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The Conqueror by Gertrude Franklin Atherton

Part 9 out of 10

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him in order. But the President would have his own commissioners or
none. He despatched Marshall and Gerry and ordered C.C. Pinckney to join
them. Talleyrand refused them official reception, and sent to them, in
secret, nameless minions--known officially, later on, as X.Y.Z.--who
made shameful proposals, largely consisting of inordinate demand for
tribute. Marshall and Pinckney threw up the commission in disgust. The
Opposition in Congress demanded the correspondence; and Adams, with his
grimmest smile, sent it to the Senate. It was a terrible blow to the
Jacobins, not only the manner in which France had prejudiced her
interests in this country; some of the disclosures were extremely
painful to ponder upon. "Perhaps," one of the backstairs ambassadors had
remarked, "you believe that, in returning and exposing to your
countrymen the unreasonableness of the demands of this Government, you
will unite them in resistance to those demands. You are mistaken. You
ought to know that the diplomatic skill of France, and the means she
possesses in your country, are sufficient to enable her, with _the
French party in America_, to throw the blame, which will attend the
rupture, on the Federalists, as you term yourselves, but the British
party, as France terms you; and you may assure yourselves this will be
done." Jefferson retired to weep alone. Several of the faction resigned
from Congress. Hamilton published his pamphlets, "The Stand," "France,"
and "The Answer," and the whole country burst into a roar of vengeance,
echoing Pinckney's parting shot: "Millions for defence, not a cent for
tribute!" "Hail Columbia" was composed, and inflamed the popular
excitement. Federalist clubs paraded, wearing a black cockade, and one
street riot followed another. Brockholst Livingston had his nose pulled,
and killed his man. With the exception of the extreme Jacobins, who
never swerved from their devotion to France and the principles she had
promulgated with the guillotine, the country was for war to a man, and
the President inundated with letters and memorials of encouragement. The
immediate result was the augmentation of the Federalist party, and the
decline of Jacobinism.

For a long while past, Hamilton had been urging naval and military
preparations. A bold front, he thought, would be more effective than
diplomacy; and the sequel proved his wisdom. When the crisis came a bill
for a Provisional Army was passed at once, another for the increase of
the Navy, and liberal appropriations were made. The proposed alliance
with Great Britain, Hamilton effectually opposed, for he was almost as
exasperated with England as with France; in her fear that the French
party in the United States would triumph and declare war upon her, she
had renewed her depredations upon our commerce.

Few believed that Washington would serve again, and the Nation turned
naturally to Hamilton as its General-in-chief. He had manifestly been
born to extricate them from difficulties. Even the Presidential faction
put their pride in their pockets, and agreed that he was the one man in
the country of matchless resource and military genius; they passed over
the veterans of the war without controversy. But there was one man who
never put his pride in his pocket, and that was John Adams. Rather than
present to Alexander Hamilton another opportunity for distinction and
power, he would himself cull fresh laurels for George Washington; the
supply of his old rival was now so abundant that new ones would add
nothing. Hamilton already had written to Washington as peremptorily as
only he dared, urging that he must come forth once more and without
hesitation. Washington replied that he would as cheerfully go to the
tombs of his ancestors, but admitted the obligation, and asked Hamilton
would he serve with him? Hamilton answered that he would on condition
that he be second in command to himself; he would make no further
sacrifice for an inconsiderable reward. When Washington, therefore,
received Adams's invitation, he made his acceptance conditional upon
being given the power to appoint his generals next in rank. Adams,
meanwhile, without waiting for his answer, had sent his name to the
Senate, and it had been confirmed as a matter of course. Washington was
irritated, but persisted in his condition, and sent in the names of
Alexander Hamilton for Inspector-General, with the rank of
Major-General, C.C. Pinckney and Knox for Major-Generals, and a list of
Brigadiers and Adjutant-Generals. Adams, fuming, sent the names to the
Senate, and they were confirmed in the order in which Washington had
written them; but when they came back, jealousy and temper mastered him,
and he committed the intemperate act which tolled the death-knell of the
Federalist party: he ordered the commissions made out with Hamilton's
name third on the list. Knox and Pinckney, he declared, were entitled to
precedence; and so the order should stand or not at all. He had not
anticipated an outcry, and when it arose, angry and determined, he was
startled but unshaken. The leading men in Congress waited upon him; he
received a new deluge of letters, and the most pointed of them was from
John Jay. Hamilton alone held his peace. He saw the terrible mistake
Adams had made, and dreaded the result. He wrote to Washington that he
should be governed entirely by his wishes, that he should not embarrass
him in any manner, and that it never should be said of himself that his
ambition or interest had stood in the way of the public welfare. But
when Adams stood with his head down, like an angry bull, and it was
plain to be seen that his astonishing attitude was prompted by personal
hatred alone, when the Cabinet and all the eminent men in the Nation,
with the exception of the Republican leaders, faced him with an equally
determined front, there was nothing for Hamilton to do but to stand his
ground; and he stood it. Washington put an end to the unfortunate
controversy. He gave Adams his choice between submission or the
selection of another General-in-chief. Adams submitted, but Hamilton had
in him an enemy no less malignant than Thomas Jefferson himself. Adams
had roused the deep implacability of Hamilton's nature. All hope of even
an armed truce for party advantage between the two great Federalists was
over. Hamilton had one cause for resentment which alone would have made
him ardently desire retaliation: General Knox, who had loved him
devotedly for twenty years, was bitterly alienated, and the breach was
never healed.

Hamilton made his headquarters in New York, where he could, after a
fashion, attend to his law practice,--he was now the leading counsel at
the bar,--but he entered upon his new duties with all his old spirit and
passionate energy. Although France might be discomfited by the readiness
and resource of the United States, the imposing front erected by a
universal indignation, there were reasons which made the reverse
possible; and Hamilton thrilled with all the military ardours of his
youth at the prospect of realizing those half-forgotten ambitions. He
had, in those days, sacrificed his burning desire for action and glory
to a sense of duty which had ruled him through life like a tyrannical
deity. Was he to reap the reward at this late hour? finish his life,
perhaps, as he had planned to begin it? Once more he felt a boundless
gratitude for the best friend a mortal ever made. Washington passed
Hamilton over the heads of those superior in military rank, because he
knew that he alone was equal to the great task for which himself was too
old and infirm; but Hamilton never doubted that he did it with a deep
sense of satisfied justice and of gratitude.

Never had Hamilton's conspicuous talent for detail, unlimited capacity
for work, genius for creating something out of nothing, marshalled for
more active service than now. He withheld his personal supervision from
nothing; planning forts, preparing codes of tactics, organizing a
commissariat department, drafting bills for Congress, advising M'Henry
upon every point which puzzled that unfinished statesman, were but a few
of the exercises demanded of the organizer of an army from raw material.
The legislation upon one of his bills finally matured a pet project of
many years, the Military Academy at West Point. Philip Church, the
oldest son of Angelica Schuyler, was his aide; John Church, after a
brilliant career as a member of Parliament, having returned to American
citizenship, his wife to as powerful a position as she had held in

It is hardly necessary to inform any one who has followed the fortunes
of Hamilton as far as this that he purposed to command an army of
aggression as well as defence. A war with France unrolled infinite
possibilities. Louisiana and the Floridas should be seized as soon as
war was declared, and he lent a kindly ear to Miranda, who was for
overthrowing the inhuman rule of Spain in South America. "To arrest the
progress of the revolutionary doctrines France was then propagating in
those regions, and to unite the American hemisphere in one great
society of common interests and common principles against the
corruption, the vices, the new theories of Europe," was an alluring
prospect to a man who had given the broadest possible interpretation to
the Constitution, and whose every conception had borne the stamp of an
imperialistic boldness and amplitude.

But these last of his dreams ended in national humiliation. This time he
had sacrificed his private interests, his vital forces, for worse than
nothing. One enemy worked his own ruin, and Louisiana was to add to the
laurels of Jefferson.

Talleyrand, astonished and irritated by these warlike preparations and
the enthusiasm of the infant country, wisely determined to withdraw with
grace while there was yet time. He sent a circuitous hint to President
Adams that an envoy from the United States would be received with proper
respect. For months Adams had been tormented with the vision of Hamilton
borne on the shoulders of a triumphant army straight to the Presidential
chair. His Cabinet were bitterly and uncompromisingly for war; Hamilton
had with difficulty restrained them in the past. Adams, without giving
them an inkling of his intention, sent to the Senate the name of William
Vans Murray, minister resident at The Hague, to confirm as envoy
extraordinary to France.

For a moment the country was stupefied, so firm and uncompromising had
been the President's attitude hitherto. Then it arose in wrath, and his
popularity was gone for ever. As for the Federalist party, it divided
into two hostile factions, and neither had ever faced the Republicans
more bitterly. A third of the party supported the President; the rest
were for defeating him in the Senate, and humiliating him in every
possible way, as he had humiliated the country by kissing the
contemptuous hand of France the moment it was half extended.

Hamilton was furious. He had been in mighty tempers in his life, but
this undignified and mortifying act of the President strained his
statesmanship to the utmost. It stood the strain, however; he warned
the Federalist leaders that the step taken was beyond recall and known
to all the world. There was nothing to do but to support the President.
He still had an opportunity for revenge while openly protecting the
honour of the Nation. Did Murray, a man of insufficient calibre and
prestige, go alone, he must fail; Adams would be disgraced; war
inevitable, with glory, and greater glory, for himself. But when
circumstances commanded his statesmanship, he ceased to be an
individual; personal resentments slumbered. He insisted that Murray be
but one of a commission, and Adams, now cooled and as disquieted as that
indomitable spirit could be, saw the wisdom of the advice; Oliver
Ellsworth and General Davie, conspicuous and influential men, were
despatched. Once more Hamilton had saved his party from immediate wreck;
but the strength which it had gathered during the war fever was
dissipated by the hostile camps into which it was divided, and by the
matchless opportunity which, in its brief period of numerical strength,
it had given to Thomas Jefferson.

The Federalist party had ruled the country by virtue of the
preponderance of intellect and educated talents in its ranks, and the
masterly leadership of Alexander Hamilton. The Republican party numbered
few men of first-rate talents, but the upper grade of the Federalist was
set thick with distinguished patriots, all of them leaders, but all
deferring without question to the genius of their Captain. For years the
harmonious workings of their system, allied to the aggregate ability of
their personnel, and the watchful eye and resourceful mind of Hamilton,
the silent but sympathetic figure of Washington in the background, had
enabled them to win every hard-fought battle in spite of the often
superior numbers of the Opposition. That Jefferson was able in the face
of this victorious and discouraging army to form a great party out of
the rag-tag and bobtail element, animating his policy of
decentralization into a virile and indelible Americanism, proved him to
be a man of genius. History shows us few men so contemptible in
character, so low in tone; and no man has given his biographers so
difficult a task. But those who despise him most who oppose the most
determined front to the ultimates of his work, must acknowledge that
formational quality in his often dubious intellect which ranks him a man
of genius.

His party was threatened with disorganization when the shameful conduct
of the France he adored united the country in a demand for vengeance,
and in admiration for the uncompromising attitude of the Government. Not
until the Federalists, carried away by the rapid recruiting to their
ranks, passed the Alien and Sedition laws, did Jefferson find ammunition
for his next campaign. As one reads those Resolutions to-day, one
wonders at the indiscretion of men who had kept the blood out of their
heads during so many precarious years. Three-quarters of a century later
the Chinese Exclusion Act became a law with insignificant protest; the
mistake of the Federalists lay in ignoring the fears and raging
jealousies of their time. If Hamilton realized at once that Jefferson
would be quick to seize upon their apparent unconstitutionality and
convert it into political capital, he seems to have stood alone,
although his protests resulted in the modification of both bills.

Let us not establish a tyranny! [he wrote to Wolcott]. Energy is a
very different thing from violence. If we make no false step we
shall be essentially united; but if we push things to an extreme,
we shall then give to faction body and solidity.

