Click here to load reader

A Documentary Companion to the Exhibition at the Documentary Companion to the Exhibition at the New-YYork Historical Society with an Introduction by Richard Brookhiser 3 TABLE OF CONTENTS

  • View

  • Download

Embed Size (px)

Text of A Documentary Companion to the Exhibition at the Documentary Companion to the Exhibition at the...

  • AA DDooccuummeennttaarryy CCoommppaanniioonnttoo tthhee EExxhhiibbiittiioonn aatt tthhee

    NNeeww-YYoorrkk HHiissttoorriiccaall SSoocciieettyy

  • Published in honor of the New-York Historical Societyby the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

    New York, NY

    A Documentary Companionto the Exhibition at the

    New-YYork Historical Society

    wwiitthh aann IInnttrroodduuccttiioonn bbyyRRiicchhaarrdd BBrrooookkhhiisseerr

  • 3


    Introduction by Richard Brookhiser 5

    IMMIGRATION 8Hamiltons St. Croix: The Sugar Economy

    Hamiltons New York: A Vista of the City, c. 17561757

    REVOLUTION 10The liberties of America are . . . [at] stake: A Letter from Colonel Alexander

    Hamilton, with the Continental Army in New Jersey, to Robert R. Livingstonin Kingston, New York, June 28, 1777

    The want of money makes us want every thing else: A Letter from ColonelAlexander Hamilton, with the Continental Army in New Jersey, to Franois,the Marquis de Barb-Marbois, in Philadelphia, October 12, 1780

    MARRIAGE 14To be thus monopolized, by a little nut-brown maid like you: A Love Letter

    from Alexander Hamilton to Elizabeth Schuyler, October 6, 1780

    ABOLITION 16Regard, with Compassion, the Injustice done to . . . Slaves: The Principles of the

    New York Society for Promoting the Manumission of Slaves, February 4, 1785

    CONSTITUTION 18Men are naturally equal: Fragments of Hamiltons Oral Remarks at the

    Constitutional Convention, June 29, 1787

    We the People of the States: The Preamble to a Draft of the Constitution of theUnited States, August 1787

    We the People of the United States: The Preamble to the Constitution of theUnited States, September 17, 1787

    TREASURY 24Transmit to the Comptroller of the Treasury all . . . documents respecting the

    public debt: Hamiltons Order Issued from the Treasury Department,August 4, 1791

    Richard Brookhiser is an independent scholar and writer based in New York City. He is the author ofAlexander Hamilton, American (New York, 1999) and Historian Curator of the exhibition AlexanderHamilton: The Man Who Made Modern America, which will be held at the New-York HistoricalSociety from September 10, 2004 through February 28, 2005 and, in panel form, nationally thereafter.


    Justine AhlstromLibby GarlandNicole Seary

    Thanks to the following for additional research:Clare Brown, New-York Historical SocietyDonna Davey, New-York Historical Society

    Sandra Trenholm, Gilder Lehrman CollectionMina Rieur Weiner, New-York Historical Society

    Illustration credits: documents shown on pages 11, 17, 19, 30-31, 35, 37 and back cover are from the ManuscriptCollection of the New-York Historical Society; p8: slave leg chains, Gilder Lehrman Collection (GLC) 5338; sugarbowl, Collection of the New-York Historical Society (NYHS) 1974.2ab; p9: NYHS 1904.1; p13: GLC 12; p15: GLC773; p22: GLC 819.01; p23: GLC 3585; p25: GLC 4842.08; p27: GLC 496.028; p28: NYHS 1867.305; p33: GLC7882; back cover: portrait of Elizabeth Hamilton, NYHS 1978.58.

    ISBN 1-932821-02-3

    Copyright 2004The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

  • 54


    Alexander Hamilton lives in our memory because he died in a lurid duel withVice President Aaron Burr, and because we carry his face in our wallets, on the ten dol-lar bill. But Hamiltons packed and varied career was impressive enough for MountRushmore. More than any other Founder, he foresaw the America we now live in. Allthe Founders had high ideals, but Hamiltonindustrious, visionary, combative andurbaneshaped the institutions that would make those ideals come to life. The newnations legal, economic and political systems all bore Hamiltons mark.

    Hamilton was born on the Caribbean island of Nevis, probably in 1757, andraised on St. Croix. Those early years marked him. The shame of his birth, to unmarriedparents, fueled a lifelong concern with honor. The West Indian sugar economy, pros-perous and brutal, gave him a firsthand view of slavery, a system he would come tooppose. Clerking in a New York-based merchant house in St. Croix taught him theworkings of international commerce from the bottom up.

    In 1773, Hamilton was sent to New York to be educated. His identity as an immi-grant shaped his identity as an American. When native-born Americans of the periodspoke of their country, they usually meant their home states; Hamiltons loyalty wasonly and always to the United States. Sometimes the short-sighted particularism of hiscountrymen drove him to despair, but Hamilton always overcame it, and worked for theunity, strength and self-respect of his adopted nation.

