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one conformed to law, but also by many | true interests of the nation, would also tried patriots of distinguished reputation, ultimately bring about the greatest unawho feared from its ascendancy the annihi- nimity of sentiment and action. The purlation of the separate governments of the pose of Washington was right; his means States. Many of the former class wished were legitimate. the new government no good; many of To “establish justice,” was declared to both loudly prophesied its speedy failure be another of the principal objects of the to promote the prosperity of the country; people of the United States, in ordaining and some had adopted the policy of ac- and establishing their Constitution. And cepting office under it with a view of to this declaration the circumstances of gradually robbing it of its authority, as the country gave such an emphasis, that that of the Old Congress had before been it was adopted by Washington as another absorbed by the States. In taking the of the chief guides of his Administration. helm of affairs, under such circumstances, At the time it was made, both the Union Washington made that which was the and the different States were deeply inleading object of the Constitution, the volved in debts, incurred in the prosecu. leading object of bis Administration—"to tion of a war, the charges of which had form a more perfect union.” From his been greatly above the actual resources, first political act to his last, he never lost though not the certain prospects of the sight of this.
His ruling purpose and country. Individuals, likewise, from north hope, was, to bind together in bands to south, owed large sums for manufacwhich time could not break, but could tured goods, imported from Europe, both only strengthen, all the original members before and after the war, at which periods of the confederation who had striven to the system of exchanging American progether for freedom, and those wanderers, ducts for foreign manufactures kept the also, who, from the oppressed nations of balance of trade constantly against us. the earth, should seek out this poor man's The indebtedness of the country was so inheritance, to till and to possess it, that great, in fact, that all that portion of the they all might have “one country, one inhabitants who were poorly supplied with Constitution, one destiny."* By every moral courage, or honest principle, as well word and deed, therefore, he endeavored as ready resources, were disposed to disto allay the violence of anti-federal oppo-charge their obligations by a general sition, and to conciliate the minds of men bankruptcy. A repudiating party sprang of all classes in favor of the plan of up in the States. * A kind of civil war was government, which had been framed by waged by debtors against creditors, in the the best wisdom of the country. Partly progress of which the former endeavored with this design, he called to his cabinet to carry their points, by bringing the such friends of State rights as Thomas courts of justice and the ministers of the Jefferson and Edmund Randolph, the for- law into popular disfavor, and, finally, bemer of whom had at first been opposed came involved, in Massachusetts, in an open to the unconditional adoption of the Con rebellion, which demanded the confiscastitution, and had afterwards only so far tion of debts, a release from taxes, the modified his opinions, as to give it a continuation of a depreciated currency, and guarded approval. Yet it was no part of an equal distribution of property. The Washington's intention to court favor for
success of this party in some of the States, the Constitution by any sacrifice of its and the fear of its triumph in others, had principles, or lowering of its tone. On destroyed, previously to the formation of the contrary, he rested his hopes of pro- the new Constitution, nearly all credit, moting the indissoluble union of the States both public and private. It had defeated on a strictly constitutional administration the recommendations of Congress for of the government, as firm as it should be raising a revenue by imposts, making conciliatory. For he justly judged that them a by-word and a mockery through an uniformly decided, but temperate poli- the land. It had confirmed the demoralcy, being best calculated to advance the izing tendencies, which a long war, and a
* Daniel Webster.
* Marshall's Life of Washington, vol. 2, p. 103.