In their modified form they were sufficiently menacing to democratic
ideals, and Jefferson could have asked for nothing better. He
immediately drafted his famous Kentucky Resolutions, and the obedient
Madison did a like service for Virginia. The Resolutions of Madison,
although containing all the seeds of nullification and secession, are
tame indeed compared with the performance of a man who, enveloped in the
friendly mists of anonymity, was as aggressive and valiant as Hamilton
on the warpath. These Resolutions protested against the
unconstitutionality of the Federal Government in exiling foreigners, and
curbing the liberty of the press, in arrogating to itself the rights of
the States, and assuming the prerogatives of an absolute monarchy. If
Jefferson did not advise nullification, he informed the States of their
inalienable rights, and counselled them to resist the centralizing
tendency of the Federal Government before it was too late. Even in the
somewhat modified form in which these Resolutions passed the Kentucky
legislature, and although rejected by the States to which they were
despatched, they created a sensation and accomplished their primary
object. The war excitement had threatened to shove the Alien and
Sedition laws beyond the range of the public observation. The Kentucky
and Virginia Resolutions roused the country, and sent the Republicans
scampering back to their watchful shepherd. It is one of the
master-strokes of political history, and Jefferson culled the fruits and
suffered none of the odium. That these historic Resolutions contained
the fecundating germs of the Civil War, is by the way.

Such was the situation on the eve of 1800, the eve of a Presidential
election, and of the death struggle of the two great parties.

It was in December of this year of 1799 that Hamilton bent under the
most crushing blow that life had dealt him. He was standing on the
street talking to Sedgwick, when a mounted courier dashed by, crying
that Washington was dead. The street was crowded, but Hamilton broke
down and wept bitterly. "America has lost her saviour," he said; "I, a




The sunlight moved along the table and danced on Hamilton's papers,
flecking them and slanting into his eyes. He went to the window to draw
the shade, and stood laughing, forgetting the grave anxieties which
animated his pen this morning. In the garden without, his son Alexander
and young Philip Schuyler, his wife's orphan nephew, who lived with him,
were pounding each other vigorously, while Philip, Angelica, Theodosia
Burr, and Gouverneur Morris sat on the fence and applauded.

"What a blessed provision for letting off steam," he thought, with some
envy. "I would I had Burr in front of my fists this moment. I suppose he
is nothing but the dupe of Jefferson, but he is a terrible menace, all
the same."

The girls saw him, and leaping from the fence ran to the house, followed
more leisurely by Morris.

"You are loitering," exclaimed Angelica, triumphantly, as she entered
the room without ceremony, followed by Theodosia. "And when you loiter
you belong to me."

She had grown tall, and was extremely thin and nervous, moving
incessantly. But her face, whether stormy, dreamy, or animated with the
pleasure of the moment, was very beautiful. Theodosia Burr was a
handsome intellectual girl, with a massive repose; and the two were much
in harmony.

"If I snatch a moment to breathe," Hamilton was beginning, when he
suddenly caught two right hands and spread them open.

"What on earth does this mean?" he demanded. The little paws of the two
most fastidious girls he knew were dyed with ink. Both blushed vividly,
but Angelica flung back her head with her father's own action.

"We are writing a novel," she said.

"You are doing what?" gasped Hamilton.

"Yes, sir. All the girls in New York are. Why shouldn't we? I guess we
inherit brains enough."

"All the girls in New York are writing novels!" exclaimed Hamilton. "Is
this the next result of Jacobinism and unbridled liberty, the next
development of the new Americanism as expounded by Thomas Jefferson?
Good God! What next?"

"You have the prophetic eye," said Morris, who was seated on the edge of
the table, grinning sardonically. (He was bald now, and looked more
wicked than ever.) "What of woman in the future?"

"She has given me sufficient occupation in the present," replied
Hamilton, drily. "Heaven preserve me from the terrors of anticipation."
"Well, finish your novel. If you confine your pens to those subjects of
which you know nothing, you will enjoy yourselves; and happiness should
be sought in all legitimate channels. But as a favour to me, keep your
hands clean."

The girls retired with some hauteur, and Morris said impatiently:--

"I thought I had left that sort of thing behind me in France, where
Madame de Stael drove me mad. I return to find all the prettiest women
running to lectures on subjects which they never can understand, and
scarifying the men's nerves with pedantic allusions. I always believed
that our women were the brightest on the planet, but that they should
ever have the bad taste to become intellectual--well, I have known but
one woman who could do it successfully, and that is Mrs. Croix. What has
she to do with this sudden activity of Burr's? Is he handling French

"Are you convinced that she is a French spy?"

"I believe it so firmly that her sudden departure would reconcile me to
the Alien law. Where has Burr found the money for this campaign? He is
bankrupt; he hasn't a friend among the leaders; I don't believe the
Manhattan Bank, for all that he is the father of it, will let him
handle a cent, and Jefferson distrusts and despises him. Still, it is
just possible that Jefferson is using him, knowing that the result of
the Presidential election will turn on New York, and that after himself
Burr is the best politician in the country. I doubt if he would trust
him with a cent of his own money, but he may have an understanding with
the Aspasia of Bowling Green. Certainly she must have the full
confidence of France by this time, and she is the cleverest Jacobin in
the country."

"I wish that dark system could be extirpated, root and branch," said
Hamilton. "I have been too occupied these past two years to watch her,
or Burr either, for that matter. Organizing an army, and working for
your bread in spare moments, gives your enemies a clear field for
operations. I have had enough to do, watching Adams. Burr has stolen a
march that certainly does credit to his cunning. That is the most
marvellous faculty I know. He is barely on speaking terms with a
leader--Jefferson, Clinton, the Livingstons, all turned their backs upon
him long since, as a man neither to be trusted nor used. The fraud by
which he obtained the charter of the Manhattan Bank has alienated so
many of his followers that his entire ticket was beaten at the last
elections. Now he will have himself returned for the Assembly from
Orange, he is manipulating the lower orders of New York as if they were
so much wax, using their secrets, wiping the babies' noses, and hanging
upon the words of every carpenter who wants to talk: and has actually
got Clinton--who has treated him like a dog for years--to let him use
his name as a possible candidate for the Legislature. Doubtless he may
thank Mrs. Croix for that conquest. But his whole work is marvellous,
and I suppose it would be well if we had a man on our side who would
stoop to the same dirty work. I should as soon invite a strumpet to my
house. But I am fearful for the result. With this Legislature we should
be safe. But Burr has converted hundreds, if not thousands, to a party
for which he cares as much as he does for the Federal. If he succeeds,
and the next Legislature is Republican, Jefferson will be the third
President of the Unites States, and then, God knows what. Not immediate
disunion, possibly, for Jefferson is cunning enough to mislead France
for his own purposes; nor can he fail to see that Jacobinism is on the
wane--but a vast harvest of democracy, of disintegration, and
denationalization, which will work the same disaster in the end. If Burr
could be taught that he is being made a tool of, he might desist, for he
would work for no party without hope of reward. He may ruin us and gain

"It is a great pity we have not a few less statesmen in our party and a
few more politicians. When we began life, only great services were
needed; and the Opposition, being engaged in the same battle of ideas,
fought us with a merely inferior variety of our own weapons. But the
greatest of our work is over, and the day of the politician has dawned.
Unfortunately, the party of this damned lag-bellied Virginian has the
monopoly. Burr is the natural result and the proudest sample of the
French Revolution and its spawn. But your personal influence is
tremendous. Who can say how many infuscated minds you will illumine when
it comes to speech-making. Don't set your brow in gloom."

"I have not the slightest intention of despairing. The deep and never
ceasing methods of the Jacobin Scandal Club have weakened my influence
with the masses, however; no doubt of that. Its policy is to iterate and
reiterate, pay no attention to denials, but drop the same poison daily
until denial is forgotten and men's minds are so accustomed to the
detraction, belittling, or accusation, that they accept it as they
accept the facts of existence. Jefferson has pursued this policy with my
reputation for ten years. During the last eight he has been ably abetted
by Mrs. Croix, his other personal agents, and those of France. Now they
have enlisted Burr, and there is no better man for their work in the

"They know that if you go, the party follows. That is their policy, and
may they spend the long evening of time in Hell. But I believe you will
be more than a match for them yet; although this is by far the most
serious move the enemy has made." "I wish to Heaven I had persisted in
the Great Convention until I carried my point in regard to having the
electors chosen by the people in districts. Then I should snap my
fingers at Burr in this campaign, for he is an indifferent speaker, and
political manipulation would count for very little. With C.C. Pinckney
in the chair for eight years, I should feel that the country was planted
on reasonably sure foundations. It must be Adams and Pinckney, of
course, but with proper harmony Pinckney will carry the day. Rather
Jefferson in the chair than Adams--an open army that we can fight with a
united front, than a Federal dividing the ranks, and forcing us to
uphold him for the honour of the party--to say nothing of being
responsible for him."

"Jefferson is the less of several evils--Burr, for instance."

"Oh, Burr!" exclaimed Hamilton. "I should be in my dotage if Burr became
President of the United States. Personally, I have nothing against him,
and he is one of the most agreeable and accomplished of men. Theodosia
half lives here. Perhaps no man ever hated another as I hate Jefferson,
nor had such cause. He has embittered my life and ruined my health; he
has made me feel like a lost soul more than once. But better Jefferson a
thousand times than Burr. God knows I hate democracy and fear it, but
Jefferson is timid and cautious, and has some principles and patriotism;
moreover, a desire for fame. Burr has neither patriotism nor a
principle, nor the least regard for his good name. He is bankrupt,
profligate--he has been living in the greatest extravagance at Richmond
Hill, and his makings at the bar, although large, are far exceeded by
his expenses; there is always a story afloat about some dark transaction
of his, and never disproved: he challenged Church for talking openly
about the story that the Holland Land Company had, for legislative
services rendered, cancelled a bond against him for twenty thousand
dollars; but the world doubts Burr's bluster as it doubts his word. At
present he is in a desperate way because Alexander Baring, in behalf of
a friend, I.I. Augustine, is pressing for payment on a bond given to
secure the price of land bought by Burr and Greenleaf, and he has been
offering worthless land claims in settlement, and resorting to every
artifice to avert a crisis. Baring wanted me to take the case, but of
course I wouldn't touch it. I sent him to Rinnan. The man is literally
at the end of his tether. It is a coup or extinction--failure means
flight or debtor's prison. Furthermore, he is a conspirator by nature,
and there is no man in the country with such extravagant tastes, who is
so unscrupulous as to the means of gratifying them. He is half mad for
power and wealth. The reins of state in his hands, and he would stop at
nothing which might give him control of the United States Treasury. To
be President of the United States would mean nothing to him except as a
highway to empire, to unlimited power and plunder. We have been
threatened with many disasters since we began our career, but with no
such menace as Burr. But unless I die between now and eighteen hundred
and one, Burr will lose the great game, although he may give victory to
the Republican party."

"I am not surprised at your estimate and revelations," said Morris, "for
I have heard much the same from others since my return. It was this
certainty that he is bankrupt that led me to believe he was handling
French money in this election--and he is flinging it right and left in a
manner that must gratify his aspiring soul. Considering his lack of
fortune and family influence, he has done wonders in the way of
elevating himself. This makes it the more remarkable that with his great
cleverness he should not have done better--"

"He is not clever; that is the point. He is cunning. His is wholly the
brain of the conspirator. Were he clever, he would, like Thomas
Jefferson, fool himself and the world into the belief that he is honest.
Intellect and statesmanship he holds in contempt. He would elevate
himself by the Catiline system, by the simple method of proclaiming
himself emperor, and appropriating the moneybags of the country. There
is not one act of statesmanship to his credit. To him alone, of all
prominent Americans, the country is indebted for nothing. The other
night at a dinner, by the way, he toasted first the French Revolution,
then Bonaparte. It is more than possible that you are right, for France,
whether Directory or Consulate, is not likely to change her policy
regarding this country. Nothing would please either Talleyrand or
Bonaparte better than to inflame us into a civil war, then swoop down
upon us, under the pretence of coming to the rescue. Burr would be just
the man to play into their hands, although with no such intention.
Jefferson is quite clever enough to foil them, if he found that more to
his interest. Well, neither is elected yet. Let us hope for the best. Go
and ask Angelica to play for you. I have letters to write to leaders all
over the State."


