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The historical accuracy of Gertrude Atherton's The Conqueror

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A Thesis
Presented to
the Faculty of the Department of History
University of Southern California
In Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Degree
Master of Arts
Gunda Marie Hammer
June 1940
UMI Number: EP59454
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UMI EP59454
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T h i s thesis, w r i t t e n by
f 7 2,2^
u n d e r the d i r e c t i o n o f h .^T . F a c u l t y C o m m i t t e e ,
a n d a p p r o v e u ^ b y a l l it s m e m b e r s , has been
presented to and accepted by the C o u n c i l on
G ra d u a t e S t u d y a n d Research in p a r t i a l f u l f i l l m e n t o f t h e r e q u i r e m e n t s f d r ith^
h ^ ^ d<e g r e e o f
JUHE, 1940
F a c u lty Com m ittee
cut^ s -coJ
C hairm an
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The p r o b l e m ..............................
Method of procedure
General plan of the t h e s i s .............
Alexander Hamilton and American affairs . . . .
The fame of Hamilton and some of his con­
temporaries according to Mrs. Atherton
Mrs. Atherton’s extravagant descriptions of
H a m i l t o n ...........
.. .
Some additional examples of conclusive but
questionable descriptions of Hamilton . . . .
The great admiration which Hamilton inspired
Mrs. Atherton’s extravagant style of wri,ting
Hamilton the first to suggest the resort to
a r m s ..................................
Hamilton not interested in personal gain
Hamilton not egotistical
. . . . .
. .
Hamilton the most prominent .figure at the
Hew York bar
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Hamilton and the Constitutional Convention
Hamilton the author of the dual principle
in government
Hamilton and the Federalist e s s a y s ........
Hamilton and some of his
financial policies .
Hamilton and Mrs* Croix . . . . . . . . . . .
Some extravagant statements which Mrs.
Atherton attributes to General Washington .
The friendly relations between George
Washington and Alexander Hamilton . . . . .
. General Washington establishes his fame
. . . . .
. . . . .
The leadership of General Washington during
the period of the American Revolution . . .
The leadership of George Washington during
his presidency
The Washington administration extends and
formulates foreign p o l i c i e s ............
Political alignment in the United States
The generally derogatory treatment accorded
Jefferson by Mrs. Atherton in The
C o n q u e r o r ..................................
Jefferson’s rival resorts to subterfuge .
Jefferson: character and some achievements
Jefferson and French ideas
Jefferson’s approval of the Constitution of
the United S t a t e s ...................
. .
C O N C L U S I O N S ........ .. .........................
In 1902, Mrs. Gertrude Atherton presented to the
reading public her novel, The Conqueror.
Beginning with a
study of Alexander Hamilton’s immediate ancestry, and
closing with a portrayal of the last period of his life,
Mrs. Atherton employed highly prejudiced and exaggerated
language in giving her version of the Hamilton period.
The purpose of this thesis is to study in,a criti­
cal manner some of Mrs. Atherton’s ideas as they appear in
The Conqueror, somewhat in their relation to historical
An attempt will be made to evaluate several of
Mrs. Atherton’s statements by comparing them with a few
statements of similar nature held or substantiated by re­
cognized authorities in history.
To determine what is the
truthful presentation in any instance is not the purpose of
this thesis; but, as has already been indicated, it is to
study the book, The Conqueror, along comparative lines.
It was, indeed, Mrs. Atherton’s privilege to present
a study of the Hamilton period in her volume and to c olor
the biography to suit her fancy, but since she included
among her introductory remarks this statement, "At all
events, I have depicted nothing which in any way interferes
with the veracity of history,”'1' it may not he amiss to com.pare some of her statements purporting to be factual with,
those made by other writers of historical material., particu­
larly, since her manner and style of writing appear to be
in marked deviation with some of the demands of historical
It would, therefore, seem essential that Mrs.
Atherton’s choice of words, her descriptions, her assump­
tions, and her conclusions be subjected to some degree of
To uphold the veracity of history is a prodigious
task, and most
likely, an impossible one.
Even a simple
regard for what is hoped or thought to approach the truth
is, frequently, beyond realization.
This consideration for
the truth generally implies that a writer, in order to be
impartial and objective in viewpoint, would avoid exaggera­
tion, misrepresentation, and distortion; also, in the anal­
yses and the interpretations of persons'and problems, the
conclusions' reached and the generalizations formulated
should be those which evolve naturally, rather than those
which emerge in bias.
As to the problem of the relation between personal
bias and historical accuracy, it is recognized that it is
very difficult, even in the study of documentary material,
1 Gertrude Franklin Atherton, The Conqueror (New York
The Macmillan Company, 1904), p. x.
for a writer to be so coldly analytical and so absolutely
bereft of prejudice as to preclude entirely the element of
bias, particularly when movements dominated to a great de­
gree by the human element come under consideration.
how, and in some fashion, the writer’s prejudice reveals
itself for the reason that the selective process in the
building up of an historical figure or a situation is within
the writer’s control. -This selective process, however, does
not allow the use of exaggeration, condexmation, assumptions,
and sweeping generalizations of the types employed by Mrs.
Atherton in her book, The Conqueror,— that is, if histori­
cal accuracy be one of the objectives of the writer.
A writer may arrange his material in such a manner
as to build up a prejudiced viewpoint, and yet the result
may be within the bounds of historical accuracy, unless the
arrangement be carried to an extreme, in which case, d i s - •
tortion would be the result.
Mrs. Atherton has in her study
of the Hamilton period displayed extreme bias.
A writer'of historical fiction, interested in creat­
ing a good story, need not be greatly concerned over the
matter of authenticity,' and is privileged to create as Mrs.
Atherton has, a story in which the hero, Alexander Hamilton,
fairly shines forth in the halo of his virtue.
The story,
too, will undoubtedly, have greater popular appeal, if a
scoundrel of the type Mrs. Atherton has created in Thomas
Jefferson, skulks about to disturb the equilibrium.
again, Mrs. Atherton’s statement, "At all events., I have
depicted nothing which in any way interferes with the
veracity of history,” indicates that she, at the time of
writing The Conqueror, was interested in the matter of
In this thesis, then, an.attempt will be made, through
comparative study,-to demonstrate that some of Mrs. Ather­
ton’s statements in the book,do*not conform in meaning with
those submitted by other writers of history.
In view of the fact that Mrs. Atherton has presented
a great number and variety of ideas in the above-mentioned
book, no attempt will, be made to study all statements which
appear questionable; only a few will be subjected to scru­
tiny .
The sections of study in this thesis are arranged
around the lives of Alexander Hamilton, George Washington,
and Thomas Jefferson, particularly in their relation to
M r s . Atherton’s presentation.
Aside from noticing some of the language which Mrs.
Atherton puts into the mouth of George Washington, no at­
tempt has been made in this thesis to establish through the
process of inference, or by historical evidence, the authen­
ticity of the ideas enunciated by the characters in the num­
erous conversational scenes which appear throughout the book.
Alexander Hamilton, of Scotch and French-Huguenot
extraction, was horn in 1757, "his birthplace being Nevis,
a mountainous island of the *picturesque Antilles."^
islands, Nevis, St. Christopher, and St. Croix, "are the
centre of the greatest interest so far as the early history
of Hamilton is concerned."2
Leaving these islands in 1772
and landing in the American city of Boston in the same year,
Alexander Hamilton, within a short time, became conspicuous­
ly and incisively active in the affairs of the new country
and continued to be until July 11, 1804, when his somewhat
turbulent career was brought to an abrupt close by a mortal
wound inflicted by Aaron Burr during a duel in which the
two participated.
These thirty years of Hamilton’s life
in the new country witnessed not only the American struggle
for independence from the mother country and the formation
of the United States Constitution, but also the organization
and the early development of the United States under the new
1 Allan McLane Hamilton, The Intimate Life of Alexan­
der Hamilton (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1910), p. 1.
2 Loc. cit.
While the patriotism of Hamilton’s somewhat short,
but meteoric career is classed by many as being of high
caliber, and his interpretation of the theory and science
of government as penetrating, it is his perspicacity in the
planning and the managing of the early fiscal policies of
the United States which appears to receive the greatest
amount of recognition.
This stirring period in American 'history of which
Alexander Hamilton was so actively a part,— one generously
supplied with men of varied and outstanding talent, was
nurtured, as is any great period, with the ideas of many
No one person alone shaped the early policies of
the country.
Mrs. Atherton, however, in her book, The Conqueror, ■
viewing Hamilton in the light of hero-worship, has allowed
him to loom up somewhat in the form of■a directing power in
determining the destiny of the nation, in most instances
overshadowing and submerging the influence of such eminent
contemporaries as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and
‘James Madison.
In writing of the years when Hamilton was active as o.f_the Treasury in Washington’s cabinet, Mrs.
Atherton makes the following statement’: ”His fame obscured
that of Washington, and abroad he was by far the most inter­
esting and significant figure in the young country.
The Washington-Hamilton relations will be analyzed
more in detail in a later chapter, but at this point, the
-above statement may, perhaps, be looked upon as being of a
dubious character.
Washington, before being' unanimously
chosen for the presidency of the new republic, had been in
command of the rebel forces during the American Revolution;
and, then, a few years after the war, he served as the
president of the Constitutional Convention.
Because of
this conspicuous activity and outstanding leadership, it
may be assumed that his fame equalled and far outshone that
of his talented Secretary of the Treasury, not only in this
country, but in Europe "as well.
Neither Washington nor Hamilton had ever been in
In spite of that fact, the name of George Washing­
ton was recognized abroad.
Of the several outstanding
.Americans who early represented the new American nation in
European countries, a few, most likely, had managed to attain
fame and recognition in foreign courts to a degree comparable,
if not greater, than that which Alexander Hamilton was able
to muster.
Franklin achieved recognition of a highly com­
Atherton, The Conqueror, p. 360.
mendable type, and Jefferson succeeded admirably in establighing his identity abroad.
Long before he ever went to
France, Jefferson had acquired fame.through his writing of
the Declaration of Independence.
In France, ’’the prestige
of the author of the Declaration of Independence was such
that the committee in charge of a plan of constitution
thought they could do no better than to call into consulta­
tion the Minister of the United States.”4
Among the most celebrated of the American travellers
in Europe during these years was Gouverneur Morris; of the
general impression he created abroad, Bemis writes:
Gouverneur Morris was one of the most brilliant
Americans then living. He was acknowledged by his
countrymen, and by foreigners who knew him, 'as a man
of great talents, if not genius. From 1789 to 1796
most of his time was passed in the great capitals of
Europe, where during tumultuous years he acquired an
exceptional reputation as a perspicacious political
observer... . . Morris’s pleasing personality, from
which flowed without interruption a sparkling and gal­
lant conversation, had launched him as a great favorite
into the midst of French society.
In spite of his
leanings towards mild aristocratic government, a pen­
chant which did not coincide with the liberal cult
•then fashionable among French philosophers, he soon
became a social lion and achieved a reputation as an
homme d ’esprit probably never- equalled by any other
American in France, Franklin excepted.5
With all these fine qualities, Gouverneur Morris was most
4 Gilbert Chinard, Thomas Jefferson (Baltimore: The
Johns Hopkins Press, 19E6), p. £35.
5 Samuel Flagg Bemis, Jay’s Treaty (New York: The
Macmillan Company, 19£3), p. 48.
likely not ’’trusted by all men,”6 as Mrs* Atherton indicates.
In the words of Farrand, Morris appears thus:
Sharp-witted, clever, startling in his audacity, and
with a wonderful command of language, he was admired
more than he was trusted, for he was inconsistent and
he was suspected of being lax in morals .as well as
lacking in principles.?
Chinard describes Gouverneur Morris somewhat similarly:
As witty and devoid of ordinary morals and honesty
as Talleyrand himself, elegant, refined, and corrupt,
Gouverneur Morris had been, since his arrival in Paris,
the toast of French aristocrats.8
Furthermore, Chinard, in writing of the period, prior
to the inauguration of the new United States government, and
with particular reference to the year when Jefferson went
to France as a foreign minister, does not single out Hamil­
ton as being the most famous American of the day.
His rat­
ing of eminent Americans is as follows: "Next to Washington,
who remained in America, and-to Doctor Franklin, a debonair
patriarch, he [Jefferson] was the most famous national
figure of A m e r i c a . T h o u g h Hamilton was conspicuously ac­
tive during the years of Jefferson’s absence, tp the extent
o jd
cit., p. 233.
Max Farrand, The Framing of the Constitution of the
United States (New.-Haven: Yale University Press, 1913), p.21.
• 8
Chinard, oj>. c i t ., p. 323.
9 I M d . , p. 154.
that he acquired lasting fame, yet it is likely that Jeffer­
son upon his return to America, was as famous as he had been
at the time of his departure.
The fame of Washington, too,
had presumably not receded.
In spite of the superb achievements of numerous con­
temporary statesmen, both at home and abroad, Mrs. Atherton
prefers, in most instances, to present Alexander Hamilton
in her book, The Conqueror, as the pre-eminent one; she
would have' him shine forth in full resplendence in practi­
cally all situations.
Mrs. Atherton selects Hamilton’s
characteristics as being of the type which "raise him high
above history as the genius of the American race."-^
proclaims ecstatically: "Never had there been such a con­
quering h e r o . " H
She adheres to the belief that Hamilton
"had manifestly been born to extricate them [the people of
the Nation] from difficulties."-*-2
At times, Mrs. Atherton’s
words of praise reach the point of deification, and accord­
ingly, she asserts that Hamilton through no fault of.his, had
inspired his friends with the belief that he was something
10 Atherton, op>. cit., p. 207.
11 I M l - » P* 387 •
12 Ibid., p. 456.
higher than human.
Heroic language of- the type exemplified above is
suitable for mythicai tales, but not for material purport­
ing to meet the demands of historical accuracy; rather,
this highly eulogistic treatment is in marked deviation
such demands.
Besides eulogizing the character of Hamilton lav­
ishly, Mrs. Atherton extols the achievements of his career
in language of the following nature.
The energy-which is one of the distinguishing char­
acteristics of the American nation today was generated
by Hamilton, might, indeed, be said to be the persis­
tence and diffusion of his ego. For the matter of that,
all that is greatest in this American evolution of a
century was typified in Hamilton.I"*
Superlative attributes are bestowed by Mrs. Atherton
upon Hamilton.
During the period of the American Revolu­
tion, when he was a private secretary under General Washing­
ton, Mrs. Atherton describes the young man as possessing
superhuman understanding, inasmuch as "he knew every want of
the country;”-^ also, during the same period, "when he was
on the platform, that ruthless test of inches," she writes
"he dominated and controlled every brain in the audience."1^
Ibid., p. 159.
14 Ibid., p. 207.
15 Doc, cit.
16 Ibid., p. 226.
A highly trained and experienced orator might not presume to
have that much control over his audience,
Mrs. Atherton, also, establishes very definitely an
appraisal of Hamilton*s style of writing.
With reference
to "a remarkable letter written in September, 1780, to James
Duane of New York, in which "Alexander Hamilton, then only
twenty-'three, years old, set forth the defects of the confed­
eration, and attributed them ultimately to state sover­
eignty,"-^ Mrs. Atherton writes that "nothing more logical,
farsighted, and comprehensive was ever written;"-1-8
referring to the language employed by Hamilton in the
Federalist Essays» she indicates that Hamilton’s "own style
for purity, distinction, and profundity combined with sim­
plicity has never been excelled."*1-®
Admittedly, Hamilton’s
style of writing is very outstanding in several qualities,
but in consideration of all the literature which has been
produced, expressions of the above kind made by Mrs. Ather­
ton, might, in the opinion of some, be .questionable.
The same type of conclusive praise is employed by
Mrs. Atherton in describing Hamilton’s oratory.
was not only the most brilliant, resourceful, but unanswer-
1 rp
Robert L. Schuyler, The Constitution of the United
States (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1923), p. 31.
Atherton, op. pit-, p. 208.
19 Ibid... p. 270.
able orator of bis time, but he was gifted with an almost
diabolical power over the emotions of men.
one occasion^ when he presented his plan of government in
the Constitutional Convention, Mrs. Atherton, with refer­
ence to the occasion asserts unauthoritatively that "he
spoke for six hours without the interruption of a scraping
With reference to the oratorical ability of
Hamilton, James Truslow Adams indicates that "Hamilton was
not an orator" and that "his style was diffuse.”
contributes the following.information: "There was little of
fancy in his speeches, scarcely any appeal to the emotions.
. . . The .stories of audiences moved to tears are scarcely
in keeping with the absence of the slightest attempt at
pathos or appeals to emotions.
Of Hamilton’s fame in the legal field a few years be­
fore the
meeting of the Constitutional Convention,
Atherton states that he was endowed with
"a memory and a
legal faculty which had so astounded the bar--largely com­
posed of exceptional men— that it' could talk of
20 Ibid., p . 285.
21 Ibid.. p. 266.
James T. Adams, The March of Democracy (New York:
Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1932), p7 170.
Claude G-. Bowers, Jefferson and Hamilton (New York:
Houghton, Mifflin Company, 1925), p . 26.
Atherton, o j d . cit . , p. 227.
Presumably, the members of the bar in Hamilton’s time
had before them numerous problems sufficiently perplexing in
nature to preclude their being occupied exclusively \with a
discussion of the ability of Hamilton, even though it may
have been of an astounding nature.
There entered into the
legal profession talent and ability of sufficient variety to
promote within'the group rivalry, Jealousy, and strong feel­
ing to the extent that the members could not be totally ab­
sorbed with the discussion of the talent of any one individual.
Hamilton was at that time, Mrs. Atherton writes,
twenty-five years old.
Perhaps, despite his exceptional
brilliance, he did not possess the maturity of such indivi­
duals as lames Wilson and lames Madison.
Even a few years
later, in 1787, Hamilton is not singled out by critics as the
leading attorney in attendance upon the Constitutional Con­
Among the fine representation of legal talent at­
tending the Constitutional Convention, Beck selects lames
Wilson, delegate from the state of Pennsylvania, as one par­
ticularly outstanding for his legal background; it is his
opinion that "while the Convention numbered many lawyers, it
is probable that lames Wilson was the most learned Jurist of
them all."
Eiske, al&o, refers to lames Wilson as "one
lames M. Beck, The Constitution of the United States
(New York: Ceorge H. Doran Company, 1924), p. 67.
of the most learned jurists this country has ever seen."20
Conspicuously active at the same time, James Madison, too,
acquired lasting fame because of his skill in applying his
fine fund of legal knowledge.
Referring to Madison, Bowers
Here, too, was a man with a background second to
none in the infant Republic. . . . At the time he rose
to propose an amendment to Hamilton*s plan [for funding
the debt]' there was not a man in.America who was his
peer in the knowledge of constitutional law or history.
Nor was there a man, either, whose support Hamilton
more eagerly coveted.27
This last-mentioned idea is somewhat in divergence with
Mrs. Atherton*s assertion to the effect that Madison was
"willing to be led by Hamilton."28
Spme additional examples of conclusive, but obviously,
questionable statements pertaining to Hamilton and his career
and appearing in The Conqueror are the following:
The wedding of:Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth
Schuyler was the most notable private event of the
Hamilton was in "an alliance by marriage with the
greatest family in America."30
John Fiske, The Critical Period of American History
(New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1888T7 P« 2£6.
Bowers, op> cit., p. 51.
Atherton, op. cit., p. 253.
Ibid., p. 211.
