life. Even
Washington's career had not been more triumphant, and hardly so
remarkable; for he was an American born, had always had a larger measure
of popular approval, and never had discovered the faculty of raising
such bitter and powerful enemies. Nor had he won an extraordinary
reputation until he was long past Hamilton's present age. Certainly he
had never exhibited such unhuman precocity.

But although Hamilton had, by this time, extancy to suffice any man, and
was hunted to his very lair by society, he had no thought of resting on
his labours. He by no means regarded himself as a demi-god, nor the
country as able to take care of itself. He prepared, and sent to
Congress in rapid succession, his Reports on Estimates for Receipts and
Expenditures for 1791-92, on Loans, on Duties, on Spirits, on Additional
Supplies for 1792, on Remission of Duties, and on the Public Debt.

Nor did his labours for the year confine itself to reports. On August
4th, his patience with the scurrilities of Freneau's _Gazette_ came to
an end, and he published in Fenno's journal the first of a series of
papers that Jefferson, in the hush of Monticello, read with the
sensations of those forefathers who sat on a pan of live coals for the
amusement of Indian warriors. Hamilton was thorough or nothing. He had
held himself in as long as could be expected of any mortal less
perfected in his self-government than George Washington: but when,
finally, he was not only stung to fury by the constant and systematic
calumnies of Jefferson's slanting art, but fearful for the permanence of
his measures, in the gradual unsettling of the public mind, he took off
his coat; and Jefferson knew that the first engagement of the final
battle had begun in earnest, that the finish would be the retirement of
one or other from the Cabinet.

Hamilton began by mathematically demonstrating that Freneau was the tool
of Jefferson, imported and suborned for the purpose of depressing the
national authority, and exposed the absurdity of the denials of both.
When he had finished dealing with this proposition, its day for being a
subject of animated debate was over. He then laid before the public
certain facts in the career of Jefferson with which they were
unacquainted: that he had first discountenanced the adoption of the
Constitution, and then advised the ratification of nine of the States
and the refusal of four until amendments were secured,--a proceeding
which infallibly would have led to civil war; that he had advocated the
transfer of the debt due to France to a company of Hollanders in these
words: "If there is a _danger_ of the public debt _not being punctual_,
I submit whether it may not be better, that _the discontents which would
then arise_ should be _transferred_ from a _court_ of whose _good-will
we have so much need_ to the _breasts_ of a _private company_"--an
obviously dishonourable suggestion, particularly as the company in view
was a set of speculators. It was natural enough, however, in a man whose
kink for repudiation in general led him to promulgate the theory that
one generation cannot bind another for the payment of a debt. Hamilton,
having disposed of Jefferson's attempts, under the signature of
Aristides, to wriggle out of both these accusations, discoursed upon the
disloyal fact that the Secretary of State was the declared opponent of
every important measure which had been devised by the Government, and
proceeded to lash him for his hypocrisy in sitting daily at the right
hand of the President while privately slandering him; of exercising all
the arts of an intriguing mind, ripened by a long course of European
diplomacy, to undermine an Administration whose solidity was the only
guaranty for the continued prosperity and honour of the country.
Hamilton reminded the people, with a pen too pointed to fail of
conviction, of the increase of wealth and happiness which had ensued
every measure opposed by the Secretary of State, and drew a warning
picture of what must result were these measures reversed by a party
without any convictions beyond the determination to compass the downfall
of the party in power. He bade them choose, and passed on to a
refutation of the several accusations hurled at the Administration, and
at himself in particular.

He wrote sometimes with temperance and self-restraint, at others with
stinging contempt and scorn. Jefferson replied with elaborate denials,
solemn protests of disinterested virtue, and counter accusations.
Hamilton was back at him before the print was dry, and the battle raged
with such unseemly violence, that Washington wrote an indignant letter
to each, demanding that they put aside their personal rancours and act
together for the common good of the country. The replies of the two men
were characteristic. Hamilton wrote a frank and manly letter, barely
alluding to Jefferson, and asserting that honour and policy exacted his
charges and refutations. He would make no promise to discontinue his
papers, for he had no intention of laying down his pen until Jefferson
was routed from the controversial field, and the public satisfied of the
truth. Jefferson's letter was pious and sad. It breathed a fervent
disinterestedness, and provided as many poisoned arrows for his rival as
its ample space permitted. It was a guinea beaten out into an acre of
gold leaf and steeped in corrosive sublimate.