Burr was the author of municipal corruption in New York, the noble
grandsire of Tammany Hall. While Hamilton was too absorbed to watch him,
he had divided New York, now a city of sixty thousand inhabitants, into
districts and sections. Under his systematic management the name of
every resident was enrolled, and his politics ascertained. Then Burr and
his committees or sub-committees laid siege to the individual.
Insignificant men were given place, and young fire-eaters, furious with
Adams, were swept in. Hundreds of doubtful men were dined and wined at
Richmond Hill, flattered, fascinated, conquered. Burr knew the private
history, the income, of every man he purposed to convert, and made
dexterous use of his information. He terrified some with his knowledge,
fawned upon others, exempted the stingy from contributions provided he
would work, and the lazy from work provided he would pay. It is even
asserted that he blackmailed the women who had trusted him on paper, and
forced them to wring votes from their men. He drafted a catalogue of
names for the electoral Legislature, calculated to impose the hesitant,
who were not permitted to observe that he smarted and snarled under many
a kick. Strong names were essential if the Republicans were to wrest
New York from the Federals after twelve years of unbroken rule, but
strong men had long since ceased to have aught to do with Burr; although
Jefferson, as Hamilton suspected, had recently extended his politic paw.
But in spite of snubs, curt dismissals, and reiterated intimations that
his exertions were wasting, Burr did at last, by dint of flattery,
working upon the weak points of the men he thoroughly understood,
convincing them that victory lay in his hands and no other,--some of
them that he was working in harmony with Jefferson,--induce Clinton,
Brockholst Livingston, General Gates,--each representing a different
faction,--and nine other men of little less importance, to compose the
city ticket. All manner of Republicans were pleased, and many
discontented Federalists. Burr, knowing that his own election in New
York was hopeless, was a candidate for the Assembly in the obscure
county of Orange; and the Legislature which would elect the next
President was threatened with a Republican majority, which alarmed the
Federalist party from one end of the Union to the other.

Hamilton had never been more alert. The moment he was awake to the
danger his mind closed to every other demand upon it, and he flung
himself into the thick of the fight. He would have none of Burr's
methods, but he spoke daily, upon every least occasion, and was ready to
consult at all hours with the distracted leaders of his party. Morris,
Troup, Fish, and other Federalists, accustomed to handling the masses,
also spoke repeatedly. But Adams had given the party a terrible blow,
scattering many of its voters far and wide. They felt that the country
had been humiliated, that it was unsafe in the hands of a man who was
too obstinate to be advised, and too jealous to control his personal
hatreds for the good of the Union; the portent of tyranny in the Alien
and Sedition laws had terrified many, and the promises of the
Republicans were very alluring. The prospect of a greater equality, of a
universal plebeianism, turned the heads of the shopkeepers, mechanics,
and labouring men, who had voted hitherto with the Federalist party
through admiration of its leaders and their great achievements. In vain
Hamilton reminded them of all they owed to the Federalists: the
Constitution, the prosperity, the _peace_. He was in the ironical
position of defending John Adams. They had made up their minds before
they went to hear him speak, and they went because to hear him was a
pleasure they never missed. Upon one occasion a man rushed from the
room, crying, "Let me out! Let me out! That man will make me believe
anything." Frequently Hamilton and Burr spoke on the same platform, and
they were so polite to each other that the audience opened their mouths
and wondered at the curious ways of the aristocracy. It was a period of
great excitement. Men knocked each other down daily, noses were
pulled,--a favourite insult of our ancestors,--and more than one duel
was fought in the woods of Weehawken.

The elections began early on the 29th of April and finished at sunset on
May 2d. Hamilton and Burr constantly addressed large assemblages. On the
first day Hamilton rode up to the poll in his district to vote, and was
immediately surrounded by a vociferating crowd. Scurrilous handbills
were thrust in his face, and his terrified horse reared before a hundred
threatening fists. A big carter forced his way to its side and begged
Hamilton to leave, assuring him there was danger of personal violence,
and that the men were particularly incensed at his aristocratic manner
of approaching the polls.

"Thank you," said Hamilton, "but I have as good a right to vote as any
man, and I shall do it in the mode most agreeable to myself."

"Very well, General," said the carter. "I differ with you in politics,
but I'll stick by you as long as there is a drop of blood in my body."

Hamilton turned to him with that illumination of feature which was not
the least of his gifts, then to the mob with the same smile, and lifted
his hat above a profound bow. "I never turned my back upon my enemy," he
said, "I certainly shall not flee from those who have always been my

The crowd burst into an electrified roar. "Three cheers for General
Hamilton!" cried the carter, promptly, and they responded as one man.
Then they lifted him from his horse and bore him on their shoulders to
the poll. He deposited his ballot, and after addressing them to the
sound of incessant cheering, was permitted to ride away. The incident
both amused and disgusted him, but he needed no further illustrations of
the instability of the common mind.

The Republicans won. On the night of the 2d it was known that the
Federalists had lost the city by a Republican majority of four hundred
and ninety votes.

A few weeks before, when uncertainties were thickest, Hamilton had
written to William Smith, who was departing for Constantinople: "... You
see I am in a humour to laugh. What can we do better in _this best of
all possible worlds?_ Should you ever be shut up in the seven towers, or
get the plague, if you are a true philosopher you will consider this
only as a laughing matter."

He laughed--though not with the gaiety of his youth--as he walked home
to-night through the drunken yelling crowds of William Street, more than
one fist thrust in his face. His son Philip was with him, and his
cousin, Robert Hamilton of Grange, who had come over two years before to
enlist under the command of the American relative of whom his family
were vastly proud. A berth had been found for him in the navy, as better
suited to his talents, and he spent his leisure at 26 Broadway. Both the
younger men looked crestfallen and anxious. Philip, who resembled his
father so closely that Morris called him "his heir indubitate," looked,
at the moment, the older of the two. Ill health had routed the robust
appearance of Hamilton's early maturity, and his slender form, which had
lost none of its activity or command, his thin face, mobile, piercing,
fiery, as ever, made him appear many years younger than his age.

"Why do you laugh, sir?" asked Philip, as they turned into Wall Street,
"I feel as if the end of the world had come."

"That is the time to laugh, my dear boy. When you see the world you have
educated scampering off through space, the retreat led by the greatest
rascal in the country, your humour, if you have any, is bound to
respond. Moreover, there is always something humorous in one's downfall,
and a certain relief. The worst is over."

"But, Cousin Alexander," said Robert Hamilton, "surely this is not
ultimate defeat for you? You will not give up the fight after the first

"Oh, no! not I!" cried Hamilton. "I shall fight on until I have made
Thomas Jefferson President of the United States. Should I not laugh? Was
any man ever in so ironical a situation before? I shall move heaven and
America to put Pinckney in the chair, and I shall fail; and to save the
United States from Burr I shall turn over the country I have made to my
bitterest enemy."

"That would not be my way of doing, sir," said Robert. "I'd fight the
rival chieftain to his death. Perhaps this Burr is not so real a
Catiline as you think him. Nobody has a good word for him, but I mean he
may not have the courage for so dangerous an act as usurpation."

"Courage is just the one estimable if misdirected quality possessed by
Burr, and, whetted by his desperate plight, no length would daunt him. A
year or two ago he hinted to me that I had thrown away my opportunities.
Pressed, he admitted that I was a fool not to have changed the
government when I could. When I reminded him that I could only have done
such a thing by turning traitor, he replied, 'Les grands ames se
soucient peu des petits moraux.' It was not worth while to reason with a
man who had neither little morals nor great ones, so I merely replied
that from the genius and situation of the country the thing was
impracticable; and he answered, 'That depends on the estimate we form of
the human passions, and of the means of influencing them.' Burr would
neither regard a scheme of usurpation as visionary,--he is sanguine and
visionary to a degree that will be his ruin,--nor be restrained by any
reluctance to occupy an infamous place in history."

They had reached his doorstep in the Broadway. The house was lighted.
Through the open windows of the drawing-room poured a musical torrent.
Angelica, although but sixteen, shook life and soul from the cold keys
of the piano, and was already ambitious to win fame as a composer.
To-night she was playing extemporaneously, and Hamilton caught his
breath. In the music was the thunder of the hurricane he so often had
described to his children, the piercing rattle of the giant castinets
[sic], the roar and crash of artillery, the screaming of the trees, the
furious rush of the rain. Robert Hamilton thought it was a battlepiece,
but involuntarily he lifted his hat. As the wonderful music finished
with the distant roar of the storm's last revolutions, Hamilton turned
to his cousin with the cynicism gone from his face and his eyes
sparkling with pride and happiness.

"What do I care for Burr?" he exclaimed. "Or for Jefferson? Has any man
ever had a home, a family, like mine? Let them do their worst. Beyond
that door they cannot go."

"Burr can put a bullet into you, sir," said Robert Hamilton, soberly.
"And he is just the man to do it. Jefferson is too great a coward. For
God's sake be warned in time."

Hamilton laughed and ran up the stoop. His wife was in the drawing-room
with Angelica, who was white and excited after the fever of composition.
Mrs. Hamilton, too, was pale, for she had heard the news. But mettle had
been bred in her, and her spirits never dropped before public
misfortune. She had altered little in the last seven years. In spite of
her seven children her figure was as slim as in her girlhood, her hair
was as black, her skin retained its old union of amber and claret. The
lingering girlishness in her face had departed after a memorable
occasion, but her prettiness had gained in intellect and character;
piquant and roguish, at times, as it still was. It was seven years since
she had applied her clever brain to politics and public affairs
generally--finance excepting--and with such unwearied persistence that
Hamilton had never had another excuse to seek companionship elsewhere.
Moreover, she had returned to her former care of his papers, she
encouraged him to read to her whatever he wrote, and was necessary to
him in all ways. She loved him to the point of idolatry, but she kept
her eye on him, nevertheless, and he wandered no more. When he could not
accompany her to Saratoga in summer, she sent the children with one of
her sisters, and remained with him, no matter what the temperature, or
the age of a baby. But she made herself so charming that if he suspected
the surveillance he was indifferent, and grateful for her companionship
and the intelligent quality of her sympathy. Elizabeth Hamilton never
was a brilliant woman, but she became a remarkably strong-minded and
sensible one. Femininely she was always adorable. Although relieved of
the heavier social duties since the resignation from the Cabinet,
Hamilton's fame and the popularity of both forced them into a prominent
position in New York society. They entertained constantly at dinner, and
during the past seven years many distinguished men besides Talleyrand
had sat at their hospitable board: Louis Philippe d'Orleans,--supported
for several years by Gouverneur Morris,--the Duc de Montpensier, the
Duke of Kent, John Singleton Copley, subsequently, so eminent as jurist
and statesman, Kosciusko, Count Niemcewicz, the novelist, poet,
dramatist, and historian, were but a few. All travellers of distinction
brought letters to Hamilton, for, not excepting Washington, he was to
Europeans the most prosilient of Americans. If there had been little
decrease of hard work during these years, there had been social and
domestic pleasures, and Hamilton could live in the one or the other with
equal thoroughness. He was very proud of his wife's youthful appearance,
and to-night he reproached her for losing so many hours of rest.

"Could anyone sleep in this racket?" she demanded, lightly. "You must be
worn out. Come into the dining room and have supper."

And they all enjoyed their excellent meal of hot oysters, and dismissed
politics until the morrow.


But if Hamilton consigned politics to oblivion at midnight and slept for
the few hours demanded by outraged nature, he plunged from the crystal
of his bath into their reeking blackness early in the morning. He had
laughed the night before, but he was in the worst of tempers as he shut
his study door behind him. For the first time in his life he was on a
battle-ground with no sensation of joy in the coming fight. The business
was too ugly and the prospect was almost certain defeat. Were the first
battle lost, he knew that a sharper engagement would immediately
succeed: his political foresight anticipated the tie, and he alone had a
consummate knowledge of the character of Burr. That the Republicans
would offer Burr the office of Vice-President was as positive as that
Jefferson would be their first and unanimous choice. Clinton and
Chancellor Livingston might be more distinguished men than the little
politician, but the first was in open opposition to Jefferson, and the
second was deaf. Burr's conquest of New York entitled him to reward, and
he would accept it and intrigue with every resource of his cunning and
address for the larger number of votes, regardless of the will of the
people. If the result were a tie, the Federals would incline to anybody
rather than Jefferson, and Hamilton would be obliged to throw into the
scale his great influence as leader of his party for the benefit of the
man he would gladly have attached to a fork and set to toast above the
coals of Hell. He had no score to settle with Burr, but to permit him to
become President of the United States would be a crime for which the
leader of the Federalist party would be held responsible. When the
inevitable moment came he should hand over the structure he had created
to the man who had desired to rend it from gable to foundation; both
because it was the will of the people and because Jefferson was the
safer man of the two.