30 Ibid., p. 227.
Hamilton "was the theme of every drawing-room, of
, every coffee-house group and conclave
Hamilton’s hand "was perhaps the most beautiful hand
in America, and almost as famous as its owner,"32
From end to end of the Union his [Hamilton’s] name
was on every lip. . . .33
No man in the United States was— nor has been since—
so loved
and so hated,9 both in' public and in Mprivate
Moreover, no American had made such sacrifices as
In a dramatized biography of purely fictional type,
statements of the above kind would, perhaps, not be read
literally; but, Mrs. Atherton has very definitely stated:
"At all events, I have depicted nothing which in any way
interferes with the veracity of history."33
in writing with the degree of finality and employing such
all-inclusive terms with reference to ideas, obviously ques­
tionable, as are exemplified above, Mrs. Atherton has de­
viated from historical accuracy.
31 Ibid., p. 250.
53 Ibid.. p. 327.
33 Ibid., p. 360.
34 Ibid., p . 387.
35 Ibid.. p. 451.
36 Ibid., p . x.
Exaggerated and prejudiced
ideas such as the above may be held as personal opinions,
but should' not be set forth as facts of -history.
Mrs. Atherton’s descriptions' of the great love which
Hamilton inspired in the hearts of individuals and groups
of people descends to a ridiculously sentimental level.
Presumably, Hamilton as a young man inspired great admira­
tion in the minds of many, but not to the degree Mrs. Atherton indicates.
The following statements are typical of
those which Mrs. Atherton uses so frequently:
Although Hamilton was by no means indifferent to
the affection he inspired in nine-tenths of the people
he met. . . .37
. . . Lafayette loved no one better in his long and
various career.38
So noticeable was Madison’s devotion to the most
distinguished young man of the day. . . .39
Gouverneur Morris ’’loved and admired Hamilton above
all men.f,40
Even his enemies loved Hamilton in their
37 Ibid.,
P* 164
38 Lo c . cit*
39 Ibid.,
P* 232
40 Ibid.%
‘P* 233
41 Ibid.,
P* 360
This profuse eulogy,.at times saccharine in tone,
forced upon Hamilton, becomes irritatingly effusive.
-Hamilton’s explanation of the Constitution in the New York
convention, Mrs. Atherton writes:
Nothing ever was drier than the subjects,he eluci­
dated day after day for three weeks: for he took the
Constitution to pieces bit by bit, and compelled them
to listen to an analysis which, if propounded by
another, would have bored them to distraction, vitally
interested as they were.
But he not only so illumin­
ated the cold pages of the Constitution that while
they listened they were willing to swear it was more
beautiful than the Bible. . .
All this extravagance in which Mrs. Atherton indulges
in the book, The Conqueror, appears to be partially, due to a
marked disregard for the meaning of words in their relation
to the thought of her sentences.
In brief, there are numer­
ous statements which are. too inclusive, too conclusive, and
too effusive to even a very slight degree of
historical accuracy;
There are statements so definite and
final in scope as to be beyond verification.
There is a
very conspicuous'use of such words as all, every, always,
never, only, most, first, and greatest; and, these words are
of the type, which establish a final, definite tone.
As a
result of this disregard for the use of words, Mrs. Atherton
allows herself to employ assumptions and assertions, many of
which she presumes to be factual merely through her state^ments, rather than being substantiated by the use of author­
itative evidence; she, also indulges in the use of sweeping
generalizations, which for the most part, are either ob­
viously questionable, or characterized by a fallacious rea­
soning process.
So many of the ideas and circumstances associated
with the development of historical thought are of such a
nature that they cannot be brushed aside lightly by the use
of final words, hasty assumptions, bold assertions, and
sweeping generalizations of the type so frequently used by
M r s . Atherton.
Unfortunately, for Hamilton, Mrs. Atherton by meting
out her extravagant praise so lavishly has created an un­
favorable and antagonistic situation for him.
It would
seem that, in place of building up her "hero,” she has
robbed him of his human qualities.
Whether it be a descrip­
tion of Hamilton and his ability, or an evaluation of any
activity with which he is associated, the acme of perfec­
tion is the keynote in practically every instance.
If, by
chance, there appears to be some slight discrepancy in his
make-up, there are usually extenuating circumstances ar­
ranged to account for the deviations.
It becomes rather an
uncomfortable spectacle for Hamilton to find himself immersed
in this great amount of perfection, with so many of his
ideas, characteristics, and accomplishments hailed as con­
summate achievements.
Being dealt with so favorably, he
has almost been deprived of human essence and become an
artificial being electrified into action through the words
of Mrs. Atherton.
If she had not been concerned with the
idea of adhering to historical veracity, .but merely, in
creating a good story, then it would have been her privi­
lege to present Hamilton in glowing words of her own choos­
This marked tendency of Mrs. Atherton’s of associat­
ing so much perfection vdth the life and the career of
Alexander Hamilton has distorted the composite picture of
the era under study.
Hamilton would seem greater than the
That Mrs. Atherton accords Alexander Hamilton pre­
eminent distinction and leadership in several instances has
already been indicated.
In this 'chapter, some of her
statements with reference to ideas and activities associated
wi;th Hamilton- will be compared with those of some other
writers of history.
Just as, in most cases, it is not possible to deter­
mine who is the most outstanding person of a particular
period for the reason that varying types of ability are not
easily compared, likewise, it is frequently very difficult
to select with accuracy the very first person
to be asso­
ciated with the inception of some far-reaching movement, or
even designate the individual who actually instigates the
movement to the point of activity.
Too many personalities
voicing their opinions are involved, and besides, there are
usually remote situations as well as immediate ones.
In discussing some of the early movements leading up
to the American Revolution, Mrs. Atherton maintains that "it
was generally conceded” that young Alexander Hamilton
through his writing "had done more to hasten matters to a
climax, by preparing and whetting the public mind, than-any­
one else in America;
and, furthermore, she insists that he,
"a boy of seventeen, had been the first to suggest the re­
sort to arms, and incessant in his endeavours until the
great result was accomplished.”2
That the above lines cor­
rectly describe the early revolutionary activities of Hamil­
ton seems highly problematical.
That there were other dar­
ing individuals who early advocated fighting for the rights
of Englishmen in America is not out of question.
Among the early and somewhat rebellious souls of the
pre-revolutionary period was Samuel Adams, who, in 1764,
speaking for the town of Boston, outlined instructions to
Boston representatives with reference to British infringe­
ments on American rights, and those instructions, Hosmer
. . . contain the first suggestion ever made in America
for a meeting of the colonies looking toward a resist­
ance to British encroachments.
From that paper came
the fStamp Act Congress1 . . . . From this time forward,
in Massachusetts, the substantial authorship of almost
Gertrude Atherton, The Conqueror (New York: The
Macmillan Company, 1904), p. 139.
2 Ibid., p. 207.
every state paper of importance can be traced to him; so,
too, the initiation of almost every great measure.
Some authorities indicate that Samuel Adams was in­
terested in actual independence as early as 1768.
Van Tyne
Though mainly social and economic forces brought the
revolution to the stage of open warfare, a Massachu­
setts politician had so used these forces that both
his friends and enemies thought the blame or the honor
to be his. Samuel Adams began to desire independence
as early as 1768. From that time it was his unweary­
ing effort to keep alive the opposition to the British
For years he sought to instil in the minds
of rising youths the notion of independence.4
Choosing the same year, Hosmer declares: "From-1768
perhaps from an earlier period, he [Samuel Adams] saw no
satisfactory issue from the dispute but in the independence
of America, and began to labor for it with all his energy.”5
Becker, however, indicates that Samuel Adams had
been pondering over the right of Americans to resist the
mother country some time before 1743, the year in which he
received the degree of Master of:Arts from Harvard College,
having "argued the thesis,
’whether it be lawful to resist
5 James K. Hosmer, Samuel Adams (New York: Houghton,
Miflin Company, 1913), p. 333.
4 Claude H. Van Tyne, The American Revolution. 17761785 (New York: Harper and Brothers, 19 05), p. 25.
5 Hosmer,-op. cit.» p. 334.
the Supreme Magistrate if the Commonwealth cannot otherwise
be preserved. *1,6
In the following years which led up to the activities
associated with the Declaration of Independence, Samuel
Adams appears to have attained marked fame as a revolution­
John C. Miller maintains:
By the time of the Declaration of Independence, Sam
Adams had attained celebrity as the foremost revolution­
ist in America. . . . Adams was now recognized as the
• prime mover of the Revolution— the man who, for many
years, had worked indefatigably to make America inde­
pendent of the mother country.
Tories sometimes spoke
of the Revolution as ’A d a m ’s conspiracy’; and Lord
North, with the Boston Massacre and Tea Party still
fresh in his mind, nicknamed the American patriots,
’Samuel Adams’s crew’ . . . . Many years before Adams’s
friends had begun to call him the ’Father of America,’
and by 1775 he seemed to have proved beyond doubt his
right to the name.”?
Thus, it. would seem, that even before Alexander Ham­
ilton ever set foot on American soil, the "canvassing, cauo
cusing, haranguing” Samuel Adams had done much, both to
arouse public opinion against Great Britain and to incite
actual rebellion against the mother country.
Hutchinson of Massachusetts in a conversation with the King
of England on July 1, 1774, said that Samuel Adams "was the
® Carl Becker, The Declaration of Independence (New
York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922T, p. 98.
? John C. Miller, Samuel Adams (Boston: Little,
Brown, and Company, 1936), p. 343.
8 Van Tyne,
cit., p. 26.
first that publicly asserted the independency of the colon­
ies upon the kingdom."9
Freneau, poet and newspaper man of the period, whose
"pen dripped the vitriol of satire"
as an ardent revolutionist.
is, also, described
Bowers insists that the idea
of actual independence for the colonies was not only harbored
early, but enunciated daringly by the young poet.
Long before Washington,
dreaming of a republic and
was his [Freneau*s] dream.
to arouse a burning hatred
love of liberty.H
He writes:
Adams, or Franklin were
absolute independence, this
. . . He wrote deliberately
of tryanny and a militant
In "preparing and whetting the.public mind" for the
American Revolution, Thomas Paine, in setting forth his
ideas in Common Sense is looked upon by many as the indivi­
dual who did as much as any one to bring matters to a climax.
Perhaps, it may be appropriately added that instead
of Hamilton being the first to suggest the resort to arms,
it is said that at first he was inclined to take the British
side of the quarrel.
In her study of Hamilton and his public career, Mrs.
Atherton repeatedly emphasizes that he was above being inter­
9 Hosmer,
cit., p. 335.
Claude G. Bowers, Jefferson an_d Hamilton (New York:
Houghton Mifflin Company, 1925), p. 157.
11 L o c . cit.
ested in personal gain, and that public duty was a primary
consideration with, him, and accordingly, she exalts his
She writes, "Small and purely personal ambi­
tions were unknown to Hamilton, his gifts were given for
the elevation of the human race.WJ-^
She -also asserts that
"no man ever gave more generously or with less thought of
reward";^*® and furthermore, she implies that his patriotism
was of such a nature that
"in great'crises he unhesitat­
ingly sacrificed his personal desires or hatreds to the
public good."*^-
In the opinion of Mrs. Atherton, Hamilton
could make all these personal sacrifices because his mind
was "trained to the subordination of private interests to
public duty."15
Some critics point out that Hamilton was greatly
interested in personal gain and that he displayed this ten­
dency unbecomingly throughout his entire career.
He is
described by Woodward as possessing in a marked degree na
notable faculty for getting a seat in the leading carriage.
cit., p. 372.
Ibid., p. 452.
Ibid., p. 391.
15 Ibid.. p. 274.
W. E. Woodward, George Washington, The Image and
the Man (New York: Boni and Liveright Company, 19267, p. 372.
Contrasting young Hamilton and Jefferson, Adams writes,
’’Unlike the young Hamilton, Jefferson did not possess ambi­
tion in the sense of looking forward to making a ’career’
.for himself which would bring him power, prestige, or for­
Contrasting Hamilton and Tilghman as young aides un­
der General Washington, Hughes writes, "Tilghman’s failure
to push himself forward was in further contrast with Hamil­
ton’s insatiate ambition,5,18
As an example illustrating Hamilton’s eagerness to
obtain more recognition than that which was first meted out
to him, Mrs, Whitley writes:
Hamilton, took up law and politics, but not without
one more effort to obtain just a little more than
others. He was decidedly put out that Congress had
not given him even a kind word for his spirited attaek
on the redoubt at Yorktown. The French had handsomely
distinguished the officer who had led on their side,
but Congress, somewhat chary of honors to military
heroes, had taken no notice of Hamilton’s exploit.
However, Colonel Hamilton was.willing to give that, body
a chance to make up for this neglect. Although retir­
ing, he wanted to retain his rank.
This was against
regulations, but might not an exception be made in his
favor? General Washington would have liked to obtain
the discrimination for Hamilton, but finding it impos­
sible, he did the best he could for his ex-Aide and
sent him a brevet which raised him before retirement
to the rank of a full Colonel. So there was that which
James T. Adams, The Living Jefferson (New York:
Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1936}, p . 68.
Rupert Hughes, George Washington (New York: William
Morrow and Company, 1930}', ill, " O h .
Emily Stone Whitely, Washington and his Aides-deCamp (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1906), p. l7£.
Even Hammond, ambassador from Great Britain, in his
early dealings, with the Secretary of the Treasury, is said
to have fathomed that Hamilton’s preferment depended, at the
time, entirely on the maintenance of friendly relations be­
tween the United States and Great Britain.
In other words,
it was not only a matter of Hamilton’s working for the
establishment of-friendly relations between the United States
and Great Britain; the reputation and the advancement of
Hamilton were at stake.
With reference to this situation
Bemis writes:
The Englishman [Hammond] divined with considerable
accuracy Hamilton’s motive for not wishing to upset.
•good relations with Great Britain.
’Of this gentle'man’s sincerity,* he wrote, ’I have the surest pledge
in the knowledge that any event which might endanger
the external tranquility of the country would be as
fatal to the systems he has formed for the benefit of
his country as to his present personal reputation and
to his future projects of ambition.*
That Hamilton would act, at least in one circum­
stance, more for the sake of propriety, rather than through
sheer patriotism, is pointed out by Warren, who refers to a
particular letter which Hamilton wrote to Rufus King from
Hew York on August 20, 1787.
Hamilton, a delegate to the
Constitutional convention, had been absent much of the time.
A portion of Hamilton’s letter is the following:
Since my arrival here, I have written to my col­
leagues, informing them if either of them would come
S. E. Bemis, lay’s Treaty (Hew York: The Macmillan
Company, 1923), p. 104.
down, I would accompany him to Philadelphia; so much
for the sake of propriety and public opinion. . .
The above letter and another written a few days later,
"are notable, for they show how slight an interest Hamilton
was taking and how little part he was playing in the Convention, after June 29."
This opinion would conflict some­
what with the following one which Mrs. Atherton advances:
". . . nor could he hesitate to neglect his lucrative prac­
tice whenever the crying needs of the country demanded
i t .«23
A man of such heroic mould as that which Mrs. Ather­
ton ascribes to Alexander Hamilton would be, she believes,
utterly devoid of human frailty of the type manifesting it­
self in the excessive display of egoism.
That .she allows
this idea to be a recurrent one in her book, The Conqueror,
is evidenced in the following statements:
Without conceit or vanity no man,was ever more con­
scious of his. great p o w e r s . ^ ■
Charles Warren, The Making of the- Constitution
(Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1929)", p . '493.
22 T
_ _* cit*
Atherton, p£. cit., p. 253.
24 I M d . , p. 451.
That he was utterly without commonplace conceit is
indisputable. . . .25
. . . . Except .in the instances where he incurred
jealous hate, he won- everybody he met by his charming
manner and an entire absence of conceit.
That some critics appear to attack Hamilton quite
vigorously with reference to his rather pronounced tendency
to display conceit is evident in the following statements:
There was much of egotism and some vanity behind
this dictatorial disposition.27
Even at the age of twenty-three while serving in a
secretarial capacity to one of the foremost figures of
all time, he was placing himself on an equality at
least with Washington and writing glibly of ’what we
owed to each other.
Hamilton had a moderate amount of enthusiasm for
General Washington, but by no means so much as would _
interfere with his enthusiasm for Alexander Hamilton.29
Ambition and egoism, both of which he possessed in
full measure, had to be, under the conditions, his very
shield and buckler if he was to rise above an obscure
and humble position in the new land to which he had
25 Ibid., p. 163.
26 Ibid., p. 138.
cit., p. 35.
28 Ibid., p. 36.
29 Whitely, ojd. cit.. p. 48.
0 £.
cit.. p. 69.
His [Hamilton’s] manners are tinctured with stiff­
ness, and sometimes with a degree of vanity that is
highly disagreeable,31
As a party leader he was singularly lacking in tact,
offensively opinionated i impatient and often insulting
to we U n m eaning mediocrity, and .dictatorial. He did
not consult— he directed. He did not conciliate--he
Mrs. Atherton in describing some of the legal acti­
vities in the state of New York, which were within a few
years of the meeting of the Constitutional Convention,
writes that Hamilton was "by far the most prominent figure
at the New York bar,Tt^3 and that "in the blaze of Hamiltonfs
genius” Burr "seemed to shrivel.” ^
In comparing the two
men, Wandell and Minnegerode would seem to indicate that
Aaron Burr, showed no signs of shrivelling when confronted
with the genius of Alexander Hamilton.
Their comparison is
as follows:
Of the two, Hamilton was perhaps the more profound,
the.more erudite, the more long-winded; Burr the more
superficial, the more concise and the more successful.
When they met, as they often did, on opposite sides of
a case, it was Hamilton who had need to look to his
laurels, to fortify himself'against defeat.
It was
Gaillard Hunt and lames Brown Scott, editors,
Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 (New York; Oxford
University Press, 1920), p. lxxxviii.
Bowers, op>. c it., p. 35.
Atherton, op.. cit., p. 250.
34 rbia., p. 227.
Burr who could say as much in half an hour as it took
Hamilton two hours to establish. And it was Hamilton
who was sometimes.obliged to ask favors of his rival,
because his own procedure had ’rendered me culpably
A similar comparison is drawn by Bowers:
There were probably no other two men in the America
of their day who were so much alike. . . . A t the New
York Bar both had risen to eminence, and some hesitated
to give the superiority to either.3°
Both had been admitted to the New York bar in 1782;
and Burr, in recognition of- his legal ability, became
attorney-generai in 1789 in the state of New York.
the ability of both, Mowat. also states that Burr "became,
with Alexander Hamilton, the leader of the New York Bar."37
Wandell and Minnegerode also quote the English
traveler, John Davis, as having been impressed with the
legal abilities of Aaron Burr, as he said of Burr,
His distinguished abilities attracted so decided
a leaning in his favour, a deference to his opinions,
so strongly marked, as to excite in no small degree
the jealousy of the bar. So strong was this impres­
sion made by the general respect for his opinions,
that exclamations of despair were'frequently heard
to escape the lips of counsel whose fortune ij was
to be opposed by the eloquence of Burr. . . . °
Samuel H. Wandell and Meade Minnegerode, Aaron Burr
(New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1925), I, 133.
Bowers, ojq. cit. , p. 449.
R. B. Mowat, The Diplomatic Relations of Great
Britain and the United States (London: Edward Arnold and
Company, 1925), p. 41.
rz. p
Wandell and Minnegerode, oj>. cit., I, 132.
