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The Conqueror by Gertrude Franklin Atherton

Part 6 out of 10

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enlightened men ever could have been so mad as to believe that the
country would prosper without union, that a mere State should have been
thought to be of greater importance than a Nation, or that a democratic
constitution, which permits us to coddle anarchists in our midst, and
the lower orders to menace the liberties of the upper, was ever an
object of terror to men of bitter republican ideals, yet the historic
facts confront us, and we wonder, when reading the astonishing
arguments of that long and hard-fought contest, if Hamilton's
constitution, had it passed the Great Convention, would not have
ratified with a no more determined opposition.

Melancthon Smith was one of the brightest and most conspicuous men of
his time, but his name is forgotten to-day. He was sincere; he was, in
his way, patriotic; he was a clever and eloquent orator. Moreover, he
was generous and manly enough to admit himself beaten, as the sequel
will show. To insure greatness, must the gift of long foreknowledge be
added to brilliant parts and an honest character? If this be the
essential, no wonder Melancthon Smith is forgotten. We have him
asserting that in a country where a portion of the people live more than
twelve hundred miles from the centre, one body cannot legislate for the
whole. He apprehends the abolition of the State constitutions by a
species of under-mining, predicts their immediate dwindling into
insignificance before the comprehensive and dangerous power vested in
Congress. He believes that all rich men are vicious and intemperate, and
sees nothing but despotism and disaster in the Federal Constitution.

But, like most of the speakers of that day, he was trenchant and
unadorned, so that his speeches are as easy reading as they must have
been agreeable to hear. It is a curious fact that the best speakers of
to-day resemble our forefathers in this respect of trenchant simplicity.
Mediocrity for half a century has ranted on the stump, and given
foreigners a false impression of American oratory. Those who indulge in
what may be called the open-air metaphor, so intoxicating is our
climate, may find consolation in this flight of Mr. Gilbert Livingston,
who had not their excuse; for the Court-house of Poughkeepsie was hot
and crowded. He is declaiming against the senatorial aristocrats lurking
in the proposed Constitution. "What," he cries, "what will be their
situation in a Federal town? Hallowed ground! Nothing so unclean as
State laws to enter there, surrounded as they will be by an impenetrable
wall of adamant and gold, the wealth of the whole country flowing into
it!" "_What_? What WALL?" cried a Federal. "A wall of gold, of adamant,
which will flow in from all parts of the continent." The joyous roar of
our ancestors comes down to us.

Hamilton's speech, in which he as effectually disposed of every argument
against the Senate as Roger Sherman had done in the Great Convention, is
too long to be quoted; but it is as well to give the precise words in
which he defines the vital difference between republics and democracies.

It has been observed by an honourable gentleman [he said] that a
pure democracy, if it were practicable, would be the most perfect
government. Experience has proved that no position in politics is
more false than this. The ancient democracies, in which the people
themselves deliberated, never possessed one feature of good
government. Their very character was tyranny; their figure
deformity. When they assembled, the field of debate presented an
ungovernable mob, not only incapable of deliberation, but prepared
for every enormity. In these assemblies the enemies of the people
brought forward their plans of ambition systematically. They were
opposed by their enemies of another party; and it became a matter
of contingency, whether the people subjected themselves to be led
blindly by one tyrant or another.

Again he says, in reply to Melancthon Smith:--

It is a harsh doctrine that men grow wicked as they improve and
enlighten their minds. Experience has by no means justified us in
the supposition that there is more virtue in one class of men than
in another. Look through the rich and the poor of this community,
the learned and the ignorant--Where does virtue predominate? The
difference indeed consists not in the quantity, but kind of vices
which are incident to various classes; and here the advantage of
character belongs to the wealthy. Their vices are probably more
favourable to the prosperity of the State than those of the
indigent; and partake less of moral depravity.

More than once Hamilton left his seat and went up to the belfry to
strain his eyes down the Albany post road or over the Dutchess turnpike,
and every afternoon he rode for miles to the east or the south, hoping
to meet an express messenger with a letter from Madison, or with the
good tidings that New Hampshire had ratified. Madison wrote every few
days, sometimes hopefully, sometimes in gloom, especially if he were not
feeling well. Each letter was from ten to twelve days old, and it seemed
to Hamilton sometimes that he should burst with impatience and anxiety.
On the 24th of June, as he was standing in the belfry while Chancellor
Livingston rained his sarcasms, he thought he saw an object moving
rapidly down the white ribbon which cut the forest from the East. In
five minutes he was on his horse and the Dutchess turnpike. The object
proved to be the messenger from Rufus King, and the letter which
Hamilton opened then and there contained the news of the adoption of the
Constitution by New Hampshire.

There was now a Nation, and nine States would be governed by the new
laws, whether New York, Virginia, North Carolina, and Rhode Island
sulked unprotected in the out-skirts, or gracefully entered the league
before dragged in or driven. It was a glittering and two-edged weapon
for Hamilton, and he flashed it in the faces of the anti-Federalists
until they were well-nigh blinded. Nevertheless, he did not for a moment
underrate Clinton's great strength, and he longed desperately for good
news from Virginia, believing that the entrance of that important State
into the Union would have more influence upon the opposition than all
the arts of which he was master.

VII

And through it all Hamilton was sensible that someone was working for
him, and was not long attributing the influence to its proper source.
Mysterious hints were dropped of political reunions in a house on a
thickly wooded hill, a quarter of a mile behind the Governor's, the
fortunate guests to which enchanted abode being sworn to secrecy. That
it was the nightly resort of Clintonians was an open secret, but that
Federalism was being intelligently interpreted, albeit with deepest
subtlety, was guessed by few of the visitors themselves, and Hamilton
divined rather than heard it. If converts were not actually made, they
were at least undergoing a process of education which would make them
the more susceptible to Hamilton's final effort. Even before he caught a
glimpse of radiant hair among the maples, when riding one day along the
lane at the foot of the hill, he suspected that Mrs. Croix had preceded
the Convention with the deliberate intention of giving him the precious
assistance of a woman with a talent for politics and a genius for men.
He was touched, interested, intrigued, but he resisted the temptation to
precipitate himself into the eddies of her magnetism. Croix was in
England, but even before his departure, which among men was regarded as
final, she had achieved a reputation as a lady of erratic impulse and
imperious habit. That she was also the most brilliant and fascinating
woman in America, as well as the most beautiful, were facts as publicly
established. Hamilton had resisted the temptation to meet her, the
temptation receiving no help from indifference on the part of the lady;
he had answered more than one note of admirable deftness. But he had no
intention of being drawn into an intrigue which would be public gossip
in a day and ruin the happiness of his wife. To expect a man of
Hamilton's order of genius to keep faith with one woman for a lifetime
would be as reasonable as to look for such genius without the
transcendent passions which are its furnace; but he was far from being a
man who sought adventure. Under certain conditions his horizon abruptly
contracted, and life was dual and isolated; but when the opportunity had
passed he dismissed its memory with contrite philosophy, and was so
charming to Betsey that he persuaded himself, as her, that he wished
never to behold the face of another woman. Nor did he--overwhelming
temptation being absent: he was the most driven man in the United
States, with no time to run about after women, had such been his
proclivity; and his romantic temperament, having found high satisfaction
in his courtship and marriage with one of the most bewitching and
notable girls in America, was smothered under a mountain of work and
domestic bliss. So, although well aware that his will must perish at
times in the blaze of his passions, he was iron against the temptation
that held itself sufficiently aloof. To an extreme point he was master
of himself. He knew that it would be no whirlwind and forgetting with
this mysterious woman, who had set the town talking, and yet whose
social talents were so remarkable that she managed women as deftly as
she did men, and was a welcome guest in many of the most exclusive
houses in New York; the men were careful to do none of their gossiping
at home, and the women, although they criticised, and vowed themselves
scandalized, succumbed to her royal command of homage and her air of
proud invincibility. That she loved him, he had reason to know, and
although he regarded it as a young woman's romantic passion for a public
man focussing the attention of the country, and whom, from pressure of
affairs, it was almost impossible to meet, still the passion existed,
and, considering her beauty and talents, was too likely to communicate
itself to the object, were he rash enough to create the opportunity.
Hamilton's morals were the morals of his day,--a day when aristocrats
were libertines, receiving as little censure from society as from their
own consciences. His Scotch foundations had religious shoots in their
grassy crevices, but religion in a great mind like Hamilton's is an
emotional incident, one of several passions which act independently of
each other. He avoided temptation, not because he desired to shun a
torment of conscience or an accounting with his Almighty,--to Whom he
was devoted,--but because he was satisfied with the woman he had married
and would have sacrificed his ambitions rather than deliberately cause
her unhappiness. Had she been jealous and eloquent, it is more than
probable that his haughty intolerance of restraint would have driven him
to assert the pleasure of his will, but she was only amused at his
occasional divagations, and had no thought of looking for meanings which
might terrify her. He was quite conscious of his good fortune and too
well balanced to risk its loss. So Mrs. Croix might be driven to rest
her hopes on a trick of chance or a _coup de theatre_. But she was a
very clever woman; and she was not unlike Hamilton in a quite phenomenal
precocity, and in the torrential nature of her passions.

Having a considerable knowledge of women and some of Mrs. Croix, he
inferred that sooner or later she would cease to conceal the light of
her endeavour. Nevertheless, he was taken aback to receive one day a
parcel, which, in the seclusion of his room, he found to contain a
dainty scented handkerchief, the counterpart of the one hidden in the
tree by the post road.

"Can she have put it there on purpose?" he thought. "Did she take for
granted that I would pause to admire the scenery, and that I would
recognize the perfume of her violets? Gad! she's deeper than I thought
if that be true. The wider the berth, the better!"

He gave no sign, and, as he had expected, a note arrived in due course.
It ran:--

THE MAPLES, 8th July--4 in the morning.

DEAR SIR: I fear I am a woman of little purpose, for I intended to
flit here like a swallow and as noiselessly flit again,
accomplishing a political trifle for you meanwhile, of which you
never should be the wiser. But alas! I am tormented by the idea
that you never _will_ know, that in this great crisis of your
career, you think me indifferent when I understand so well your
terrible anxieties, your need for stupendous exertion, and all that
this convention means to this great country and to yourself; and
heart and soul and brain, at the risk of my popularity,--that I
love, sir,--and of a social position grudgingly acquired me, but
which I demand by right of an inheritance of which the world knows
less than of my elevation by Colonel Croix,--at the risk of all, I
am here and working for you. Perhaps I love power. Perhaps this
country with its strange unimaginable future. Perhaps I merely love
politics, which you have glorified--perhaps--well, when we do meet,
sir, you will avoid me no longer. Do you find me lacking in pride?
Reflect how another woman would have pursued you with love-letters,
persecuted you. I have exercised a restraint that has left its
mark, not only out of pride for myself, but out of a deep
understanding of your multitude of anxieties and interests; nor
should I dare to think of you at all were I not so sure of my power
to help you--now and always. Think, sir, of what such a
partnership--of which the world should never be cognizant--would
mean. I purpose to have a _salon_, and it shall be largely composed
of your enemies. Not a secret but that shall yield to me, not a
conspiracy but that you shall be able to forestall in time. I
believe that I was born devoted to your interests. Heart and soul I
shall be devoted to them as long as I live, and whether I am
permitted to know you or not. I could ruin you if I chose. I feel
that I have the power within me even for that. But God forbid! I
should have gone mad first. But ask yourself, sir, if I could not
be of vital assistance to your career, did we work in common. And
ask yourself other things--and truthfully. E.C.C

P.S. In a meeting held here last night the two generals poured
vials of their own molten iron into the veins of the rank and file,
belted them together in a solid bunch, vowed that you were a dealer
in the black arts and reducing them to knaves and fools. Their
words sank, no doubt of that. But I uprooted them, and blew them
away. For I professed to be seized with an uncontrollable fit of
laughter at the nonsense of forty-seven men--_the flower of the
State_--terrified of a bare third, and of a man but just in his
thirties. I rapidly recounted your failures in your first Congress,
dwelling on them, harping on them; and then I stood up like a
Chorus, and proclaimed the victories of C's career. C, who had
scowled when I went off into hysterics, almost knelt over my hand
at parting; and the rest departed secure in your fancied destiny,
their waxen brains ready for your clever fingers. At least you will
acknowledge the receipt of this, sir? Conceive my anxiety till I
know it has not fallen into the wrong hands!