So far his statesmanship triumphed, as it had done in every crisis which
he had been called upon to manipulate, and as it would in many more.
But for once, and as regarded the first battle, it failed him, and he
made no attempt to invoke it. This was the blackest period of his inner
life, and there were times when he never expected to emerge from its
depths. The threatened loss of the magnificent power he had wielded, the
hatreds that possessed and overwhelmed him, the seeming futility of
almost a lifetime of labour, sacrifices without end and prodigal
dispensing of great gifts, the constant insults of his enemies, and the
public ingratitude, had saturated his spirit with a raging bitterness
and roused the deadliest passions of his nature. The marah he had passed
through while a member of the Cabinet was shallow compared to the depths
in which he almost strangled to-day. Not only was this the final
accumulation, but the inspiring and sustaining affection, the
circumscribing bulwark, of Washington was gone from him. "He was an
Aegis very essential to me," he had said sadly, and he felt his loss
more every day that he lived.

He knew there was just one chance to save the Presidency to the
Federalist party. Did he employ the magic of his pen to recreate the
popularity of John Adams, it was more than possible that thousands would
gladly permit the leader they had followed for years to persuade them
they had judged too hastily the man of whom they had expected too much.
But by this time there was one man Hamilton hated more implacably than
Jefferson, and that was John Adams. Besides the thorough disapproval of
the Administration of Adams, which, as a statesman, he shared with all
the eminent Federals in the country, his personal counts with this enemy
piled to heaven. Adams had severed the party he had created, endeavoured
to humiliate him before the country, refused, after Washington's death,
to elevate him to his rightful position as General-in-chief of the army
he had organized, alienated from him one of the best of his friends, and
primarily was answerable for the crushing defeat of yesterday. With one
of the Pinckneys at the helm, Hamilton could have defied Jefferson and
kept the Democrats out of power; but the man next in eminence to himself
in his own party had given his supremacy its death-blow, and it is
little wonder if his depths resembled boiling pitch, if the heights of
his character had disappeared from his vision. He was, above all things,
intensely human, with all good and all evil in him; and although he
conquered himself at no very remote period, he felt, at the present
moment, like Lucifer whirling through space.

Troup, now a retired judge of the U.S. District Court of New York, and a
man of some fortune, ready as of old to be Hamilton's faithful
lieutenant, entered and looked with sympathy and more apprehension at
his Chief.

"I've not come to bemoan this bad business," he said, sitting down at a
desk and taking up his pen. "What next? It looks hopeless, but of course
you'll no more cease from effort than one of your Scotch ancestors would
have laid down his arms if a rival chieftain had appeared on the warpath
with the world at his back. Is it Adams and C.C.P. to the death?"

"It is Pinckney; Adams only in so far as he is useful. He still has his
following in the New England States. The leaders in those States, first
and second, must be persuaded to work unanimously for Adams and
Pinckney, with the distinct understanding that in other States votes for
Adams will be thrown away. This, after I have persuaded them of Adams's
absolute unfitness for office. If we carry and it comes to a tie, there
is no doubt to whom the House will give the election."

Troup whistled. "This is politics!" he said. "I never believed you'd go
down to your neck. I wish you'd throw the whole thing over, and retire
to private life."

"I shall retire soon enough," said Hamilton, grimly. "But Adams will go

Troup knew that it was useless to remonstrate further. He had followed
this Captain to the bitter end too often. Underneath the immense sanity
of Hamilton's mind was a curious warp of obstinacy, born of
implacability and developed far beyond the normal bounds of
determination. When this almost perverted faculty was in possession of
the brain, Hamilton would pursue his object, did every guardian in his
genius, from foresight to acuteness, rise in warning. His present
policy if a failure might be the death of the Federalist party, but the
flashing presentiment of that historic disaster did not deter him for a

"It is the time for politics," Hamilton continued. "Statesmanship goes
begging. I shall be entirely frank about it, for that matter. There will
be no underhand scheming, Adams is welcome to know every step I take.
The correspondence must begin at once. I'll make out a list for you. I
shall begin with Wolcott."


When the tidings of the New York election reached Philadelphia, the
Federals of the House met in alarmed and hurried conference. In their
desperation they agreed to ask Hamilton to appeal to the Governor of New
York, John Jay, to reconvene the existing legislature that it might
enact a law authorizing in that State the choice of Presidential
electors in districts. Why they did not send a memorial to Jay
themselves, instead of placing Hamilton in a position to incur the full
odium of such a suggestion, can only be explained by the facts that
during the entire span of the party's existence, their leader had
cheerfully assumed the responsibility in every emergency or crisis, and
that if the distinguished formalist in the Executive Mansion of New York
had a weak spot in him, it was for Hamilton.

When Hamilton read this portentous letter, he flushed deeply and then
turned white. The expedient had not occurred to him, but it was too near
of kin to his disapproval of a provision which had delivered the State
into the hands of an industrious rascal, not to strike an immediate
response; especially in his present frame of mind. He was alone with his
wife at the moment, and he handed her the letter. She read it twice,
then laid it on the table. "It savours very much of fraud, to me," she
said. "Why do politics so often go to the head?"

"Sometimes one sort rises as an antidote to another. There comes a time
in human affairs when one is forced into a position of choosing between
two evils; a time when the scruples of delicacy and propriety, as
relative to a common course of things, ought to yield to the
extraordinary nature of the crisis."

"Right is right, and wrong is wrong," said Betsey, with her Dutch
sturdiness. "This measure--were it adopted by Mr. Jay--would merely mean
that the party in power was taking an unconstitutional advantage of its
situation to nullify the victories gained by the other."

"The victories you speak of were won by fraud and every unworthy device.
I am not arguing that, such being the case, we are justified in turning
their weapons upon them, but that for the good of the country the enemy
should be suppressed before they are able to accomplish its
demoralization, if not its ruin. The triumph of Jefferson and
Jacobinism, the flourishing of Democracy upon the ruins of Federalism,
too long a taste of power by the States rights fanatics, means, with the
weak spots in our Constitution, civil war. Burr has sowed the seeds of
municipal corruption, which, if the sower be rewarded by the second
office in the gift of the people, will spread all over the Union. That
many in the ranks of Democracy are in the pay of France, and design the
overthrow of the Government, there is not a shadow of doubt. If
Jefferson should die in office, or a tie, in spite of all I could do,
should give the Presidency to Burr, there is nothing that man's
desperate temper would not drive him to accomplish during the time
remaining to him--for he will never be the first choice of the
Democrats. Therefore, I shall propose this measure to Jay in the course
of the next two or three days, unless upon mature deliberation I alter
my present opinion that the grave crisis in national affairs justifies
it, or I conceive something better."

"You will violate your higher principles," said his wife, who had
matured in a previous era. "And it will be a terrible weapon for your

"I have now reached that happy point where I am entirely indifferent to
the broadsides of my enemies; and I believe that if I conclude to take
this step, my conscience--and history--will justify me." "If you
succeed," said Betsey, shrewdly. "But Mr. Jay is very rigid, and he
lacks your imagination, your terrible gift of seeing the future in a

"It is quite true that I have little hope of persuading Jay; as little
as I have of endowing him with the gift of foresight. But, if I think
best, I shall make the attempt, and whatever the consequences, I shall
not regret it."

Betsey said no more. She knew the exact amount of remonstrance Hamilton
would stand, and she never exceeded it. When his fighting armour was on,
no human being could influence him beyond a certain point, and she was
too wise to risk her happiness. Although he was too careful of her to
let her suspect the hideous conflicts which raged in his soul, she was
fully aware of his bitter obstinacy, and that he was the best hater in
the country. She had many gloomy forebodings, for she anticipated the
terrible strain on what was left of his constitution.

There was one person who, through her inherited intuitions, understood
Hamilton, and that was Angelica. He had kept her at arm's length, great
as the temptation to have a sympathetic confidant had been, particularly
after he had withdrawn from the intimate companionship of Washington;
she was so highly wrought and sensitive, so prone to hysteria, that he
had never yielded for a moment, even when she turned her head slowly
toward him and stared at him with eyes that read his very soul. On the
evening after the elections he had played and sung with her for an hour,
then talked for another with Philip, who was the most promising student
of Columbia College, a youth of fine endowments and elevated character.
He was the pride and delight of Hamilton, who could throttle both
apprehensions and demons while discussing his son's future, and
listening to his college trials and triumphs. Upon this particular
evening Angelica had suddenly burst into tears and left the room. The
next morning Hamilton sent her to Saratoga; and, much as he loved her,
it was with profound relief that he arranged her comfortably on the deck
of the packet-boat.

On the 7th he wrote to the Governor; but, as he had feared, Jay would
take no such audacious leap out of his straight and narrow way. The
letter was published in the _Aurora_ before it reached Albany, and
Hamilton had reason to believe that Burr had a spy in the post-office.

Hamilton executed the orders for disbanding the army, then made a tour
of several of the New England States, holding conferences and speaking
continually. He found the first-class leaders at one with him as to the
danger of entrusting the Executive office to Adams a second time, and
favourably inclined to Pinckney. But the second-rate men of influence
were still enthusiastic for the President, and extolling him for saving
the country from war. Hamilton listened to them with no attempt to
conceal his impatience. He pointed out that if Talleyrand had made up
his mind that it was best to avoid a war, he would have made a second
and regular overture, which could have been accepted without humiliation
to the country, and the severance of the Federalist party.

As if Adams had not done enough to rouse the deadly wrath of Hamilton,
he announced right and left that the Federalist defeat in New York had
been planned by his arch enemy, with the sole purpose of driving himself
from office; that there was a British faction in the country and that
Hamilton was its chief. He drove Pickering and M'Henry from his Cabinet
with contumely, as the only immediate retaliation he could think of, and
Wolcott would have followed, had there been anyone to take his place.
Franklin once said of Adams that he was always honest, sometimes great,
and often mad. Probably so large an amount of truth has never again been
condensed into an epigram. If Adams had not become inflamed with the
ambition that has ruined the lives and characters of so many Americans,
he would have come down to posterity as a great man, with a record of
services to his country which would have scattered his few mistakes into
the unswept corners of oblivion. But autocratic, irritable, and jealous,
all the infirmities of his temper as brittle with years as the
blood-vessels of his brain, the most exacting office in the civilized
world taxed him too heavily. It is interesting to speculate upon what
he might have been in this final trial of his public career, had
Hamilton died as he took the helm of State. If Hamilton's enemies very
nearly ruined his own character, there is no denying that he exerted an
almost malign influence upon them. To those he loved or who appealed to
the highest in him he gave not only strength, but an abundance of
sweetness and light, illuminating mind and spirit, and inspiring an
affection that was both unselfish and uplifting. But his enemies hated
him so frantically that their characters measurably deteriorated; to
ruin or even disconcert him they stooped and intrigued and lied; they
were betrayed into public acts which lowered them in their own eyes and
in those of all students of history. Other hatreds were healthy and
stimulating by comparison; but there is no doubt that Adams, Jefferson,
and Madison fell far lower than they would have done had Hamilton never
shot into the American heavens, holding their fields at his pleasure,
and paling the fires of large and ambitious stars.