Apparently, then, conceding Alexander Hamilton pre­
eminent legal prominence and leadership in the state of Mew
York in the 1780*s, as Mrs. Atherton does, is an idea not in
. conformance with the findings of some other individuals.
Referring to the Constitutional Convention, Mrs.
Atherton writes with a tone of finality that n to the sturzq
dents of history there is nothing new to tell.”^
In her
study of this famous meeting, she assigned a major role to
Mrs. Atherton refers to the ”sixty-one delegates”40
of the Constitutional Convention, while it is a fact known
to all historical scholars that fifty-five delegates attended
the meeting at sometime.44
It would seem.that,
in general, writers accord Alex­
ander Hamilton .much recognition for his activity in promoting
the Constitutional Convention, and for his vigorous and acute
leadership in securing the ratification of the Constitution
in New York, but not so much consideration for his actual
work in the Constitutional Convention.
Atherton, o£. c i t .. p. 265.
40 Ibid*, p. 266.
See Madison's Debates and Jackson's Journal in
Farrand’s Records of the Constitutional Convention. I.
Hamilton had presented on June 18, 1787, a plan of
government which provided "amongst other things, for a Sen­
ate and an Executive, both elected to serve during good be­
havior, and for the appointment of State Governors by the
General Government."
Believing that Hamilton in the above
plan had exhausted existing knowledge, in so far as the
science of government was concerned, Mrs. Atherton adds:
"what the Convention did not know about the science of gov­
ernment before he finished with them, they never would
learn -elsewhere-."^0
Mrs. Atherton grants recognition to various indivi­
duals for their work in the Convention, but it was, <sb.e
insists, "Hamilton who breathed his strong soul into itw ; ^
and, after all, she adds, "it- was built of his stones,
chipped and pared though they might b e " ; ^ and furthermore,
she maintains that Hamilton was "practically the author of
the dual government.
Hamilton is said to have -taken scarcely any part in
the debates of the Convention, and after presenting his
Warren, o p . cit., p. 228.
44 Ibid., p. 267.
45 Ibid., p. 268.
46 Ibid.. p. 263.
cit. , p. 266.
particular plan, he was absent from the Convention most of
the time.
Ivlrs. Atherton would have his record of attendance
more irregular than it actually was; she writes that "he
left for New York, at the end of May."4^
not leave until J u n e twenty-ninth.
In fact, he did
Hamilton’s plan is described as one which did not
provoke discussion.
Only "little of it was of immediate
"not a single speech was made in Hamil­
ton’s support."50
Before the sessions were one-third over, "finding
himself of little service he [Hamilton] went to New York and
only returned to Philadelphia once or twice for a few days
and to sign the completed document in September.
"From our present point of view," writes McLaughlin,
. . . We see that these propositions had few merits,' and
that Hamilton either failed to grasp the idea or was out
47 Atherton, o£. cit., p. 267.
4:8 See Madison’s Debates in Hunt and Scott, p. 186.
49 Gaillard Hunt, The Life of lames Madison (New York:
Doubleday, Page and Company, 190277 P* 129.
50 Ibid., p. 130.
5-*- Max Farrand, The Framing of the Constitution of the
United States (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1913), p.
of sympathy •with the cardinal thought of the new Con­
stitution, which, under the^influence of Randolph,
Wilson-, Madison, and King was gradually unfolding. ^
Because of the character of Hamilton’s plan, Warren
maintains that "it is not 'singular that this Hamilton
sketch was neither refered to any Committee, nor taken up
by the Convention for action in any way."53
Washington, and several of the other members in attend­
ance, might as aptly,as Hamilton be spoken of as breathing
their strong souls into the Constitution.
Referring to Wash­
ington , McLaughlin writes:'
He did not take an active part in the debates of the
Convention; there is no evidence of his having spoken
more than once; but by sheer weight of character he did
what much volubility and streams of sonorous language
could not have accomplished.^
The importance of 'Washington’s interest in the whole
movement is repeatedly emphasized.
.Warren analyzes briefly
his influence as being extremely vital.
Of all the delegates, there was one whose presence
in the Convention was absolutely essential to, its suc­
cess, and without whose approval, the work of the con­
vention would have failed of acceptance by the American
people. In estimating the services of Ceorge Washing­
ton to his country, the part he played in this connection
should rank next to his military service.
Of his famili­
arity with the defects of the existing form of Govern­
ment and of his long insistence upon the necessity of a
Andrew Cunningham McLaughlin, The Confederation and
the Constitution (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1905),
p . 219.
Warren, o j d . cit. , p. 228.
McLaughlin, o£. cit., p. 185.
change, his correspondence affords ample proof. It is
no exaggeration to say that without the support which
he gave to the calling of the Convention and without
the confidence inspired in the country by his partici­
pation in the Convention and by his earnest advocacy
of its final wprk, the Constitution never would have
been adopted.
Reiterating the idea that Washington had long mani­
fested interest in remedying the defects of the national
government, McLaughlin w r i t e s :
As early as 1781 he declared that a mere nominal
head would no longer do, and that a real controlling
power and the right to regulate all matters of general
concern should be given to Congress.
He saw with his
accustomed simplicity and directness that the states
could not be relied on to do what Congress asked, and
he pointed out that the Articles provided no means of
compelling, states to furnish men and money,.and that
for want of such coercive power the war would neces­
sarily be prolonged. . . . Thus, even before the war
was over., Washington had stated what was the most evi•dent fact and the most trying problem of the anxious
days of political reorganization.56
Though lames Madison is frequently called "the Father
of the Constitution ,n Mrs. Atherton in studying the period
which produced the document, employs descriptive language
which imputes to James Madison a vacillating weakness and a
queer, dependent quality when he found himself confronted
with the problems of the day.
Some of Mrs. Atherton’s state­
ments with reference to Madison are:
But he lacked individuality. He was too patriotic,
too sincere to act against his principles, but his
c i t ., p. 61.
cit., p. 169.
principles could be changed by a more powerful and mag­
netic brain than his own, and the inherent weakness in
him demanded a stronger nature to cling to.^”
He was "willing to be led by Hamilton.
. . .4,58
He was'deeply anxious to have Hamilton’s views and
plans.for his guidance, even if modification were
n ecessary.^
Madison, without a doubt, was interested in ideas
and plans which Hamilton suggested •for the better organiza­
tion of the American government; but, to state that a stu-.
dent of Madison’s type needed Hamilton’s plans for his
guidance would seem'to' be far
Madison is
referred to as one of the few delegates who made special
preparation for his attendance at the Convention.
He is
said to have studied plans of union, old and new,
to have
analyzed the governmental weakness of the confederated col­
onies, and to have worked upon plans for a more successful
All this interest accounts somewhat for
his conspicuous activity at the convention.
To associate a wavering and a dependent nature of the
above types set forth by Mrs. Atherton as being characteris­
tic of James Madison during the days of the Constitutional
Convention would seem to produce an erroneous impression.
Atherton, o p . cit., p. 232.
58 Ibid., p. 253.
59 Ibid.. p. 258.
Sounding an absolutely different tone, Adams writes:
Many bad contributed tbeir ideas to it and worked
for final harmony, but unquestionably the master
spirit had been lames Madison, who combined great con­
stitutional knowledge with a firm grasp upon the actu­
alities of the. situation.60
While attending the Convention, Madison is described
as demonstrating tenacity of purpose, and also, as being
"very hard to move from a path which.after long reflection,
he had decided to be the right one."6-1- He was conspicuously
and constructively active during the entire meeting, being
one of the three most frequent speakers.
"The most frequent
speakers during the debates were Gouverneur Morris with 173
speeches; Wilson, 168; Madison, 161; Sherman, 138; Mason, 36
Gerry, 119.1,62
Farrand, with reference to Madison's work, uses such
.terms as "unquestionably the leading spirit,"^3 and "the
master builder."0
Farrand also points o u t ’that Madison's
. . . remedies for‘the' unsatisfactory state of affairs
under the confederation* were not founded on theoretical
speculations, they were practical. They were in accord
with the historical development of our country and in
keeping with the genius of our institutions. The evi­
dence is also strong that Madison not only took an im- .
portant part in the debates, but that he was actually
lames T. Adams, The March of Democracy (New York:
Charles Scribner's Sons, 1932), p . 160.
John Fiske, Critical Period of American History
(New York: Houghton, Mifflin Company, 1888), p. £27.
Warren, o p . .cit., p. 196.
63 Farrand, op_. cit., p. 196.
64 Loc. cit.
looked up to by both friends and opponents as the leader
of those in the convention who were in favor of a strong
national' government .^
It would seem, then, that the actual contribution of
Alexander Hamilton to the spirit and the wording of the
•United States Constitution was not of an overwhelming nature.
Mrs. Atherton asserts that Hamilton J,was practically,
the author of the dual government.”66
In so far as the idea
developed in America, there may have been other persons
enunciating their views as early, or earlier, than did
In the Convention, several of the delegates con­
tributed to the establishment of the dual principle in the
United States government; the group numbered such individuals
as James Madison and James Wilson, but they are not desig­
nated as authors, of the idea.
Madison 1sfconception of a dual government'was "not
original with him. Six-years before a Philadelphia
merchant, one Peletiah Webster, had published a bro­
chure proposing a scheme of dual sovereignty, under .
which the' citizens would owe a double allegiance— one
to the constituent States within the sphere of their
reserved powers, and one to a federated government
within the sphere of its delegated powers. . . . From
whatever source derived,-however, it is certain that
before the Convention met Pennsylvania and Virginia,’
two of the most powerful States, were committed to
Farrand, op_. cit. , p. 196.
c i t . , p. 265
this novel s c h e m e . ^
Of lames Wilson it is said that he "clearly grasped
the principle of that dualism of government which is the
essence of American federalism."^®
It would seem, then,
that the idea of the dual principle in government developed
over a period of time and that other individuals, besides
Hamilton, were associated with its origin.
In comparison with the findings of some other writers
of history,- Mrs. Atherton grants Hamilton the authorship of
a greater number of the Federalist essays.
Her apportion­
ment of the numbers
to Hamilton and his collaborators,
Madison and lay, is
as follows:
But, as- it came to pass, Madison wrote but fourteen
separate papers
of the eighty-five, although he .collab­
orated with Hamilton on three others, and lay.wrote five only.
The remaining sixty-three, therefore, of '
the essays, collected during and after their publica­
tion under the title of The Federalist . . . were the
work of Hamilton.
McLaughlin states, "Jay undoubtedly wrote, but five
of the essays; Madison seems to have been the author of -
lames Montgomery Beck, The Constitution of the
United States .(New York: Ceorge H. Doran Company, 1924},
p. 79.
Robert L. Schuyler, The Constitution of the United
States (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1923), p. 95.
Atherton, op_. cit., p. 269.
twenty-nine, and Hamilton of fifty-one.”
Fiske submits figures which are identical with those
held by McLaughlin: "Jay wrote five, Madison twenty-nine,
and Hamilton fifty-one.”^1
In general, it seems, that most writers do not ques­
tion the financial genius of Alexander Hamilton.
With .
reference to this problem, however, James Truslow Adams
voices an opinion of contradictory nature; he believes that
Hamilton’s ability and originality in the field of finance
have been over-emphasized.
He says:
The originality and ability of Hamilton in elaborat­
ing his various financial measures have often been much
over-rated by his admirers. He never concealed the fact
that he wished to make the American system in all res- ;
pects— political, economic, and social— as much like the
British as possible. His funding plan was not original
but mainly followed lines already laid down by William
Pitt, and in estimating.the .peculiarly American condi­
tions, Hamilton made several b a d ‘errors, as to interest
rates, rapidity of extinction, and so on.'2
Adams would have Hamilton’s activity, in lining up the
state of New York for the adoption of the United States
Constitution as his greatest contribution.
McLaughlin, o p . cit.» p. 507.
71 Fiske,
0 £.
cit., p. 341.
^2 Adams, The Living Jefferson, p . 228.
Indeed it was chiefly owing to Hamilton’s zeal and
ability that it [the United States Constitution] was
finally adopted by the state of New York, a personal
success which was probably his greatest contribution
to his adopted country. 3
Bowers is of the opinion that when Hamilton ,fsubordinated his personal preferences to the public good, and
sat down to the writing of the first number of The Federalist,
he reached the very acme of his greatness.’’
Believing that Washington as president of the United
States displayed more interest in the proposed financial
policies for'the United States than is usually accorded him,
Fitzpatrick submits the following information:
Hamilton’s work in creating and developing the
public credit has centered attention upon him and it
is usually forgotten that the President naturally had
a certain amount of authority in the matter, even
though the Secretary of the Treasury addressed his
report on the public credit to Congress direct.
the Washington Manuscripts is an undated paper in
Washington’s writing, headed ’Plan of American Finance,’
which divides the problem into three parts: (1) A
foreign loan (2)-A direct tax (3) An indirect tax. It
is the barest kind5 of outline, but,it displays thought
and grasp of national finance of which even Alexander
Hamilton need not have felt ashamed.'5
Commenting briefly on the above plan, Fitzpatrick
*i '
It might not have produced revenues to the amount
expected, but it shows that George Y/ashington capably
'I M d ., p. 208.
cit., p. 33.
John C. Fitzpatrick, George Washington Himself
(Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1933), p. 470.
grasped the fundamentals of the nation’s financial
problems and raises the interesting speculation of the
extent of the verbal discussion upon the subject between
the President and his Secretary of the Treasury.7S
Mrs. Atherton, however, virtually reaches a state of
ebulliency when confronted with Hamilton’s Report on the
Public Credit.
Merely reading the report, Mrs. Atherton is
prompted to write of a twelve-story building as "a symbol
of the industry and progress for which he [Hamilton] more
than any man who has ever dedicated his talents to the
United States is responsible.
. . ,»*77
she is
prompted to hail Hamilton as a statesman who "came into be­
ing with the seed of an unimagined nation in his brain."78
Describing Hamilton, at the time the report was presented,
Mrs. Atherton w r i t e s :
The confidence in Hamilton was very widespread, for
not only were his great abilities fully recognized,
but his general opinions on the subject had long been
known, and approved by all but the politicians on the
wrong side.7^
In opposition to' the above-cited opinion, Bowers
writes that Hamilton’s plan for establishing the faith and
■the credit of the new country did provoke violent and justi­
fiable opposition; and, the following, he asserts, is a
76 Ibid.. p. 481.
cit. , p. 334.
78 Loc. cit.
79 I 5 M - »
* 332 •
typical description of the wild orgy of speculation that
overtook the moneyed class shortly after Hamilton’s Report
on the Credit had been presented to the House of Congress.
So thoroughly did this money-madness take possession
of the minds of men that even the puritanic John'Quincy
Adams was to write his father, without a homily, that
by September, of 1790, Christopher Gore, the richest
lawyer in Massachusetts, and one.of the strongest Bay
State members of Hamilton’s machine, had ’made an inde­
pendent fortune in speculation in the public.funds’;
and that other leaders of the bar had ’successfully en­
gaged in speculation’ by playing at ’that hazardous
game with moneys deposited in their hands’ by clients
at a distance.
Lynch, in summarizing some of the material pertaining
to the establishment of the early financial’plans and the
location of the national capital, indicates that other in­
fluences besides the plan and the leadership of Hamilton
contributed to that which was ultimately established.
The truth is that the success of the capital, as­
sumption and funding policies depended, on many con­
tingencies and on many men.
The essential facts are
that Hamilton could not have managed -the Pennsylvanian's
.without the leverage provided by his bargain with Jef■ferson and that, without the aid of Morris and his •
friends, the financial system of the first Secretary
of the Treasury could not have been established.®!
Despite the fact that Mrs. Atherton selects Hamilton
as the foremost symbol of industrial progress, it should be
indicated that the industrial development of the United
80 Bowers,
cit., p. 47.
81 William 0. Lynch, Fifty Years of Party Warfare
(1789-1857) (Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1931),
p. 17.
States has been dependent on many men and many influences.
No individual can be singled out as the one most responsible
for anything which is termed progress in that field.
Mrs. Atherton also believes that the general govern­
mental fiscal policy which Hamilton supported has well with­
stood the test of time, in so far as the welfare of the
United States is concerned.
Hamilton made no secret of His design so closely to
attach the wealthy men of the country to the central
Government that they must stand or fall with it, coming
to its rescue in every crisis; and time has vindicated
his far-sighted policy.82
That our country by adhering somewhat to the above,
policy has not flourished to the extent it might have is a
contradictory view held by James T, Adams.
He writes:
Much of the depravity and greed of our economic and
political life is Hamilton’s legacy to the nation. We
are very far from believing today that over-industriali­
zation, a huge population drawn from all countries,
vast cities with their proletariats, tariffs, and a
government based on wealth*and in alliance with .it,
make up a sound nation, as many^were a generation ago.88
That there was a Betsy Bowen, or a Mrs. Croix, or a
Mrs. Jumel, is said to be a recognized fact, and that Hamil­
ton gave her some attention is said to be a recognized tale.
cit. , p. 361.
Adams, The Living Jefferson, p. £38.
Allan MeLane Hamilton asserted that
. . . a great deal of nonsense has been wri t t e n 'about
Hamilton’s gallantry, and his name has been' quite un­
justifiably connected with that of Madame Lumel. . . .
Although her home at the upper part of Manhattan.Island • .
was a rendezvous for the gay young men of the day, it
does not' appear that either Washington or Hamilton, as
has been alleged, knew her-particularly well.
it is absurd to say that Hamilton had an amour with her,
as has been suggested, and this gossip may, with other
contemporary scandal, be disregarded.^
A somewhat different allusion to Madame Croix is the
Betsy Bowen, or Eliza Brown, had been well known as
a beauty to all New York; her.affair with Jumel had
been the talk of the town; her name had frequently been
mentioned in the same whisper with those of many of the
most prominent gentlemen of the day, including Alexander
Hamilton. . . .55
That Alexander Hamilton should display amorous ten­
dencies toward too many women, Mrs. Atherton extenuates on
the grounds that such philanderings were characteristic of
the period; and so she writes that "Hamilton’s morals were .
the-morals of his day,-— a day when aristocrats were liber­
tines, receiving as little censure from society as from
their own consciences.f,8S
Also, he was a genius.
f,To ex­
pect a man of
Hamilton’sorder of
genius to keep faith with
one woman for
a lifetime would be
as reasonable as to look
Allan McLane Hamilton, Intimate Life of Alexander
Hamilton (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1910), p. 55.
Wandell and Minnegerode,
0 £.
c it., p. 291.
ci t ., II, 325.
for such genius without the transcendent passions which are
its furnace.”8 ^
Mrs. Atherton devotes much attention to, and displays
a great deal of enthusiasm for Mrs. Croix; her language
virtually glows in description of the lady’s beauty, talent,
and brilliance.
She was, writes Mrs. Atherton, an "angelic
vision**;88 also, "she was a very clever woman; and she was
not, unlike'Hamilton in a quite phenomenal precocity” ;89 and
furthermore, that she was "the most brilliant and fascinat­
ing woman in America, as well as the most beautiful, were
facts as publicly established.”9.0
Mrs. Atherton proceeds to describe in detail the
brilliant social successes of Madame Croix.
Her "social
talents were so remarkable that she managed deftly
as she did men, and was a welcome guest in many of the most
exclusive houses in New York.”9-*- Even Mrs. Washington reqp
ceiyed her in time.” . Also, Mrs. Croix ."held weekly recep­
tions, which were attended by two thirds of the leading men
88 T, .A
p. 290.
89 Ibid.
p. 292.
p. 290.