But during that summer of 1792 Hamilton had little time for personal
explosions except in brief. The Presidential elections approached, and
the greater part of his time was given to party management and counsel.
Washington's renomination and election were assured. The only obstacle
encountered had been Washington himself, but his yearning for peace had
again retired before duty. The parties were arrayed in a desperate
struggle for the Vice-Presidency, the issue to determine the
vindication or the condemnation of the measures of Hamilton. Adams
himself was unpopular in the anti-Federalist ranks, on account of his
aristocratic tastes and his opposition to the French Revolution; but the
time was propitious for a tremendous trial of strength with the
omnipotent Secretary of the Treasury, and any candidate of his would
have been opposed as bitterly.

Jefferson and Burr were each suggested for the office, but Hamilton
brought down his heavy hand on both of them promptly, and the fight
settled into a bitter struggle between Adams and Clinton. The latter's
strength in the State of New York was still very great, and he was as
hardy a fighter as ever. But his political past was studded with
vulnerable points, and the Federalists spared him not.

It is impossible, whatever one's predilections, not to admire Clinton
for his superb fighting qualities. He was indomitable, and in ability
and resourcefulness second only to Hamilton himself, in party management
far superior; for he had greater patience, a tenderer and more intimate
concern for his meaner followers, and less trust in his own unaided
efforts and the right of his cause. Hamilton by no means was blind to
the pettier side of human nature, but he despised it; instead of
truckling and manipulating, he would scatter it before him or grind it
to pulp. There is no possible doubt that if Hamilton had happened into a
country at war with itself, but with strong monarchical proclivities, he
would have seized the crown and made one of the wisest and kindest of
autocrats. His lines cast in a land alight from end to end with
republican fires, he accepted the situation with his inherent
philosophy, burned with a patriotism as steady as Washington's own, but
ruled it in his own way, forced upon it measures in whose wisdom he
implicitly believed, and which, in every instance, time has vindicated.
But his instinct was that of the amiable despot, and he had no
conciliation in him.

His opponents saw only the despot, for time had not given them range of
vision. Therefore, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Clinton, and his other
formidable enemies have a large measure of excuse for their conduct,
especially as they were seldom unstung by mortifying defeat. It is
doubtful if the first three, at least, ever admitted to themselves or
each other that they hated Hamilton, and were determined for purely
personal reasons to pull him down. Every man knows how easy it is to
persuade himself that he is entirely in the right, his opponent, or even
he who differs from him, entirely in the wrong. The Virginian trio had
by this, at all events, talked themselves into the belief that Hamilton
was a menace to the permanence of the Union, and that it was their pious
duty to relegate him to the shades of private life. That in public life
he would infallibly interfere with their contemplated twenty-four years
Chair Trust may have been by the way. They were all men with a
consciousness of public benefits to their credit, and some disinterested
patriotism. If their ignoble side is constantly in evidence in their
dealings with Hamilton, it by no means follows that two, at least, of
our most distinguished Presidents--Monroe was a mere imitationist--had
no other. Had that been the case, they would have failed as miserably as
Burr, despite their talents, for the public is not a fool. But that
their faults were ignoble, rather than passionate, their biographers
have never pretended to deny. In many instances no apology is attempted.
On the other hand, the most exhaustive research among the records of
friends and enemies has failed to bring to light any evidence of mean
and contemptible traits in Hamilton. No one will deny his faults, his
mistakes; but they were the mistakes and faults of passion in every
instance; of a great nature, capable of the extremest violence, of the
deadliest hate and maddest blows, but fighting always in the open; in
great crises unhesitatingly sacrificing his personal desires or hatreds
to the public good. Even his detractors--those who count in
letters--have admitted that his nature and his methods were too
high-handed for grovelling and deceit, that the mettle of his courage
was unsurpassed. Jefferson and Madison had the spirit of the mongrel in
comparison; Monroe was a fighter, but cowardly and spiteful. In point of
mettle alone, Adams and Clinton were Hamilton's most worthy opponents.

Burr had not shown his hand as yet. He was at war with Clinton himself,
and an active and coruscating member of the Senate. But Hamilton, by
this, knew him thoroughly. He read his lack of Public spirit in every
successive act of his life, recognized an ambition which would not
hesitate to sacrifice his best friend and the country he was using, and
a subtlety and cunning which would, with his lack of principle and
property, make him the most dangerous man in America should he contrive
to grasp the reins of power. Therefore he checkmated his every move,
careless of whether he made another powerful enemy or not.