depreciated currency had developed in so- | children, in the days of their prosperity, ciety, had done much towards undermin- might louk back to the efforts of its ing that basis of common honesty on early manhood, and feel no shame. which alone the superstructure of free in The party in favor of “establishing jusstitutions can securely stand, and, finally, tice" having prevailed over the advocates had united with the friends of disunion in of repudiation and disunion, in the vote on forming an anti-federal party, for the pur- the adoption of the Constitution; the pose of preventing the adoption of the President, with the design of pursuing a federal Constitution by the people. financial policy, which should secure to
Washington was not a member of the the country the fruits of that triumph, party of repudiation. He was the head called to the head of the Department of and front of those, who, from the begin the Treasury the sterling integrity and ning, had opposed every attempt to make transcendent abilities of Alexander Hamilthe depreciated paper of the States a legal ton. As, however, this brilliant ornament tender in the payment of debts, due in a of his country's early history was charged sound currency; who struggled through by the opponents of the Administration all adverse circumstances for the exact with anti-republicanism, and as this old observance of both public and private en calumny still continues to be rolled, as a gagements; who were in favor of main sweet morsel, under the tongues of those taining the regular administration of jus- who claim to be their political descendtice, of sustaining a system of taxation as ants, * it
here to give it a vigorous as the resources of the country passing notice. Yet suffice it to state would reasonably bear, and of supplying simply the ground of the charge, and its the insufficiency of the revenues thus ac refutation. In the discussions of abstract quired, by pledging in security those pros- principles of government, so prevalent at pects of the nation, which were scarcely the time of the establishment of republiless valuable than actual possessions. can institutions in this country, and in While their opponents proposed to cure France, Hamilton, on the one hand, avowthe ills of the times by the counter prac ed in the society of bis intimate friends the tice of inflicting such ills as the continued opinion, that no nation had ever possessed emission of paper money, the delay of le a political system, so nearly approaching gal proceedings, the withholding of taxes, to perfection, as the British; and, on the the refusal of the stipulated pay of the other, he at the same time declared his soldier, who had shed his blood in the conviction, that a monarchy was entirely cause of liberty and his country, this party unsuited to the dispositions, and circumprescribed, as the only safe remedies, the stances of the American people. Accordpractice of increased industry and frugali- ingly, the highest toned propositions made ty, the turning of all citizens from the cor by him in the Convention for framing the rupting speculations, and dissolute courses, Constitution, were for having a President which prevailed after the war, to the pa- and Senate, elected by the people, to tient cultivation of the virgin soil, and to hold office during good behavior, and a the prosecution of all those trades and House of Representatives duang three arts, which the wants of a growing coun years.
And these propositions, although try promised richly to remunerate. As a they appear to have been suggested for brave and high-minded young man, who, the purpose of eliciting and giving tone to entering upon the struggle for a livelihood, the sentiments of the Assembly, rather burdened with the charges of his outfit, than from any expectation of their being easily denies himself the indulgence of adopted, and were subsequently withcostly comforts, and cheerfully binds drawn in favor of a more popular plan of himself to unremitting toils, in order to their author, were found to be in harmony lay, in the honest payment of his debts, with the views of no fewer than five the foundations of honorable success, so States, including among them Virginia. did Washington desire to see this young The wish of Hamilton was, that the govcountry start in the career of nations with honor bright; even in adversity keeping its
* See Gen. Cass' Letter to the Committee of faith ; so that its children and its children's the Baltimore Convention,
ernment should be so constructed, as to Secretary of the Treasury to report to the possess all the energy reconcilable with House, at the next session, a plan for plathe republican theory upon which it was cing the public credit on a footing conto be founded ; not with a view of facili- sistent with the national honor and prostating usurpation by its head, but for the perity. This resolution was in accordance purpose of avoiding those anarchical ten- with the suggestion of the President, in dencies, the development of which ren his Inaugural Address, that the foundaders first necessary, and finally palatable, tions of our national policy should be laid the exercise of dictatorial authority. A in the pure and immutable principles of more signal example, therefore, of the private morality, and was referred to in base ingratitude of men, when under the terms of approbation, in his Speech to dominion of the spirit of political party, Congress, at the commencement of its can hardly be found, than this sedulous second session. The invention, however, keeping