92 Ibid.
p. 356.
p . ’304.
p. 291.
in town.-"95
'In the opinion of Mrs. Atherton, Mrs. Croix was ahle
to shine forth so brilliantly, since "nature had fondly and
diabolically equipped her to conquer the world, to be one
of its successes; and so she was to. the last of her ninetysix years."94
Of her later years, Mrs. Atherton writes:
"Her subsequent career was as brilliant in Europe as it had
been, and was to be again, in America."95
Betsy Bowen Croix is said to have been beautiful, but
that she possessed the brilliance and the culture and the
social graces accorded her by Mrs. Atherton is questionable.
Mrs. Croix, described by other individuals, would seem to
possess characteristics, the very antithesis of some pro­
claimed by Mrs. Atherton.
Among the descriptions which de­
tract from her charm are:
. . . Miss Eliza Brown . . . seems in reality to have
been a person of no education or.breeding, sprung from
the lowest origins, and considerably more restricted in
'her circle of fine acquaintances' than obituary litera­
ture would lead one to believe.9^
All legends to thecontrary,she-had
born at ■
Providence, in 1775,the daughter
ofPhebe Kelley, and
the sailor, lohn Bowen, and christened Eliza, or
93 Ibid., p.
94 Ibid., p.
93 Hoc » cit.
95 .Meade Minnegerode, Lives and Times (New York: G-. P.
Putnam’s Sons, 1925), p. 32.
Betsy, Bowen, She was a person of no education, sprung
.‘from the lowest origins, who for nineteen years led a
vagrant- and altogether disreputable existence. . . .97
Minnegerode indicates that "such culture and refine­
ment as she may have acquired during this period remain
highly problematical and nebulous."0®
Some writers, also, are of the opinion that' the doors
of society were closed to Mrs. Croix and that she was not
accorded the recognition Mrs. Atherton would have poured
upon her.
Her marriage to Stephen Jumel, "one of the
wealthiest merchants in the port of Hew Y o r k , " a n importer
of "choice f l u i d s , " w a s
to-be her passport into that for­
eign land of New York society the borders of which, all
legends to the contrary, had been so rigorously closed to
The Jumels waited ten years "and still hardly a
friendly visiting footstep crossed their threshold,
no neighborly mansion opened its doors in welcome to her.
lurnel . . . might come and go through the streets and be
received with polite toleration, but for his lady there was
no melting of society's icy disregard."101
Wandell and Minnegerode,
Minnegerode, op.. cit., p. 33.
Ibid., p . 3.
100 Ibid., p. 37.
Loc. cit.
Jumel "was an
cit. , II, 323.
educated, cultured gentleman of tlie world; she was, through
no fault of her own, a vulgar, ignorant, mannerless nohen-
In the above descriptions of Mrs. Croix, it' is not
her brilliance, her precocity, her social graces that are
emphasized, but rather her lack of background and culture.
With it all, she i s ’said to have "babbled giddily, and none
too grammatically, of utterly platitudinous matters.”
"After a vain attempt to force his wife upon New
York society, he [lumel] sailed with her to France in
102 Ibid., p. 38.
Dictionary of American Biography, X, 247
Beginning during the period of the American Revolution
and continuing until 1799,' George Washington and Alexander
Hamilton had numerous associations with each other,
Haarlem Heights, Washington is said to have talked to Hamil­
ton for the first time.”'1’ Though Hamilton is then described
as being very eager to achieve military distinction, he is
said, a little later, to have agreed somewhat reluctantly to
■become an aide-de-camp to General Washington.
r,He seems to
have regarded the step with some misgiving, and to have felt
that he had made a considerable sacrifice.”2
He served in
this capacity from 1777 until February, 1781, and is generally
described as working diligently and serving with distinction
in. spite of his resentment.
rtFrom the- start, Lieutenant
Hamilton, who became a lieutenant-colonel as Washington1s
aide, lost no time-in' demonstrating his great intellect, his
high literary skill, and his domineering disposition.1,3
^ Rupert Hughes, George Washington, the Savior of the
States (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1930), III, 111.
Henry Cabot Lodge, Alexander Hamilton (Boston and
New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1910), p. 14.
3 Hughes, o]D. c i t . , III, 113.
In early conversational scenes involving George ¥/ashington and Alexander Hamilton, Mrs. Atherton, in her book,
The Conqueror, would have General Washington, in his admira­
tion for young Hamilton, emit glowing utterances of the
following kind:
nI believe you are something more than
. . . there is scarcely a man I can get to write my
letters who can do more than punctuate properly or turn
a sentence neatly. . . . Were you my secretary, you
would also be my brain: a word would be sufficient.
I could trust you so implicitly that if matters
pressed I could confidently sign my name to whatever
you wrote without reading it over.
There is no one
else living of whom I can say that. You are the most,
useful young man in America. . . .5
"You are as much in my secret thoughts as I am
”1 believe I am not lacking in courage, but I always
have most when you are close by.”^
Effusive utterances of the above kind attributed to
George Washington do not appear to be in harmony with a
temperament quite consistently described by critics as one
of reserve.
”His manners never encouraged familiarity in
Gertrude Atherton, The Conqueror (New York: The
Macmillan Company, 1904), p. 153.
6 Ibid.. p. 161.
7 Ibid., p. 167.
any one,”0
In a dramatized biography, a writer is privileged
to fabricate language of an imaginary sort for the various
characters; but, since Mrs. Atherton, in the particular book
under study, has, as she maintains, not depicted material
"which in any way interferes with the veracity of history,"9
it would seem that her conversational scenes should also
conform somewhat more reasonably with historical background.
Washington, in his own words, in a letter to Joseph
Reed, dated November 28, 1775, calls.attention to the fact
that readiness with the pen is a desirable characteristic
for an aide to possess, but he d o e s ‘n o t , in this particular
instance, so much as intimate that it is impossible to get
an aide well grounded in the fundamentals of grammar and
"I find," he writes, "it is absolutely necessary
that the aids to the Commander-in-chief should be ready at
their pen . . .
to give that ready.assistance, that is ex­
pected of them."*^9
In a communication to Lieutenant-Colonel Robert
Hansen Harrison', dated January 9, 1777, General Washington
again points out, in more detail, some of the characteristics
8 Henry Jones Ford, Alexander Hamilton (New York:
Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1920), p. 569.
9 Atherton,
cit'. , p. x.
19 John C. Fitzpatrick, editor, The Writings of George
Washington (Washington, D. C.: United States Government
Printing Office, 1932), IV, 26.
which he considers desirable for a military secretary to
He makes no reference to the idea of finding an
aide who will act as his brain..
I have heard that Majr. Johnston is a man of Educa­
I believe him to be a Man of Sense, these are
two very necessary qualifications; but how is his tem­
per? As to Military knowledge, I do not expect to find
Gentlemen much skilled in it. If they can write a good
Letter, write quick, are methodical, and diligent, it
is all I expect to find in My A i d s . H
The above letter is not a communication to young
Hamilton; nevertheless, there is no suggestion of willing­
ness, on the part of Washington, to sign anything and every­
thing written by an aide.
Mrs. Atherton accords to General Vfashington a grumb­
ling complaint as to the shortcomings of his aides; yet
Washington, in one of his own letters, indicates that as
early as 1775, he had under him an aide, Miflin, who was
worthy of promotion.
. . . the merits of this young Gentleman added to your
recommendation, and my own knowledge of his character
induced-me to take him into my Family as an aide-de- '
camp in the room of Mr. Miflin, whom I have appointed
Quarter Master Genel. from a thorough persuasion of
his integrity. . . .12 ,
General Washington’s notification sent to young Ham­
ilton on October 30, 1777, with instructions to communicate .
verbally with General Gates is not characterized by any such
Fitzpatrick, op_. cit.-, 71, 487.
12 Ibid., III, 450.
pusillanimous outpouring as nI believe I am not lacking incourage but I always have most when you are close by,’*-^—
words, which Mrs, Atherton attributes to G-eneral Washington
in his conversation with Hamilton immediately preceding the
young aide’s leaving on the above-mentioned mission.
ington’s letter with its instructions is a*s follows:
It having been judged expedient by the members of a
Council of War held Yesterday, that one of the Gentle­
men of my family should be sent to Genl. Gates, in
order to lay before him the State of this Army and the
Situation of the Enemy, and to point out to him the
many happy consequences that will accrue from an im­
mediate reinforcement being sent from the Northern
Army; I have thought proper to appoint you to the duty
and desire that you will immediately set out for Albany,
at which place, or in the neighborhood, I imagine, you
will find General Gates.
You are so fully acquainted with the two principal
points on which you are sent, namely, the ’State of our
Army and the Situation of the Enemy’ that I shall not
enlarge on those heads. What you are chiefly to attend
to, is to point out, in the clearest and fullest manner,
to Genl. Gates, the absolute necessity that there is for
his detaching a very considerable part of the Army at
present under his command to the reinforcement of this.14:
Besides portraying George Washington in some of his
conversations with Hamilton as employing highly adulatory
language of the type that has been quoted in this chapter,
Mrs. Atherton, in her own comments, reiterates from time to
Atherton, o]q. cit. , p. 168.
Fitzpatrick, op. cit., IX, 466.
time that Washington, in particular, loved Hamilton,
their first meeting she writes that "as for Washington, he
loved Hamilton then and there, and it is doubtful if'he ever
loved anyone else so well"; and with reference to Hamilton’s
regard for Washington, she writes that "he loved him save at
intervals, always.,,J-^
Some critics in the study of the friendly relations
between the two men, question the idea of a fine friendship
and a feeling of real understanding existing between them—
certainly, to the point where the question of any love would
be concerned.
Bowers writes quite tersely: "It is a myth of
history that he [Hamilton] was tenderly considerate of the
wishes of his chief: the facts to sustain it do not appear."16
Ford indicates "that on Hamilton’s side the usual re­
lation was one of formal respect rather than sincere affec­
Ford adds that
, . , there is evidence of imperfect sympathies which
long stood in the way of full understanding.
There is
much to support Jefferson’s claim that originally
Washington was more disposed to confide in him and in
Madison than in Hamilton. . , ,
Washington was more
and more drawn to Hamilton.
Atherton, op.. cit. , p. 149.
Claude G. Bowers, Jefferson and Hamilton (Boston
and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1925), p . 65.
Ford, pp. cit., p. 368.
Ibid., p . 569.
Ford also sets forth the idea that it was not until 1795
when Hamilton resigned from his position in the cabinet that
"WashingtonTs feelings broke through his habitual formality
of phrase.
He wrote to Hamilton in terms of fervent affec­
tion and esteem, and. Hamilton’s reply was equally cordial."19
Investigating the early relations of the two men, Mrs.
Whitely maintains that the friendly interest of Washington
was divided among several of the young aides and not showered
upon Hamilton alone.
As far as the records show, the expressions of affec­
tion contained in the G-eneralfs letters to Tench
Tilghman are the strongest that he made to any of his
Aides. Undoubtedly he loved John Laurens, and there
was a time when he loved and wished to lean upon'
Joseph Reed.
Through all the dramatic incidents of
Hamilton’s career in the Official.Family, the Commander
had appreciated his brilliant qualities and had felt
a real sympathy for the ambitious youth . . . Without
drawing invidious comparisons, it is evident that
General Washington had a warm friendship for all of his
Aides, and for some a deep affection.29
Showing that General Washington singled out Tench
Tilghman for recognition, Hughes calls attention to the let­
ter in which Washington "interceded with Congress to grant
a belated lieutenant-coloneley"21 to the young aide.
Ibid.. p. 370.
Emily Stone Whitely, Washington and His Aides-DeCamp (Hew York: The Macmillan Company, 1936), p. 189.
Hughes, o j d . cit.. Ill, 605.
. . . He has been a zealous servant and slave to the
public, and a faithful assistant to me for near five
years, a great part of which time he refused to receive
pay. Honor and gratitude interest me in his favor, and
make me solicitous to obtain his Commission. . .
That Hamilton conducted himself in rather an un­
gracious manner, not only i n .connection with the little
episode which preceded his leaving General Washington’s
military family, but, also, during the time he was an aide
under General Washington, is not exactly indicative of the
fine feeling existing between the two men during those years.
Hamilton had always disliked the office of an Aid-decamp, as having in it a kind of personal dependence.
In spite of three years of close association during
thrilling and dangerous times, no intimacy had grown up
between the Aide and his General. 3
supporting the same idea, writes that Hamilton "was
impatient of the drudgery of the secretarial service and
humiliated Washington by his resentment.”^*
To substantiate
this idea Hughes quotes an excerpt from a letter written by
young Hamilton to General Schuyler of which a small portion
is as follows:
I always disliked the office of an aid-de-camp as
having in it a kind of personal dependence. . . . For
Hughes, loc. cit.
Whitely, o p . c i t ., p. 158.
0 £.
cit., II, 556.
60 years past I have felt no friendship for him
[Washington] and have professed none. . . .25
With reference to the particular scene in which Wash­
ington reproved Hamilton for keeping him waiting, Mrs.
Atherton states, unequivocably, that "the breach was Wash­
ington’s; he himself [Hamilton] had answered with dignity,
and could leave with a clear conscience.
He had not kept
Washington waiting above four minutes, and he did not feel
that an apology was necessary.”26
Hughes calls attention to
"Washington’s swiftness in recapturing self-control and. his
willingness to apologize even to a subordinate who had kept
him standing on a stairway for ten long minutes while he
chatted,” and also to the ruthless manner in which Hamilton
"rejected his chief’s proffer of reconciliation and subP7
jected him to a further and final humiliation.,,c"
In denunciation of Hamilton’s actions at that time,
Adams writes:
The egoistic and impetuous boy had then promptly
resigned in a fit of temper, and his resignation had .
been accepted. His refusal to accept friendly advances
toward reconciliation from Washington and the slurs
which the lad, whose career was being fostered by the
greatest man in the country, cast upon his benefactor
in private letters and conversation could be taken less
25 Ibid., III, 112.
Atherton, o p . c i t ., p. 215.
Hughes, o]D. cit.» III, 601.
seriously if they were not premonitory of similar
episodes in his later and more mature life.^8
The above reference to similar episodes in Hamilton’s
later life would seem to conflict with Mrs. Atherton’s state­
ment which upholds the idea that nthe bond between the two
men grew closer every day, and only the end of all things
severed it#”29
That Washington himself was displeased with the man­
ner in which Hamilton made public the description of the
above-mentioned waiting scene is intimated in a communica­
tion to Lafayette, dated April 22, 1781.
The event, which you seem to speak of with regret,
my friendship for you would most assuredly have induced
me to impart to you in the moment it happened had it
not been for the request of H
who desired that no
mention should be made of it; why this injunction on me,
while he was communicating it himself, is a little extra­
ordinary! but I complied, and religiously fulfilled
-L O #
+ 30
Hughes, in a comparison of the two men, points out
that Hamilton '’was a brilliant man who never forgot the
rights of Alexander Hamilton” ; while, on the other hand,
"Washington was a greater man. who generally overlooked the
rights of George Washington.
James Truslow Adams, The Living Jefferson (New
York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1936"]"," p . 139.
c i t ., p. 377.
Fitzpatrick, o p . c i t ., XXI, 491.
31 Hughes, opt. cit., III, 606.
Whatever the friendly relations between G-eorge Wash­
ington and Alexander Hamilton were, it is likely that they
were not characterized by the exuberance and the persistence
which Mrs. Atherton has accorded them.
With Muzzey maintain­
ing that Hamilton "enjoyed the friendship and confidence of
Washington to a degree not shared by any other man," ^ and
Hughes setting forth the idea, "it is questionable that
Hamilton ever liked Washington, or did more than merely en­
dure him for the sake of patriotism and ambition,"33 the
conclusion advanced by Adams may, perhaps, be appropriately
"Washington was personally fond of him [Hamilton] and
properly rated his abilities high."3^
Statements advanced by Mrs. Atherton, which imply a
dependence on the part of Washington to the point of sub­
serviency to Hamilton, are generously interspersed through­
out The Conqueror.
Mrs. Atherton'describes Washington as a
man whose "thoughts moved in a constant procession to one
and, as one who during the period of the American
David S. Muzzey, Thomas Jefferson (New York: Charles
Scribner’s Sons, 1918), p. 157.
Hughes, o p .cit., III, 112.
Adams, op. cit., p. 139.
Atherton, pp. cit., p. 152.
Revolution, demanded Hamilton "constantly for consultation
upon the best possible method of putting animation into the
Congress and extracting money for the wretched troops"
and, also, as a general who wrote letters to Hamilton "asking advice."
Furthermore, in writing of Hamilton during the period
of the American Revolution, Mrs. Atherton maintains that he
[Hamilton] "incurred widespread jealousy on account of his
influence over V/ashington, and for the important part he was
playing in national affairs,"38 and that Hamilton, who,
through being one of General Washington’s secretaries, pro­
duced "that mass of correspondence, signed ’George Washing­
ton, ’ which raised the commander of the American forces so
high in the estimation of Europe, adding to his military
renown the splendour of a profound and luminous intellect."^9
Attributing this much importance to the work of the
young secretary obviously minimizes to a considerable degree
the influence of Washington and the work of other indivi­
With reference to this particular situation, Mrs.
Whitely writes:
36 Ibid., p. 195.
3^ Ibid.. p. 219.
38 Ibid., p. 169.
39 I b i d ., p. 162. .
General Washington’s usual custom in handling his
official correspondence was to give notes, either verbal
or written, of the matters to be treated, and then to
leave to his Aides the actual composition of the dis­
patch, subject to corrections.40
Elaborating the idea along further lines, Mrs. Whitely adds:
It is an accepted idea that Hamilton was Washington’s
chief dependence and indispensable to him as Secretary,
and, indeed, a contemporary writes of him as being ’the
pen of our army’; but a scrutiny of the Washington manu­
scripts does not produce warrant for this title. It was
Harrison and Tilghman who bore the main burden of the
Commander’s correspondence. Year after year Harrison’s
long reports went to Congress, sometimes daily, and
Tilghman carried on with the Board of War and with the
General Officers * also taking over the dispatches for
Congress when occasion required. Laurens being profi­
cient in French, drafted most of Washington’s communica­
tions to the officers of that nation. When Hamilton
entered the Official Family, he was, like all newcomers,
put to work at copying and at drawing up the less im­
portant dispatches, but by the latter part of 1778 he be­
gan to assume a leading part in the Headquarter’s\* corres­
pondence. Reports on technical military subjects were
frequently assigned to him, and there are many long manu­
scripts in his close perfect handwriting dealing with
reorganization plans for the army, -proposing innovations
or describing actual conditions.
But his most valued
secretarial service was in the drafting of papers that
required the presentation of an argument or the critical
analysis of a policy, such as the system of short enlist­
ments, so dear to the heart of Congress. No one could be
more severe in any controversial matter than Hamilton,
and his sharp, clear characters march across his pages
like serried lines of pointed spears. Washington, no
doubt, appreciated Hamilton’s intellectual gifts as well
as his executives qualities, though perhaps not exactly
at the owner’s valuation; but neither as Secretary nor
Aide was there any premier-ship in the Official Family.41
Lodge, too, states quite definitely that the princL-.
pal ideas in Washington’s communications were his, but that
Emily Stone Whitely,
4:1 ibid*, p. 139.
c i t .,
p .
Hamilton aided greatly in arranging them.