A messenger brought the note directly after breakfast, and Hamilton
hastily retreated with it to the privacy of his room. His horse awaited
him, but he read the epistle no less than four times. Once he moved
uneasily, and once he put his hand to his neck as if he felt a silken
halter. He smiled, but his face flushed deeply. Her bait, her veiled
threat, affected him little. But all that was unsaid pulled him like a
powerful magnet. He struggled for fully twenty minutes with the
temptation to ride to that paradise on the hill as fast as his horse
would carry him. But although he usually got into mischief when absent
from Betsey, contradictorily he was fonder of his wife when she was
remote; moreover, her helplessness appealed to him, and he rejected the
idea of deliberate disloyalty, even while his pulses hammered and the
spirit of romance within him moved turbulently in its long sleep. He
glanced out of the window. Beyond the tree-tops gleamed the river; above
were the hills, with their woods and grassy intervals. It was an
exquisite country, green and primeval; a moderate summer, the air warm
but electric. The nights were magnificent. Hamilton dreamed for a time,
then burned the letter in a fit of angry impatience.

"I have nothing better to do!" he thought. "Good God!"

An answer was imperative. He took a long ride first, however, then
scrawled a few hasty lines, as if he had found just a moment in which to
read her letter, but thanking her warmly for her interest and
information; ending with a somewhat conscience-stricken hope for the
instructive delight of her personal acquaintance when he should find the
leisure to be alive once more. So rested the matter for a time.

VIII

That afternoon the very memory of Eliza Croix fled before a mounted
messenger, who came tearing into town with word of Virginia's
ratification, of the great excitement in the cities of Richmond,
Philadelphia, Baltimore, and New York, the processions in honour of this
important conquest. There were tales also of fray and bloodshed, in
which the Federals had retained the field; but, on the whole, the
country seemed wild with delight.

But although this news did not produce the visible effect upon the
opposition for which Hamilton had hoped, the anti-Federalist leaders
were as fearful of hurrying the matter to the final vote as the
Constitutionalists. Clinton stood like a rock, but he feared defections
at the last moment, was conscious that his dominance over the minds of
the men who had come to the Convention believing implicitly in his
doctrine that union was unnecessary, concurring in his abhorrence of the
new Constitution, was snapping daily, as Hamilton's arguments and acute
logic fermented in their clarifying brains. Many began to avoid their
chief. They talked in knots by themselves. They walked the forest roads
alone for hours, deep in thought. It was evident that Hamilton had
liberated their understandings from one autocrat, whether he had brought
them under his own despotic will or not.

There was no speaking, and little or no business for several days. A few
more amendments would be suggested, then an adjournment. It was like the
lull of the hurricane, when nervous people sit in the very centre of the
storm, awaiting the terrors of its final assault.

Hamilton had much leisure for several days, but he was too deeply
anxious to give more than a passing thought to Mrs. Croix, although he
was grateful for the help he knew she was rendering him. "If we were
Turks," he thought once, "she would be an invaluable member of a harem.
She never could fill my domestic needs, which are capacious; most
certainly I should never, at any time, have chosen her for the mother of
my children; but as an intellectual and political partner, as a
confidante and counsellor, she would appeal to me very keenly. I talk to
Betsey, dear child, because I must talk, because I have an egotistical
craving for response, but I must bore her very often, and I am not
conscious of ever having received a suggestion from her--however, God
knows I am grateful for her sympathy. As the children grow older I shall
have less and less of her; already I appreciate the difference. She will
always have the core of my soul and the fealty of my heart, but it is
rather a pity that man should be given so many sides with their
corresponding demands, if no one woman is to be found able to respond to
all. As for this remarkable creature, I could imagine myself in a state
of mad infatuation, and seeking her constantly for the delight of mental
companionship besides; but the highest and best, if I have them--oh, no!
Perhaps the Turks are wiser than we, after all, for their wives suffer
only from jealousy, while--most men being Turks on one plan or
another--the women of the more advanced races suffer from humiliation,
and are wounded in their deepest sentiments. All of which goes to prove,
that the longer I delay a meeting with this high-priestess the better."

In a day or two he was hard at work again fighting the last desperate
battle. The oppositionists had brought forward a new form of conditional
ratification, with a bill of rights prefixed, and amendments subjoined.
This, it would seem, was their proudest achievement, and, in a long and
adroit speech, Melancthon Smith announced it as their final decision.
That was at midday. Hamilton rose at once, and in one of the most
brilliant and comprehensive speeches he had yet made, demonstrated the
absurdity of conditional ratification, or the power of Congress to
indorse it. It was a close, legal, and constitutional argument, and with
the retorts of the anti-Federalists occupied two days, during which
Hamilton stood most of the time, alert, resourceful, master of every
point of the vast subject, to which he gave an almost embarrassing
simplicity. On the third day occurred his first signal triumph and the
confounding of Clinton: Melancthon Smith stood up and admitted that
Hamilton had convinced him of the impossibility of conditional
ratification. Lansing immediately offered as a substitute for the motion
withdrawn, another, by which the State ratify but reserve to itself the
right to secede after a certain number of years, unless the amendments
proposed should previously be submitted to a general convention.

Adjournment followed, and Hamilton and his leaders held a long
consultation at the Livingston mansion, as a result of which he wrote
that night to Madison, now in New York, asking his advice as to the sort
of ratification proposed by the enemy. It was a course he by no means
approved, but it seemed the less of two evils; for if, by hook or crook,
the Constitution could be forced through, the good government which
would ensue was bound to break up the party of the opposition. He had a
trump, but he hesitated to resort to a coercion so high-handed and
arbitrary. His supposed monarchical aspirations were hurled at him
daily, and he must proceed with the utmost caution, lest his future
usefulness be impaired at the outset.

Madison replied at once that such a proposition could not be considered,
for only unconditional ratification was constitutional; but before his
letter arrived Hamilton and Smith had had another hot debate, at the end
of which the anti-Federalist leader declared himself wholly beaten, and
announced his intention to vote for the unconditional acceptance of the
Constitution.

But although there was consternation in the ranks of the
anti-Federalists at this momentous defection, Clinton stood like an old
lion at bay, with his other leaders behind him, his wavering ranks still
coherent under his practised manipulation. For several days more the
battle raged, and on the night before what promised to be the day of the
final vote, Hamilton received a note from Mrs. Croix.

July 24.

DEAR SIR: The case is more desperate than you think. The weakening
caused by the defection of the great Lieutenant has been
counteracted in large measure by the General. His personal
influence is enormous, his future like yours is at stake; he is
desperate. It all rests with you. Make your great and final effort
to-morrow. It is a wonderful responsibility, sir--the whole future
of this country dependent upon what flows from your brain a few
hours hence, but as you have won other great victories by efforts
almost unprecedented, so you will win this. I am not so
presumptuous as to write this to inspire you, merely to assure you
of a gravity, which, after so long and energetic a contest, you
might be disposed to underrate.

Hamilton was very grateful for this note, and answered it more warmly
than had been his habit. His friends were deep in gloomy
prognostications, for it was impossible to delay twenty-four hours
longer. He had made converts, but not enough to secure a majority; and
his followers did not conceive that even he could put forth an effort
more convincing or more splendid than many of his previous achievements.
In consequence, his susceptible nature had experienced a chill, for he
was Gallic enough to compass greater things under the stimulus of
encouragement and prospective success; but this unquestioning belief in
him by a woman for whose mind he was beginning to experience a profound
admiration, sent his quicksilver up to a point where he felt capable of
all things. She had scored one point for herself. He felt that it would
be unpardonable longer to accept such favours as she showered upon him
unsought, and make no acknowledgment beyond a civil note: he expressed
his desire to call upon her when they were both in New York once more.
"But not here in Arcadia!" he thought. "I'll call formally at her
lodgings and take Troup or Morris with me. Morris will doubtless abduct
her, and that will be the end of it."

IX

On the following day every shop was closed in Poughkeepsie. The men,
even many of the women, stood for hours in the streets, talking little,
their eyes seldom wandering from the Court-house, many of them crowding
close to the walls, that they might catch a ringing phrase now and
again. By this time they all knew Hamilton's voice, and they confessed
to a preference for his lucid precision. In front of the Court-house,
under a tree, an express messenger sat beside his horse, saddled for a
wild dash to New York with the tidings. The excitement seemed the more
intense for the heat of the day, which half suppressed it, and all
longed for the snap of the tension.

Within the upper room of the Court-house the very air vibrated. Clinton,
who always grunted at intervals, and blew his nose stentoriously when
fervescent, was unusually aggressive. Beyond the bar men and women
stood; there was no room for chairs, nor for half that desired
admittance. In the very front stood the only woman whose superb physique
carried her through that trying day without smelling-salts or a friendly
shoulder. She was a woman with the eyes of an angel, disdainful of men,
the mouth of insatiety, the hair and skin of a Lorelei, and a patrician
profile. Her figure was long, slender, and voluptuous. Every man within
the bar offered her his chair, but she refused to sit while other women
stood; and few were the regrets at the more ample display of her
loveliness.

Hamilton and Lansing debated with a lively exchange of acrimonious wit.
Smith spoke in behalf of the Constitution. Then Hamilton rose for what
all felt was to be a grand final effort, and even his friends
experienced an almost intolerable excitement. On the other side men
trembled visibly with apprehension, not so much in fear of the result as
of the assault upon their nervous systems. They hardly could have felt
worse if on their way to execution, but not a man left his seat; the
fascination was too strong to induce even a desire to avoid it.

Hamilton began dispassionately enough. He went over the whole
Constitution rapidly, yet in so emphatic a manner as to accomplish the
intelligent subservience of his audience. Then, with the unexaggerated
eloquence of which he was so consummate a master, he pictured the
beauty, the happiness, the wealth of the United States under the new
Constitution; of the peace and prosperity of half a million homes; of
the uninterrupted industry of her great cities, their ramifications to
countless hamlets; of the good-will and honour of Europe; of a vast
international trade; of a restored credit at home and abroad, which
should lift the heavy clouds from the future of every ambitious man in
the Republic; of a peace between the States which would tend to the
elevation of the American character, as the bitter, petty, warring, and
perpetual jealousies had incontestably lowered it; of, for the beginning
of their experiment, at least eight years of harmony under George
Washington.

He spoke for two hours in the glowing terms of a prophecy and an
optimism so alluring, that load after load seemed to roll from the
burdened minds opposite, although Clinton snorted as if about to thrust
down his head and paw the earth. When Hamilton had made his hearers
thoroughly drunk with dreams of an ecstatic future, he advanced upon
them suddenly, and, without a word of warning transition, poured upon
them so terrible a picture of the consequences of their refusal to enter
the Union, that for the first few moments they were ready to leap upon
him and wrench him apart. The assault was terrific, and he plunged on
remorselessly. He sketched the miseries of the past eleven years, the
poverty, the dangers, the dishonour, and then by the most precise and
logical deduction presented a future which, by the commonest natural and
social laws, must, without the protection of a high and central power,
be the hideous finish. The twilight came; the evening breeze was
rustling through the trees and across the sultry room. As Hamilton had
calculated, the moment came when he had his grip on the very roots of
the enemy's nerves. Chests were rising, handkerchiefs appearing. Women
fainted. Clinton blew his nose with such terrific force that the
messenger below scrambled to his feet. Hamilton waited during a
breathless moment, then charged down upon them.