The political excitement in the country by this time surpassed every
previous convulsion to such an extent that no man prominent in the
contest could appear on the street without insult. Although he never
knew it, Hamilton, every time he left the house, was shadowed by his son
Philip, Robert Hamilton, Troup, John Church, or Philip Church. For the
Democratic ammunition and public fury alike were centred on Hamilton.
Adams came in for his share, but the Democrats regarded his doom as
sealed, and Hamilton, as ever, the Colossus to be destroyed. The windows
of the bookshops were filled with pamphlets, lampoons, and cartoons. The
changes were rung on the aristocratical temper and the monarchical
designs of the leader of the Federalists, until Hamilton was sick of the
sight of himself with his nose in the air and a crown on his head, his
train borne by Jay, Cabot, Sedgwick, and Bayard. The people were warned
in every issue of the _Aurora, Chronicle_, and other industrious sheets,
that Hamilton was intriguing to drive the Democratic States to
secession, that he might annihilate them at once with his army and his
navy. The Reynolds affair was retold once a week, with degrading
variations, and there was no doubt that spies were nosing the ground in
every direction to obtain evidence of another scandal to vary the
monotony. Mrs. Croix, being Queen of the Jacobins, was safe, so press
and pamphlet indulged in wild generalities of debauchery and rapine. It
must be confessed that Jefferson fared no better in the Federalist
sheets. He was a huge and hideous spider, spinning in a web full of
seduced citizens; he meditated a resort to arms, did he lose the
election. As to his private vices, they saddled him with an entire
harem, and a black one at that.

When Hamilton heard that Adams had asserted that he was the chief of a
British faction, he wrote to the President, demanding an explanation;
and his note had that brief and frigid courtesy which indicated that he
was in his most dangerous temper. Adams ignored it. Hamilton waited a
reasonable time, then wrote again; but Adams was now too infuriated to
care whether or not he committed the unpardonable error of insulting the
most distinguished man in the country. He was in a humour to insult the
shade of Washington, and he delighted in every opportunity to wreak
vengeance on Hamilton, and would have died by his hand rather than
placate him.

Then Hamilton took the step he had meditated for some time past, one
which had received the cordial sanction of Wolcott, and the uneasy and
grudging acquiescence of Cabot, Ames, Carroll of Carrollton, Bayard, and
a few other devoted but conservative supporters. He wrote, for the
benefit of the second-class leaders, who must be persuaded to cast their
votes for Pinckney, to vindicate Pickering and M'Henry, and--it would be
foolish to ignore it--to gratify his deep personal hatred, the pamphlet
called "The Public Conduct and Character of John Adams, Esq., President
of the United States." His temper did not flash in it for a second. It
was written in his most concise and pointed, his most lucid and classic,
manner; and nothing so damning ever flowed from mortal brain. He set
forth all Adams's virtues and services with judicial impartiality.
There they were for all to read. Let no man forget them. Then he
counterbalanced and overbalanced them by the weaknesses, jealousies, and
other temperamental defects which had arisen in evidence with the
beginnings of the President's public career. He drilled holes in poor
Adams's intellect which proved its unsoundness and its unfitness for
public duty, and he lashed him without mercy for his public mistakes and
for his treatment of his Secretaries and himself. It was a life history
on ivory, and a masterpiece; and there is no friend of Hamilton's who
would not sacrifice the memory of one of his greatest victories for the
privilege of unwriting it.

This was one of his creations that he did not read to his wife, but
Troup was permitted a glance at the manuscript. He dropped it to the
floor, and his face turned white. "Do you intend to publish this thing?"
he demanded. "And with your name signed in full?"

"I intend to print it. I had every intention of scattering it broadcast,
but I have yielded to the dissuasions of men whose opinions I am bound
to respect, and it will go only to them and to the second-class leaders
as yet unconvinced. To their entreaties that I would not sign my name I
have not listened, because such a work, if anonymous, would be both
cowardly and futile. The point is to let those for whom it is intended
know that a person in authority is talking; and anonymous performances
are legitimate only when published and unmistakable, when given in that
form as a concession to the fashion of the age."

Troup groaned. "And if it falls into the enemy's hands?"

"In that case, what a hideous opportunity it would enclose, were it

"Oh, sign it!" said Troup, wildly. He set his heel on the manuscript,
and looked tentatively at Hamilton. He knew the meaning of the
expression he encountered, and removed his heel. It was months since he
had seen the gay sparkle in Hamilton's eyes, humour and sweetness
curving his mouth. When Hamilton's mouth was not as hard as iron, it
relaxed to cynicism or contempt. He was so thin that the prominence of
the long line from ear to chin and of the high hard nose, with its
almost rigid nostrils, would have made him look more old Roman coin than
man, had it not been for eyes like molten steel. "Politics and
ambition!" thought Troup. "What might not the world be without them?"

"Let us change the subject," he said. "I hear that Mrs. Croix makes a
convert an hour from Federalism to Democracy. That is the estimate. And
a small and select band know that she does it in the hope of hastening
your ruin. I must say, Hamilton, that as far as women are concerned, you
are punished far beyond your deserts. There is hardly a man in public
life who has not done as much, or worse, but the world is remarkably
uninterested, and the press finds any other news more thrilling. The
Reynolds woman is probably responsible for many remorseful twinges in
the breasts of eminent patriots, but your name alone is given to the
public. As for Mrs. Croix, I don't suppose that any mere mortal has ever
resisted her, but if any other man has regretted it, history is silent.
What do you suppose is the reason?"

Hamilton would not discuss Mrs. Croix, but he had long since ceased to
waste breath in denial. He made no reply.

"Do you know my theory?" said Troup, turning upon him suddenly. "It is
this. You are so greatly endowed that more is expected of you than of
other men. You were fashioned to make history; to give birth, not for
your own personal good, but for the highest good of a nation, to the
greatest achievement of which the human mind is capable. Therefore, when
you trip and stumble like any fool among us, when you act like a mere
mortal with no gigantic will and intellect to lift him to the heights
and keep him there, some power in the unseen universe is infuriated, and
you pay the price with compound interest. It will be the same with that
thing on the floor. If you could be sure that it would never fall into
the hands of a Jacobin, even then it would be a mistake to print it, for
it is mainly prompted by hatred, and as such is unworthy of you. But if
it finds its way to the public, your punishment will be even in excess
of your fault. For God's sake think it over."

Hamilton made no reply, and in a moment Troup rose. "Very well," he
said, "have your own way and be happy. I'll stand by you if the citadel

Hamilton's eyes softened, and he shook Troup's hands heartily. But as
soon as he was alone, he sent the manuscript to the printer.


M.L. Davis, the authentic biographer of Burr, tells this interesting
anecdote concerning the Adams pamphlet:--'

Colonel Burr ascertained the contents of this pamphlet, and that it
was in the press. The immediate publication, he knew, must distract
the Federal party, and thus promote the Republican cause in those
States where the elections had not taken place. Arrangements were
accordingly made for a copy as soon as the printing of it was
completed; and when obtained, John Swartwout, Robert Swartwout, and
Matthew L. Davis, by appointment met Colonel Burr at his house. The
pamphlet was read, and extracts made for the press. They were
immediately published.

When Hamilton read the voluminous extracts in the marked copies of the
Democratic papers which he found on the table in his chambers in Garden
Street, his first sensation was relief; subterranean methods were little
to his liking. He was deeply uneasy, however, when he reflected upon the
inevitable consequences to his party, and wondered that his imagination
for once had failed him. Everyone who has written with sufficient power
to incite antagonism, knows the apprehensive effect of extracts lifted
maliciously from a carefully wrought whole. Hamilton felt like a
criminal until he plunged into the day's work, when he had no time for
an accounting with his conscience. He was in court all day, and after
the five o'clock dinner at home, returned to his office and worked on an
important brief until eight. Then he paid a short call on a client, and
was returning home through Pearl Street, when he saw Troup bearing down
upon him. This old comrade's face was haggard and set, and his eyes were
almost wild. Hamilton smiled grimly. That expression had stamped the
Federal visage since morning.

Troup reached Hamilton in three strides, and seizing him by the arm,
pointed to the upper story of Fraunces' Tavern. "Alec," he said
hoarsely, "do you remember the vow you made in that room twenty-five
years ago? You have kept it until to-day. There is not an instance in
your previous career where you have sacrificed the country to yourself.
No man in history ever made greater sacrifices, and no man has had a
greater reward in the love and loyalty of the best men in a nation. And
now, to gratify the worst of your passions, you have betrayed your
country into the hands of the basest politicians in it. Moreover, all
your enemies could not drag you down, and no man in history has ever
been assailed by greater phalanxes than you have been. It took
you--yourself--to work your own ruin, to pull your party down on top of
you, and send the country we have all worked so hard for to the devil. I
love you better than anyone on earth, and I'll stick to you till the
bitter end, but I'd have this say if you never spoke to me again."

Hamilton dropped his eyes from the light in the familiar room of
Fraunces' Tavern, but the abyss he seemed to see at his feet was not the
one yawning before his friend's excited imagination. He did not answer
for a moment, and then he almost took away what was left of Troup's

"You are quite right," he said. "And what I have most to be thankful for
in life, is that I have never attracted that refuse of mankind who fawn
and flatter; or have dismissed them in short order," he added, with his
usual regard for facts. "Come and breakfast with me to-morrow. Good

He walked home quickly, told the servant at the door that he was not to
be disturbed, and locked himself in his study. He lit one candle, then
threw himself into his revolving chair, and thought until the lines in
his face deepened to the bone, and only his eyes looked alive. He wasted
no further regrets on the political consequences of his act. What was
done, was done. Nor did he anticipate any such wholesale disaster as had
distracted the Federalists since the morning issues. He knew the force
of habit and the tenacity of men's minds. His followers would be aghast,
harshly critical for a day, then make every excuse that ingenuity could
suggest, unite in his defence, and follow his lead with redoubled
loyality. His foresight had long since leaped to the end of this
conflict, for the Democratic hordes had been augmenting for years; his
own party was hopelessly divided and undermined by systematic slander.
To fight was second nature, no matter how hopeless the battle; but in
those moments of almost terrifying prescience so common to him, he
realized the inevitableness of the end, as history does to-day. His only
chance had been to placate Adams and recreate his enemy's popularity.

The day never came when he was able to say that he might have done this
at the only time when such action would have counted. He had been
inexorable until the pamphlet was flung to the public; and then,
although he was hardly conscious of it at the moment, he was immediately
dispossessed of the intensity of his bitterness toward Adams. The
revenge had been so terrible, so abrupt, that his hatred seemed
disseminating in the stolen leaves fluttering through the city.
Therefore his mind was free for the appalling thought which took
possession of it as Troup poured out his diatribe; and this thought was,
that he was no longer conscious of any greatness in him. Through all the
conflicts, trials, and formidable obstacles of previous years he had
been sustained by his consciousness of superlative gifts combined with
loftiness of purpose. Had not his greatness been dinned into his ears,
he would have been as familiar with it. But he seemed to himself to have
shrivelled, his very soul might have been in ashes--incremated in the
flames of his passions. He had triumphed over every one of his enemies
in turn. Historically he was justified, and had he accomplished the same
end impersonally, they would have been the only sufferers, and in the
just degree. But he had boiled them in the vitriol of his nature; he
had scarred them and warped them and destroyed their self-respect. Had
these raging passions been fed with other vitalities? Had they ravaged
his soul to nourish his demons? Was that his punishment,--an instance of
the inexorable law of give and take?

He recalled the white heat of patriotism with which he had written the
revolutionary papers of his boyhood, the numberless pamphlets which had
finally roused the States to meet in convention and give the wretched
country a Constitutional Government, "_The Federalist_"; which had
spurred him to the great creative acts that must immortalize him in
history. He contrasted that patriotic fire with the spirit in which he
had written the Adams pamphlet. The fire had gone out, and the
precipitation was gall and worm-wood. Even the spirit in which he had
first attacked Jefferson in print was righteous indignation by

Had he hated his soul to cinders? Had the bitterness and the
implacability he had encouraged for so many years bitten their acids
through and through the lofty ideals which once had been the larger part
of himself? Had the angel in him fallen to the bottom of the pit in that
frightful nethermost region of his, for his cynical brain to mock, until
that, too, was in its grave? He thought of the high degree of
self-government, almost the perfection, that Washington had
attained,--one of the most passionate men that had ever lived. Did that
great Chieftain stand alone in the history of souls? He thought of
Laurens, with his early despair that self-conquest seemed impossible.
Would he have conquered, had he lived? What would he or Washington
think, were they present to-night? Would they hate him, or would their
love be proof against even this abasement? He passionately wished they
were there, whether they came to revile or console. Isolated and
terror-stricken, he felt as if thrust for ever from the world of living

His mind had been turned in, every faculty bent introspectively, but for
some moments past his consciousness had vibrated mechanically to an
external influence. It flew open suddenly, as he realized that someone
was watching him, and he wheeled his chair opposite the dusk in the
lower end of the room. For a moment it, seemed to him that every
function in him ceased and was enveloped in ice. A face rested lightly
on the farther end of the long table, the fair hair floating on either
side of it, the eyes fixed upon him with an expression that flashed him
back to St. Croix and the last weeks of his mother's life. He fancied in
that moment that he could even discern the earthen hue of the skin. When
he realized that it was Angelica, he was hardly less startled, but he
found his voice.