Hamilton attempted no delusions with himself. He knew that he hated
Jefferson with a violence which threatened at times to submerge all the
good in him, horrified him when he sat down and looked into himself. On
the other hand, he knew himself to be justified in thwarting and
humiliating him, for the present policy of the country must be preserved
at any cost. But he was too clear and practised an analyst to fail to
separate his public from his personal rancour. He would drive Jefferson
from public office for the public good, but he would experience the
keenest personal pleasure in so doing. Such was Hamilton. Could a genius
like his be allied in one ego with a character like Washington's, we
should have a being for which the world has never dared to hope in its
most Biblical moments. But genius must ever be imperfect. Life is not
long enough nor slow enough for both brain and character to grow side by
side to superhuman proportions.


The following political year was a lively one for Hamilton, perhaps the
liveliest of his career. As it approached, those interested in public
affairs had many subjects for constant and excited discussion: the
possible Vice-President, whose election was to determine the future
status of the Secretary of State, and cement or weaken the centralized
powers of the Administration; the battle in the two _Gazettes_, with
the laurels to Hamilton, beyond all controversy, and humiliation for
Jefferson and Madison; the growing strength of the "Republican" party
under Madison's open and Jefferson's literary leadership; the probable
policy of the Administration toward the French Revolution, with
Jefferson hot with rank Democracy, and Hamilton hotter with contempt for
the ferocity of the Revolutionists; the next move of the Virginians did
Hamilton win the Vice-Presidency for the Administration party; and the
various policies of the Secretary of the Treasury and their results. At
coffee-houses, at public and private receptions, and in Mrs. Croix's
drawing-room, hardly another subject was broached.

"A fool could understand politics in these days," said Betsey, one
evening in December, with a sigh. "Not a word does one hear of clothes,
gossip, husbands, or babies. Mrs. Washington told me the day after she
returned that she had deliberately thought of nothing but butter and
patchwork during the entire recess, that her poor brain might be able to
stand the strain of the winter. Shall you have to work harder than

"I do not know," replied Hamilton, and at that moment he did not. He was
correcting a French exercise of his son's, and feeling domestic and
happy. Jefferson and he had made no pretence at formal amiability this
season; they did not speak at all, but communicated on paper when the
business of their respective departments required an interchange of
opinion. He had vanquished his enemy in print, made him ridiculous in
the eyes of all who read the _Gazettes_. Moreover, Washington, disturbed
during the summer by the constant nagging of Jefferson and his agents,
respecting the "monarchical schemes" and "corrupt practices" of the
Secretary of the Treasury, had formulated the accusations and sent them
to Hamilton for refutation. The vindication, written without passion, as
cold, clear, consistent, and logical, as if dealing with an abstract
proposition, had convinced, and finally, all to whom it was shown; with
the exception of Jefferson, who had no intention of being convinced.
Hamilton was conscious that there was no vulnerable point in his public
armour. Of his private he was not so sure; Reynolds was in jail, for
attempting, in company with one Clingman, to suborn a witness to commit
perjury, and had appealed to him for aid. He had ignored him, determined
to submit to no further blackmail, be the consequences what they might.
But he was the last man to anticipate trouble, and on the whole he was
in the best of humours as the Christmas holidays approached, with his
boys home from their school on Staten Island, his little girl growing
lovelier and more accomplished, and his wife always charming and pretty;
in their rare hours of uninterrupted companionship, piquant and
diverting. He had gone out with her constantly since Congress assembled,
and had enjoyed the recreations of society after his summer of hard work
and angry passions. Everywhere he had a triumphal progress; men and
women jostled each other about him, eager for a word, a smile, making
him talk at length, whether he would or not. The confidence in him was
stronger than ever, but his enemies were the most powerful, collectively
and individually, that had ever arrayed against a public man: Jefferson,
Madison, and Monroe, with the South behind them; the Livingstons and the
Clinton faction in New York; Burr, with his smiling subterranean
industry; the growing menace of the Republican party. Pamphlets were
circulating in the States warning voters against all who supported the
Secretary of the Treasury. It was one man against odds of appalling
strength and resource; for by common consent both of friends and enemies
Hamilton was the Federal party. Did he fall, it must go; all blows were
aimed at him alone. Could any one man stand for ever an impregnable
fortress before such a battery? Many vowed that he would, for "he was
more than human," but others, as firm in their admiration, shrugged
their shoulders. The enemy were infuriated at the loss of the
Vice-Presidency, for again Hamilton had been vindicated and Adams
reflected. What would be their next move?