"Now listen, gentlemen," he said. "No one so much as I wishes that this
Constitution be ratified to the honour of the State of New York; but
upon this I have determined: that the enlightened and patriotic minority
shall not suffer for the selfishness and obstinacy of the majority. I
therefore announce to you plainly, gentlemen, that if you do not ratify
this Constitution, with no further talk of impossible amendments and
conditions, that Manhattan Island, Westchester, and Kings counties shall
secede from the State of New York and form a State by themselves,
leaving the rest of your State without a seaport, too contemptible to
make treaties, with only a small and possibly rebellious militia to
protect her northern boundaries from the certain rapacity of Great
Britain, with the scorn and dislike of the Union, and with no hope of
assistance from the Federal Government, which is assured, remember, no
matter what her straits. That is all."

It was enough. He had won the day. The Constitution was ratified without
further parley.

X

Hamilton reentered New York to the blaze of bonfires, the salute of
cannon, and the deafening shouts of a multitude that escorted him to his
doorway. Betsey was so proud of him she hardly could speak for a day,
and his library was flooded with letters of congratulation from all
parts of the Union. For several days he shut himself up with his family
and a few friends, for he needed the rest; and the relaxation was
paradisal. He played marbles and spun tops with his oldest boys, and
dressed and undressed Angelica's doll as often as his imperious daughter
commanded. Troup and Fish, now the dignified Adjutant-General of State,
with his bang grown long and his hair brushed back, spent hours with him
in the heavy shades of the garden, or tormenting a monkey on the other
side of the fence. Madison came at once to wrangle with him over the
temporary seat of government, and demanded the spare bedroom, protesting
he had too much to say to waste time travelling back and forth. He was a
welcome guest; and he, too, sat on the floor and dressed Angelica's
doll.

The city was _en fete_, and little business was transacted except at the
public houses. Bands of citizens awoke Hamilton from his sleep, shouting
for "Alexander the Great." Anti-Federalists got so drunk that they
embraced the Federalists, and sang on Hamilton's doorstep. The hero
retreated to the back room on the top floor. The climax came on the 5th
of August, in the great procession, with which, after the fashion of
other triumphant cities, New York was to demonstrate in honour of the
victory of the Constitution.

But, unlike its predecessors, this procession was as much in honour of
one man as of the triumph of a great principle. To have persuaded New
York, at that time, that Hamilton had not written the Constitution, and
secured its ratification in the eleven States of the Union by his
unaided efforts, would have been a dissipation of energy in August which
even Clinton would not have attempted. To them Hamilton was the
Constitution, Federalism, the genius of the new United States. And he
was their very own. "Virginia has her Madison," they reiterated,
"Massachusetts her Adamses--and may she keep them and be damned; other
States may think they have produced a giant, and those that do not can
fall back on Washington; but Hamilton is ours, we adore him, we are so
proud of him we are like to burst, and we can never express our
gratitude, try as we may; so we'll show him an honour that no other
State has thought of showing to any particular man."

And of the sixth of New York's thirty thousand inhabitants that turned
out on that blazing August day and marched for hours, that all the
eager city might see, at least two-thirds bore a banner emblazoned with
Hamilton's portrait or name, held on high. The procession was
accompanied by a military escort; and every profession, every trade, was
represented. A large proportion of the men who marched were gentlemen.
Nicolas Fish was on the staff of the grand marshal, with six of his
friends. Robert Troup and two other prominent lawyers bore, on a
cushion, the new Constitution, magnificently engrossed. Nicolas Cruger,
Hamilton's old employer, again a resident of New York, led the farmers,
driving a plough drawn by three yoke of oxen. Baron Polnitz displayed
the wonders of the newly perfected threshing-machine. John Watts, a man
who had grown gray in the highest offices of New York, before and since
the Revolution, guided a harrow, drawn by horses and oxen. The
president, regents, professors, and students of Columbia College, all in
academic dress, were followed by the Chamber of Commerce and the members
of the bar. The many societies, led by the Cincinnati, followed, each
bearing an appropriate banner.

And in the very centre of that pageant, gorgeous in colour and costume,
from the green of the foresters to the white of the florists, was the
great Federal ship, with HAMILTON, HAMILTON, HAMILTON, HAMILTON,
emblazoned on every side of it. In the memory of the youngest present
there was to be but one other procession in New York so imposing, and
that, too, was in honour of Hamilton.

He stood on a balcony in the Broadway, with his family, Madison, Baron
Steuben, and the Schuylers, bowing constantly to the salutes and cheers.
Nicolas Cruger looked up and grinned. Fish winked decorously, and Troup
attempted a salaam, and nearly dropped the Constitution. But Hamilton's
mind served him a trick for a moment; the vivid procession, with his
face and name fluttering above five thousand heads, the compact mass of
spectators, proud and humble, that crowded the pavements and waved their
handkerchiefs toward him, the patriotically decorated windows filled
with eager, often beautiful, faces, disappeared, and he stood in front
of Cruger's store on Bay Street, with his hands in his linen pockets,
gazing out over a blinding glare of water, passionately wishing for the
war-ship which never came, to deliver him from his Island prison and
carry him to the gates of the real world beyond. He had been an
ambitious boy, but nothing in his imaginings had projected him to the
dizzy eminence on which he stood to-day. He was recalled by the salute
of the Federal ship's thirteen guns to the president of the Congress and
its members, who stood on the fort in the Battery.

After all, perhaps it was the proudest and the happiest day of his
career, for the depths in his nature still slumbered, the triumph was
without alloy; and he knew that there were other heights to scale, and
that he should scale them. It was the magnificent and spontaneous
tribute of an intelligent people to an enlightened patriotism, to years
of severe and unselfish thought; and hardly an enemy grudged him his
deserts. The wild feeling of exultant triumph which surged behind his
smiling face receded before the rising swell of the profoundest
gratitude he had ever known.

The day finished with a great banquet at Mr. Bayard's country-seat, near
Grand Street, where tables were spread for six thousand persons, in a
pavilion surmounted by an image of Fame, and decorated with the colours
of the nations that had formed treaties with the United States. Later,
there was a grand display of fireworks.

XI

On the following day Hamilton went to Albany to march at the head of a
Federal procession with General Schuyler, then returned to
"Hamiltonopolis" and such legal work as he was permitted to accomplish;
for not only were leaders consulting him on every possible question from
the coming elections to the proper seat for the new government, and his
duties as a member of Congress pressing, but Edward Stevens, now
established as a doctor in Philadelphia, paid him a visit of a week, and
they talked the night through of St. Croix and old times. One of the
pleasantest results of these years of supremacy was the unqualified
delight of his Island friends. Hugh Knox was so proud of him, and of
himself and the debt which Hamilton acknowledged, that he wrote
explosive reams describing the breathless interest of St. Croix in his
career, and of the distinguished gatherings at the Governor's when he
arrived with one of their lost citizen's infrequent epistles. Mrs.
Mitchell, poor soul, wrote pathetically that she would no longer regret
his loss could she love him less. Hamilton wrote to her as often as he
could find the time, and Betsey selected a present for her several times
a year. Gratitude is the privilege of a great soul, and Hamilton had a
full measure of it. Even his father and brother wrote occasionally,
respectfully, if with no great warmth; and if their congratulations were
usually accompanied by the experimental sigh of poverty, Hamilton was
glad to respond, for at this period he was making a good deal of money.

His promised bow to Mrs. Croix he deferred from day to day, pleading to
himself the pressure of work, which was submerging; but while he
reproached himself for ingratitude, he knew that he dreaded the meeting:
the old spirit of adventure within him, long quiescent, tapped
alluringly on the doors of his prudence. That she did not write again,
even to congratulate him as other friends had done, but added to his
discomfort, for he knew that her pride was now in arms, and that she
must be deeply wounded. He heard of her constantly, and at the
procession in his honour he had seen her, leaning on the arm of General
Knox, a dazzling, but angelic vision in blue and white, at which even
the bakers, wig-makers, foresters, tanners, and printers had turned to
stare. One of the latter had leaped down from the moving platform on
which he was printing a poem of occasion by William Duer, and begged her
on his knee to deign to receive a copy. She held weekly receptions,
which were attended by two-thirds of the leading men in town, and
Hamilton's intimate friends discoursed of her constantly. Croix was
supposed to have been seized with a passion for travelling in savage
jungles, and it was the general belief that his death would be
announced as soon as the lady should find it convenient to go into
mourning. It was plain to the charitable that he had left her with
plenty of money, for she dressed like the princess she looked, and her
entertainments lacked no material attraction. The gossip was more
furious than ever, but the most assiduous scandal-monger could connect
no one man with her name, nor trace her income to other than its reputed
source. More than once Hamilton had passed her coach, and she had bowed
gravely, with neither challenge nor reproach in her sweet haughty eyes.
After these quick passings Hamilton usually gave her a few moments of
intense thought. He marvelled at her curious intimate knowledge of him,
not only of the less known episodes of his career, but of more than one
of his mental processes. It is true, she might have led Troup or Fish
into gossip and analysis, but her sympathy counted heavily. She drew him
by many strings, and sometimes the response thrilled him unbearably. He
felt like a man who stood outside the gates of Paradise, bolting them
fast. Still, he could quite forget her in his work; and it is probable
that but for chance he never would have met her, that one of the
greatest disasters in history would have been averted.

Betsey, who had not been well for some time, went to the northern
forests of her old home to strive for "spring" and colour. She took the
children with her, and Hamilton, who hated to live alone, filled his
deserted rooms with Troup, Fish, and Baron Steuben, whose claims he had
been pressing upon Congress for years, practically supporting him
meanwhile. The old soldier felt keenly the ingratitude of the country he
had served, but in time it made him ample compensation; meanwhile the
devotion of a few friends, and the lionizing of society, helped him to
bear his lot with considerable fortitude. He spent hours in the nursery
of the little Hamiltons, and was frequently seen in the Broadway with
one in his arms and the other three attached to his person.

All the talk was of Washington and the first administration, Hamilton
having carried his point in Congress that New York should be the
temporary seat of government; there was jealousy and wrangling over
this, as over most other matters involving state pride, but Hamilton
believed that should the prize fall to Philadelphia, she would not
relinquish it as lightly as New York, which geographically was the more
unfit for a permanent gathering, and that the inconvenience to which
most of the members, in those days of difficult travel over a vast area,
would be subjected, would force them the sooner to agree upon a central
and commonly agreeable locality,--one, moreover, which would not meet
with the violent opposition of New York. Madison, who had been in favour
of Philadelphia, finally acknowledged Hamilton's sagacity and gave him
his influence and vote.

That point settled, all eyes were turned to Mount Vernon. The masses
took for granted that Washington would respond to every call of duty the
public chose to make, and it was inconceivable that anyone else should
fill the first term of that great executive experiment. The universal
confidence in Washington and belief that he was to guide the
Constitution over the more critical of its shoals, had operated more
than any other factor in the ratification of that adventurous
instrument. It was a point upon which Hamilton had harped continually.
That a whole country should turn, as a matter of course, to a man whom
they revered for his virtues rather than for any brilliant parts he may
have effectually hidden within his cold and silent exterior, their
harmonious choice unbroken by an argument against the safety and dignity
of the country in the hands of such a man, certainly is a manifest of
the same elevation of tone that we infer from the great popularity of
the writings of Hamilton and the deference to such men as Jay and Philip
Schuyler. But although they had all the faults of human nature, our
forefathers, and were often selfish and jealous to a degree that
imperilled the country, at least they had the excuse, not only of being
mere mortals, but of living in an era of such changes, uncertainty, and
doubt, that public and private interests seemed hopelessly tangled.
They were not debased by political corruption until Jefferson took them
in hand, and sowed the bountiful crop which has fattened so vast and so
curious a variation upon the original American.

The Federal leaders by no means shared the confidence of the people in
Washington's response to their call, and they were deeply uneasy. They
knew that he had been bombarded with letters for a year, urging upon him
the acceptance of the great office which would surely be offered him,
and that he had replied cautiously to each that he could not share their
opinion of his indispensability, that he had earned the repose he loved
after a lifetime spent in the service of his country, and had no desire
to return to public life. Hamilton, at least, knew the motive that lay
behind his evasion; without ambition, he was very jealous of his fame.
That fame now was not only one of the most resplendent in history, but
as unassailable as it was isolated. He feared the untried field in which
he might fail.