alive, on the one hand, the mem of the system of measures recommended ory of Hamilton's theoretical preference in the Report of the Secretary, and subseof monarchy, which was never declared quently adopted, with few alterations, by on any responsible occasion, and never al Congress, is due entirely to the genius of lowed to control any public act, and, on Hamilton, whose mind, even during the the other, the studied forgetting of the war, had been anxiously turned to the great services rendered to republican lib- financial embarrassments of the country, erty by one, who was among the foremost and had suggested several measures of to take up his pen in opposition to British great importance for their relief. Now, tyranny, among the most faithful in fight the condition of the finances, if less desing the battles of American independence, perate, was still more involved than when among the wisest in framing the federal under the superintendence of the financier Constitution, the most influential in ob- of the Revolution, Robert Morris. For taining for it the popular approval, and the government of the Confederation had the most zealous in carrying it into oper- utterly failed to pay its debts. It had ation—by one, who after having long solemly pledged the faith of the nation ; served under Washington, as a member but it had not kept it. The army had of his military family, during the war, and been disbanded, without being paid; the of his civil council, under the Constitution, citizens who had trusted the State, had retired from both stations with the testi- found its promises false; the claims of the monial of his chief, that he had deserved French government on the Union were well of his country-by one, finally, re set down in the Compte Rendu of M. specting whom the impartial voice of a Necker, as of doubtful character; and the foreign historian and statesman has said, needy French officers, who had shed their
There is not in the Constitution of the blood in the cause of American independa United States an element of order, of ence, begged at the doors of its official force, of duration, which he did not pow- representative in Paris, and were denied. erfully assist in introducing and causing to Chaos, was the expression commonly, and predominate."*
That such a man should fitly, used to designate the state of the have wished to overthrow, or to impair finances, during the last years of the rule the work of his whole life, by bringing of the Confederation, which, by a suicidal into republican America a “king, lords, construction of the terms of its authority, and commons,” as was alleged by his had failed to assume the power of enforenemies, is a folly too great to be credited cing its resolves for raising a revenue. by the wise, though a calumny too effec- Accordingly at the commencement of the tive to be forgotten by the unprincipled. new government, there was an empty
The first session of the first Congress treasury and thirty-nine millions of debts, having been spent, chiefly, in framing including those due by the Union, and by laws for putting the government into ope- the several States, on account of the ration, the House of Representatives, near Union. The foreign debt was twelve milits close, passed a resolution directing the lions, the debt of the Union to individual
citizens about two, that of the several * Guizot's Washington.
States about twenty-five.
Hamilton, taking his stand, we will not can army supplies of clothing, provisions say, on the highest moral ground, but on and munitions, advancing pay and bounthe level of common honesty, proposed to ties to the troops, and constructing works Congress to pay these debts, one and all. of defense against the common enemy, it The principle of his plan was as simple, was declared to be unconstitutional to pay as the plainest maxims of equity; its de- this part of the “price of liberty.” But tails were as complicated, as the difficul as the separate States, in adopting the ties to be resolved, and the interests to be constitution, had relinquished the most promoted by it. Of these, we can only available means of paying these debts say, that he proposed, in the first place, themselves, by giving up the power of to discharge the foreign debt, according laying imposts, as well as by their previto the letter of the contracts. In the sec ous liberal cession of western lands to the ond place, he proposed that the debts of Union, it was well known that if Congress, the particular States, incurred in defense which had been expressly authorized to of the country against the common enemy, “pay the debts” of the United States, should be assumed as the debt of the should refuse to provide for these securiUnited States. In the third place, he ties, their value would be greatly impairproposed that all these liabilities assumed ed, and their ultimate liquidation, at least by the Union, both those of the old Con- in some States, be rendered extremely imgress and those of the separate States, probable. Instead, therefore, of seconding should be funded, and liquidated on such the Administration in its endeavors to imjust terms, as should be satisfactory to the prove and establish the credit of the creditors. For carrying this plan into country, in the only way practicable, this effect, adequate and permanent revenues opposition tended directly to dishonor it, were to be provided by means of imposts, to spot the national name with bad faith excises, the proceeds of the sales of public indelibly, and to perpetuate all the evils lands, and loans.