Betsey knew that her husband had enemies, but the fact gave her little
concern; she believed Hamilton to be a match for the allied forces of
darkness. She noticed when his hair was unpowdered that it was turning
gray and had quite lost its boyish brightness; here and there work and
care had drawn a line. But he was handsomer, if anything, and of the
scars on his spirit she knew nothing. In the peace and pleasant
distractions of his home his mercurial spirits leaped high above his
anxieties and enmities, and he was as gay and happy, as interested in
the manifold small interests of his family, as were he a private man of
fortune, without an ambition, an enemy, or a care. When most absorbed or
irritated he never victimized his household by moods or tempers, not
only because they were at his mercy, but because his nature
spontaneously gave as it received; his friends had his best always, his
enemies the very worst of which his intense passionate nature was
capable. Naturally his family adored him and studied his happiness.

Betsey continued her somewhat rambling remarks, "The only variety is the
French Revolution."

"By the way, Washington has had a distressing letter from Madame
Lafayette. She begs him to receive her boy--George Washington--and keep
him until the trouble is over. The Chief fears that in the present
temper of the public his reception of Lafayette's son would be given an
embarrassing significance, and yet it is impossible to refuse such a
request,--with Lafayette in an Austrian dungeon, his wife in daily
danger of prison or guillotine, and this boy, his only son, with no one
but a tutor to protect him. I offered at once to receive the child into
my family--subject, of course, to your approval. Should you object? It
would add to your cares--"

"I have no cares, sir. I shall be delighted; and he can talk French with
the children."

"I shall send him to Staten Island with Philip and Alex. Washington will
make him a liberal allowance for school and clothing. I confess I am
anxious to receive him, more than anxious to show that my old friendship
is undiminished. I fear to open every packet from Europe, lest I hear of
Lafayette's death. Fortunately, Morris was able to render some
assistance to Madame Lafayette. Morris is a source of sufficient worry
himself, for he is much too independent and bold for a foreign envoy in
the thick of mob rule, mad with blood."

"I hate to think of old friends in trouble," said Betsey, removing a
tear. "Poor Kitty Duer! I had another letter from her to-day. It is
pitiful to think of her and the poor little children, with nothing but
what Lady Sterling, who has so little, and Lady Mary can give them. Is
there no way of getting Colonel Duer out of Debtor's prison?"

"I've moved heaven and earth, but certain of his creditors are
inexorable. Still, I hope to have him out and on his feet before long.
You are not to worry about other people this evening, for I am
particularly happy. Philip is really remarkable, and I believe that
Angelica is going to turn out a musical genius. What a delight it is to
have one person in the world to whom one can brag about one's offspring
without apology."

"Why, of course they are the most remarkable children in the world--all
five of them," said Betsey, placidly.

Edward Stevens came in and threw himself on the sofa. "What a relief to
come into this scene of domestic tranquillity, after the row outside!"
he exclaimed. "All the world is in the streets; that is to say, all the
daft American world that sympathizes with that bloody horror in France.
The news that the allied armies have been beaten and the Duke of
Brunswick was in full retreat when the packets sailed, has apparently
driven them frantic with joy. They are yelling 'Ca ira,' bonfires are
flaring everywhere, and bells ringing. All of the men are drunk, and
some of the women. And yet the statesman who must grapple with this
portentous problem is gossiping with his wife, and looking as if he had
not a care in the world. Thank Heaven!"

"I can do nothing to-night," said Hamilton, smiling. "I have had too
much experience as a practical philosopher not to be happy while I can."

"You have the gift of eternal youth. What shall you do in this French
matter, Alexander the Great? All the world is waiting to know. I should
worry about you if I had time in this reeking town, where it is a wonder
any man has health in him. Oh, for the cane-fields of St. Croix! But
tell me, what is the policy to be--strict neutrality? Of course the
President will agree with you; but fancy Jefferson, on his other side,
burning with approval for the very excesses of the Revolution, since
they typify democracy exultant. And of course he is burrowing in the
dark to increase his Republican party and inspire it with his fanatical
enthusiasm for those inhuman wretches in France. I believe he would
plunge us into a war to-morrow."