One evening, late in September, as Hamilton and his temporary household
were entering the dining room, Gouverneur Morris drove down Wall Street
in his usual reckless fashion, scattering dogs and children, and pulling
his nervous sweating horses almost to their haunches, as he reached
Hamilton's door. As he entered the house, however, and received the
enthusiastic welcome to which he was accustomed, his bearing was as
unruffled as if he had walked down from Morrisania reading a breviary.

"I grow desperately lonely and bored out on my ancestral domain, and
long for the glare and glitter, the intrigues and women, of Europe--our
educated ones are so virtuous, and the others write such shockingly
ungrammatical notes," he announced, as he took his seat at the board.
"Educated virtue is beneficial for the country, but we will all admit
that politics are our only excitement, and my blood dances when I think
of Europe. However, I did not come tearing through the woods on a hot
night to lament the virtue of the American woman. I've written to
Washington, and he won't listen to me. We all know how many others have
written, including Lafayette, I hear. And we all know what the
consequences will be if--say John or Sam Adams, Hancock, or Clinton
should be our first president. I long for Paris, but I cannot leave the
country while she is threatened with as grave a peril as any that has
beset her. Would that he had a grain of ambition--of anything that a
performer upon the various chords of human nature could impress. I
suppose if he were not so desperately perfect, we should not be in the
quandary we are, but he would be far easier to manage. As I awoke from
my siesta just two hours ago, my brain was illuminated by the idea that
one man alone could persuade him; and that was Alexander Hamilton. He
likes us, but he loves you. If he has a weak spot, it has yearned over
you since you were our infant prodigy in uniform, with your curls in
your eyes. You must take him in hand."

"I have mentioned it to him, when writing of other things."

"He is only too glad of the excuse to evade a mere mention. You must
write to him as peremptorily as only you dare to write to that majestic
presence. Don't mince it. Don't be too respectful--I was, because he is
the one being I am afraid of. So are all the others. Besides, you have
the most powerful and pointed pen in this country. We have spoiled you
until you are afraid of no one--if you ever were. And you know him as no
one else does; you will approach him from precisely the right sides.
Your duty is clear, and the danger is appalling. Besides, I want to go
to Europe. Promise me that you will write to-night."

"Very well," said Hamilton, laughing. "I promise." And, in truth, his
mind had opened at once to the certainty that the time was come for him
to make the final effort to insure Washington's acceptance. He had felt,
during the last weeks, as if burrowing in the very heart of a mountain
of work; but his skin chilled as he contemplated the opening of the new
government without Washington in the presidential Chair.

Two hours after dinner Morris escorted him to the library and shut him
in, then went, with his other friends, to Fraunces' tavern, and the
house was quiet. Hamilton's thoughts arranged themselves rapidly, and
before midnight he had finished his letter. Fortunately it has been
preserved, for it is of as vital an interest as anything he ever wrote,
not only because it was the determining factor in Washington's
acceptance of an office toward which he looked with reluctance and
dread, but because of its consummate sagacity and of its peremptory
tone, which no man but Hamilton would have dared to assume to
Washington.

It ran:--

NEW YORK, September, 1788.

... I should be deeply pained, my dear sir, if your scruples in
regard to a certain station should be matured into a resolution to
decline it; though I am neither surprised at their existence, nor
can I but agree in opinion, that the caution you observe in
deferring an ultimate determination, is prudent. I have, however,
reflected maturely on the subject, and have come to a conclusion
(in which I feel no hesitation), that every public and personal
consideration will demand from you an acquiescence in what will
_certainly_ be the unanimous wish of your country. The absolute
retreat which you meditated at the close of the late war was
natural, and proper. Had the Government produced by the Revolution
gone on in a _tolerable_ train, it would have been most advisable
to have persisted in that retreat. But I am clearly of opinion that
the crisis which brought you again into public view, left you no
alternative but to comply; and I am equally clear in the opinion,
that you are by that act _pledged_ to take a part in the execution
of the Government. I am not less convinced, that the impression of
this necessity of your filling the station in question is so
universal, that you run no risk of any uncandid imputation by
submitting to it. But even if this were not the case, a regard to
your own reputation, as well as to the public good, calls upon you
in the strongest manner, to run that risk.

It cannot be considered as a compliment to say, that on your
acceptance of the office of President, the success of the new
Government, in its commencement, may materially depend. Your agency
and influence will be not less important in preserving it from the
future attacks of its enemies, than they have been in recommending
it, in the first instance, to the adoption of the people.
Independent of all considerations drawn from this source, the point
of light in which you stand at home and abroad will make an
infinite difference in the respectability with which the Government
will begin its operations, in the alternative of your being or not
being at the head of it. I forbear to urge considerations which
might have a more personal application. What I have said will
suffice for the inferences I mean to draw.

First. In a matter so essential to the well being of society, as
the prosperity of a newly instituted government, a citizen, of so
much consequence as yourself to its success, has no option but to
lend his services if called for. Permit me to say it would be
inglorious, in such a situation, not to hazard the glory, however
great, which he might have previously acquired.

Secondly. Your signature to the proposed system pledges your
judgement for its being such an one as, upon the whole, was worthy
of the public approbation. If it should miscarry (as men commonly
decide from success, or the want of it), the blame will, in all
probability, be laid on the system itself; and the framers of it
will have to encounter the disrepute of having brought about a
revolution in government, without substituting anything that was
worthy of the effort. They pulled down one Utopia, it will be said,
to build up another. This view of the subject, if I mistake not, my
dear sir, will suggest to your mind greater hazard to that fame,
which must be and ought to be dear to you, in refusing your future
aid to the system, than in affording it. I will only add, that in
my estimate of the matter, that aid is indispensable.

I have taken the liberty to express these sentiments, and to lay
before you my view of the subject. I doubt not the considerations
mentioned have fully occurred to you, and I trust they will finally
produce in your mind the same result which exists in mine. I
flatter myself the frankness with which I have delivered myself
will not be displeasing to you. It has been prompted by motives
which you could not disapprove. I remain, my dear sir,

With the sincerest respect and regard,

Your obedient and humble servant,

A. HAMILTON.

XII

Hamilton folded and sealed the letter, then determined to take it to the
post-office himself. The night was hot and his head was throbbing: he
had worked, dined, wined, talked, and written, since eight in the
morning, with no interval for fresh air or exercise. He was not tired,
but very nervous, and after he had disposed of his letter, he set off
for a stroll along the river front, and walked for two miles up the
quiet road on the east side, listening to the lap of the water, and
pausing to watch the superb effect of the moonlight on the bright
ripples and on the wooded heights of Long Island. The little village of
Brooklyn twinkled here and there for a time, then lay like a sombre
shadow in the silences of her forest. As he returned, there was not a
light anywhere, except now and again at a masthead, for it was very
late. The clock in Trinity steeple struck one as he reentered the town.
He moved through the narrow dark and crooked streets with a lagging
step, although he had walked briskly for the past hour. There seemed to
be no sleep in him, and the idea of his quiet room was an irritation.

"That woman is on my nerves," he thought. "I've written a letter
to-night that may bridge this country over another crisis, and I should
be sleeping the sleep of the self-sufficient statesman, or at least
excogitating upon weighty matters; and for the last hour I've given no
thought to anything but an unknown woman, who has electrified my
imagination and my passions. Is there, perhaps, more safety in meeting
her and laying the ghost? Imagination plays us such damnable tricks. She
may have a raucous voice, or too sharp a wit; or she may love another by
this. I'll ask Nick to take me there to-morrow."

The drawing-room windows of the dwellings were but a few feet above the
ground, and many of them abutted on the pavement. The narrow street was
almost dark, in spite of the moonlight, but Hamilton saw that some one
sat at a lower window but a few feet ahead of him. It was a woman, for
her arm hung over the sill There was nothing to arrest his attention in
the circumstance, beyond the vague beauty of the arm and hand, for on
these dog nights many sat at their windows until the chill of early
morning; but he suddenly remembered that he was in Pearl Street. For a
moment he meditated retreat; with no enthusiasm, however. He shrugged
his shoulders and walked on, but his breath was short. As he approached
he could see that she was watching him, although her face was almost
invisible. He paused beneath the window, half in defiance, his eyes
striving to pierce the heavy shade of the room. The hand closed abruptly
about the lower part of his face. It trembled, but there was as much
determination as warmth in the finger tips; and he seemed to have been
transported suddenly to a field of violets.

XIII

"Nick," said Hamilton, a few evenings later as they were peeling
walnuts, "This is the night on which Mrs. Croix receives, is it not? Do
you attend? I will go with you. The lady has kindly been at pains to let
me know that I shall not be unwelcome."

Troup pushed back his plate abruptly, and Baron Steuben burst into a
panegyric. Fish replied that he had not intended to go, but should
change his mind for the sake of the sensation he must create with such a
lion in tow. He left the table shortly after, to dress, followed by
Steuben, who announced his intention to make one of the party. The host
and Troup were left alone.

"What is the matter?" asked Hamilton, smiling. "I see you disapprove of
something. Surely you have not lost your heart--"

"Nonsense," exclaimed Troup, roughly, "but I have always hoped you would
never meet her."

"_Have_ you?"

"If you want to know the truth she has pumped me dry about you. She did
it so adroitly that it was some time before I discovered what she was up
to. At first I wondered if she were a spy, and I changed my first mind
to avoid her, determined to get to the bottom of her motives. I soon
made up my mind that she was in love with you, and then I began to
tremble, for she is not only a very witch of fascination, but she has
about forty times more power of loving, or whatever she chooses to call
it, than most women, and every mental attraction and fastidious
refinement, besides. There is not a good woman in the country that could
hold her own against her. I have no wish to slander her, and have never
discussed her before; but my instincts are strong enough to teach me
that a woman whose whole exterior being is a promise, will be driven by
the springs of that promise to redeem her pledges. And the talk of you
banishes all that regal calm from her face and lets the rest loose. I
suppose I am a fool to tell you this, but I've been haunted by the idea
from the first that if you know this woman, disaster will come of it. I
do not mean any old woman's presentiment, but from what I know of her
nature and yours. You do astonishingly few erratic things for a genius,
but in certain conditions you are unbridled, and my only hope has been
that the lightning in you would strike at random without doing much
harm--to you, at all events. But this volcano has a brain in it, and
great force of character. She will either consume you, ruining your
career, or if you attempt to leave her she will find some way to ruin
you still. God knows I'm no moralist, but I am jealous for your genius
and your future. This has been a long speech. I hope you'll forgive it."

Hamilton had turned pale, and he hacked at the mahogany with the point
of his knife. He made no attempt to laugh off Troup's attack, Troup
watched him until he turned pale himself. "You have met her," he said
abruptly.

Hamilton rose and pushed back his chair. "I promise you one thing," he
said: "that if I happen to lose my nethermost to Mrs. Croix, the world
shall never be the wiser. That I explicitly promise you. I dislike
extremely the position in which I put the lady by these words, but you
will admit that they mean nothing, that I am but striving to allay your
fears--which I know to be genuine. She will probably flout me. I shall
probably detest her conversation. But should the contrary happen, should
she be what you suspect, and should a part of my nature which has never
been completely accommodated, annihilate a resistance of many months, at
least you have my assurance that worse shall not happen."

Troup groaned. "You have so many sides to satisfy! Would that you could
have your truly phenomenal versatility of mind with a sweet simplicity
of character. But we are not in the millennium. And as you have not the
customary failings of genius,--ingratitude, morbidity, a disposition to
prevaricate, a lack of common-sense, selfishness, and
irresponsibility,--it is easy for us to forgive you the one inevitable
weakness. Come to me if you get into trouble. She'd have no mercy at my
hands. I'd wring her neck."