"When did you return?" he asked, in as calm a tone as he could command.
"And why did you hide in here?"

"I came down with Grandpa, who made up his mind in a minute. And I came
in here to be sure to have a little talk with you alone. I was going to
surprise you as soon as you lit the candle, and then your face
frightened me. It is worse now."

Her voice was hardly audible, and she did not move. Hamilton went down
and lifted her to her feet, then supported her to a chair opposite his
own. He made no search for an excuse, for he would not have dared to
offer it to this girl, whose spiritual recesses he suddenly determined
to probe. Between her and the dead woman there was a similarity that was
something more than superficially atavistic. His practical brain refused
to speculate even upon the doctrine of metempsychosis. He was like his
mother in many ways. That unique and powerful personality had stamped
his brain cells when he was wholly hers. He recalled that his own soul
had echoed faintly with memories in his youth. What wonder that he had
given this inheritance to the most sensitively constituted of his
children, whose musical genius, the least sane of all gifts, put her in
touch with the greater mysteries of the Universe? That nebulous memories
moved like ghosts in her soul he did not doubt, nor that at such moments
she was tormented with vague maternal pangs. He conquered his first
impulse to confess himself to her; doubtless she needed more help than
he. She was staring at him in mingled terror and agony.

"Why do you suffer so when I suffer?" he asked gently; then bluntly, "do
you yearn over me as if I were your child, and in peril?"

"Yes," she answered, without betraying any surprise; "that is it. I have
a terrible feeling of responsibility and helplessness, of understanding
and knowing nothing. I feel sometimes as if I had done you a great
wrong, for which I suffer when you are in trouble, and I am no more use
to you than John or little Eliza. If you would tell me. If you would let
me share it with you. You remember I begged as a child. You have made
believe to tell me secrets many times, but you have told me nothing. My
imagination has nearly shattered me."

"Do you wish to know?" he asked. "Are you strong enough to see me as I
see myself to-night? I warn you it will be a glimpse into Hell."

"I don't care what it is," she answered, "so long as it is the reality,
and you let me know you as I do underneath my blindness and ignorance."

Then he told her. He talked to her as he would have talked to the dead
had she risen, although without losing his sense of her identity for a
moment, or the consciousness of the danger of the experiment. He showed
her what few mortals have seen, a naked soul with its scars, its stains,
and its ravages from flame and convulsion. He need not have apprehended
a disastrous result. She was compounded of his essences, and her age was
that indeterminate mixture of everlasting youth and anticipated wisdom
which is the glory and the curse of genius. She listened intently, the
expression of torment displaced by normal if profound sympathy. He had
begun with the passions inspired by Jefferson; he finished with the
climax of deterioration in the revenge he had taken on Adams, and the
abyss of despair into which it had plunged him. He drew a long breath of
relief, and regarded his little judge with some defiance. She nodded.

"I feel old and wise," she said, "and at the same time much younger,
because I no longer shrink from a load on my mind I cannot understand.
And you--it has all gone." She darted at the candle and held it to his
face. "You look twenty years younger than when you sat there and
thought. I believed you were dying of old age."

"I feel better," he admitted, "But nothing can obliterate the scars. And
although I shall always be young at intervals, remember that I have
crowded three lifetimes into one, and that I must pay the penalty
spiritually and physically, although mentally I believe I shall hold my
own until the end." He leaned forward on a sudden impulse and took both
her hands. "I make you a vow," he said, "and I have never broken even a
promise--or only one," he added, remembering Troup's accusation. "I will
drive the bitterness out of myself and I will hate no more. My public
acts shall be unaccompanied by personal bitterness henceforth. Not a
vengeance that I have accomplished has been worth the hideous experience
of to-night, and so long as I live I shall have no cause to repeat it."

"If you ever broke that vow," said Angelica, "I should either die or go
crazy, for you would sink and never rise again."


As Hamilton had anticipated, the Jacobin press shouted and laughed
itself hoarse, vowed that it never could have concocted so effective a
bit of campaign literature, and that the ursine roars of Adams could be
heard from Dan to Beersheba. Burr, as yet undetected, almost danced as
he walked. The windows were filled with parodies of the pamphlet,
entitled, "The Last Speech and Dying Words of Alexander Hamilton,"
"Hamilton's Last Letter and His Amorous Vindication," "A Free
Examination of the Morals, Political and Literary Characters of John
Adams and Alexander Hamilton." One cartoon displayed the sinking ship
_Administration_, with the Federal rats scuttling out of her, and
Hamilton standing alone on the deck; another, "The Little Lion"
sitting, dejected and forlorn, outside the barred gates of
"Hamiltonopolis." The deep, silent laughter of Jefferson shook the

The Federalist leaders were furious and aghast. But they recovered, and
when the time came, every Federalist delegate to the Electoral College,
with one exception, voted precisely as Hamilton had counselled. South
Carolina deserted Pinckney because he would not desert Adams, but she
would have pursued that policy had the pamphlet never been written; and
whether it affected the defeat of the Federalists in Pennsylvania and
other States is doubtful. The publication in August of Adams's letter to
Tench Coxe, written in 1792, when he was bitterly disappointed at
Washington's refusal to send him as minister to England, and asserting
that the appointment of Pinckney was due to British influence, thus
casting opprobrium upon the integrity of Washington, had done as much as
Hamilton's pamphlet, if not more, to damn him finally with the
Federalists. Hamilton's chief punishment for his thunderbolt was in his
conscience, and his leadership of his party was not questioned for a
moment. He expected a paternal rebuke from General Schuyler, but that
old warrior, severe always with the delinquencies of his own children,
had found few faults in his favourite son-in-law; and he took a greater
pride in his career than he had taken in his own. Now that gout and
failing sight had forced him from public life, he found his chief
enjoyment in Hamilton's society. General Schuyler survived the death of
several of his children and of his wife, but Hamilton's death killed
him. Assuredly, life dealt generously with our hero in the matter of
fathers, despite or because of an early oversight. James Hamilton had
never made the long and dangerous journey to the North, and he had died
on St. Vincent, in 1799, but what filial regret his son might have
dutifully experienced was swept away on the current of the overwhelming
grief for Washington. And as for mothers, charming elder sisters, and
big brothers, eager to fight his battles, no man was ever so blest. In
December Hamilton received the following letter from William Vans

Paris, Oct. 9th, 1800.

Dear Sir: I was extremely flattered by the confidence which your
letter by Mr. Colbert proved you have in my disposition to follow
your wishes. A letter from you is no affair of ceremony. It is an
obligation on any man who flatters himself with the hope of your
personal esteem. Mr. Colbert gave it to me yesterday. I
immediately, in particular, addressed a letter to Bonaparte, and
made use of your name, which I was sure would be pleasing to him.
To-day I dined with him. The Secretary of State assured me that he
received it kindly, and I can hope something good from him. If any
come it will be your work. I never before spoke or wrote to
Bonaparte on any affair other than public business. It will be very
pleasing to you if we succeed, that your silent agency works good
to the unhappy and meritorious at such a distance. I know nothing
better belonging to reputation.

Poor Adams!

General Davie arrived by the next ship, bringing with him a convention
concluded with France on the 30th of October. He also brought a letter
to Hamilton from one of the commission, with a copy of the document and
a journal of the proceedings of the negotiators. The writer was Oliver
Ellsworth, Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Adams might
occupy the chair of State, but to the Federals Hamilton was President in
all but name.

Sedgwick and Gouverneur Morris, now a member of the Senate, not knowing
of the communication, wrote immediately to Hamilton, acquainting him
with the contents of the treaty.

It contains no stipulation for satisfaction of the injuries we have
received [Sedgwick wrote in wrath]. It makes the treaty of '78 a
subject for future negotiation. It engages that we shall return, in
the condition they now are, all our captures. It makes neutral
bottoms a protection to their cargoes, and it contains a
stipulation directly in violation of the 25th article of our treaty
with Great Britain. Such are the blessed effects of our mission!
These are the ripened fruits of this independent Administration!
Our friends in the Senate are not enough recovered from their
astonishment to begin to reflect on the course they shall pursue.

This treaty was a far more deadly weapon in Hamilton's hands than the
entire arsenal he had manipulated in his pamphlet, for campaign
literature is often pickled and retired with the salt of its readers.
But did this mission fail, did Adams lose his only chance of
justification for sending the commission at all, did the Senate refuse
to ratify, and war break out, or honourable terms of peace be left to
the next President, then Adams's Administration must be stamped in
history as a failure, and he himself retire from office covered with
ignominy. But had Hamilton not recovered his balance and trimmed to
their old steady duty the wicks of those lamps whose brilliance had
dimmed in a stormy hour, his statesmanship would have controlled him in
such a crisis as this. He knew that the rejection of the treaty would
shatter the Federal party and cause national schisms and discords; that,
if left over to a Jacobin administration, the result would be still
worse for the United States. It was a poor thing, but no doubt the best
that could have been extracted from triumphant France; nor was it as bad
in some respects as the irritated Senate would have it. Such as it was,
it must be ratified, peace placed to the credit of the Federalists, and
the act of the man they had made President justified. Hamilton was
obliged to write a great many letters on the subject, for the
Federalists found it a bitter pill to swallow; but he prevailed and they
swallowed it.

Meanwhile, the Electoral College had met. Adams had received sixty-five
votes, Pinckney sixty-four, Jefferson and Burr seventy-three each. That
threw the decision upon the House of Representatives, for Burr refused
to recognize the will of the people, and withdraw in favour of the man
whom the Democratic hemisphere of American politics had unanimously
elected. Burr had already lost caste with the party by his attempts to
secure more votes than the leaders were willing to give him, and had
alarmed Jefferson into strenuous and diplomatic effort, the while he
piously folded his visible hands or discoursed upon the bones of the
mammoth. When Burr, therefore, permitted the election to go to the
House, he was flung out of the Democratic party neck and crop, and
Jefferson treated him like a dog until he killed Hamilton, when he gave
a banquet in his honour. Burr's only chance for election lay with the
Federalists, who would rather have seen horns and a tail in the
Executive Chair than Thomas Jefferson. Hamilton had anticipated their
hesitation and disposition to bargain with Burr, and he bombarded them
with letters from the moment the Electoral College announced the result,
until the House decided the question on the 17th of February. He
analyzed Burr for the benefit of the anxious members until the dark and
poisonous little man must have haunted their dreams at night. Whether
they approached Burr or not will never be known; but they were finally
convinced that to bargain with a man as unfigurable as water would be
throwing away time which had far better be employed in extracting
pledges from Jefferson.

One of Hamilton's letters to Gouverneur Morris, who wielded much
influence in the House, is typical of many.

... Another subject. _Jefferson or Burr_? The former beyond a
doubt. The latter in my judgement has no principle, public or
private; could be bound by no agreement; will listen to no monitor
but his ambition; and for this purpose will use the worst portion
of the community as a ladder to climb to permanent power, and an
instrument to crush the better part. He is bankrupt beyond
redemption, except by the resources that grow out of war and
disorder; or by a sale to a foreign power, or by great peculation.
War with Great Britain would be the immediate instrument. He is
sanguine enough to hope everything, daring enough to attempt
everything, wicked enough to scruple nothing. From the elevation of
such a man may heaven preserve the country.