"No, he is an unwarlike creature. He would like to trim, keep this
country from being actually bespattered with blood, but coax the
Administration to give the Revolutionists money and moral support. He
will do nothing of the sort, however. The policy of this remote country
is absolute, uncompromising, neutrality. Let Europe keep her hands off
this continent, and we will let her have her own way across the water.
The United States is the nucleus of a great nation that will spread
indefinitely, and any further Europeanizing of our continent would be a
menace which we can best avoid by observing from the beginning a
strictly defensive policy. To weaken it by an aggressive inroad into
European politics would be the folly of schoolboys not fit to conduct a
nation. We must have the Floridas and Louisiana as soon as possible. I
have been urging the matter upon Washington's attention for three years.
Spain is a constant source of annoyance, and the sooner we get her off
the continent the better--and before Great Britain sends her. We need
the Mississippi for navigation and must possess the territories that are
the key to it. How idiotic, therefore, to antagonize any old-world

"You _are_ long-headed!" exclaimed Stevens. "Good heavens! Listen to
that! The very lungs of Philadelphia are bellowing. Our people must be
mad to see in this hideous French Revolution any resemblance to their
own dignified and orderly struggle for freedom."

"It is so easy to drive men mad," said Hamilton, contemptuously.
"Particularly when they are in constant and bitter opposition to the
party in power, and possess a leader as subtle and venomous as Thomas
Jefferson--'Thomas,' as he signed a letter to Washington the other day.
You may imagine the disgust of the Chief."

"Not another word of politics this night!" exclaimed Mrs. Hamilton. "I
have not uttered a word for just twenty-five minutes. Alexander, go and
brew a beaker of negus."


The next morning Hamilton was sitting in his office when the cards of
James Monroe, F.A. Muhlenberg, and A. Venable were brought in.

"What on earth can they want?" he thought. "Monroe? We have not bowed
for a year. Two days ago he turned into a muddy lane and splashed
himself to his waist, that he might avoid meeting me."

His first impulse was to excuse himself, on the plea of the pressing
nature of his work; but curiosity triumphed, and he told his page to
admit the men.

Muhlenberg was again Speaker of the House; Venable was a Representative
from Virginia. Hamilton was not friendly with either, but nodded when
they passed him. He greeted them amiably as they entered to-day, and
exchanged a frigid bow with Monroe. The Senator from Virginia took a
chair in the rear of the others, stretched his long legs in front of
him, and folded his arms defiantly. He looked not unlike a greyhound,
his preference for drab clothing enhancing the general effect of a
pointed and narrow leanness.

There was a moment of extreme awkwardness. Muhlenberg and Venable
hitched their chairs about. Monroe grinned spasmodically, and rubbed his
nose with his upper lip.

"Well, gentlemen," said Hamilton, rapping his fingers on the table.
"What can I do for you?" He scented gun-powder at once.

"I am to be the spokesman in this delicate matter, I believe," said
Muhlenberg, who looked red and miserable, "and I will, with your
permission, proceed to my unpleasant task with as little delay as

"Pray do," replied Hamilton. "The daily assaults of my enemies for
several years have endowed me with a fortitude which doubtless will
carry me through this interview in a creditable manner."

"I assure you, sir, that I do not come as an enemy, but as a friend. It
is owing to my appeal that the matter was not laid directly before the

"The President?" Hamilton half rose, then seated himself again. His eyes
were glittering dangerously. Muhlenberg blundered on, his own gaze
roving. The Federal term of endearment for Hamilton, "The Little Lion,"
clanged suddenly in his mind, a warning bell.

"I regret to say that we have discovered an improper connection between
yourself and one Reynolds." He produced a bundle of letters and handed
them to Hamilton. "These are not in your handwriting, sir, but I am
informed that you wrote them."

Hamilton glanced at them hastily, and the angry blood raced through his

"These letters were written by me," he said. "I disguised my handwriting
for purposes of my own. What is the meaning of this unwarrantable
intrusion into a man's private affairs? Explain yourself at once."

"That is what we have come for, sir. Unfortunately we cannot regard it
as a private affair, but one which concerns the whole nation."

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