Many people were at their country-seats, but politics kept a number of
men in town, and for this political and wholly masculine _salon_ of Mrs.
Croix, Gouverneur Morris drove down from Morrisania, Robert Livingston
from Clermont; Governor Clinton had made it convenient to remain a day
longer in New York. Dr. Franklin had been a guest of my lady for the
past two days. They were all, with the exception of Clinton, in the
drawing-room, when Hamilton, Steuben and Fish arrived; and several of
the Crugers, Colonel Duer, General Knox, Mayor Duane, Melancthon Smith,
Mr. Watts, Yates, Lansing, and a half-dozen lesser lights. Mrs. Croix
sat in the middle of the room, and her chair being somewhat higher and
more elaborate than its companions, suggested a throne: Madame de Stael
set the fashion in many affectations which were not long travelling to
America. In the house, Mrs. Croix discarded the hoopskirt, and the
classic folds of her soft muslin gown revealed a figure as superb in
contour as it was majestic in carriage. Her glittering hair was in a
tower, and the long oval of her face gave to this monstrous head-dress
an air of proportion. Her brows and lashes were black, her eyes the
deepest violet that ever man had sung, childlike when widely opened, but
infinitely various with a drooping lash. The nose was small and
aquiline, fine and firm, the nostril thin and haughty. The curves of her
mouth included a short upper lip, a full under one, and a bend at the
corners. There was a deep cleft in the chin. Technically her hair was
auburn; when the sun flooded it her admirers vowed they counted twenty
shades of red, yellow, sorrel, russet, and gold. Even under the soft
rays of the candles it was crisp with light and colour. The dazzling
skin and soft contours hid a jaw that denoted both strength and
appetite, and her sweet gracious manner gave little indication of her
imperious will, independent mind, and arrogant intellect. She looked to
be twenty-eight, but was reputed to have been born in 1769. For women so
endowed years have little meaning. They are born with what millions of
their sex never acquire, a few with the aid of time and experience only.
Nature had fondly and diabolically equipped her to conquer the world, to
be one of its successes; and so she was to the last of her ninety-six
years. Her subsequent career was as brilliant in Europe as it had been,
and was to be again, in America. In Paris, Lafayette was her sponsor,
and she counted princes, cardinals, and nobles among her conquests, and
died in the abundance of wealth and honours. If her sins found her out,
they surprised her in secret only. To the world she gave no sign, and
carried an unbroken spirit and an unbowed head into a vault which looks
as if not even the trump of Judgement Day could force its marble doors
to open and its secrets to come forth. But those doors closed behind her
seventy-seven years later, when the greatest of her victims had been
dust half a century, and many others were long since forgotten.
To-night, in her glorious triumphant womanhood she had no thought of
vaults in the cold hillside of Trinity, and when Hamilton entered the
room, she rose and courtesied deeply. Then, as he bent over her hand:
"At last! Is it you?" she exclaimed softly. "Has this honour indeed come
to my house? I have waited a lifetime, sir, and I took pains to assure
you long since of a welcome."

"Do not remind me of those wretched wasted months," replied Hamilton,
gallantly, and Dr. Franklin nodded with approval. "Be sure, madam, that
I shall risk no reproaches in the future."

She passed him on in the fashion of royalty, and was equally gracious to
Steuben and Fish, although she did not courtesy. The company, which had
been scattered in groups, the deepest about the throne of the hostess,
immediately converged and made Hamilton their common centre. Would
Washington accept? Surely he must know. Would he choose to be addressed
as "His Serene Highness," "His High Mightiness," or merely as
"Excellency"? Would so haughty an aristocrat lend himself agreeably to
the common forms of Republicanism, even if he had refused a crown, and
had been the most jealous guardian of the liberties of the American
people? An aristocrat is an aristocrat, and doubtless he would observe
all the rigid formalities of court life. Most of those present heartily
hoped that he would. They, too, were jealous of their liberties, but had
no yearning toward a republican simplicity, which, to their minds,
savoured of plebianism. Socially they still were royalists, whatever
their politics, and many a coat of arms was yet in its frame.

"Of course Washington will be our first President," replied Hamilton,
who was prepared to go to Mount Vernon, if necessary. "I have had no
communication from him on the subject, but he would obey the command of
public duty if he were on his death-bed. His reluctance is natural, for
his life has been a hard one in the field, and his tastes are those of a
country gentleman,--tastes which he has recently been permitted to
indulge to the full for the first time. Moreover, he is so modest that
it is difficult to make him understand that no other man is to be
thought of for these first difficult years. When he does, there is no
more question of his acceptance than there was of his assuming the
command of the army. As for titles they come about as a matter of
course, and it is quite positive that Washington, although a Republican,
will never become a Democrat. He is a grandee and will continue to live
like one, and the man who presumes to take a liberty with him is lost."

Mrs. Croix, quite forgotten, leaned back in her chair, a smile
succeeding the puzzled annoyance of her eyes. In this house her words
were the jewels for which this courtly company scrambled, but Hamilton
had not been met abroad for weeks, and from him there was always
something to learn; whereas from even the most brilliant of women--she
shrugged her shoulders; and her eyes, as they dwelt on Hamilton,
gradually filled with an expression of idolatrous pride. The new delight
of self-effacement was one of the keenest she had known.

The bombardment continued. The Vice-President? Whom should Hamilton
support? Adams? Hancock? Was it true that there was a schism in the
Federal party that might give the anti-Federalists, with Clinton at
their head, a chance for the Vice-Presidency at least? Who would be
Washington's advisers besides himself? Would the President have a
cabinet? Would Congress sanction it? Whom should he want as confreres,
and whom in the Senate to further his plans? Whom did he favour as
Senators and Representatives from New York? Could this rage for
amendments be stopped? What was to be the fate of the circular letter?
Was all danger of a new Constitutional Convention well over? What about
the future site of the Capital--would the North get it, or the South?

All these, the raging questions of the day, it took Hamilton the greater
part of the evening to answer or parry, but he deftly altered his orbit
until he stood beside Mrs. Croix, the company before her shrine. He had
encountered her eyes, but although he knew the supreme surrender of
women in the first stages of passion, he also understood the vanities
and weaknesses of human nature too well not to apprehend a chill of the
affections under too prolonged a mortification.

Clinton entered at midnight; and after almost bending his gouty knee to
the hostess, whom he had never seen in such softened yet dazzling
beauty, he measured Hamilton for a moment, then laughed and held out his
hand.

"You are a wonderful fighter," he said, "and you beat me squarely. We'll
meet in open combat again and again, no doubt of it, and I hope we will,
for you rouse all my mettle; but I like you, sir, I like you. I can't
help it."

Hamilton, at that time of his life the most placable of men, had shaken
his hand heartily. "And I so esteem and admire you, sir," he answered
warmly, "that I would I could convert you, for your doctrines are bound
to plunge this country into civil war sooner or later. The Constitution
has given the States just four times more power than is safe in their
hands; but if we could establish a tradition at this early stage of the
country's history that it was the duty of the States always to consider
the Union first and themselves as grateful assistants to a hard-working
and paternal central power, we might do much to counteract an evil
which, if coddled, is bound to result in a trial of strength."

"That is the first time I ever heard you croak, except in a public
speech where you had a point to gain," said Livingston. "Do you mean
that?"

"What of it?" asked Clinton. "Under Mr. Hamilton's constitution--for if
it be not quite so monarchical as the one he wanted, it has been saddled
upon the United States through his agency more than through any other
influence or group of influences--I say, that under Mr. Hamilton's
constitution all individualism is lost. We are to be but the component
parts of a great machine which will grind us as it lists. Had we
remained thirteen independent and sovereign States, with a tribunal for
what little common legislation might be necessary, then we might have
built up a great and a unique nation; but under what is little better
than an absolute monarchy all but a small group of men are bound to live
and die nonentities."

"But think of the excited competition for a place in that group," said
Hamilton, laughing. The disappointed Governor's propositions were not
worthy of serious argument.

"I do not think it is as bad as that, your Excellency," said Dr.
Franklin, mildly. "I should have favoured a somewhat loose
Confederation, as you know, but the changes and the development of this
country will be so great that there will be plenty of room for
individualism; indeed, it could not be suppressed. And after a careful
study of this instrument that you are to live under--my own time is so
short that my only role now is that of the prophet--I fail to see
anything of essential danger to the liberties of the American people. I
may say that the essays of "The Federalist" would have reassured me on
this point, had I still doubted. I read them again the other week. The
proof is there, I think, that the Constitution, if rigidly interpreted
and lived up to, must prove a beneficent if stern parent to those who
dwell under it."

Clinton shrugged his shoulders. "I would I could share your optimism,"
he said. "What a picture have we! The most venerable statesman in the
country finding some hope for individual liberty in this Constitution;
the youngest, an optimist by nature and habit, sanguine by youth and
temperament, trembling for the powers it may confer upon a people too
democratically inclined. This is true, sir--is it not?"

"Yes," said Hamilton. "Democracy is a poison, just as Republicanism is
the ideal of all self-respecting men. I would do all I could to vitalize
the one and nullify the other. The spirit of democracy exists already,
no doubt of it. If we could suppress it in time, we should also suppress
the aspirations of encouraged plebianism,--a dangerous factor in any
republic. It means the mixing of ignoble blood with good, a gradual
lowering of ideals until a general level of sordidness, individualism in
its most selfish and self-seeking form, and political corruption, are
the inevitable results. You, your Excellency, are an autocrat. It is odd
that your principles should coincide so closely with the despotism of
democracy."

"Oh, I can't argue with you!" exclaimed Clinton, impatiently. "No one
can. That is the reason you beat us when we clearly were in the right.
What says Madam? She is our oracle." "If she would but bring him under
her foot!" he said to Yates. "She is heart and soul with us. I augur
well that he is here at last."

"It is long since our fairy queen has spoken," Franklin was saying;
gallant to all women, he was prostrate before this one. "Her genius
directs her to the most hidden kernels."

"What do you wish?" she asked lightly. "A prophecy? I am no Cassandra.
Unlike Dr. Franklin, I am too selfish to care what may happen when I am
dead. At this date we are assured of two elements in government:
unselfish patriotism and common-sense. There never has been a nobler nor
a more keenly intelligent group of men in public life than General
Washington will be able to command as assistants in forming a
government. And should our Governor lead his own party to victory," she
added, turning to Clinton with so brilliant a smile that it dissipated a
gathering scowl, "it would be quite the same. The determined struggle
of the weaker party for the rights which only supremacy can insure them
is often misconstrued as selfishness; and power leads their higher
qualities as well as their caution and conservatism to victory. I am a
philosopher. I disapproved the Constitution, and loved the idea of
thirteen little sovereignties; but I bow to the Inevitable and am
prepared to love the Constitution. The country has too much to
accomplish, too much to recover from, to waste time arguing what might
have been; it is sure to settle down into as complacent a philosophy as
my own, and adjust itself to its new and roomy crinoline."

"Crinoline is the word," growled Clinton, who accepted her choice of
words as a subtle thrust at Hamilton. "It is rigid. Wherever you move it
will move with you and bound your horizon."

"Oh, well, you know," said Hamilton, who was tired of the conversation,
"like a crinoline it can always be broken."

XIV

Washington was President of the United States. He had come over grandly
from the Jersey shore in a magnificent barge manned by twelve oarsmen in
white uniform, escorted by other barges but a shade less imposing. A
week later he had taken the oath of office on the new Broad Street
gallery of Federal Hall, amidst the breathless silence of thousands,
surrounded by the dignitaries of state and three personal friends,
Hamilton, Steuben, and Knox. The anti-Federalists were crushed, no
longer of dignity as a party, although with ample resources for
obstruction and annoyance. The country, after an interval of rejoicing,
had settled down to another period of hope and anxiety.