We may be sure that nothing passed through Hamilton’s
hands without being put in the strongest and the most
condensed form, and at the same time amplified and
adorned; but we may be equally sure that, however much
the general profited by the suggestion of his able sec­
retary, the central ideas and guiding principles,
whether conveyed in a word or dictated at length, were
the intellectual property of the man who signed those
letters and reports with the name of George Washington.4^
It appears that General Washington very definitely
adhered to the policy of scrutinizing his letters and me s ­
sages before they were sent, and also, that this scrutiny
frequently resulted in alterations.
Hughes quotes Fitz­
patrick’s findings relative to this problem:
The greater number of these drafts are in the hand­
writing of the various aides, but the alterations, sup­
pression, and additions in Washington’s handwriting are
numerous, and in every instance the change strengthens .
and improves the a ide’s composition.4^
General Washington, in the early stages of the Ameri­
can Revolution, is said to have demonstrated ability in the
organization and expression of his ideas, even in written
"At times, Washington, almost rivalling Julius Caesar,
was able to keep five men busy writing: letters at his dicta­
tion, or suggestion, or for his approval1*;44 and, ’’before
he ever added Hamilton to his staff, Washington had already
Lodge, o£. cit., p. 16.
43 Hughes,
cit., Ill, 113.
44 Ikld.,p. 110.
reached such peaks of glory that he was being widely re­
garded as almost a divinity, and had written some of his
loftiest utterances.”45
Hughes points out that in one instance, Congress ig­
nored General Washington’s plan for an exchange of prisoners,
and he compares the treatment of this aggravating situation
in the communications of Washington and Hamilton:
It is interesting to compare Hamilton’s fury in this
private letter with Washington’s handling of the same
subject in his letter to Congress, where every charge
is made but couched in the most courteous and appealing
The spirit is the same he revealed, long before Ham­
ilton joined him, and the finest tact was never more
gracefully employed in a matter where the temptation to
wrath and scorn was more nearly irresistible.
Indubitably, the ideas of George Washington were
vigorous and judicious to the degree that Washington was
able, on his own merits, to establish his fame abroad, rather
than being greatly dependent on Alexander Hamilton.
If George Washington meant so much to the successful
rebellion, and if he has been regarded as the very ’’soul of
the American cause,”
dealing with what now seem almost
° Ibid., p. 113.
46 Jbia., p. 313.
Albert J. Beveridge, John Marshall (New York:
Houghton Mifflin Company, 1916), I, 121.
insurmountable difficulties, his leadership, perhaps, did
not draw its potency from the mind of Alexander Hamilton.
The times were challenging and the problems perplexing.
the Americans of that time had been what' their posterity
imagines, or anything like it, they would have driven the
British into the sea in a few weeks, and set up a government
of ideal beauty immediately."^8 In the first year of the war,
in so far as the people living in America were concerned,
. . . the great majority of men could be regarded as
indifferent, ready to stampede and rush along with the
successful party.} yet, even among the masses, this
traditional love of kingship had to be reckoned with
and combated.
Loyalty was the normal condition, the
state that had existed, and did exist. . .
Jameson, too, refers to the indifference with which
General Washington had to contend, inasmuch as "so great a
proportion" of the population was "provincial-minded, dubi­
ous in opinion, reluctant to make any sacrifices, halfhearted m
the glorious cause.
In a study of the American Revolution, Beveridge asks
the question, "What held the patriot forces together at this
He gives the following answer:
4:8 Hughes,
cit. , III, 69S.
4:9 Claude Halstead Van T y n e , The Loyalists in the Ameri­
can Revolution (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1902)7 P- 2.
J. Franklin Jameson, The American Revolution Con­
sidered as a Social Movement (Princeton: Princeton University
Press, 19S6J, p. 5.
George Washington, and he alone.
Had he died, or had
he been seriously disabled, the Revolution would have
ended. Had typhoid fever seized Washington for a month,
had any of those diseases, with which the army was
plagued, confined him, the patriot standard would have
fallen forever.
Washington was the .soul of the American
cause. Washington was the Government. Washington was
the Revolution. 1
Critics maintain over and over again that in these
trying years the leadership of Washington was practically
of immeasurable significance.
”Every important phase of the
Revolution shows Washington, the pivotal character around
whom events revolved and on whom they depended.
ing more in detail the character of George Washington’s ser­
vice, Fitzpatrick writes:
There was no man in America during the Revolution,
who felt, thought and acted for the United States as.a
nation, as did George Washington. He was the only man
who never allowed any local pride, prejudice or per­
sonal ambition to interfere with this national idea,
and Washington’s ambition was for the development of a
nation in which George Washington’s position was un­
thought of beyond the point of living a free and inde­
pendent citizen of Mount Yernon.5^
Yan Tyne, in studying the American Revolution, is
likewise impressed with the leadership of General Washing­
As men looked back over the years of strife, they
saw clearly that the chief reason why the American
cit. , I, 120.
John C. Fitzpatrick, George Washington Himself
(Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1933)7 P* 358.
53 Ibid., p. 381.
cause was not lost before France came to its aid was
the personal leadership, of Washington. . . . It was the
strength of character which day by day won the love of
his soldiers and perfect confidence of his countrymen.
The absence of a mean ambition, the one desire of serv­
ing well his country and his fellow-men, the faithfulness
that could not be driven from its task through jealousy
or resentment, these were the traits that gave him a
unique and solitary place among the w o r l d ’s h e r o e s . ^ .
That G-eorge Washington as General in command of the
American forces raised himself high in the eyes of Europe,
rather than that Alexander Hamilton, who, by signing George
Washington’s name "raised the commander of the American
forces so high in the estimation of Europe, adding to his
military renoun the splendour of a profound and luminous in­
t e l l e ct,"^ would seem to be the conclusion reached by
At any rate, he does not indicate that .the
eyes of Europe were upon Alexander Hamilton; they were, he
insists, on Washington.
The success of the American Commissioners in France
at the time was based, Fitzpatrick writes, largely on the
unwavering leadership of George Washington and not on the
writing and the leadership of Alexander Hamilton.
No matter from what view-point the Revolutionary war
is studied, it is impossible to ignore Washington. He
was the central point around which everything revolved;
the army, the Continental Congress and, what has been
unnoticed, or ignored, the diplomatic relations which
^ Claude Halstead Van Tyne, The American Revolution
(New York and London: Harper and Brothers, 1905), p. 327.
Atherton, op. cit., p. 162.
resulted in the French alliance.
The work of Deane,
Franklin and Adams in France could never have produced
the results it did, had not General George Washington
been at the head of the army in America, and had he not
been exactly the kind of man he was. Any investigation
of the diplomatic negotiations, makes it plainer as
document’ after document is examined and compared, that
behind every success of Franklin and the others, France'
was watching and depending on the solid unalterable pur­
pose of George Washington.. Had he faltered-once, had he
shown doubt or indecision, even for a moment, as to that
slippery, cowardly idea of ’an accommodation with Great
Britain,* not the whole corps of the American .Commis­
sioners to Europe with the Continental. Congress combined,
could have accomplished a single one of the many and
important things that were accomplished in France, for
the liberty and independence of the United States.56
Fitzpatrick maintains that Yergennes, the French
Foreign minister, "was interested in one thing only and that
was the determination of America to persevere in its struggle for independence.”
As long as Yergennes was satisfied
that Washington and the army ?,could be depended on to fight
to the bitter end, there was not the remotest chance of
France coming openly to America’s aid.n^°
Congress fThad sent young John Laurens .to France,
toward the end of 1780, to plead anew with the French court
the urgent need of the states for immediate aid.”59
had been instructed "to consult with the Commander-in-Chief
57 Ibid., p. 357.
58 Ibid., p. 358.
59 Ibid., p. 388.
cit. ,
p .
before sailing,"
at which time "Washington drew up a
series of instructions in eleven plain spoken paragraphs
which later formed the basis and principal part of the mem61
orial Laurens presented to Yergennes.”
With reference to
these instructions outlined by Washington and to subsequent
events and results in Europe, Fitzpatrick elucidates as fol­
lows :
This was a complete and accurate presentation of the
national situation, which few men could have given so
tactfully, and three months later (April ninth) Wash­
ington wrote to Laurens, then in Paris, that if France
delays a timely and powerful aid in this critical pos­
ture of our affairs, it will avail us nothing should
she attempt it hereafter.
This was Washington’s honest
opinion and, fortunately for America, Yergennes valued
Washington’s opinion as the one trustworthy source of
information. . . . Conrad G-erard, French Minister to the
United States, was well convinced of the unreliability
of Congress and of many of the men who composed it; but
he became completely convinced of the absolute relia­
bility of George Washington. His dispatches to Comte
Yergennes repeated again and again that General Washing­
ton was the one dependable force of the Revolution.
the many interviews he sought with the American general,
the keen French diplomat searched and probed the mind
and soul of George Washington until he was sure that
here was the man France could tie to; that such a thing
as an accommodation with Great Britain would never be
sanctioned by this man and that as George Washington
went, so went the army.
It was this belief in Washing­
ton which Gerard succeeded in transferring to Yergennes
which, more than anything else, overcame the doubts of
the French Minister of Foreign Affairs as to America’s
In contrast with his experience with members
of Congress and other officials of the government, Gerard
found Washington frank, open and truthful.^2
Fitzpatrick, loc. cit.
• +
oc. ci
I M d . , p . 389 .
Fitzpatrick summarizes the above situation by em­
phasizing that Gerard*s recognition of Washington’s character "was the deciding factor." ^
Congress "was shifting,
with factions raging at one another for petty local advant­
age to the wreck of national affairs.
Washington was stable,
solid, immovable from the path of National independence."6^
He further concludes that
. . . it is not going too far to state that had George
Washington been other than he was, had he been indeci­
sive or temporizing, the French alliance would not have
It is not to be wondered at that the loan
of six million livres, a part of which LieutenantGolonel John Laurens succeeded in hastening to America,’
was put at the disposal of George Washington by the
In the study of Washington’s presidency,. Mrs.
Atherton quite emphatically maintains that Alexander Hamil­
ton was the guiding influence.
She prefers to look upon him
as "the very head and front of the Administration,"
as "the Administration,"
and "the Secretary to whom, practically, had been given the reins of government.
6^ Fitzpatrick, l o c . cit.
6^. L o c . cit.
^ IbicL*, p . 390.
Atherton, o j d . cit., p. 359.
Ibid., p. 374.
68 Ibid., p. 364.
above statements all refer to the period of Washington’s
presidency when Alexander Hamilton was Secretary of the
Treasury and Jefferson was Secretary.of State.
Mrs. Ather­
ton also writes that Hamilton’s fame abroad was still at a
high stage of resplendency, of sufficient brightness and
power to.outshine- that of Washington.
"His [Hamilton’s]
fame obscured that of Washington, and abroad he was by far
the most interesting and significant figure in the young
As in her study of the earlier associations of Wash­
ington and Hamilton, Mrs. Atherton, in discussing meetings
of the president’s cabinet, chooses words of an enfeebling
nature to-be uttered by Washington.
In the first days of
getting the cabinet organized, she would have Washington
speak in this manner:
It is you only that I fear, as it is you only uponwhom I thoroughly rely, and not for advice in your own
department alone, but in all. I think it would perhaps
be better not to hold collective meetings of the
Cabinet, but to receive each of you alone.
It is as
well the others do not know that your knowledge and
judgment are my chief reliance. . . .^°
It is said that Washington’s first choice for Secre­
tary of the Treasury was Robert Morris, and that Hamilton
received the appointment only after Morris had refused it,
69 S i d -. P- 360 •
70 Ibid., p. 326.
and recommended the former*
If Washington had had such
superlative opinion of Hamilton as Mrs. Atherton indicates,
he would have been his first choice for the office.
It has
also been said that Washington would not have-appointed Ham­
ilton, if Morris had not made the recommendation.
Even though 'Washington, upon entering the presidency,
is said to have spoken of himself as "in the evening of
life," his leadership,
been earlier.
evidently, was as vital as it had
Apparently, the same sturdy qualities.which
enabled him to cope with problems of the American Revolu­
tion also came to his assistance during the period of his
It does not seem probable that he found him­
self suddenly bereft of understanding and judgment to the
extent that it was necessary to surrender "the reins of the
His inscrutable wisdom and his discerning
judgment were as useful then as before.
It is true that
successful military heroes, when confronted with the intri­
cacies of statescraft, are not always eminently successful
in the administration of the affairs of the nation.
again, as during the American Revolution, WashingtonTs
leadership was a recognized factor.
Never was a rich personal character worth more to a
nation than Washington’s now proved to be. His name
gave strength to the Union at home and abroad.
Europe, even in England, he was highly esteemed for
honor, sagacity, and mental balance.
In America he was
trusted, as the one force who could command the respect
of both parties which had violently disputed about the
adoption of tlie Constitution.
mous. 71
His election was unani­
Most critics appear to be of the opinion that Washington as
president of the United States relied not only on his own
judgment, but, that he in accordance with the plan of astute
executives, made use of the ideas individually and collec­
tively of the talent surrounding him, in planning and carry­
ing out the major policies of the nation, foreign as well as
-The fine array of talent and ability which character­
ized the period was of such a nature, that even if the presi­
dent had been helpless to the extent of surrendering the
reins of the government, the influence of various groups
would have precluded the idea of any one individual being
nthe Administration.”
The feeling of the times was definite­
ly opposed to the idea of one subordinate dominating the ad­
The spirit of 1776 and what it meant to
liberty-loving people was.still in the air.
Then, too, des- .
pite the dissension of the times, the same harmonizing in­
fluences, whatever they were, which in some fashion, had
brought together under a new constitution, thirteen states
with widely divergent interests,
major problems.'
facilitated the solution of
Individuals and factions found themselves
yielding as well as demanding.
^ John Spencer Bassett, The Federalist System, 17891801 (New York: Harper Brothers, 1 9 0 6 7 , p. 5.
It was during the presidency of George Washington
that the very definite cleavage ..which resulted in the estab­
lishment of two powerful political factions, one following
ideas upheld by Thomas Jefferson, and the other, following
ideas upheld by Alexander Hamilton, openly revealed itself.
This development itself meant, that even though there was
vigorous support for the ideas of Hamilton, yet there was
sufficient opposition to be crystallized into an organized
Both parties, when they emerged, were of such a
nature that neither would have tolerated the idea of one
man being the administration,— not even George Washington,
had he been s'o inclined.
Both factions were powerful to the
degree that they aroused the opposing factions into conspicu­
ous and aggressive activity.
In writing of the appearance of political parties in
the new republic, Mrs. Atherton states that Hamilton "had
bound up his personal ambitions with the principles of the
Federalist party— so called since the publication in book
form of the Publius essays."
As the two following state­
ments indicate, the essays were published in book form in
the year 1788.
Over the signature of "Publius eighty-five
essays were, published from October, 1787, until March, 1788,
when they were collected in book form under the title of The
Atherton, o p . cit., p. 274.
and, "The essays of The Federalist were first
printed in the newspapers, and? were then, republished without
subs tantial textual change in the McLean editions of 1788."
Mrs* Atherton would have the real-Federalist party appearing
in 1788 and continuing to function for several years; but,
in the history of party development in the United States,
most writers distinguish definitely between the party cleavage
which evidenced itself over the fight to establish the Con­
stitution and the division which appeared during the adminis­
tration of Washington.
With regard to this situation Lynch
The first real parties in the United States arose
while Washington was president, and the members became
known as Federalists and Republicans*
They did not
emerge in a day or a year but evolved slowly from 1791
to 1795* Neither the earlier Federalists nor the Anti­
federalists constituted a political party.
These ele­
ments engaged in a struggle over the ratification of
the new Constitution from 1787 to 1790. Whether it
should be adopted or rejected was a temporary question
of great moment*
The contest was waged to decide the
fate of a proposed government.
The friends of ratifi­
cation won and the issue disappeared.75
Lynch adds further that "Washington neither expected
nor desired party government.
When Hamilton and Jefferson
Cyclopedia of Political Science, Political Economy,
and United States History, John H. Lalor, editor (New York:
Maynard, Merrill and Company, 1904), II, 165.
^ Henry C. Lodge, editor, »The Federalist (New York:
G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1888), p. xlii.
75 William C. Lynch, Fifty Years of Party Warfare
(Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1931), p* 11.
assumed their ministerial duties, there were no parties for
them to lead."76
Calling attention to a situation which not only pro­
moted the emergence of political factions in the new repub­
lic, but also hastened the crystallization of the new fac­
tions, Bemis writes;'
The first Congress in its first session adopted the
most successful shipping policy the United States has
ever had, a policy which followed the principle of the
British Navigation Laws by giving to American vessels
certain advantages over those of other nations.
debates provoked by the introduction of these laws
reveal the first alignment under the new government of
the representatives of the' trading and shipping commun­
ities, which had feared to disburb Anglo-.American com­
merce, versus, the agrarian and frontier constituencies
which had least to lose in any commercial disturbance or
in the collapse of a strong central government based on
commercial prosperity and the full protection of pri­
vate property.
Curiously enough, it was ’
J ames Madison,
Alexander Hamilton’s collaborator in the writing of the
Federalist, who introduced the bills, so worded as to
place a heavy discrimination on British commerce.
Thereby he aroused the fears of merchants and ship­
owners and made nervous the men, like Hamilton, who
were looking to tariff revenue as a means of maintain­
ing the credit of the* G-overnment. These people con­
sidered the principal purpose of tariff and tonnage
legislation to be first the production of revenue and
second the production of infant manufactures, and they
did not want laws which might provoke such commercial
hostility with our biggest foreign customer as to defeat
these primary purposes. Madison’s support of the bills
in their discriminating character marks the political
parting of the ways between him and Hamilton.
The ■
cleavage of opinion in this debate indicates the birth
of American political parties under our present form of
government and shows how closely our political and
economic life and our new-born nationality were connected
76 Ibid., p. 12'.
with Anglo-American relations . 7 7
Agitation in favor of the above-mentioned discrimin­
atory plan was revived in December, 1793, when "Jefferson
submitted to the House of Representatives his long-delayed
report on the restrictions and discriminations by foreign
nations against the commerce of the United States . - " 7 8 "With
Madison as the spokesman of Jefferson and Smith as the
representative of Hamilton, the debate in the House was one
between the systems for which these two remarkable men
It may be said to mark the definite crystallization
of party politics in congressional history .
" 70
Washington, during the later years of his presidency
inclined toward the support of the Federalist principles, but
this preference for the political ideals of Alexander Hamil­
ton does not imply a subservience to the degree of handing
over the reins of government.
Mrs. Atherton writes of Wash­
ington's "entire absence of party spirit, despite his secret
sympathy with every measure of Hamilton's . "
If Washington
did not, in so many words, evince any trace of party feeling
during the first few years of the existence of these parties,
7 7 Samuel Flagg Bemis, J a y Ts Treaty (New York: The
Macmillan Company, 1923), p. 36..
Ibid., p. 186.
Ibid., p . 191.
80 Atherton, o£. cit. , p. 424.
lie did, Muzzley maintains, after Jefferson retired from the
His [Jefferson’s] retirement from the cabinet left a
free field in the administration to Hamilton, under
whose influence Washington became an out and out Feder­
’I shall not,* the President wrote to Pickering
in September, 1795, ’while I have the honor to adminis­
ter the government, bring a man into any office whose
political tenets are adverse to the measures which the
general government.are pursuing, for this, in my opinion,
would be a sort of political suicide.8!