    Hamilton arrived in New York during a dramatic time. Shortly after he began hisstudies at Kings College (now Columbia University), Britain and its colonies went towar. Hamilton left school to fight. His experience in the American Revolutionfirst asthe captain of a New York artillery company, then as a colonel on George Washingtonsstaffwas an education in military and political affairs.

    Hamilton believed ardently in the Revolutionary cause, but he could also facereality, and much of it was dark. Working for the Commander in Chief plunged him intothe countrys financial and constitutional problems. Congress, in its original form,lacked the power to tax; funding the war was thus a constant struggle. Hamilton chafedat the inefficiencies and lack of coordination. In a 1780 letter to a French diplomatic sec-retary, he complains that America is constantly mired in a system of feebleness andtemporary expedients.

    At the Constitutional Convention seven years later, Hamilton and the otherFramers undertook to repair the systemic feebleness that Hamilton had witnessed duringthe war. Hamilton and his fellow Federalists argued passionately for a stronger, morecentralized government. The document that the delegates to the Convention produced isan elaborate mechanism, but the change in the opening words of the Preamble, from thefirst draft to the final version, symbolizes its nationalizing and energizing tendencies:

    POLITICS 26In a choice of Evils . . . Jefferson is in every view less dangerous than Burr:

    Alexander Hamilton on the Deadlocked Presidential Election, December 23, 1800

    A Portrait of Alexander Hamilton by John Trumbull

    DUEL 29Aaron BurrAlexander Hamilton Correspondence Leading to the Duel

    of July 11, 1804

    General Hamilton was this morning woun[d]ed by that wretch Burr: A Letterfrom Hamiltons Sister-in-Law Angelica Church to Her Brother Philip J.Schuyler, July 11, 1804

    DEATH 34During his last illness: The Physicians Bill for Attending Hamiltons Deathbed

    Alexander Hamilton . . . Murdered: The Coroners Report on the Cause of Death,August 11, 1804

    The Order of March for Hamiltons Funeral, July 14, 1804 BACK COVER

    A Portrait of His Widow, Elizabeth Hamilton BACK COVER

  • 76

    DDooccuummeennttss ffrroomm tthheeNNeeww-YYoorrkk HHiissttoorriiccaall SSoocciieettyy

    aanndd tthheeGGiillddeerr LLeehhrrmmaann CCoolllleeccttiioonn,,

    oonn ddeeppoossiitt aatt tthheeNNeeww-YYoorrkk HHiissttoorriiccaall SSoocciieettyy

    We the People of the United States. That prophetic language was the handiwork ofGouverneur Morris, delegate from Pennsylvania. But it reflected the hopes and the ideasof Morriss friend Hamilton, who would spend the rest of his career implementing them.

    In his private affairs, as in his public ones, Hamilton joined the new nations elite.In December 1780, he had married Elizabeth Schuyler, daughter of General PhilipSchuyler and one of the most eligible young women in New York. His October 1780love letter to her glows with emotion. He loves his nut-brown maid, and he desiresher. But he also saysjestingly?that love makes him puny. These combustible pas-sions would give him, and Betsey, their share of grief.

    In 1788, the Constitution was ratified, in part because of Hamiltons intense pub-lic efforts on its behalf in The Federalist Papers, published in eighty-five installmentsin New York newspapers between October 1787 and May 1788. Hamilton conceived ofthe project and wrote nearly two-thirds of the essays; John Jay and James Madisonwrote the rest. In 1789, Washington became the nations first President and choseHamilton, his former aide, as Treasury Secretary. No small collection of Hamiltonianacan do more than hint at Hamiltons achievements in this office. Hamilton more thanany other Founder kept the weak new nation from bankruptcy; he and Washington keptit out of world war; he and his admirer John Marshall kept it from capricious justice. Ifhe had failed, we might use the phrase maple republics instead of banana republics,for the United States would have been the first one.

    No politician achieves everything he wantsespecially not a politician ascreative and headstrong as Hamilton. In his December 1800 letter to CongressmanHarrison Gray Otis, Hamilton performs the irksome task of choosing one enemy,Thomas Jefferson, over another, Aaron Burr, in that years deadlocked presidentialelection. This letter, one of a stream he produced that winter, is noteworthy for itspassing analysis of psychology: No compact, that [Burr] should make with any passionin his breast except Ambition, could be relied upon by himself. All the Founders wereambitious. But they all moderated (or made compacts with) their ambition: all of themsave Aaron Burr. Hence Hamilton reluctantly preferred Jefferson.

    Burr finally resented this, and many other slights. The gentlemen corresponded,and agreed to do what gentlemen did when honor was at stake. The Vice President andthe former Treasury Secretary met on July 11, 1804 at Weehawken, New Jersey.Hamiltons bullet

Search related