And Hamilton had incurred the dislike of Adams and the hostility of the
Livingstons. He had thought it best to scatter the votes for the
Vice-President, lest there be the slightest risk of Washington's defeat;
and Adams who thought quite as much of himself as he did of George
Washington, and had expected to be elected with little less than
unanimity, instead of by a bare thirty-four votes, never forgave
Hamilton the humiliation. "I have seen the utmost delicacy used toward
others," he wrote to a friend, "but my feelings have never been
regarded." He knew that Hamilton believed him to have been in sympathy
with the Conway Cabal,--a suspicion of which he never cleared
himself,--and attributed to the Federal leader the motive of wishing to
belittle his political significance, lest he should endeavour to use his
power as President of the Senate to hamper and annoy the Administration.
Perhaps he was right. Far be it from anyone to attempt a journey through
the utmost recesses of Hamilton's mind. He was frank by nature and
habit, but he had resolved that the United States government should
succeed, and had no mind to put weapons into the hands of Washington's
rivals. He believed in Adams's general integrity, patriotism, and
federalism, however, and brought him to power in his own fashion. He
achieved his objects with little or no thought of personal consequences;
and although this has been characterized as one of the great political
mistakes of his career, it must be remembered that it was a time for
nervousness and exaggerated fears. Washington had enemies; no other man
was believed, by the men who did the thinking for the country, to be
able to hold the United States together until they were past their
shoals, and the method of election was precarious: each elector casting
two votes without specification, the higher office falling to the
candidate who received the larger number of votes.

The Livingstons had desired a seat in the Senate of the new Congress for
one of their powerful family, and Hamilton had given the prize to Rufus
King. No gift could have been more justly bestowed; but the Livingstons
felt themselves flouted, their great services to the country unrewarded.
Their open hostility roused all the haughty arrogance of Hamilton's
nature, and he made no effort to placate them. When the great office of
Chief Justice of the United States was given to John Jay, instead of to
Robert Livingston, they attributed the discrimination to Hamilton's
influence over Washington; and the time came when this strong and
hostile faction lent themselves to the scheming of one of the subtlest
politicians that has ever lived.

The contest for the prizes of the two Houses had been hot and bitter,
and Hamilton had never been more active. As a result, the Federalists
controlled the Senate, and they had elected four of the six
Representatives. Philip Schuyler had drawn the short term in the Senate,
and the antagonism of the Livingstons to Hamilton enabled Burr to
displace him two years later. The signal mistakes of Hamilton's
political career were in his party management. One of the greatest
leaders in history, cool and wise, and of a consummate judgement in all
matters of pure statesmanship, he was too hot-headed and impetuous, too
obstinate when his righting blood was up, for the skilful manipulation
of politics. But so long as the Federal party endured, no other leader
was contemplated: his integrity was spotless, his motives unquestioned,
his patriotism and stupendous abilities the glory of his party; by sheer
force of genius he carried everything before him, whether his methods
were approved by the more conservative Federalists or not.

Madison, who mildly desired an office, possibly in the Cabinet, he
despatched South to get himself elected to Congress, for he must have
powerful friends in that body to support the great measures he had in
contemplation; and that not unambitious statesman, after a hot fight
with Patrick Henry, was obliged to content himself with a seat in the
House. Before he went to Virginia he and Hamilton had talked for long
and pleasant hours over the Federal leader's future schemes. In all
things he was in accord with his Captain, and had warmly promised his
support.

It was some weeks before Hamilton had a private interview with
Washington, although he had dined at his house, entertained him, and
been present at several informal consultations on such minor questions
as the etiquette of the Administration. But delicacy held him from
embarrassing Washington in a familiar interview until he had been
invited formally to a position in the contemplated cabinet. He knew that
Washington wished him to be Secretary of the Treasury, but he also knew
that that most cautious and conscientious of men would not trust to his
own judgement in so grave a matter, nor take any step without weeks of
anxious thought. The more deeply were Washington's affections or desires
engaged, the more cautious would he be. He was not a man of genius,
therefore fell into none of the pitfalls of that terrible gift; he was
great by virtue of his superhuman moral strength--and it is safe to say
that in public life he never experienced a temptation--by a wisdom that
no mental heat ever unbalanced, by an unrivalled instinct for the best
and most useful in human beings, and by a public conscience to which he
would have unhesitatingly sacrificed himself and all he loved, were it a
question of the nation's good. But Hamilton knew whom he would consult,
and devoted himself to his legal work without a qualm for the future. As
he had anticipated, Washington wrote to Robert Morris for advice, and
the reply of that eminent financier, that "Hamilton was the one man in
the United States competent to cope with the extreme difficulties of
that office," pleasantly ended the indecision of the President, and he
communicated with Hamilton at once.

Hamilton answered by letter, for Washington was wedded to the
formalities, but he followed it with a request for a private interview;
and after the lapse of eight years Washington and Hamilton met once more
for a purely personal colloquy.

Washington was occupying temporarily the house of Walter Franklin, on
the corner of Cherry Street and Franklin Square, a country residence at
which society grumbled, for all the world lived between the present site
of the City Hall and Battery Park. Hamilton rode up on horseback, and
was shown into the library, which overlooked a pleasant garden. The
President, in the brown suit of home manufacture which he had worn at
the inauguration, as graceful and erect as ever, although with a more
elderly visage than in the days of war, entered immediately, closed the
door carefully, then took both Hamilton's hands in his enormous grasp.
The austere dignity of his face relaxed perceptibly.

"Oh!" he said. "I am glad to see you!"

"It is not a return to old times, alas!" said Hamilton, gaily; "for what
we all had to do then was a bagatelle to this, and you have made the
supreme sacrifice of your life."

Washington seated himself in an arm-chair, motioning Hamilton to one
opposite. "I wrote Knox," he said, "that I felt as if setting out to my
own execution; and I swear to you, Hamilton, that if it had not been for
you I doubt if my courage would not have failed me at the last moment. I
had a moment of nervous dread this morning before I opened your letter,
but I believed that you would not fail me. It is a colossal enterprise
we are embarked upon, this constructing of a great nation for all time.
God knows I am not equal to it, and although I shall always reserve to
myself the final judgement, I expect a few of you to think for me--you,
in particular. Then with the Almighty's help we may succeed, but I can
assure you that it has cost me many wakeful nights--and cold sweats."

He spoke with his usual slow impressiveness, but he smiled as he watched
Hamilton's flashing eyes and dilating nostrils. "You look but little
older," he added. "Not that you still look a stripling, controlling your
temper with both hands while I worked you half to death; but you have
the everlasting youth of genius, I suppose, and you look to me able to
cope with anything."

Hamilton laughed. "I am far older in many things, sir. I fear I often
seemed ungrateful. I have blessed you many times, since, for the
discipline and the invaluable knowledge I gained in those years."

"Ah!" exclaimed Washington. "Ah! I am very glad to hear you say that. It
is like your generosity, and I have had many anxious moments, wondering
if there might not still be a grudge. But not only were your peculiar
gifts indispensable to this country, but, I will confess, now that it is
over, I mortally dreaded that you would lose your life. You and Laurens
were the most reckless devils I ever saw in the field. Poor Laurens! I
felt a deep affection for him, and his death was one of the bitterest
blows of the war. If he were here now, and Lafayette, how many pleasant
hours I should look forward to; but I have you, and God knows I am
grateful. Lafayette, I am afraid, has undertaken too great a business
for his capacity, which is admirable; but he is not strong enough to be
a leader of men."

"I wish he were here, and well out of it."

"I have not sufficiently thanked you for the letter you wrote me last
September. It was what I had earnestly hoped for. My position was most
distressing. It was impossible for me not only to ask the advice of
anyone, but the temper of the public mind regarding myself. To assume
that I must be desired--but I need not explain to you, who know me
better than anybody living, the extreme delicacy of my position, and the
torments of my mind. Your letter explained everything, told me all I
wished to know, made my duty clear--painfully clear. You divined what I
needed and expressed yourself in your usual frank and manly way, without
the least hesitation or fear. I take this occasion to assure you again
of my deep appreciation."

"Oh, sir," said Hamilton, who was always affected unbearably by
Washington's rare moments of deep feeling, "I was merely the selected
instrument to give you what you most needed at the moment; nothing more.
This was your destiny; you would be here in any case. It is my pride, my
reward of many years of thought and work, that I am able to be of
service to your administration, and conspicuous enough to permit you to
call me to your side. Be sure that all that I have or am is yours, and
that I shall never fail you."

"If I did not believe that, I should indeed be deep in gloomy
forebodings. Jay will officiate as Secretary of State for the present;
Knox, as Secretary at War. I contemplate inviting Randolph to act as
Attorney-General, and Jefferson as permanent Secretary of State, if he
will accept; thus dividing the appointments between the North and the
South. What do you think of the wisdom of appointing Mr. Jefferson? He
is a man of great abilities, and his long residence abroad should make
him a valuable Secretary of State, his conspicuous services acceptable
to both sections of the country. It is the selection over which I have
hesitated longest, for it is a deep and subtle nature, a kind I have no
love of dealing with, but so far as I know it is not a devious one, and
his talents command my respect."

"I am unable to advise you, sir, for he is not personally known to me,"
said Hamilton, who was not long wishing that he had had a previous and
extensive knowledge of Thomas Jefferson. "Madison thinks well of him--is
a close personal friend. He has rendered great services to the State of
Virginia, his experience is wide, and he possesses a brilliant and
facile pen--I can think of no one better fitted for the position. His
record for personal bravery is not untarnished, but perhaps that will
insure peace in the Cabinet."

Washington laughed. "Jefferson would slide under the table if you
assaulted him," he said. "It is you only that I fear, as it is you only
upon whom I thoroughly rely, and not for advice in your own department
alone, but in all. I think it would perhaps be better not to hold
collective meetings of the Cabinet, but to receive each of you alone. It
is as well the others do not know that your knowledge and judgement are
my chief reliance."

XV

Hamilton, on his way home, stopped in at the chambers of Troup.

"Bob," he said, "you are to wind up my law business. I am to be
Secretary of the Treasury."

Troup half rose with an exclamation of impatience. "Good heavens!" he
exclaimed. "Have you not an introductory line in your nature? It has
been bad enough to have been anticipating this, without having it go
straight through one like a cannon-ball. Of course it is no use to
reason with you--I gave that up just after I had assumed that you were a
small boy whom it was the duty of a big collegian to protect, and you
nearly demolished my not too handsome visage with your astonishing
fists for contradicting you. But I am sorry. Remain at the bar and you
have an immediate prospect of wealth, not too many enemies, and the
highest honours. Five years from now, and you would lead not only the
bar of New York but of the whole country. Jay may be the first Chief
Justice, but you would be the second--."

"Nothing would induce me to be Chief Justice. I should be bored to
death. Can you fancy me sitting eternally and solemnly in the middle of
a bench, listening to long-winded lawyers? While I live I shall have
action--."

"Well, you will have action enough in this position; it will burn you
out twenty years before your time. And it will be the end of what peace
and happiness a born fighter could ever hope to possess; for you will
raise up enemies and critics on every side, you will be hounded, you
will be the victim of cabals, your good name will be assailed--."

"Answer this: do you know of anyone who could fill this office as
advantageously to the country as I?"

"No," said Troup, unwillingly. "I do not."

Hamilton was standing by the table. He laid his hand on a volume of
Coke, expanding and contracting it slowly. It was perhaps the most
beautiful hand in America, and almost as famous as its owner. But as
Troup gazed at it he saw only its superhuman suggestion of strength.

"The future of this country lies there," said Hamilton. "I know, and you
know, that my greatest gift is statesmanship; my widest, truest
knowledge is in the department of finance; moreover, that nothing has so
keen and enduring a fascination for me. I could no more refuse this
invitation of Washington's than I could clog the wheels of my mind to
inaction. It is like a magnet to steel. If I were sure of personal
consequences the most disastrous, I should accept, and without
hesitation. For what else was the peculiar quality of my brain given me?
To what other end have I studied this great question since I was a boy
of nineteen--wild as I was to fight and win the honours of the field?
Was ever a man's destiny clearer, or his duty?"

"I have no more to say," said Troup, "but I regret it all the same.
Have you heard from Morris--Gouverneur?"

"Oh, yes, I had a long screed, in almost your words, spiced with his own
particular impertinence. Will you wind up my law business?"

"Oh, of course," said Troup.