But, in spite of the fierce antagonism which devel­
oped between Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, George
Washington as President of the new United States, used the
ideas of both men in furthering the policies of the United
He "considered that both secretaries were useful
o p
where they were,”
and "continued to take the advice of
each, favoring each, as a rule, in his own department,"
In reiteration of the above idea, and also emphasiz­
ing the fact that George Washington as president of the
United States, had not relinquished the reins of the govern­
ment, Bemis writes:
When all factors' are weighed, in the history of those
significant years, it was the stable wisdom, the imper­
turbable sagacity, the unmistakeable judgment of George
Washington, holding the beam between the two rival
patriots in his Cabinet, between the two opposite states­
men of American political life, that took what was best
cit * , p. 173.
o p
Adams, The Living Jefferson, p. 243.
IbicL., p. 244.
from each active mind, evaded the errors, of both, and
utilized the talents of these two extraordinary men for
the great good of the United States.84
Foreign problems were of an absorbing character dur­
ing the Washington administration.
Again, Mrs. Atherton
singles out Alexander Hamilton as the one individual whose
ideas were of paramount importance in creating, establish­
ing, and enunciating principles which became fundamental in
the foreign policy of the United States.
Mrs. Atherton main­
tains that Hamilton was the one, who "stone by stone built up
the great policy of neutrality which prevailed until the
year 1898; impressed into the Government.the d o c t r i n e ’—
he had formulated it in ’The Federalist1--which was to im­
mortalize the name of a man who created nothing . "
He was
the one, Mrs. Atherton insists, who made the United States
"wealthy and respected 1
Reference has already been made
in this chapter to Mrs. Atherton’s statement to the effect
that Hamilton’s "fame obscured that of Washington, and abroad
he was by far the most interesting and significant figure in
the young country."
(Mrs. Atherton writes of Hamilton’s
Samuel F. Bemis, The American Secretaries of State
and Their Diplomacy, II, 93.
Ibid ., p. 451.
Ibid., p. 360.
c i t ., p. 419.
fame being at this high peak in Europe immediately after he
submitted his "Report on the Public Credit,")
In formulating major principles in foreign diplomacy,
Washington, as president of the United States, is frequently
described as calling upon various individuals and groups for
suggestions and opinions, and then, subsequently, taking
from the great amount of conflicting material, the ideas
most helpful in the solution of the immediate problem.
in the.opinion of most critics, made the final decisions.
Writers seem to voice again and again, that the firm, saga­
cious, and inscrutable influence of Washington overshadowed
all the major policies which were established; they also
indicate that it was Washington’s good fortune to be sur­
rounded by'varied and opposing talent,- particularly of the
type which was exemplified in Thomas Jefferson and Alexander
Furthermore, in spite of the interference of
Hamilton in the affairs of the State Department, Jefferson
through it all, was conspicuously and successfully active.
With sentiment in America divided over being drawn
into the struggle precipitated' by the French Revolution,
Fish remarks:
To the danger that would inevitably come to the
United States of being drawn into the vortex of any war
between France and G-reat Britain was added the peril of
being divided with itself over the issue.
It was
probably fortunate at this crisis both opinions were
represented in the cabinet, and it was incalculably
advantageous that the government was presided over by
Washington1s force, prestige, and balance.
In somewhat the same language, Fish also writes:
Foreign affairs were, however, of such critical
moment throughout the Federalist period that many ques­
tions of policy were discussed by the whole Cabinet,
together with Jay and the vice-president, John Adams.
As a matter of fact, Jefferson’s opinion was seldom
followed; his influence was modifying rather than direct­
The responsibility and the credit belong primarily
to the president, Washington, and, later, Adams.
In the above discussion Hamilton is not designated as
being the most significant figure in establishing principles
associated with foreign affairs.
The "modifying influence"
accorded Jefferson appears to be a tendency that is also
attributed to him by other writers; but, somehow, it seems
to have been a "modifying" influence which produced results.
Lynch calls attention to the above-mentioned charac­
teristic as being a part of Jefferson:
He dropped suggestions into the minds of others so
adroitly that often, when .they strove to bring about
what he desired, they believed themselves to be working
on their own initiative.
This he permitted them to
think, satisfied if results came.9^
Bowers analyzes Jefferson’s influence in much the
same manner:
In his leadership we find more of leading than of
driving. He had a genius for gently and imperceptibly
insinuating his own-views into the minds of others and
8 8 Carl Russel Fish, American Diplomacy (New York:
Henry Holt and Company, 1925), p." 95.
Ibid., p. 81.
99 Lynch,
0 £.
cit., p. 13.
leaving them with the impression that they had conceived
the ideas and convinced Jefferson.
Whatever the tactics Jefferson employed, Bemis ac­
cords him a hngh place in diplomatic, history:
The years 1790 to 1793, during which Jefferson
guided our foreign policy, under Washington’s judicious
leadership, are among the most .vital in our diplomatic
history, and if Jefferson’s long life had not been full
of other important-.labour, his services-as- Secretary of
State alone would still deserve well of his country and
give him a high place in its history . ^ 2
Woolery, also, grants Jefferson a high place in
diplomatic history:
Not thoroughly respected at home, it was impossible
to be so abroad.
In the years after 1783 the new state
had to determine the basis for its commercial relations,
protect its trade by treaties, relieve its citizens
from the menace of Barbary pirates, adjust claims and
debts,— in general to achieve a satisfactory position
among the nations. - And this achievement was a serious,
proposition to a government which was poorly adapted to
overcome even the ordinary difficulties of domestic
For the solution Thomas Jefferson was largely
responsible. As minister to France .and as Secretary of
State,'he attacked every problem of American diplomacy
and the system and principles he followed were, in
. practically every case, ultimately followed by the
United States . 9 3
Establishing a manner of dealing commendable to the
degree which has been cited above, indicates that Jefferson
contributed much toward making the United States respected
Bowers, o£. c i t ., p. 108.
92 *
Bemis, American Secretaries and Their Diplomacy,
II, 4.
cit., p. viii.
in its early days, in spite of what has been termed the
"outrageous” interference by Hamilton in affairs of the
State Department,
In a famous eulogy delivered in the
year 1826, Daniel Webster pointed out "that no court in
Europe, had, at that time, in Paris, a representative com­
manding or enjoying higher regard, for political knowledge
or for general attainment, than the minister of this then
infant republic.
Jefferson is said to have established models in
diplomacy which later secretaries were glad to study and
With particular reference to Jefferson’s long
note to Hammond, dated May 29, 1792, in which "Jefferson
reviewed the whole course of the dispute between Great
Britain and the United States since the peace," Muzzey
The note- had no immediate effect on England’s be­
havior, but it remains one of the ablest diplomatic
documents in our archives.
It set a standard for fair­
ness of spirit, thoroughness of information, and co­
gency of reasoning that subsequent secretaries of state
have felt it an honorable task to emulate . 9 5
With reference to the Pinckney treaty, negotiated
with Spain in 1795, Woolery points out that although the
treaty'was not terminated during the period of Jefferson’s
Selim H. Peabody, American Patriotism (New York:
International Book Company, 1881), pi 171.
ojd .
cit., p. 144.
secretaryship, yet ’’Jefferson’s plan was incorporated into a
treaty within twenty-two months after his retirement, and
the Pinckney Treaty bears his stamp in practically every
"It is often said that the President usually took the
advice of Hamilton, but actually, in foreign affairs, he
rather more usually took that of Jefferson•"
The proposed retaliatory shipping policy referred to
above, which alarmed England to the degree that she ultimate'
ly established diplomatic relations with the new republic
may be cited as an example of Jefferson1s .modifying influ­
ence which produced results.
As a leader in this discrim­
inatory movement, a movement which was of such a nature as
to result in Great Britain changing her policy to the ex­
tent of agreeing to send an accredited foreign minister to
the United States, Jefferson and Madison may be looked upon
as persons of influence in determining foreign policy, des­
pite Mrs. Atherton’s insisting that abroad Hamilton was "by
far the most significant figure in the young country," and
that Hamilton "made the United States respected."
Madison’s interest in this entire movement would seem
to indicate that he was not absolutely bereft of the acumen
that is usually characteristic of the successful business
Woolery, op., cit., p. 84.
Adams, The Living Jefferson, p. 244.
Mrs. Atherton insists, however, that "there was nothQ O
ing of the business man in his-composition . " ^
As to the
reaction produced in England over this so-
called Madison’s bill providing "for a higher tariff on
portations from countries having no treaties of commerce
with the United States than from those* having such treaties
and for heavier tonnage duties on the ships of such nations
entering American p o r t s , " " Bemis writes:
No sooner was it in prospect of enactment than the
letters of British consuls in America began to teem
with apprehension as to its effect on the carrying
trade of England.
Lord Grenville, P i t t ’s Secretary
of State for Home Affairs . . . read the dispatches
from America with quickened interest . . . and forth­
with he summoned the one Englishman in London who was
thoroughly familiar with current political conditions
in the United States, an army officer by the name of
Beckwith who had just returned from a confidential
visit to the seat of the new American Government.^-00
It was "the danger to British commerce at the hands
of Congress that had quickened the attention of the Ministry
and had led to the sending of Beckwith late in 1789.
This all shows that the faction opposing Hamilton and
led by Jefferson and Madison was powerful enough to influence
some of the policies that were being formulated in England.
Atherton, ojq. cit. , p. 343.
Bemis, Jay’s Treaty, p. 39.
Ibid.. p. 41.
Ibid., p. 62.
Beckwith., lacking "the proper credentials,” could not
"establish any official contact with the Secretary of
S t a t e . T h i s
situation led to the arrival of'George
Haimnond in October, 1791.
Again, the strength of the group
opposing the Hamilton faction is evidenced:
P i t t ’s Government had to choose between the begin­
ning of diplomatic relations with a country in whosegovernment an influential party 'with an amenable leader
favored more cordial relations with England or the
prolonging of a situation which could only play into
the hands of the anti-British and anti-Federalist party
. n o w crystallizing under the leadership of Thomas Jef­
ferson, the friend of France.
The nature of the instructions of the British Govern­
ment to Hammond makes ,fit obvious that the primary purpose
of Hammond’s mission was to prevent, by the presence of a
British Minister and a procrastinated negotiation, a revival •
of the discrimination movement.
He was not empowered to
conclude any definite settlement either as to the frontier
or as to commerce.”-*-^
Thus, then, with the arrival of Hammond as British
Minister to the. United States, and with the appointment of
Thomas Pinckney,
as the United States to England,
"was Jef­
ferson’s determination requited— that another American Min­
ister should never be sent to England until a duly authorized
Ibid., p. 75.
I b i d ., p.
8 8
Ibid., p. 94.
representative of Great Britain had arrived in the United
"I Q K
Apparently, then, the leadership and influence,
of individuals, other than Hamilton, developed and furthered
the foreign policy of the United States during the adminis­
tration of Washington.
Bemis accounts for the marked success of the United
States in the diplomatic field during the Washington admin­
istration somewhat in terms of European distress, a situa­
tion which was, obviously, beyond the control of Alexander
Washington gave the required leadership, and he was
to achieve marked success in the field of foreign af­
fairs without the prime requisite of military strength.
This was because, happily for him and his countrymen,,
the great powers of the world presently became involved
against each other in the long conflicts which followed
the outbreak of the French Revolution.
Occupied in
ardent and deadly struggle in Europe, they had ho force
to use in America.
Europe's distress became America's
Such was the secret of President Washington's
success in foreign affairs.
Jefferson, too, viewed European quarrels as being of
advantage to America:
Jefferson formed while in Europe a settled .convic­
tion that sooner or later Europe's quarrels would be
sure to be America's advantage, that as long as the
European powers were not embarrassed at home, and had
energy for aggressive.policies in North America, they
would never be tender of American independence unless
Ibid., p. 95.
Samuel F. Bemis, A Diplomatic History of the United
States (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1936), p. 8 6 .
it suited their interests to be so, as it did that of
France; but that if the \mcertain state of European
international relations should involve either Great
Britain or Spain, the aggressive colonial back-door
neighbours of this c'ountry, in' war between themselves
or in serious diplomatic difficulties they would pay
well to secure the friendship of the United States, in
order to insure the safety of their adjacent territory
in America. An implicit trust in this, rather than
in military preparedness . . . was to becharacteristic
of his long career in handling the foreign relations of
the United States . 1 0 7
The formulation of the early policy of neutrality for
the United States, a policy which originated somewhat in the
recognition of the importance of America’s isolation in re­
lation to the rest of the world, involved too many persons,
problems and
situations to be brushed aside in assertions .
the Atherton
type which have already beencited.
for the creation of this far-reaching policy cannot
be granted Hamilton in accordance with Mrs. Atherton’s be­
lief that Hamilton was the one "who stone by stone built up
the great policy of neutrality which prevailed until the
year 1898; impressed into the Government the ’Doctrine’—
he had formulated it in ’The Federalist’--which-was to im­
mortalize the name of a man who created nothing.”10^
A person recognized as early voicing the importance
of America’s isolated position is Thomas Pownall, who,
Samuel F. Bemis, The American Secretaries o f -State
and Their Diplomacy, II, 1 1 .
10® Atherton, op.. cit., p. 419.
f o r m e r l y a colonial governor and always a clear-sighted
friend to America, in his Memorial to the Sovereigns of
America, in 1781, spoke of the Empire of the United St ates,
and laid down as a fundamental principle of American poli­
tics that there should he no connection with European
statement with reference to this particu
lar problem is:
As nature hath separated her from Europe, and hath
established her. alone (as a Sovereign) on a great Con­
tinent, far removed from the old world and all its em­
broiled interests, it is'contrary to the nature of her
existence, and consequently to her interest, that she
should have any connexions of Politics with Europe
other than merely commercial.H O
The same idea was recorded by John Adams, November
18, 1782, in a conversation with the British Peace
Commissioner at Paris, where he insisted that the
United States must not be a make-weight.HI
Some of Ada m s ’ words in this conversation are:
It is obvious that all the powers of Europe will be
continually manoeuvring with us, to work us into their
real or imaginary balances of power.
They will all
wish to make of us a make-weight candle, when they are
weighing out their pounds.
Indeed, it is not surpris­
ing; for we shall very often, if not always, be able to
turn the scale.
But I think it ought to be our rule
not to meddle; and that of all the powers of Europe,
not to desire us or, perhaps even to permit us, to
interfere, if they can help it . 1 1 2
Albert B. Hart, The Monroe Doc trine An Interpreta­
tion (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 19167, p. 9.
° ° » cit’.
Loc. cit.
Loc. cit.
During discussions over the new United States Con­
stitution, this idea of isolation is said to have appeared
in many forms, and to have been discussed by many states­
Washington, in 1788, wrote to Sir Edward Newenham as
being against disturbance on the part of European powers:
I hope the United States of America will be able to
keep disengaged from the labyrinth.of European policies
and wars; and that before long they will, by the adop­
tion of a good national government, have become re­
spectable in the eyes of the world, so that none of the
maritime powers, especially none of those who hold
possessions in the New World or the West Indies, shall
presume to treat them with insult or contempt.
should be the policy of the United States to administer
to their wants without being engaged in their quarrels.H53
Washington also expresses his views similarly in a
letter dated August 11, 179 0, to Lafayette:
It seems to be our policy to keep in the situation
in which nature has placed us, to observe a strict
neutrality, and to furnish others with those good things
of subsistence which they may want, and which our fer­
tile land abundantly produces, if circumstances will
permit us to do so.l^A
Further statements of the above kind made by various
individuals from time to time, as well as references to situ­
ations involving problems of diplomacy, might' be added to
illustrate the complex background from which the policy of
neutrality evolved.'
The final policy was not the entire cre­
ation of Alexander Hamilton.
Ibid., p. 10.
William Kirk -Woolery, The Relation of Thomas Jefferson to American Foreign P o l i c y , 1795-1795 (Baltimore: The
Lohns Hopkins Press, 1927), p. 81.
When the actual wording and the formulation of the
ideas of the Proclamation of Neutrality, issued in 1793,
came up for consideration, some writers do not ascribe much
credit to Hamilton.
Woolery presents the problem as follows:
The proclamation was drafted by Randolph. Had Hamil­
ton been successful in impressing his opinions on the
President, he would have presented a form drawn up by
Jay, about two weeks earlier.
This copy is in the Ham­
ilton Manuscripts, with a letter from Jay, saying:
fYour Letters of the 9th inst. were this Day delivered
to me, as I was preparing to go out of town— The sub­
ject of them is important--I have not Time to judge
decidedly on some of the points--the enclosed will show
what my present Ideas of a proclamation are— it is
hastily drawn— it says nothing of Treaties:
— it speaks
of neutrality, but avoids, the Expression because in this
country often associated with others . 1
But the ideas were those of Jefferson and the two
other Virginians in the administration, Washington and
The document was issued on April 2 2 . Two
days before, Jefferson notified Pinckney of the course
to pursue, in words very similar to the proclamation
fYou may on every occasion give assurances which
cannot go beyond the real desires of this country to
preserve a fair neutrality in the present war, on con­
dition that the rights of neutral nations are respected
in us, as they have been settled in modern times . 1
After the cabinet discussion "the final decision lay
with Washington [not with Hamilton], and his first step was
to issue, on April 22, a proclamation of neutrality.
Again, with reference to the ideas and the actual
wording of the Farewell Address, several writers do not up­
hold the idea that Hamilton "stone by stone built up the
Woolery, ojd. cit. , p. 107.
Fish, ojd. cit. , p. 100.
great policy of neutrality” ; they do indicate that he merely
Washington "began to prepare it, with the help of
Madison, in 1792, when he thought of retiring,” after which
it was finished "with the large co-operation of Hamilton,
and given to the public through- the newspaper on September
19, 1796.”1117
The interpretation set forth by Fitzpatrick
is as follows:
The address.was one of the many natural and sincere
acts of his [Washington’s] life.
It followed the gen­
eral plan outlined in his letter to Madison, four years
previously. . . . When Washington decided to serve a
second term in the Presidency, he laid his letter and
Madison’s answer thereto aside until 1796 when he de­
cided to withdraw permanently from public life.
July he sent a draft of 'his ideas," together with Madi­
sons’s, to Alexander. Hamilton with a request to dress
them up in form. Hamilton complied and built up an
address from Washington’s and Madison’s ideas with some
of his own, and returned the result to Washington, who
again sent it back with suggestions.
Hamilton then
consulted John Jay and the t w o dressed up what appar­
ently was a redraft form by Hamilton, who preferred to
do this rather than alter Washington’s composition.
This, when examined by the President, did not please
him as well as Hamilton’s first draft, which was then
returned to him with the request to give, it a final
M e n Wfashington got this back he revised it
carefully and expunged many things therefrom, faircopied it and handed it to printer Claypoole for publi­
Through Glaypoole’s newspaper ’The American
Daily Advertiser,’ Philadelphia, the Address was first
given to the people of the United S t a t e s . H 8
Hunt grants recognition to Madison for several of the
ideas which became a part of the Farewell Address, but not
033 .
c it. , p. 146.
"I T O
Fitzpatrick, George Washington Himself, p. 498.
those which are ’’its striking features.”1-1-9
A portion of
H u n t ’s analysis is as follows:
After three years of service Washington weighed the
question of announcing his determination not to accept
a re-election.
In his official family he took Jeffer­
son, Hamilton, Knox and Randolph into his confidence and
they advised him not to retire.
The only other person
he consulted was Madison, who, of course, advised him
as the others had done; but Washington wanted his opin­
ions on another point.