Let our situation be improved to obtain from Jefferson assurances
on certain points: the maintenance of the present system,
especially on the cardinal articles of public credit--a navy,
neutrality. Make any discreet use you may think fit of this letter.

He was deeply alarmed at the tendency of the excited House, which sat in
continuous session from the 11th to the 17th, members sleeping on the
floor and sick men brought thither on cots, one with his wife in
attendance. The South was threatening civil war, and Burr's subsequent
career justified his alarm and his warnings; but in spite of his great
influence he won his case with his followers by a very small margin.
They were under no delusions regarding the character of Burr, their
letters to Hamilton abound in strictures almost as severe as his own,
but their argument was that he was the less of two evils, that every
move he made could be sharply watched. It is quite true that he would
have had Federalists and Democrats in both Houses to frustrate him; but
it does not seem to have occurred to the former that impeachment would
have been inevitable, and Jefferson President but a year or two later
than the will of the people decreed. But it was a time of terrible
excitement, and for the matter of that their brains must have been a
trifle clouded by the unvarying excitement of their lives. Bayard of
Delaware, with whom Hamilton had fought over point by point, winning one
or more with each letter, changed his vote on the last ballot from Burr
to a blank. Hamilton's friends knew that Burr would kill him sooner or
later, for the ambitious man had lost his one chance of the great
office; but Hamilton chose to see only the humour of the present he had
made Thomas Jefferson. That sensible politician had tacitly agreed to
the terms suggested by the Federalists, when they debated the
possibility of accepting him, and Hamilton knew that he was far too
clever to break his word at once. What Hamilton hoped for was what came
to pass: Jefferson found the machinery of his new possession more to his
taste than he could have imagined while sitting out in the cold, and he
let it alone.


Hamilton was now free to devote himself to the practice of law, with but
an occasional interruption. It hardly need be stated that he kept a
sharp eye on Jefferson, but for the sake of the country he supported him
when he could do so consistently with his principles. More than once the
President found in him an invaluable ally; and as often, perhaps, he
writhed as on a hot gridiron. Hamilton came forth in the pamphlet upon
extreme occasions only, but he was still the first political philosopher
and writer of his time, and the Federalists would have demanded his pen
upon these occasions had he been disposed to retire it. Although out of
the active field of politics, he kept the best of the demoralized
Federalists together, warning them constantly that the day might come
when they would be called upon to reorganize a disintegrated union, and
responding to the demands of his followers in Congress for advice. In
local politics he continued to make himself felt in spite of the
fattening ranks of Democracy. His most powerful instrument was the _New
York Evening Post_, which he founded for the purpose of keeping the
Federalist cause alive, and holding the enemy in check. He selected an
able man as editor, William Coleman of Massachusetts, but he directed
the policy of the paper, dictating many of the editorials in the late
hours of night. This journal took its position at once as the most
respectable and brilliant in the country.

He also founded the Society for the Manumission of Slaves, securing as
honorary member the name of Lafayette--now a nobleman at large once
more. But all these duties weighed lightly. For the first time in his
life he felt himself at liberty to devote himself almost wholly to his
practice, and it was not long before he was making fifteen thousand
dollars a year. It was an immense income to make in that time, and he
could have doubled it had he been less erratic in the matter of fees.
Upon one occasion he was sent eight thousand dollars for winning a suit,
and returned seven. He invariably placed his own valuation upon a case,
and frequently refused large fees that would have been paid with
gratitude. If a case interested him and the man who asked his services
were poorer than himself, he would accept nothing. If he were convinced
that a man was in the wrong, he would not take his case at any price. He
was delighted to be able to shower benefits upon his little family, and
he would have ceased to be Alexander Hamilton had he been content to
occupy a second place at the bar, or in any other pursuit which engaged
his faculties; but for money itself, he had only contempt. Perhaps that
is the reason why he is so out of tune with the present day, and unknown
to the average American.

Washington, after the retirement of John Jay, had offered Hamilton the
office of Chief Justice of the United States; but Hamilton felt that
the bar was more suited to his activities than the bench, and declined
the gift. His legal career was as brilliant and successful as his
political, but although none is more familiar to ambitious lawyers, and
his position as the highest authority on constitutional law has never
been rivalled, his achievements of greater value to the Nation have
reduced it in history to the position of an incident. There is little
space left, and somewhat of his personal life still to tell, but no
story of Hamilton would be complete without at least a glimpse of this
particular shuttle in the tireless loom of his brain. Such glimpses have
by no one been so sharply given as by his great contemporary, Chancellor

He never made any argument in court [Kent relates] without
displaying his habits of thinking, resorting at once to some
well-founded principle of law, and drawing his deductions logically
from his premises. Law was always treated by him as a science,
founded on established principles.... He rose at once to the
loftiest heights of professional eminence, by his profound
penetration, his power of analysis, the comprehensive grasp and
strength of his understanding, and the firmness, frankness and
integrity of his character.... His manners were affable, gentle and
kind; and he appeared to be frank, liberal and courteous in all his
professional intercourse. [Referring to a particular case the
Chancellor continues.] Hamilton by means of his fine melodious
voice, and dignified deportment, his reasoning powers and
persuasive address, soared far above all competition. His
preeminence was at once and universally conceded.... Hamilton
returned to private life and to the practice of the law in '95. He
was cordially welcomed and cheered on his return, by his fellow
citizens. Between this year and 1798, he took his station as the
leading counsel at the bar. He was employed in every important and
every commercial case. He was a very great favourite with the
merchants of New York and he most justly deserved to be, for he had
shown himself to be one of the most enlightened, intrepid and
persevering friends to the commercial prosperity of this country.
Insurance questions, both upon the law and fact, constituted a
large portion of the litigated business in the courts, and much of
the intense study and discussion at the bar. Hamilton had an
overwhelming share of this business.... His mighty mind would at
times bear down all opposition by its comprehensive grasp and the
strength of his reasoning powers. He taught us all how to probe
deeply into the hidden recesses of the science, and to follow up
principles to their far distant sources. He ransacked cases and
precedents to their very foundations; and we learned from him to
carry our inquiries into the commercial codes of the nations of the
European continent; and in a special manner to illustrate the law
of Insurance by the secure judgement of Emerigon and the luminous
commentaries of Valin.... My judicial station in 1798 brought
Hamilton before me in a new relation.... I was called to listen
with lively interest and high admiration to the rapid exercise of
his reasoning powers, the intensity and sagacity with which he
pursued his investigations, his piercing criticisms, his masterly
analysis, and the energy and fervour of his appeals to the
judgement and conscience of the tribunal which he addressed. [In
regard to the celebrated case of Croswell vs. the People, in the
course of which Hamilton reversed the law of libel, declaring the
British interpretation to be inconsistent with the genius of the
American people, Kent remarks.] I have always considered General
Hamilton's argument in this cause as the greatest forensic effort
he ever made. He had come prepared to discuss the points of law
with a perfect mastery of the subject. He believed that the rights
and liberties of the people were essentially concerned.... There
was an unusual solemnity and earnestness on his part in this
discussion. He was at times highly impassioned and pathetic. His
whole soul was enlisted in the cause, and in contending for the
rights of the Jury and a free Press, he considered that he was
establishing the surest refuge against oppression.... He never
before in my hearing made any effort in which he commanded higher
reverence for his principles, nor equal admiration of the power and
pathos of his eloquence.... I have very little doubt that if
General Hamilton had lived twenty years longer, he would have
rivalled Socrates or Bacon, or any other of the sages of ancient or
modern times, in researches after truth and in benevolence to
mankind. The active and profound statesman, the learned and
eloquent lawyer, would probably have disappeared in a great degree
before the character of the sage and philosopher, instructing
mankind by his wisdom, and elevating the country by his example.

[Ambrose Spencer, Attorney General of the State,--afterward Chief
Justice,--who did not love him, having received the benefit of
Hamilton's scathing sarcasm more than once, has this to say.]
Alexander Hamilton was the greatest man this country ever produced.
I knew him well. I was in situations to observe and study him. He
argued cases before me while I sat as judge on the bench. Webster
has done the same. In power of reasoning, Hamilton was the equal of
Webster; and more than this can be said of no man. In creative
power, Hamilton was infinitely Webster's superior, and in this
respect he was endowed as God endows the most gifted of our race.
If we call Shakspeare a genius or creator, because he evoked plays
and character from the great chaos of thought, Hamilton merits the
same appellation; for it was he, more than any other man, who
thought out the Constitution of the United States and the details
of the Government of the Union; and out of the chaos that existed
after the Revolution, raised a fabric, every part of which is
instinct with his thought. I can truly say that hundreds of
politicians and statesmen of the day get both the web and woof of
their thoughts from Hamilton's brains. He, more than any man, did
the thinking of the time.

His fooling was as inimitable as his use of passion and logic, and on
one occasion he treated Gouverneur Morris, who was his opposing counsel,
to such a prolonged attack of raillery that his momentary rival sat with
the perspiration pouring from his brow, and was acid for some time
after. During his earlier years of practice, while listening to
Chancellor Livingston summing up a case in which eloquence was made to
disguise the poverty of the cause, Hamilton scribbled on the margin of
his brief: "Recipe for obtaining good title for ejectment: two or three
void patents, several _ex parte_ surveys, one or two acts of usurpation
acquiesced in for the time but afterwards proved such. Mix well with
half a dozen scriptural allusions, some ghosts, fairies, elves,
hobgoblins, and a _quantum suff_. of eloquence." Hamilton also
originated the practice of preparing "Points," now in general use.


Hamilton, after the conclusion of the great libel case in the spring of
1804, returned from Albany to New York to receive honours almost as
great, if less vociferous, than those which had hailed him after the
momentous Convention of 1788. Banquets were given in his honour, the bar
extolled him, and the large body of his personal friends were triumphant
at this new proof of his fecundity and his power over the minds of men.
They were deeply disturbed on another point, however, and several days
after his arrival, Troup rode out to The Grange, Hamilton's
country-seat, to remonstrate.

Hamilton, several years since, had bought a large tract of wooded land
on Harlem Heights and built him a house on the ridge. It commanded a
view of the city, the Hudson, and the Sound. The house was spacious and
strong, built to withstand the winds of the Atlantic, and to shelter
commodiously not only his family, but his many guests. The garden and
the woods were the one hobby of his life, and with his own hands he had
planted thirteen gum trees to commemorate the thirteen original States
of the Union. Fortunately his deepest sorrow was not associated with
this estate; Philip had fallen before the house was finished. This
brilliant youth, who had left Columbia with flying honours, had brooded
over the constant attacks upon his father,--still the Colossus in the
path of the Democrats, to be destroyed before they could feel secure in
their new possessions,--until he had deliberately insulted the most
recent offender, received his challenge, and been shot to death close to
the spot where Hamilton was to fall a few years later. That was in the
autumn of 1801. Hamilton's strong brain and buoyant temperament had
delivered him from the intolerable suffering of that heaviest of his
afflictions, and the severe and unremitting work of his life gave him
little time to brood. If he rarely lost consciousness of his
bereavement, the sharpness passed, and he was even grateful at times
that his son, whose gifts would have urged him into public life, was
spared the crucifying rewards of patriotism.

As Troup rode up the avenue and glanced from right to left into the
heavy shades of the forest, with its boulders and ravines, its streams
and mosses and ferns, then to the brilliant mass of colour at the end of
the avenue, out of which rose the stately house, he sighed heavily.

"May the devil get the lot of them!" he said.

It was Saturday, and he found Hamilton on his back under a tree, the
last number of the _Moniteur_ close to his hand, his wife and Angelica
looking down upon him from a rustic seat. Both the women were in
mourning, and Betsey's piquant charming face was aging; her sister Peggy
and her mother had followed her son.

Hamilton had never recovered his health, and he paid for the prolonged
strains upon his delicate system with a languor to which at times he was
forced to yield. To-day, although he greeted the welcome visitor gaily,
he did not rise, and Troup sat down on the ground with his back to the
tree. As he looked very solemn, Mrs. Hamilton and Angelica inferred they
were not wanted, and retired.

"Well?" said Hamilton, laughing. "What is it? What have I done now?"