which hindered the general prosperity This plan of paying the debts of the under the bankrupt Confederation. It country, which was finally adopted only was a shoot from the diseased root of forby small majorities in both houses of Con mer repudiation, of the old dislike of debtgress, furnished the enemies of the new paying and tax-gathering. government with an opportunity for mus The opposition, which was made to this tering their forces in open field, and com- system for establishing national justice mencing the campaign of opposition. In and national credit, naturally pursued all passing them in review, it will be neces the measures recommended by the Secresary to bear in mind that the party, which tary of the Treasury, for its execution. had opposed the adoption of the federal | Among the most important of these, was Constitution, still continued, (though not the creation of a bank partly owned and without a considerable change of leaders,) directed by the government. Such an inin existence under it, and now directed its stitution having been approved by all the efforts towards rendering ineffectual the principal commercial nations of that day, operation of the instrument, of which it and having, under the Confederation, renhad not been able to prevent the estab- dered valuable aid to the cause of indelishment. And as this party had origina- pendence, it was now looked to as an inted, under the Confederation, in a wide- dispensable instrument for providing funds spread disposition to escape from the ob- to meet the large and frequently recurring ligations of individual indebtedness, it was payments to the public creditors. Subsenot strange that it should make its reap- quent events proved that its necessity was pearance, under the Constitution, in an not overrated, for so heavy had been effort to disavow the liabilities of the the charges of eight years of war, and so State. The opposition was directed loud was the outcry, both in Congress, against several points of the proposed and out of it, against the raising of adesystem, but turned chiefly on the assump-quate revenues to defray them, that the tion of the debts of the separate State Administration, throughout its whole dugovernments. Notwithstanding these had ration, had to strain every nerve, and use been incurred in furnishing to the Ameri- | all lawful expedients, in order to pay
punctually and honorably the debts of the object before alluded to as never lost country as they fell due. That it was a sight of by the first President, viz: the legitimate, as it then was a necessary, in- forming “a more perfect union" of the strument for facilitating the financial opera- people of the country under the federal tions of the government, cannot reasona government. The assumption and fundbly be denied by those, who fairly inter- | ing of the claims of all the public creditpret the sense of the Constitution, and ors rendered this large and influential class who give due weight to the sanction of citizens more directly interested in the which the banking system had already maintenance of the Union. The founding received in the country, and which it. of the credit of the government on the continued to receive through a succession joint basis of public and private resources, of the earlier federal administrations. by means of a national bank, bound the
As, however, the unconstitutionality of fortunes of a large number of capitalists the act for establishing the bank was in all the States to the fortunes of the vehemently urged by the minority in both republic. The permanent character, also, houses of Congress, and maintained, like of this financial system established in opwise, by the half of his cabinet, Washing-position to the loose scheme of temporary ton took time to give the subject a most expedients advocated by the opposition, careful examination. After due delibera- gave to the Union the strength and the tion, he approved of it. He approved of dignity resulting from a settled, as well as all the financial recommendations of Hamil a sound policy of legislation. Thus, the ton—the funding system and the whole greater proportion of the men of property train of measures for carrying it into and influence throughout the country were operation. He not only sanctioned them, rallied around a government, which ache adhered to them. Amid opposition so knowledged the justness of their claims, constant, so violent that it led in the end which established American credit, which to treasonable resistance to the revenue furnished by its negotiable securities aids laws, Washington never wavered in his to private enterprise, and which encoursupport of the policy he had adopted of aged permanent investments of capital, by establishing justice in the land, and main-persevering in a steady and upright course taining the plighted faith of the nation of legislation. The bands of interest were before the world. Thus, was secured, welded to those of patriotism, in order to throughout his Administration, a unity of bind indissolubly together many in one purpose, as remarkable as the attacks people. upon it were manifold, and the events of But if the strengthening of the new inthe period were discordant. And here stitutions of the nation by the support of it may be added, that it has always those classes of the people whose influence been common, among
of was strongest, and whose principles were the principles of the Washington Ad- the most to be relied upon, was an addiministration, to stigmatize the financial tional motive with Washington, in approvmeasures thus firmly adhered to, as the ing the plans of his Secretary, it was measures of a party, of which Hamilton viewed as another ground of opposition, was the founder. But, without insisting by the advocates of a weak central, and a upon the impropriety of designating such strong sectional authority. Open eneplans for securing impartial justice and mies, or lukewarm friends, of the federal the general welfare, as party plans, we government, from the beginning, as likely must, at least, be allowed to affirm that to absorb the powers of the local governthe policy recommended by the Secretary ments, they eagerly attacked the financial was deliberately, cordially approved by policy of the Administration, on the ground his responsible chief, and that whoever that it tended directly to the realization characterizes it as party policy, character of their apprehensions. To arouse the izes Washington as a partisan.
fears and the jealousies of the mass of The financial policy of the Administra- the people, also, they loudly declared that tion of Washington had also a secondary it was the intention of the government to object to accomplish, not inferior in im- purchase, by the favors of an overgrown portance to the leading one. It was that I treasury, the support of a host of cor