The new Congress, made up, though it was, of many of the ablest men in
the country, had inherited the dilatory methods of the old, and did not
pass an act establishing the Treasury Department until the 2d of
September. Hamilton's appointment to this most important portfolio at
the disposal of the President was looked upon as a matter of course. It
created little discussion, but so deep a feeling of security, that even
before the reading of his famous Report business had revived to some
extent. This Report upon the public credit was demanded of him at once,
but it was not until the recess of Congress that he could work
uninterruptedly upon it; for that body, floundering in its chaos of
inherited difficulties, turned to the new Secretary for advice on almost
every problem that beset it. I cannot do better here than to quote from
the monograph on Hamilton by Henry Cabot Lodge, who puts with admirable
succinctness a series of facts important to the knowledge of every
American:--

In the course of a year he was asked to report, and did report with
full details, upon the raising, management, and collection of the
revenue, including a scheme for revenue cutters; as to the
estimates of income and expenditure; as to the temporary regulation
of the chaotic currency; as to navigation laws, and the regulation
of the coasting trade, after a thorough consideration of a heap of
undigested statistics; as to the post-office, for which he drafted
a bill; as to the purchase of West Point; on the great question of
public lands and a uniform system of managing them; and upon all
claims against the government. Rapidly and effectively the
secretary dealt with all these matters, besides drawing up as a
voluntary suggestion a scheme for a judicial system. But in
addition to all this multiplicity of business there were other
matters like the temporary regulation of the currency, requiring
peremptory settlement. Money had to be found for the immediate and
pressing wants of the new government before any system had been or
could be adopted, and the only resources were the empty treasury
and broken credit of the old confederacy. By one ingenious
expedient or another, sometimes by pledging his own credit,
Hamilton got together what was absolutely needful, and without a
murmur conquered those petty troubles when he was elaborating and
devising a far-reaching policy. Then the whole financial machine of
the Treasury Department, and a system of accounting, demanded
instant attention. These intricate problems were solved at once,
the machine constructed, and the system of accounts devised and put
into operation; and so well were these difficult tasks performed
that they still subsist, developing and growing with the nation,
but at bottom the original arrangements of Hamilton. These
complicated questions, answered so rapidly and yet so accurately in
the first weeks of confusion incident to the establishment of a new
government, show a familiarity and preparation, as well as a
readiness of mind of a most unusual kind. Yet while Hamilton was
engaged in all this bewildering work, he was evolving the great
financial policy, at once broad, comprehensive, and minute, and
after the recess in January he laid his ground plan before Congress
in his first report on public credit; a state paper which marks an
era in American history, and by which the massive corner-stone,
from which the great structure of the Federal government has risen,
was securely laid.

New York, meanwhile, had blossomed to her full. Houses had been
renovated, and with all the elegance to be commanded. Many had been let,
by the less ambitious, to the Members of Congress from other States, and
all were entertaining. General Schuyler occupied a house close to
Hamilton, and his daughters Cornelia and Peggy--Mrs. Stephen Van
Rensselaer--were lively members of society. The Vice-President had taken
the great house at Richmond Hill, and General Knox as imposing a mansion
as he could find. Washington, after a few months, moved to the McComb
house in lower Broadway, one of the largest in town, with a reception
room of superb proportions. Here Mrs. Washington, standing on a dais,
usually assisted by Mrs. Adams and Mrs. Hamilton, received, with the
rigid formality of foreign courts, all who dared to attend her levees.
She had discarded the simplicity of campaigning days, and attired
herself with a magnificence which was emulated by her "Court." It was
yet too soon to break from tradition, and the Washingtons conducted
themselves in accordance with their strong aristocratic proclivities.
Nor did it occur to anyone, even the most ardent Republican, that
dignity and splendour were inconsistent with a free and enlightened
Republic, until Jefferson began his steady and successful system of
plebeianizing the country.

Washington's levees were frigid; but I have not observed any special
warmth at the White House upon public occasions in my own time. The
President, after the company had assembled, entered in full official
costume: black velvet and satin, diamond knee-buckles, his hair in a bag
and tied with ribbons. He carried a military hat under his arm, and wore
a dress sword in a green shagreen scabbard. He made a tour of the room,
addressing each guest in turn, all being ranged according to their rank.
At his wife's levees he attended as a private individual and mingled
more freely with the guests; but his presence always lowered every voice
in the room, and women trembled with anxiety lest he should not engage
them in conversation, while dreading that he might. The unparalleled
dignity, the icy reserve of his personality, had always affected the
temperature of the gatherings he honoured; but at this time, when to the
height of a colossal and unique reputation was added the first
incumbency of an office, bestowed by a unanimous sentiment, which was to
raise the United States to the plane of the great nations of Europe, he
was instinctively regarded as superhuman, rather as a human embodiment
of the Power beyond space. He was deeply sensitive to the depressing
effect he produced, and not a little bored by the open-mouthed curiosity
he excited. A youngster, having run after him for quite a block, one
day, panting from his exertions, Washington wheeled about suddenly, and
made a bow so profound and satirical that his pursuer fled with a yell
of terror.

The President was very fond of the theatre, and invited a party once a
week to accompany him to John Street. He entertained at table
constantly, and dined out formally and intimately. Congress, he attended
in great state. He had brought to New York six white horses of the
finest Virginian breed, and a magnificent cream-coloured coach,
ornamented with cupids and festoons. For state occasions the horses were
covered over night with a white paste, and polished next morning until
they shone like silver. The hoofs were painted black. When Washington
drove through the city on his way to Congress, attended by postilions
and outriders, it is little wonder that he had a royal progress through
proud and satisfied throngs.

The Adamses, who had counselled all the usages of foreign courts, but
had been outvoted by Hamilton and Jay, entertained but little less than
the President; and so did the Schuylers, Livingstons, Jays, and half the
town. The Hamiltons, of necessity, entertained far more simply; but
Betsey received every Wednesday evening, when her rooms were a crush of
fashion and politics, eager for a glimpse of Hamilton and to do court to
her popular self. They gave at least one dinner a week, but Betsey as a
rule went out with her parents, for her husband was too busy for
society.

The world saw little of Hamilton at this time, and Betsey but little
more. He worked in his library or office for fourteen hours of the day,
while the country teemed with conjectures of his coming Report. A
disposition to speculate upon it was already manifest, and more than one
friend endeavoured to gain a hint of its contents. Not even Madison, to
whom he had talked more freely than to anyone, knew aught of the details
of that momentous Report, what recommendations he actually should make
to Congress; for none knew better than he that a hint derived from him
which should lead to profitable speculation would tarnish his good name
irretrievably. Careless in much else, on the subject of his private and
public integrity he was rigid; he would not have yielded a point to
retain the affection of the best and most valued of his friends.
Fastidious by nature on the question of his honour, he knew, also, that
other accusations, even when verified, mattered little in the long run;
a man's actual position in life and in history was determined by the
weight of his brain and the spotlessness of his public character. He
worked in secret, with no help from anyone; nor could blandishments
extract a hint of his purpose. Against the rock of his integrity passion
availed nothing. As for Betsey, between her growing children, the
delicacy which had followed the birth of her last child, and her heavy
social duties, she would have had little time to assist him had he
confided even in her. Moreover, to keep up a dignified position upon
$3500 a year cost her clever little Dutch head much anxious thought. It
is true that some money had been put aside from the income of her
husband's large practice, but he was the most careless and generous of
men, always refusing the fees of people poorer than himself, and with no
talent for personal, great as was his mastery of political, economy. If
General Schuyler often came to the rescue his son-in-law never knew it.
Hamilton had a vague idea that Betsey could manage somehow, and was far
too absorbed to give the matter a thought. Betsey, it would seem, had
her own little reputation, for it was about this time that M'Henry
finished a letter to Hamilton, as follows:--

Pray present me to Mrs. Hamilton. I have learned from a friend of
yours that she has, as far as the comparison will hold, as much
merit as your treasurer as you have as treasurer of the wealth of
the United States.

XVI

Congress reassembled, and on the 2d of January Hamilton sent in his
Report on Public Credit. By this time excitement and anxiety, to say
nothing of cupidity, were risen to fever pitch. All realized that they
were well in the midst of a national crisis, for the country was
bankrupt, and her foreign and domestic debts footed up to quite eighty
millions of dollars--a stupendous sum in the infancy of a nation, when
there was little specie in the country, and an incalculable amount of
worthless paper, with long arrears of interest besides. If Hamilton
could cope with this great question, and if Congress, with its
determined anti-government party, would support him, the Union and its
long-suffering patriots would enter upon a season of prosperity and
happiness. If the one were inadequate to meet the situation, or the
other failed in its national duty, the consequences must be deeper
wretchedness and disaster than anything they yet had endured. The
confidence in Hamilton was very widespread, for not only were his great
abilities fully recognized, but his general opinions on the subject had
long been known, and approved by all but the politicians on the wrong
side. The confidence had been manifested in a manner little to his
liking: speculators had scoured the country, buying up government
securities at the rate of a few shillings on the pound, taking advantage
of needy holders, who dwelt, many of them, in districts too remote from
the centre of action to know what the Government was about. And even
before this "signal instance of moral turpitude," the fact that so many
old soldiers who had gone home with no other pay than government
securities, to be exchanged for specie at the pleasure of a government
which nobody had trusted, had sold out for a small sum, was one of the
agitating themes of the country; and opinion was divided upon the right
of the assignees to collect the full amount which the new government
might be prepared to pay, while the moral rights of the worthy and
original holder were ignored. It was understood, however, that Hamilton
had given no more searching thought to any subject than to this.

The public was not admitted to the galleries of Congress in those days,
but a great crowd packed Wall and Broad streets while the Report was
reading and until some hint of its contents filtered through the guarded
doors. Hamilton himself was at home with his family, enjoying a day of
rest. It is one of the most curious incidents in his career, as well as
one of the highest tributes to his power over men, that Congress, after
mature deliberation, decided that it would be safer to receive his
Report in writing than in the form of a personal address from a man who
played so dangerously upon the nerve-board of the human nature. There
hardly could be any hidden witchery in a long paper dealing with so
unemotional a subject as finance; but no man could foresee what might be
the effect of the Secretary's voice and enthusiasm,--which was
perilously communicable,--his inevitable bursts of spontaneous
eloquence. But Hamilton had a pen which served him well, when he was
forced to substitute it for the charm of his personality. It was so
pointed, simple, and powerful, it classified with such clarity, it
expressed his convictions so unmistakably, and conveyed his subtle
appeals to human passions so obediently, that it rarely failed to
quiver like an arrow in the brain to which it was directed. And this
particular report was vitalized by the author's overwhelming sense of
the great crisis with which he was dealing. Reading it to-day, a hundred
and eleven years after it was written, and close to the top of a
twelve-story building, which is a symbol of the industry and progress
for which he more than any man who has ever dedicated his talents to the
United States is responsible, it is so fresh and convincing, so earnest,
so insistent, so courteously peremptory, that the great century which
lies between us and that empire-making paper lapses from the memory, and
one is in that anxious time, in the very study of the yet more anxious
statesman; who, on a tropical island that most of his countrymen never
will see, came into being with the seed of an unimagined nation in his
brain.

To condense Hamilton is much like attempting to increase the density of
a stone, or to reduce the alphabet to a tabloid. I therefore shall make
no effort to add another failure to the several abstracts of this
Report. The heads of his propositions are sufficient. The Report is
accessible to all who find the subject interesting. The main points were
these: The exploding of the discrimination fallacy; the assumption of
the State debts by the Government; the funding of the entire amount of
the public debt, foreign, domestic, and State; three new loans, one to
the entire amount of the debt, another of $10,000,000, a third of
$12,000,000; the prompt payment of the arrears and current interest of
the foreign loan on the original terms of the contract; the segregating
of the post-office revenue, amounting to about a million dollars, for a
sinking fund, that the creation of a debt should always be accompanied
by the means of extinguishment; increased duties on foreign commodities,
that the government might be able to pay the interest on her new debts
and meet her current expenses; and more than one admonition for prompt
action, as the credit of the nation was reaching a lower level daily,
besides sinking more hopelessly into debt through arrears of interest.
The indebtedness he divided as follows: The foreign debt, $10,070,307,
with arrears of interest amounting to $1,640,071. The liquidated
domestic debt, $27,383,917, with arrears of interest amounting to
$13,030,168. The unliquidated part he estimated at $2,000,000, and the
aggregate debt of the State at $25,000,000; making a total of nearly
$80,000.000.