"Put another nail into your coffin, we are all afraid. The story of the
paper you read before the Federalist Conference in Albany is common
talk; and if Burr is defeated, it will be owing to your influence,
whether you hold yourself aloof from this election or not. Why do you
jeopardize your life? I'd rather give him his plum and choke him with

"What?" cried Hamilton, erect and alert. "Permit Burr to become Governor
of New York? Do you realize that the New England States are talking of
secession, that even the Democrats of the North are disgusted and
alarmed at the influence and arrogance of Virginia? Burr has a certain
prestige in New England on account of his father and Jonathan Edwards,
and his agents have been promoting discussion of this ancestry for some
time past. Do the Federalists of New York endorse him, this prestige
will have received its fine finish; and New Englanders have winked his
vices out of sight because Jefferson's treatment of him makes him almost
virtuous in their eyes. The moment he is Governor he will foment the
unrest of New England until it secedes, and then, being the first
officer of the leading State of the North, he will claim a higher office
that will end in sovereignty. He fancies himself another Bonaparte, he
who is utterly devoid of even that desire for fame, and that
magnificence, which would make the Corsican a great man without his
genius. That he is in communication with his idol, I happen to know, for
he has been seen in secret conversation with fresh Jacobin spies. Now is
the time to crush Burr once for all. Jefferson has intrigued the
Livingstons and Clinton away from him again; the party he patched
together out of hating factions is in a state of incohesion. If the

"That is just it," interrupted Troup; "the man is desperate. So are his
followers, his 'little band.' They were sick and gasping after Burr's
failure to receive one vote in the Republican caucus for even the
Vice-Presidency, and they know that the Louisiana Purchase has made
Jefferson invincible with the Democrats--or the Republicans, as
Jefferson still persists in calling them. They know that Burr's chance
for the Presidency has gone for ever. So New York is their only hope.
Secession and empire or not, their hope, like his, is in the spoils of
office; they are lean and desperate. If you balk them--"

"What a spectacle is this!" cried Hamilton, gaily. He threw himself back
on the grass, and clasped his hands behind his head. "Troup, of all men,
reproaching me for keeping a vow he once was ready to annihilate me for
having broken. That offence was insignificant to the crime of supinely
permitting our Catiline to accomplish his designs."

"If I could agree with you, I should be the last to counsel
indifference; no, not if your life were the forfeit. But I never
believed in Burr's talent for conspiracy. He is too sanguine and
visionary. He desires power, office, and emolument--rewards for his
henchmen before they desert him; but I believe he'd go--or get--no
farther, and the country is strong enough to stand a quack or two;
while, if we lose you--"

"You will live to see every prophecy I have made in regard to Burr
fulfilled. I will not, because so long as I am alive he shall not even
attempt to split the Union, to whose accomplishment and maintenance I
pledged every faculty and my last vital spark. Sanguine and visionary he
may be, but he is also cunning and quick, and there is a condition ready
to his hand at the present moment. Jefferson is bad enough, Heaven
knows. He has retained our machinery, but I sometimes fancy I can hear
the crumbling of the foundations; the demoralizing and the
disintegrating process began even sooner than I expected. He is
appealing to the meanest passion of mankind, vanity; and the United
States, which we tried to make the ideal Republic, is galloping toward
the most mischievous of all establishments, Democracy. Every cowherd
hopes to be President. What is the meaning of civilization, pray, if the
educated, enlightened, broad-minded, are not to rule? Is man permitted
to advance, progress, embellish his understanding, for his own selfish
benefit, or for the benefit of mankind? And how can his superiority
avail his fellows unless he be permitted to occupy the high offices of
responsibility? God knows, he is not happy in his power; he is, indeed,
a sacrifice to the mass. But so it was intended. He is the only
sufferer, and mankind is happier."

"Jefferson and Burr both have a consummate knowledge of the limited
understanding; they know how to tickle it with painted straws and bait
it with lies. Bonaparte is not a greater autocrat than Jefferson, but
our tyrant fools the world with his dirty old clothes and his
familiarities. But I am not to be diverted. I want to keep you for my
old age. I believe that you have done your part. It has been a
magnificent part; there is no greater in history. Your friends are
satisfied. So should you be. I want you to give up politics before it is
too late. I fear more than one evil, and it has kept me awake many
nights. Burr is not the only one who wishes you under ground. His
'little band' is composed of men who are worse than himself without one
of his talents. Any one of them is capable of stabbing you in the dark.
The Virginia Junta know that the Federalist party will exist as long as
you do, and that some external menace might cohere and augment it again
under your leadership. At every Federalist banquet last Fourth you were
toasted as the greatest man in America; and I know this undiminished
enthusiasm--as well as the influence of the _Evening Post_--alarms them
deeply. They are neither great enough nor bad enough to murder you, nor
even to employ someone to do it; but more than one needy rascal knows
that he has only to call you out and kill you according to the code, to
be rewarded with an office as soon as decency permits. There is another
menace. I suppose you have heard that Mrs. Croix married a Frenchman
named Stephen Jumel while you were in Albany?"

"Yes!" exclaimed Hamilton, with interest; "who is he?"

"A Parisian diamond merchant and banker, a personal friend of Bonaparte.
The belief is that he came over here as a special emissary of the
Consulate. Of course he brought a letter to that other illustrious
agent, and to the amazement of everybody he married her. They must
handle thousands of French money between them. France would be
something more than glad to hear of your elimination from this
complicated American problem; particularly, if you demonstrate your
power by crushing this last hope of Burr's. I doubt if Burr would call
you out with no stronger motive than a desire for personal revenge. He
is no fool, and he knows that if he kills you, he had better put a
bullet through his own brain at once. He is a sanguine man, but not so
sanguine as not to know that if he compassed your death, he would be
hounded into exile. But he is in a more desperate way financially than
ever. He can borrow no more, and his debtors are clamouring. If he is
defeated in this election, and the Jumels are sharp enough to take
advantage of his fury and despair,--I think she has been watching her
chance for years; and the talk is, she is anxious, for her own reasons,
to get rid of Burr, besides,--I believe that a large enough sum would
tempt Burr to call you out--"

"He certainly is hard up," interrupted Hamilton, "for he rang my front
door bell at five o'clock this morning, and when I let him in he went on
like a madman and begged me to let him have several thousands, or
Richmond Hill would be sold over his head."

"And you gave them to him, I suppose? How much have you lent him
altogether? I know from Washington Morton that Burr borrowed six hundred
dollars of you through him."

"I lent him the six hundred, partly because his desperate plight appeals
to me--I believe him to be the unhappiest wretch in America--and more
because I don't want Europe laughing at the spectacle of a
Vice-President of the United States in Debtor's prison. Of course I
can't lend him this last sum myself, but I have promised to raise it for

"Well, I argue with you no more about throwing away money. Did you
listen to what I said about Madame Jumel?"

"With the deepest interest. It was most ingenious, and does honour to
your imagination." Troup, with an angry exclamation, sprang to his
feet. Hamilton deftly caught him by the ankle and his great form
sprawled on the grass. He arose in wrath.

"You are no older than one of your own young ones!" he began; then
recovered, and resumed his seat. "This is the latest story I have heard
of you," he continued: "Some man from New England came here recently
with a letter to you. When he returned to his rural home he was asked if
he had seen the great man. 'I don't know about the _great_' he replied;
'but he was as playful as a kitten.'"

Hamilton laughed heartily. "Well, let me frolic while I may," he said.
"I shall die by Burr's hand, no doubt of that. Whether he kills me for
revenge or money, that is my destiny, and I have known it for years. And
it does not matter in the least, my dear Bob. I have not three years of
life left in me."


Burr was defeated by a majority of seven thousand votes; and New
England, which had hoped, with the help of a man who was at war with all
the powerful families of New York,--Schuylers, Livingstons, and Clintons
at the head of them,--to break down the oligarchy of which it had been
jealous for nearly a century, deserted the politician promptly.
Incidentally, Hamilton had quenched its best hope of secession, for the
elected Governor of New York, Judge Lewis, was a member of the
Livingston family. Burr was in a desperate plight. Debtor's prison and
disgrace yawned before him; his only followers left were a handful of
disappointed politicians, and these deserted him daily. But although his
hatred of Hamilton, by now, was a foaming beast within him, he was wary
and coolheaded, and history knows no better than he did that if he
killed the man who was still the most brilliant figure in America, as
well as the idol of the best men in it, cunning, and skill, and mastery
of every political art would avail him nothing in the future; every
avenue but that frequented by the avowed adventurer would be closed to
him. Moreover, he must have known that Hamilton's life was almost over,
that in a very few years he could intrigue undisturbed. Nor could he
have felt a keen interest in presenting to Jefferson so welcome a gift
as his own political corpse. But desperate for money, crushed to the
earth, his hatred for Hamilton cursing and raging afresh, the only
conspicuous enemy who might be bought with gold of the man who was still
a bristling rampart in the path of successful Jacobinism, he was in a
situation to fall an easy victim to greater plotters than himself. His
act, did he challenge Hamilton, would be ascribed to revenge, and the
towering figures in the background of the tragedy would pass unnoticed
by the horrified spectators in front.

On June 18th William Van Ness, Burr's intimate friend, waited upon
Hamilton with a studiously impertinent note, demanding an acknowledgment
or denial of the essence of certain newspaper paragraphs, which stated
that the leader of the Federalists had, upon various occasions,
expressed his low opinion of the New York politician, and in no measured
terms. Hamilton replied, pointing out the impossibility of either
acknowledging or denying an accusation so vague, and analyzed at length
the weakness of Burr's position in endeavouring to pick a quarrel out of
such raw material. He said, in conclusion:--

I stand ready to avow or disavow promptly and explicitly any
precise or definite opinion which I may be charged with having
declared of any gentleman. More than this cannot fitly be expected
from me; and especially, it cannot reasonably be expected that I
shall enter into an explanation upon a basis so vague as that which
you have adopted. I trust on more reflection you will see the
matter in the same light with me. If not I can only regret the
circumstance and must abide the consequences.

Hamilton foresaw the inevitable end, and commenced putting his affairs
in order at once; but, for both personal and abstract reasons, holding
the practice of duelling in abhorrence, he was determined to give Burr
any chance to retreat, consistent with his own self-respect. Burr
replied in a manner both venomous and insulting, and Hamilton called
upon Colonel Pendleton, General Greene's aide during the Revolution, and
asked him to act as his second. On the 23d he received a note from Van
Ness, inquiring when and where it would be most convenient for him to
receive a communication, and the correspondence thereafter was conducted
by the seconds.

It was Sunday, and Hamilton was at The Grange, when the note from Van
Ness arrived. He was swinging in a hammock, and he put the missive in
his pocket, shrugged his shoulders, and lifted himself on his elbow. His
entire family, with the exception of his wife and Angelica, were
shouting in the woods. The baby, a sturdy youngster of two, named for
the brother who had died shortly before his birth, emerged in a state of
fury. He had eighty-two years of vitality in him, and he roared like a
young bull. Hamilton's children inherited the tough fibre and the
longevity of the Schuylers. Of the seven who survived him all lived to
old age, and several were close to being centenarians.

Angelica was busy in her aviary, close by. She was now twenty, and one
of the most beautiful girls in the country, but successive deaths had
kept her in seclusion; and the world in which her parents were such
familiar figures was to remember nothing of her but her tragedy. Betsey,
still as slim as her daughter, ran from the house at the familiar roar,
and Gouverneur Morris came dashing through the woods with a half-dozen
guests, self-invited for dinner. It was an animated day, and Hamilton
was the life of the company. He had no time for thought until night. His
wife retired early, with a headache; the boys had subsided even earlier.
At ten o'clock Angelica went to the piano, and Hamilton threw himself
into a long chair on the terrace and clasped his hands behind his head.

"So," he thought, "the end has come. My work is over, I suppose.
Personally, I am of no account. All I would have demanded, by way of
reward for services faithfully executed, was the health to make a decent
living and ten or fifteen years of peaceful and uninterrupted intimacy
with my family. For fame, or public honours, or brilliant successes of
any sort, I have ceased to care. Nothing would tempt me to touch the

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