If he should conclude to retire,
how should he announce his intention? Madison replied
that a direct address to the people would be the most
fitting way, and at-Washington’s request he handed him
on June £1, 1792, a draft of a farewell address.
ington put it with his papers, and, concluding to accept
a second term, had no occasion to use it, until five
years later when he made it the basis of a part of his
first draft of the immortal Farewell Address. He sent
his draft to Hamilton, and Hamilton sent him another
draft which he used finally as the framework of the
The first paragraph, announcing his purpose
to retire, was substantially as Madison had written it;
so was the second in which he promised continued zeal
for the welfare of the country.
The fifth, regretting
his shortcomings, and the sixth, expressing gratitude
for the honours bestowed upon him, and hope for the
perpetuity of the Constitution were similar to the
Madison draft.
The draft also containe*d expressions
in favor of the Union and the Government which appeared
in the address in a different form. Everything, there­
fore, said in Madison’s draft was incorporated in the
address, but his draft contained only nine paragraphs
and the address has fifty; nor can it be claimed that
its striking features are the portion which Madison
The reason why Washington did not consult him in pre­
paring the final address was that, at the time he was
drawing it up, Madison no longer enjoyed his confidence
or favor.12(^
11^ Gaillard Hunt, Life of Madison (New York: Double­
day, Page and Company, .1902), p. £20.
120 Loc. cit.
Ford, also, refers to the Madison draft, to confer­
ences which Washington held with lay, and to the preparation
of the draft hy Hamilton, hut, nevertheless, he states that
"Washington's own ideas controlled the substance; the liter1 pi
ary form was supplied by Hamilton."
In direct opposition to Mrs. Atherton's contention
that Hamilton built up the policy of neutrality, Hart in­
sists that the document was fundamentally one representing
the thought and feeling of George Washington on the subject,
as'well as that of other statesmen.
He, accordingly, dis­
credits the idea of Hamilton being chiefly involved.
Descendants'of Alexander Hamilton to this day insist
that it was their ancestor who drew up Washington's
famous Farewell Address of 1796.
The facts are that
Washington invited various of his closest friends and
counsellors to make suggestions on that address.
appears that Hamilton, who had great gifts of literary
style, was asked to make a fair copy of the result, so
that a manuscript exists today written in his hand.
we know also, that for the printed version of the ad­
dress which appears in the. Federal Gazette, the presi­
dent himself read the proofs and made some changes in
the final drafts.
The Farewell Address sounds like
Washington: it was the work of Washington; it is Wash­
cit., p. 308.
A. B. Hart, Reading with a Purpose (Chicago: Ameri­
can Library Association, 1927), p. 18.
Somehow, in the history of the United States, it
would seem that two major factions following the principles
upheld by Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson have in­
fluenced simultaneously the political philosophy, as well
as the social and economic development of the country.
Lesser groups have emerged from period to period, flourished,
launched their ideas, and, in time=, managed to secure more
than a measure of approval for some of their principles
even from the major factions.
Despite this modifying in­
fluence of lesser groups, the major parties have largely
determined the basic policies of the nation's development.
With reference to the rather natural grouping into
which people fall, an alignment said to be somewhat typical
of all countries where political units function, Muzzey
As long as men live together in political societies
there will be those who fear anarchy more than tyranny
and those who set freedom.above efficiency* We incline
toward the one or the other of these opinions according
to our nature and nurture, and-the bias is seldom re­
moved by education or experience.
There are ’tastes'
in polities as in food, and they are impossible to ac­
count for.1
Besides this rather natural tendency to which Muzzey
refers., there are, perhaps, other influences which may ac­
count for the ailignment.
Whatever they are, the fact re­
mains that the partisanship of the Washington period was
extreme, and .Americans of pronounced political feeling,
when faced with the powerful contradictory philosophies of
Hamilton and Jefferson, were almost compelled to- choose one
or the other, in the same manner as people of today tend to
classify themselves.
Just as Mrs. Atherton in her study of Alexander
Hamilton in the book, The Conqueror, has been, in several
instances, almost offensively laudatory, so in her treat­
ment of Thomas Jefferson, she has been unnecessarily condem­
In her study of this early period in American
history, Mrs. Atherton has written glowingly and effusively
of the character and achievements of Hamilton and minimized
the constructive influence of several of his contemporaries,
notably Jefferson, thereby lessening the reciprocal influ­
ence resulting from the interplay of opposing factions.
This procedure of associating numerous constructive forces
with Hamilton and basically destructive forces with Jeffer-'.
son has distorted the viewpoint of the era under study.
1 David S. Muzzey, Thomas Jefferson (New York: Charles
Scribner’s Sons, 1918), p. 176.
A writer wlio has as his main object the interpreta­
tion of an individual statesman usually notes and even
recognizes the influence of contemporary statesmen, even
though their policies may have been in direct opposition to
those promulgated by the particular person under study.
Any period in its finality draws its congealing forces from
the influence of many minds, some of which may be diametri­
cally opposed to each other.
Individuals and factions do
not only contribute to their own strength and activity, but,
indirectly, to the strength and activity of opposing in­
dividuals and factions, sometimes in proportion to the num­
ber and the intensity of the conflicting ideas and the rival­
ries which are instigated, promoted, and supported.
Or, in
other words, the greatness of individuals and groups is
sometimes measured in comparison with the ability and achieve­
ment of the adversaries.
Thus, it would seem, that a study
and a presentation of an historical epoch ought include the
analysis of influences and counter-influences of the ideas
and achievements of the several individuals upon each other.
Again, it may be pointed out, that in the composite
picture which Mrs. Atherton has created in her volume, The
Conqueror, ideas and movements emerge abruptly through her
final statements and hasty assumptions, rather than evolve
gradually as natural growths and developments.
The height of Mrs, Atherton1s prejudice in The
Conquoror is shown*in her treatment of Thomas Jefferson
when paralleled with her treatment of Alexander Hamilton,
Against an array of descriptions which extol, at times,-to
the point of deification, the character of Hamilton and
his achievements, Mrs, Atherton, with reference to Jeffer­
son, thrusts denunciatory remarks of the following nature:
"History shows us few men so contemptible in character, so
low in tone.
. , -."2
(Mrs, Atherton does add in a jumbled
array of words that a certain quality places Jefferson as a
man of genius.)
Her words are: "But those who despise him
most, who oppose the most determined fron to the ultimates
of his work, must acknowledge that formational quality in
his often dubious intellect which ranks him a man of genius."3
This rather queer description of Jefferson*s ancestry also
appears in The Conqueror:
Had Jefferson come of stout yeoman stock, like John
, Adams, or of a long line of patrician ancestors, like
Hamilton, and, to a lesser degree, like Washington, he
might, judging from certain of his tastes, and his love
of power, have become, or been, as aristocratic in
habit and importance in the young country.
But the two
extremes met in his blood.
The plebianism of his father
Gertrude Franklin Atherton, The Conqueror (New
York: The Macmillan Company, 1904), p. 460,
3 Ibid.* > P* 461.
showed itself in the ungainly shell, the indifference to
personal cleanliness, and in the mongrel spirit which
drove him to acts of physical cowardice for which his
apologists blush. ' But his mother had belonged to the
aristrocracy of Virginia, and' this knowledge induced a
sullen, resentment that he should be so unlike her in
kind, so different in appearance from the courtly men
of his State.4
Mrs. Atherton maintains on one hand that "all that
is greatest in this American evolution of a century was
typified in Hamilton,1,5 and on the other hand that "the re­
verse side of the national character we owe to the greatest
of his rivals [Jefferson]".6
Mrs. Atherton, presumably, must have emulated the
style of some earlier writers of Hamiltonian biography, who
it is said, were somewhat in the habit of heaping invective
upon the character and the achievement of Thomas Jefferson.
With reference to this situation, James Truslow Adams main­
tains that "both in his lifetime and since, Jefferson suf­
fered in this respect (being slandered) in a much higher
degree than Hamilton"; and, "whereas a considerable number
of the lives of Jefferson are fair to the claims of Hamilton,
it seems difficult for almost any biographer of Hamilton to
refrain from trying to prove that Jefferson was either a
4 Jkid., p . 418.
5 Ibid.. p. £07.
^ Loc. cit•
,.••• ■ ' ■ *
fool or a knave or both.”
Apparently, following this older trend of maligning
Jefferson, Mrs. Atherton maintains, on one hand, that "the
most exhaustive research among records of friends and
enemies has failed to bring to light any evidence of mean
and contemptible traits in Hamilton.
. . . Even his de­
tractors— those who count in letters— have admitted that
his nature and his methods were too high-handed for grovel­
ling and deceit.
. .
On the other hand, Mrs. Atherton
creates such despicable pictures as the following: "Jeffer­
son and Madison had the spirit of the mongrel in comparison
[with Hamilton];
and our forefathers "were not debased by
political corruption until Jefferson took them in hand, and
sowed the bountiful crop which has fattened so vast and so
curious a variation upon the original A m e r i c a n . J e f f e r ­
s o n ^ system, Mrs. Atherton insists, was plebian to the ex­
tent that it was entirely inconsistent with anything that
approached dignity and splendor.
She writes:
Nor did it occur to anyone, even the most ardent
Republican, that dignity and splendour were inconsis­
tent with a frea and enlightened Republic, until
James T. Adams. The Living Jefferson (New York:
Charles Scribners, 1936), p. 8.
Atherton, ££. cit., p. 391.
^ Loc. cit.
10 Ibid., p. 307.
Jefferson began his steady and successful system of
plebianizing the country.J-1
Mrs. Atherton, evidently finds it not difficult to
picture the opponents of Hamilton,— Jefferson, in particu­
lar, in most unbecoming aspects.
Language of the oppro­
brious type which Mrs. Atherton hurls against Jefferson,
would seem to carry with it the implication that the
statesmanship of Jefferson was not only insignificant, but
of a subversive nature.
Mrs. Atherton, accordingly, rele­
gates Jefferson to an inferior position and regards his
public life and career as harmful influences in the history
of the United States and deterrent factors in the public
career of Alexander Hamilton.
Unfortunately, in spite of the fact that Mrs. Ather­
ton maintains that Hamilton was above resorting to deceit,
some writers do call attention to activities on the part of
Hamilton which did not exactly .emanate from the kindliness
and the integrity of his soul, but rather from an unbecom­
ing and overwhelming desire to achieve his particular ob­
An act on his part, which calls forth unquestionable
11 ibid., p. 329
condemnation, is one associated with his interference in the
affairs of the State Department during the early days of
the Washington administration.
The matter arose over deal­
ings of the new republic with G-reat Britain.
The first
accredited British minister to the United States, Hammond,
arrived in October, 1791, and forthwith presented to the
State Department the grievances of the British government
which revolved around such problems as those developing
from boundary disputes and the British evacuation of the
Northwest forts.
With reference to Jefferson’s reply to
the complaints of the British minister, and its resultant
treatment in the hands of Hamilton, James Truslow Adams
It is a document of nearly seventy pages, and has
been called one of the most memorable which ever came
from Jefferson’s pen. He took a firm stand on all the
questions involved, and, not knowing that Hamilton had
been leading the British envoy to expect a much weaker
reply, Jefferson asked Hamilton to read it over before
sending. Hamilton returned it with various sugges­
tions, among others that Jefferson should ’extenuate’
instead of ’vindicating’ the American position as to
dejbts. The document then went to Washington, who
••reversed. Hamilton and upheld Jefferson.
It next went
to Mr. Hammond, who having been led into wholly false
expectations by Hamilton was stunned by what he called
the ’extraordinary performance’ of Jefferson, and im­
mediately ran to Hamilton for explanations.
The real
’extraordinary performance’ then became that of the
Secretary of the Treasury, who, as a member of the
Cabinet, lamented to a British Minister the ’intem­
perate violence’ of the American Secretary of State,
adding that Jefferson’s letter was far from represent­
ing the real opinion of the country. Hamilton falsely
added that Washington had not seen it, and had relied
upon Jefferson’s sending a document which would meet
the views of other members of the Cabinet.
The bewildered Minister regarded this utterly inde­
fensible action of Hamilton as a ’mark of confidence1,
and then bethought himself of having another talk with
the Secretary of State.
Jefferson, however, insisted
upon the text of the letter as agreed upon by himself
and Washington, and left the British diplomat more be­
wildered than ever. Ho great harm was done, as the'
British government was too busy with the dangerous re­
lations with France even to consider the documents in
the American case when they arrived in London. Hamil­
t o n ’s belief that he was to be a sort of Prime Minister
made him a nuisance in poking into other departments,
but even a Prime Minister does not discredit and throw
over his Foreign Secretary when talking with the
Minister of another power.
Except as an example.of_
Hamilton’s egoism, his frequent lack of judgment, and
his intense hatred of Jefferson, the incident is
almost incredible.12
Another instance which may be cited to show that
Hamilton deliberately resorted to misrepresenting condi­
tions is one arising over the possibility of the United
States joining an Armed Neutrality in 1794, in the event of
which, John Jay might have secured more favorable provisions
in the treaty bearing his name.
Hamilton "carelessly des­
troyed one of Jay’s strongest weapons,— the possibility of
the United States joining Sweden and Denmark in an Armed
Neutrality,— by.telling Hammond that such a move would be
against our policy."13
In describing t h e .above-mentioned situation, Bowers
Sweden and Denmark had ratified an Armed Neutrality
Convention on March 27, 1794, agreeing to join their
o jd .
cit . »
p .
^ John Truslow Adams, The March of Democracy (New
York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1932), P* 182.
fleets for the protection of their peoples. Pinckneyhad been approached by the Swedish Minister in London
with an invitation to the American Government to join.
He had received the invitation with frank enthusiasm,
and thought his country would agree. This was all known
to Grenville, who was painfully impressed with the
possibilities. He had put his spies to the task of
opening diplomatic mail and keeping him informed of devel­
Instructions had been sent to Hammond, the
Minis'ter at Philadelphia, to exert all his ingenuity
to prevent the United States from joining the Scandina­
vian combination.
Ten days before lay submitted his draft, Grenville
was in possession of a curious report from Hammond.
latter had been informed by Hamilton, ’with every
demonstration of sincerity,’ that under no circumstances
would America join the Armed Neutrality.
This, Hammond
understood, was secret information on Cabinet action.
Thus, through the amazing indiscretion of Hamilton, Jay
was deprived of his high card at-the critical moment of
the negotiations.
Hamilton was standing behind Jay, to
be sure, but he was holding a mirror, however unconscious
ly, which reflected the American negotiator’s cards to
the enlightenment of the suave and smiling Grenville.
Prom that moment Grenville stiffened.his opposition to
J a y ’s demands, and thenceforth the latter was in a con­
tinuous retreat.
It would seem, then, that there were evidences of.
mean and contemptible traits in Hamilton, even though Mrs.
Atherton contends that his methods were above deceit.
The Hamilton-Burr relations, if analyzed in a few of
their numerous intricacies, would, perhaps, reveal sufficient
evidence to the effect that both of these men, Alexander
Hamilton as well as Aaron Burr, in their frequent dealings
^ Claude G, Bowers, Jefferson and Hamilton (New York:
Houghton Mifflin Company, 1925), p . 269.
with, each other, were not always actuated by the highest
quality of patriotism, but rather that both would stoop to
employ tactics of unbecoming nature.
T h e ■bitterness of
their rivalry was of long standing, becoming in the opinion
of some very pronounced with the elevation of Burr to the
senatorship of the state of New York..
and the Livingstons had united
When the Clintons
to oppose the re-election
of Schuyler, Hamilton’s father-in-law, and supported Burr,
Hamilton became enraged.
After this election, according to
Wandell and Minnegerode, Hamilton resorted to underhanded
defamation of Burr.
They write:
. . . On January 19, 1791, Aaron Burr found himself, at
the age of thirty-four years and eleven months, United
States Senator from New York. . . .
The senatorial election, and the unexpected defeat of his father-in-law, infuriated Mr. Hamilton. . . .
Actually, his secret hatred, his underhanded obstruc­
tion,. his stealthy defamation of Colonel Burr began on
that January day in 1791.15
There are assertions to the effect that Hamilton, in
order to meet the onslaughts of Freneau’s "Gazette," re­
sorted to anonymous letter-writing; and there are writers
who indicate that he did not receive approbation for his
"We search in vain," writes Bowers, "through the
correspondence of his friends for evidence of approval.
Samuel H. Wandell and Meade Minnegerode, Aaron Burr
(New York: Putnam and Sons, 1927), I, 149.
Bowers, ojq. cit., p. 168.
In further description of Hamilton’s descent to anonymous
letter-writing, Bowers adds:
"Thus ended the first year of
actual party struggle— Hamilton a hit soiled by his descent
to anonymous letter-writing, Jefferson strengthened by his
silence under assault."1 ^
Adams writes similarly:
When an opposition newspaper was started, Hamilton
lost control of himself, and in the course of some
months he wrote— under various pseudonyms--a series of
outrageous attacks upon his colleague in the Cabinet,
claiming among other things that Jefferson had opposed
the adoption of the Constitutionj that he had wished
to repudiate the public debt; and that he had set up
a paper to slander the government. Whatever, names Ham­
ilton signed, the authorship of the articles was well
known, and the public was treated to the spectacle of
the Secretary of the Treasury bitterly slandering the
Secretary of State in public print.18
As has been previously pointed out, Mrs. Atherton
maintains that Hamilton’s ’’nature and methods were too high1 Q
handed for grovelling and deceit.”
In spite of this state­
ment, it might be indicated, that the above references to
incidents in the public career of Hamilton, in which in­
stances he did display tendencies which call forth condemna­
tion, are more in conformance with the opinion expressed by
Adams that ’’with all his dazzling qualities, he [Hamilton]
had a taste for low intrigue, and he had for long been,
17 I b i d ., p. 183.
Adams, The Living Jefferson, p. 241.
Atherton, ojd. cit., p. 391.
attacking Jefferson in the public press in articles vfoich he
signed with assumed names or initials.”
To bewail Jefferson’s lack of sturdy* and patrician
ancestry; to intimate that he failed to become aristocratic
in habit and spirit because of his extremely plebian charac­
teristics; to maintain that he was contemptible in character
and low in tone; to assert that he was first responsible for
debasing our forefathers by political corruption; and to
proclaim that the national character of the United States
owes its reverse character to Thomas Jefferson— all of this,
it would seem grossly,misrepresents Thomas Jefferson.
almost verges upon the ridiculous to defend Jefferson against
some of the above charges.
Thomas Jefferson was of sturdy, frontier stock on his
father’s side and of patrician lineage on his mother’s side.
It was an ancestry, perhaps of as much prominence, as produced
any of the outstanding statesmen of the day.
Thomas Jeffer­
son’s father, Peter Jefferson, a surveyor, belonged to' ’’one
of the oldest, although not socially great, families in
He was chiefly self-taught, but he had a
powerful mind, formed, as Lincoln’s was to be by constant
Adams, The March of Democracy, p. 181.
reading of tlie Bible and of Shakespeare, though other books,
such as Swift and the Spectator, also bore some share.
influence in the frontier community was great.
• • .21 .
Of Jefferson’s m ather’s family Muzzey writes:
. . . a certain William Randolph, gentleman, from War­
wickshire, who had sacrificed most of his patrimony in
the defense of Charles’s martyred father, came to the
royal colony of Virginia and started his fortunes anew
at Turkey Island, on the broad banks of the lower James.