He also hinted at his long-cherished scheme of a National Bank, and a
possible excise law, and gave considerable space to the miserable
condition of landed property and the methods by which it might be
restored to its due value.

XVII

The talk in the drawing-room of Mrs. Croix that night was of little else
but the Secretary's Report. Mrs. Croix, so said gossip, had concluded
that this was the proper time for the demise of her recalcitrant
officer, and had retired to weeds and a semi-seclusion while Mrs.
Washington pondered upon the propriety of receiving her. Her court cared
little for the facts, and vowed that she never had looked so fair or so
proud; Hamilton, that she shone with the splendour of a crystal star on
the black velvet skies of the Tropics. She wore, this evening, a few
yards of black gauze which left bare a crescent of her shining neck and
the lower arms. Her bright hair was arranged in a mass of ringlets,
after a fashion obtaining in Europe, and surmounted by a small turban of
gauze fastened with a diamond sun. Many of the men who visited her
habitually called her Lady Betty, for she was one of those women who
invite a certain playful familiarity while repelling intimacy. Hamilton
called her, as the fancy moved him, Egeria, Boadicea, or Lady Godiva.

Clinton came in fuming. "It is not possible," he cried, "that the
Congress can be so mad as to be hoodwinked by this deep political scheme
for concentrating the liberties of the United States under the executive
heel. 'To cement more closely the union of the States and to add to
their security against foreign attack!' Forsooth! This assumption plan
is nothing more nor less than another of his dastardly schemes to
squeeze out of the poor States what little liberty he left them under
the Constitution. He could not obtain at Philadelphia all he wished for,
but now that Washington has given him both reins, he laughs in our
faces. I regret that I ever offered him my hand."

"Then our party in Congress will fight him on political grounds?" asked
Mrs. Croix.

"You may put it that way if you choose. It certainly will not be blinded
by his speciousness and aid him in his subtle monarchism. 'Contribute in
an eminent degree to an orderly, stable, and satisfactory arrangement of
the Nation's finances!' 'Several reasons which render it probable that
the situation of the State creditors will be worse than that of the
creditors of the Union, if there be not a national assumption of the
State debts!' And then his plan of debit and credit, with 'little doubt
that balances would appear in favour of all the States against the
United States!' My blood has boiled since I read that paper. I have
feared apoplexy. He is clever, that West Indian,--do they grow many
such?--but he did not select a country composed entirely of fools to
machinate in."

"My dearest Governor," whispered Mrs. Croix, "calm yourself, pray. Only
you can cope with Mr. Hamilton. You must be the colossal spirit without
the walls of Congress to whom all will look for guidance. If you become
ill, the cause is lost."

Clinton composed himself promptly, and asked Elbridge Gerry, of
Massachusetts, which, section of the Report he expected to attack first.
There were no Federalists present.

Gerry shrugged his shoulders and shot a narrow glance of contempt at the
Governor. "Give me time, your Excellency, pray. Mr. Hamilton's paper has
the thought of a decade in it. It merits at least a week of thought on
our part. I never could agree with him in all things, but in some I am
at one with him; and I acknowledge myself deeply in his debt, insomuch
as he has taught me, among thousands of others, to 'think
continentally,' I certainly agree with him that to pay to present
holders the full value of their certificates, without discrimination, is
a matter of constitutional law, a violation of which would be a menace
to the new government. I shall support him on that point at the risk of
being accused of speculation."

Stone, of Maryland, was striding up and down, but a degree less agitated
than the Governor of New York.

"The man is cleverer than all the rest of us put together!" he
exclaimed. "Let us not forget that for an instant. A greater thought
than this of assumption has never been devised by man. If it be carried
into execution,--which God forbid,--it will prove a wall of adamant to
the Federal government, impregnable to any attempt on its fabric or
operations."

"Oh, is it so bad as that?" asked Gerry. "Every fort falls if the siege
be sufficiently prolonged. I apprehend no such disaster, and I confess I
see much promise in at least two of Mr. Hamilton's schemes. After all,
the redemption of the country is what we must look to first."

"You are a trimmer. Cannot you see that if the whole revenue of the
States be taken into the power of Congress, it will prove a band to draw
us so close together as not to leave the smallest interstice for
separation?"

"But do you meditate separation?" asked Mrs. Croix. "Surely that would
be as great a crime as Mr. Hamilton's monarchical manoeuvres--if it be
true he practises such."

"He is bold enough about them," snorted Clinton. "I do the man justice
to recognize his insolent frankness."

"Those I cannot say I have observed," said Gerry. "Nor do I think that
we meditate separation. We are struggling out of one pit. It would be
folly to dig a deeper. And Massachusetts has a great debt, with
decreasing revenue for interest and redemption. I am not sure that
assumption would not be to her advantage. She stood the brunt of the
war. It is but fair that she should have relief now, even at the expense
of other States whose debt is insignificant; and she is able to take
care of herself against the Federal government--"

"The brunt of the war!" exclaimed the Attorney-General of the Cabinet,
who, with the Speaker of the House, had just entered, and who had
controlled himself with difficulty for several seconds. "I beg to assure
you, sir, that Virginia may claim that honour. Her glorious patriotism,
her contributions in men and money--they exceeded those of any State in
the Union, sir."

Gerry laughed. "I have no means of comparison by which patriotism may be
measured, Mr. Randolph," he said. "But we can produce figures, if
necessary, to prove our title to supremacy in the other matters you
mention. As you have reduced your debt, however, by an almost total
repudiation of your paper money--"

"How about Mr. Madison?" asked Mrs. Croix, hurriedly. "He is your
fellow-statesman, Mr. Randolph, but he is Mr. Hamilton's devoted friend
and follower. Virginia may be sadly divided."

"My fears have decreased on that point," said Randolph, drily. "Mr.
Madison's loyalty toward his State increases daily."

"So does his ambition," observed Muhlenberg. "If I am not mistaken, he
has begun to chafe at Hamilton's arrangement of his destinies--and a
nature like that is not without deep and sullen jealousies. To be a
leader of leaders requires a sleepless art; to lead the masses is play
by comparison. Hamilton is a magician, but he is arrogant and impatient.
With all his art and control of men's minds, he will lose a follower now
and again, and not the least important would be--will be--Madison."

"Have you proof?" asked Clinton, eagerly. "He would be of incomparable
value in our ranks. By the way, Aaron Burr is working to the front. He
is a born politician, if I am not mistaken, and is in a rapid process of
education. I feel sure that I have attached him to our cause by
appointing him Attorney-General of the Staite. He should make an
invaluable party man."

"He will be attached to no cause," said Gerry. "He is, as you say, a
politician. There is not a germ of the statesman in him; nor of the
honest man, either, unless I am deeply mistaken. He is the only man of
note in the country who has not one patriotic act to his credit. He
fought, but so did every adventurous youth in the country; and had there
been anything more to his interest to do at the time, the Revolution
could have taken care of itself. But during all our trying desperate
years since--did he go once to Congress? Did he interest himself in the
Constitution, either at Philadelphia or Poughkeepsie? What record did he
make in the State Legislature during his one term of infrequent
attendance? While other men, notably Hamilton, of whom he betrays an
absurd jealousy, have been neglecting their private interests in the
public cause, he has been distinguishing himself as a femalist, and
thinking of nothing else but making money at the bar. I admit his
brilliancy, his intrepidity, and the exquisite quality of his address,
but I don't believe that an honest man who comes into contact with him
instinctively trusts him."

"Oh, let us not indulge in such bitter personalities," cried Mrs. Croix,
who took no interest at that time in the temporary husband of her old
age. "Surely this coming legislation should compel every faculty. What
of the other debts?--of funding? Or, if it is still too soon to talk of
these matters with equilibrium," she added hastily, as Clinton turned
purple again, "pray tell me that the great question of deciding upon a
site for the Capital is nearing a solution. It has been such a source of
bitter agitation. I wish it were settled."

"The House may or may not pass this bill for ten years in Philadelphia,
and the banks of the Potomac thereafter," growled the Senator from North
Carolina. "The Federalists have the majority, and they are determined to
keep the seat of government in the North, as they are determined to have
their monarchical will in everything. Madison hopes for some fortuitous
coincidence, but I confess I hardly know what he means."

Gerry laughed. "When Madison takes to verbiage," he said, "I should
resort to a plummet and line."

"Sir!" cried Randolph, limping toward the door in angry haste. "Mr.
Madison is one of the loftiest statesmen in the country!"

"Has been. Centrifugal forces are in motion."

"How everybody in politics does hate everybody else!" said Mrs. Croix,
with a patient sigh.

XVIII

The next morning Mrs. Croix sent a peremptory summons to Hamilton.
Although at work upon his "Additional Estimates," he responded at once.
The lady was combing her emotional mane in the sunshine before the
mirror of her boudoir when he arrived, and the maid had been dismissed.

"Well, Egeria," he said, smiling down upon this dazzling vision, "what
is it? What warning of tremendous import have you to deliver, that you
rout a busy Secretary from his work at eleven in the morning? I dared
not loiter, lest your capricious majesty refuse me your door upon my
next evening of leisure--"

"It is not I who am capricious!" cried Mrs. Croix. She pouted
charmingly. "Indeed, sir, I never am quite sure of you. You are all
ardour to-day, and indifference to-morrow. For work I am always put
aside, and against your family demands I do not exist."

"My dear Boadicea," said Hamilton, drily, "I am a mere creature of
routine. I met you after my habits of work and domesticity were well
established. You are the fairest thing on earth, and there are times
when you consume it, but circumstances isolate you. Believe me, I am a
victim of those circumstances, not of caprice."

"My dear Hamilton," replied Mrs. Croix, quite as drily, "you have all
the caprice of a woman combined with all the lordly superiority of the
male. I well know that although I bewitch you, I can do so at your
pleasure only. You are abominably your own master, both in your strength
and your weakness. But there is no one like you on earth, so I submit.
And I work and burrow for you, and you will not even accept my precious
offerings."

"I will not have you playing the role of spy, if that is what you mean.
I do not like this idea of confessing my enemies when they think
themselves safe in your house, I prefer to fight in the open, and they
reveal themselves to me sooner or later. What should I think of myself
and you if I permitted you to act as a treacherous go-between."

"You will not permit me to help you! And I could do much! I could tell
you so much now that would put you on your guard. I could help you
immeasurably. I could be your fate. But you care for nothing but my
beauty!" And she dropped dismally into her pocket-handkerchief.

Hamilton was not one of those men who dread a woman's tears. He had
dried too many. His immediate and practical consolation but appeared to
deepen her grief, however, and he was obliged to resort to eloquence.

"Where do I find such hours of mental companionship as here?" he
demanded. "I say nothing of art and literature; do I not discuss with
you the weightiest affairs of State--everything, in fact, upon which my
honour does not compel silence? Never have I thought of asking the
advice, the opinion, of a woman before. You are my Egeria, and I am
deeply grateful for you. If at times I remember nothing but your beauty,
would you have it otherwise? I flatter myself that you would not. Have
you really anything to reproach me for, because I will not hear of your
committing an act which I would not commit myself? I suppose it is
hopeless to talk of honour to the cleverest of women, but you must
accept this dictum whether you understand it or not: I will listen to
none of the confidences of your trusting anti-Federalists. Why cannot
you come out honestly and declare your true politics? You could do far
more good, and I leave you no excuse to perpetrate this lie."

"I will not," sobbed his Egeria, obstinately. "I may be able to be of
service to you, even if you will not let me warn you of Madison's
treachery."

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