Randolph traced his descent through a long line of
nobles, warriors, and statesmen to the royal Earl of
Murray, half-brother of the ill-fated Mary, Queen of
Scots . . . a daughter of the house of Randolph . . .
became the mother of Thomas Jefferson.22
In writing of Thomas Jefferson’s family background
and what it meant to him, Adams writes:
With money, position, well-known throughout the
county and socially well-connected throughout the
colony, the boy could look forward to living the life
of a country gentleman of that day or striving for
almost any career he might choose.
The boy was to develop into a genuine aristocrat of
the highest type. . . .2S
Bowers advances a similar opinion:
When he entered college at Williamsburg, he found
himself ;,in the headquarters of -the. aristocracy. . . .
Into this society Jefferson-was thrown, and he moved
therein as to the manor born. . . .24
Presumably Jefferson was not forced to harbor resent-
Adams, The Living Jefferson, p. 22.
o jd .
c i t . , p.
2 .
Adams, The Living Jefferson, p. 24.
ci t., p. 95.
ment over the idea that he was so unlike his mother’s kind
as Mrs. Atherton maintains.
Bowers aptly remarks: wThere is
a manifest absurdity in the idea that the man who moved
familiarly in the most cultured circles of the most polished
capital in Europe could have been either impossible in dress
or boorish in manner.*1
For Mrs. Atherton to assert that such items as the
type of clothing Jefferson wore, or the color of his hair,
furnish a basis for certain groups of people of his time
or any time to regard him as *’a greater man than Washington
or Hamilton**^ is foolishly erroneous.
Employing this description, nwith his shaggy, sandy
hair, his great red face, covered with freckles, his long
loose figure, clad in red French breeches a size too small,
a threadbare brown coat, soiled linen and hose, and enormous
hands and feet, he must have astounded the courtly city of
New York, and it is certain that he set Washington’s teeth
on e d g e - M r s .
Atherton concludes that ”it is no wonder
that when this vision rises upon the democratic horizon of
to-day, he is hailed as a greater man than Washington or
Ibid., p. 93.
Atherton, ojd. cit., p. 345.
27 T
Loc. cit.
Regardless of the time or the place that a descrip­
tion and a conclusion of the above-kinds be uttered, or by
whom they be uttered, one may safely maintain that the great­
ness or the insignificance of.any person, cannot be based on
or measured by such items as Mrs. Atherton sets forth in the
above quoted description of Thomas Jefferson.
The following
conclusion drawn by Bowers would seem more fittingly used with
reference to Jefferson.
His enemies then, and ever since, have made too much
of his loose carpet slippers and worn clothes, and the
only thing, they prove is that he m a y have had the
Lincolnian indifference to style.29
A man so fundamentally associated with the spirit of
American democracy and liberalism as is Thomas Jefferson
cannot be described correctly as one contemptible in charac­
ter and low in tone.
What gave Jefferson his profound importance in his
own day, as it does now, was his view of human life.
He was, and still is, the greatest and most influential
American exponent of both Liberalism and Americanism.50
This spirit of liberalism was an integral part of his being.. •
"Jefferson was never to wayer.
Liberalism and love of
liberty were not phases of his youth.
very fibre of his b e i n g . " ^
They were of the
. . N o other man in all our
Bowers, o£. c i t ., p. 92.
Adams, The Living Jefferson, p. 4..
31 Ibid., p. 107.
history has so contributed to the forming of the American
spirit as Jefferson did by his life-long devotion to the
principles of freedom, equality of opportunity, and of ~
The following comparison of Hamilton and Jefferson,
which Adams makes, is somewhat in divergence with the com­
parisons made by Mrs. Atherton, which are cited above.
Hamilton saw more clearly than Jefferson the springs,
which move men and the motives by which they are led and
act. He took a much lower view of human nature than
Jefferson and in that he was right.
On the other hand,
Jefferson saw more clearly than Hamilton the ideals
which the American cherished though they might not live
up to them in practice.
Hamilton was cynical; Jefferson
optimistic. Hamilton believed in heredity; Jefferson in
environment. Hamilton believed human nature could never
change; Jefferson that under the right conditions it
could improve. Hamilton believed America could never
be governed except by the age-long European methods of
corruption and personal gain; Jefferson, who had seen
those methods of corruption at close range, believed
that America had a unique chance in the history of the
world to develop a better method.3**
Described as an individual particularly interested in
tTethical speculation,"34 and as one whatever he did, nhe did
from nature and from deep conviction,1,33 Jefferson wDuld
seem removed' from that which is termed either contemptible
or low.
A man so versatile and so genuinely interested in .
32 Ibid..
33 Ibid..
34 Ibid.*
P35 Ibid..
the variety of ideas and activities to the extent that Thomas
Jefferson demonstrated was not ordinary in habit, spirit, and
"No American of his time had such versatility or
such diversified i n t e r e s t s . H e was "an aristocrat by
nature, a democrat in theory and by generous impulse.
. . .
Philosopher, architect, musician, farmer, statesman, he
touched life at many points in his years abroad and at
in comparison with Hamilton, it may
be indicated that "it is this wide
of Jefferson's mind
and the variety of his interests, which adds so much to our
interest in the man.
Hamilton's mind, powerful as it was in
the fields of government and finance, is singularly lacking
in interest once we abandon those two fields."^®
In considering the background of both Jefferson and
Hamilton, Muzzey concludes that "by all the canons of proba­
bility, Jefferson should have been the aristocratic Federal­
ist and Hamilton the Democratic-Republican♦"30
By what devious method of reasoning Mrs. Atherton
determined that our forefathers "were not debased by politi­
cal corruption until Jefferson took them in hand"40 would be
Bowers, o£. cit., p. 112.
Adams, The March of Democracy, p. 286.
Adams, The Living Jefferson, p. 120.
Muzzey, o£. c i t ., p. 176.
Atherton, ojd. c i t ., p. 307.
difficult to establish.
Jefferson is, Mrs. Atherton asserts,
the one who "sowed the bountiful crop[of political corrup­
tion] which has- fattened so vast and so curious a variation
upon the original American."
That Jefferson should be
singled out as the individual who introduced into American
life a trait which has entered so unedifyingly into the
political organization of this country seems strange; but,
that the people of Jefferson’s day were in a state of
ignorance as to
the existence of political corruption be­
fore he promulgated his ideas seems more strange.
In the United States, as it does in any country,,
political corruption dates back to the very initial stage,
when a mere semblance of government was in the process of
The introduction of corruption into any ^country
or into any political faction, cannot be associated with any
single individual, or with any single event.
Corruption in
its national aspect is most frequently a veiled force, which
develops in a malignant fashion from an origin nourished by
many ideas, situations, and men.
Had Jefferson been only associated with the reverse
side of our national character, as Mrs. Atherton maintains,
undoubtedly his services would not have been so much in de­
mand "through nearly forty years by the people of his own
county and state, by the Virginia Assembly, by President
Atherton, lac. c i t .
Washington, by Congress, and by the nation at large.
Such a
record is n o t .that of one who is considered, by those best
able to judge, either a shirker or a slack and inefficient
public servant.”^
Through all this period of public service, he must
have adhered largely to his own belief that "the man who is
dishonest as a statesman would be a dishonest man in any
Merely referring to one of Jefferson’s major achieve­
ments, his appropriate and sagacious wording of the Declara­
tion of Independence, dispels any idea of Jefferson’s having
associated with the "reverse in our national character."
Jefferson "perfectly succeeded in making it [the Declaration
of Independence] as he said ’it was intended to be, an ex­
pression of the American m i n d . ’
That is the important thing
about it, and also that the ’American m i n d ’ has developed
along the lines of thought and emotion laid down by Hooker in
Connecticut and not by Winthrop in Massachusetts, by Jeffer­
son of Virginia and not by Hamilton of New Y o r k . " ^
In word­
ing the Declaration of Independence,"Jefferson communicated
an undefinable yet distinctive quality to the Declaration
which makes it h i s . " ^
A d a m s , 'The Living Jefferson, p. 99.
, ^ Paul Leicester Ford, The Writings of Thomas Jeffer­
son (New York: C. P. Putnam’s Sons, Ib9L-±8W), X, 68.
4-4Adams, The Living Jefferson, p. 95.
Carl Becker, The Declaration of Independence (New
York: Harcourt Brace and Company, 1912277 P • 196•
In contrast to this idea, that Jefferson is so funda­
mentally associated with what is termed the American spirit,
is a doubt expressed by some as to whether Hamilton ever
appreciated its significance•
Mrs. Atherton, however, in­
sists that Hamilton had a psychological understanding of
the American people. , In describing a letter in which Hamil­
ton gave his reasons for establishing a national bank, Mrs.
Atherton indicates that the one thing about the letter (but
not the most remarkable thing,) was the psychological knowl­
edge it betrayed of the American people.
In contrast to
this idea- is the information advanced by Adams:
. . . Although Hamilton’s patriotic loyalty is so far
above question as to make its mention unnecessary, and
he spent much of his life in the service of America, it
may be questioned if he rea l l y .understood it. He knew
practically nothing of the molding influences of the
frontier, which was largely making America.
maturer years were spent almost wholly in the gay little
cities of New York and Philadelphia among the rich and
governing classes.46
An idea somewhat in conformance with the above is ad­
vanced by Bowers that Hamilton’s "unpopularity with the rank
and file was to come from his lack of sympathy for, and his
understanding of, the America spirit.ӣ*7
Jefferson had much confidence in the good sense of
the people.
"I am persuaded myself,** he writes, "that the
Adams, The Living Jefferson, p. 6.
Bowers, ojd. c i t .. p. 37.
good sense of the people will always be found to be the best
They may be led astray for a moment, but will soon
correct themselves."
He continues, "The basis of our govern­
ments being the opinion of the people, -the very first object
should be to keep that right.' . . * .*48
Jefferson reiterates this same opinion in a communi­
cation to President Washington; "I consider the people who
constitute a society or nation as.the source of all author­
ity in that nation.
. . .f,^9
Mrs. Atherton singles out Alexander Hamilton as being
in the year, 1794, "the most accomplished and versatile man
in America, the most brilliant of conversationists, the
most genial of companions, and hospitable of hosts."^0
These words would, most likely, descriptive of any
person, at any time, in any country; but, in so far as this
early period in the United States is concerned, the words
would seem to be more appropriately used with reference to
Thomas Jefferson than they are with reference to Alexander
4:8 Hord, Writings. IV, 559.
49 I b i d -• VI, 220.
Atherton., on. cit.. p. .444.
Appointed Minister Plenipotentiary to "negotiate
treaties of commerce with foreign nations in conjunction
with Mr* John Adams and Dr. Franklin,” x Jefferson arrived
in Paris in August, 1784, and he remained in France until
the fall of 1789.
Commenting.on Jefferson’s experiences in France, Mrs.
Atherton writes:
Democracy rampant on all sides of him, during his so­
journ in France, found in him not only an ardent sympa­
thizer, but a passionate advocate. He quite overlooked
the fact that he failed to persuade the country of his
enthusiasm to accord the United States fair commercial
treatment: it embodied and demonstrated his ideal of
liberty, equality, fraternity, and he was its most de­
voted friend, unresting until he had insinuated his own
admiration into the minds of his followers in America,
and made Jacobinism a party issue.52
With reference to the commercial negotiations, it ap­
pears that- Jefferson was not dealt with ignominiously.
Bemis writes that with France, Jefferson's negotiations were
concerned chiefly with efforts ”to secure preferential treat­
ment for American commerce, for which he did win a few con53
Those few concessions may have been termed fair
Gilbert Chinard, Thomas Jefferson, The Apostle of
Americanism (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1929), p. 152.
Atherton, o£. c i t .; p. 418.
S. F. Bemis, editor, American Secretaries and Their
Diplomacy (New York: Alfred A. Knopf Company, 1929), II, 8.
in the eyes of some, and not a failure as is maintained by
Mrs. Atherton. "He [Jefferson] succeeded in securing impor­
tant modifications of the French tariff in the interest of
American commerce."
John Marshall is said to have admitted
that Jefferson in France "quitted himself much to the public
satisfaction,”55 while Daniel Webster declared that "Mr.
Jefferson’s discharge of his diplomatic duties was marked by
great ability, diligence, and patriotism."
Mrs. Atherton maintains that the France which Jeffer­
son witnessed and studied during his sojourn as Minister to
the country, during the years 1784 to 1789, demonstrated his
ideal of democracy to the extent that he wished to advocate
and impress it upon the minds of Americans; she, also, im­
plies that Jefferson was willing to support the principles
of Jacobinism in the United States.
Students of the period appear to be of the opinion
that Jefferson, before he ever went to France, had a politi­
cal philosophy recognized to the degree that the French were
willing to accept it in part.
As to the origin of Jefferson’s
political philosophy, it is said:
Andrew A. Lipscomb, editor, The Writings of Thomas
Jefferson (Washington: The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Associa­
tion of the United States,. 1905), VI, xvii.
Muzzey, oq. cit.. p. 118.
5 6 .Loo. oit.
It does not appear that there was anything particu­
larly English or particularly French, although the remote
source of some ideas may be traced to English and French
political thinkers. His principles, as a matter of fact,
belonged to the common fund of political thought drawn
upon by- all the liberal thinkers of the eighteenth
century, and Jefferson, calling no man his master,
simply reflected the general trend of his time. . But
whatever may have been the primary origin of some of his
ideas, he was fully convinced that they corresponded to
conditions existing in America and nowhere else on
earth, that in America alone, were they susceptible of
immediate application and extensive development.^”
Chinard maintains that the political philosophy of
Jefferson was not changed as a result of his association
with the French and their ideas.
He writes:
But when all is said, the most careful scrutiny of
the letters he wrote during that period fails to reveal
any enthusiasm or even any endorsement of the many and
sometimes contradictory political doctrines which were
preached in France, at that time.
I do not even see that
his prolonged sojourn in France modified to any extent
the conclusions he had already reached independently in
the ’Notes on Virginia ’
In consideration of Jefferson’s prominence in American
public life for fifteen years before he went to France, .Chi­
nard maintains:
Such a man was not a student coming to Paris to sit
at the feet of French masters; he was considered by the
French themselves, not only as a master but as the
apostle of the religion of liberty.
They looked up to
him for advice and help, for he had over them the great
superiority of having been more than a simple theorizer;
he had contributed to a great movement of liberation; he
was the promoter of the Bill for Religious Freedom; he
Chinard, ojd. cit •, p. 204.
58 Ibid., p. 215.
had proposed a complete plan of public education and he
had proclaimed in a national document the inviolable
rights of man*
They had much to learn from Jefferson
and he was not reluctant to teach them, but he never
felt that his French friends could repay him in kind.
On the other hand, it cannot be denied that he was very
happy to find enunciated in a very clear and logical way
some of his favorite ideas; it is equally certain that
France was to him a living demonstration and a sort of
horrible example of all the evils caused by aristocratic,
monarchical, and ecclesiastical repressions.
His sojourn
in France had at least the effect of making him more in­
tensely, more proudly American than he was before sail­
ing, and more convinced than ever of the unsurpassed
superiority of the civilization which had already devel­
oped on the northern continent of the New World.^9
Pointing o u t 'that Jefferson preferred the ideals and
surroundings of his own country, Chinard refers to one of
Jefferson’s letters written to James Monroe in which Jeffer­
son asks him to come to France in order to see the actual
"It will,” Jefferson wrote, "make you adore
your own country, its soil, its climate, its equality,
liberty, laws, people & manners.
My God! how little do my
country men know what precious blessings they are in possesrsion of, and which no other people on earth enjoy.
. . .”
Jefferson’s attitude toward France, such as it is
indicated in the portion of the letter quoted above., would
seem to be in direct opposition with the idea proclaimed by
Mrs. Atherton,— that France demonstrated Jefferson’s ideal.
Chinard also believes that even after Jefferson
Ibid., p. 216.
60 I bid., p. 217.
"came back to America, he carefully refrained from giving
any encouragement to those of his French friends who held
radical views,ft6^ and that "whatever influence he exerted
was exerted .in order to maintain rather than overthrow the
existing order of things.”62
Adams and Muzzey, American biographers of Jefferson,
practically reiterate the ideas expressed by the French
biographer, Chinard, in their study of the French influence
on Jefferson.
Adams writes:
. . . Always intensely American, his European experi­
ences made him even more so.
Later . . . .he was accused of having been greatly in­
fluenced by French revolutionary ideas and of being a
Such accusations may have been good politics
but they were certainly far from being the truth. The
fact is that it would scarcely be an exaggeration to
say that he came back without a single major idea which
he had not taken with him when he sailed from Boston.
This does not mean that he did not acquire a vast amount
of information and also of experience.
It means that
when in his forty-second year he arrived in France he had
already rounded out a complete political philosophy which
was thereafter to be modified only in details and not
fundamentals. So far as new ideas were concerned, in­
stead of receiving them, he rather gave them to the
leaders of the new movement in Paris which was for the
most part in the hands of the moderates during his stay.
What France did do for him in the realm of political
thought was to deepen and intensify the conclusions he
already reached. . . .63
Muzzey also writes that the political philosophy of
Chinard, ojd. cit., p. 221.
Adams, The Living Jefferson, p. 173.
Thomas Jefferson was definitely formulated before he went to
Neither did Jefferson learn his radicalism in France.
, . . There were no ’Jacobins* in evidence in France
when Jefferson was there. . . . Jefferson’s radicalism
was far more advanced than that of his Parisian friends,
and if there was any ’infection’ it was rather they who
got it from him. * . . Jefferson’s ’democracy’ was
based less on the reading of Rousseau than on the charac­
ter of George I I I . 6 4
Bowers also denies that Jefferson admired and accepted
French political ideas to the extent that he wished to
establish them in America.
’’Locke, not Rousseau,” Bowers
’’was the well from which'he [Jefferson] drew” ; he
adds, ’’and there is no sillier assertion in history than that
his [Jefferson’s] democracy was born of association with the
men of the French Revolution.”65
Through correspondence, Jefferson, the American Minis­
ter in France, kept himself partially informed as to the
activities associated with the forming and the ratification
of the United States Constitution; and his letters to various
individuals seem to indicate that he was very much more in
sympathy with the whole movement rather than that he was
opposed to it.
Muzzey, ojd. cit., p. 132.
Bowers, o p . c i t ., p. 97.
Mrs. Atherton advances the following information:
. . . and it was well understood among leaders that
Jefferson, who was then American minister to France,
gave the Constitution but a grudging and inconsistent
approval, and would prefer that it failed, were not
amendments tacked on which practically would nullify
its energies.66
Several years before the Constitution was drawn up,
Jefferson "realized the necessity for a central control
over our commerce and foreign relations.
On the very eve
of his departure for France he wrote from Boston to James
fI find the conviction growing strongly that noth­
ing can preserve our confederacy unless the bonds of union
be strengthened.
. » a»»67
Jefferson, a few years after the adoption of the
Constitution, in defending himself against Hamilton1s
charges that he had written letters from Europe to hisfriends to oppose the Constitution, wrote to the president
on September 9, 1792, that the tTcharge is most false.11 He
also added, MNo man in the U. S. I suppose, approved of
every title in the Constitution: no one, I believe, approved
of more of it than I did, and more of it was certainly dis­
proved by my accuser than by me, and of its parts most
vitally republican." °
Atherton, pp. c i t ., p. 276.
Muzzey, op. c i t .. p. 127.
Paul Leicester Ford, editor, The Writings of Thomas
Jefferson, VI, 104.
Even though Mrs. Atherton states that Jefferson gave
the Constitution only a grudging and inconsistent approval,
yet Jefferson’s own letters evince quite consistently a
noticeable amount of enthusiasm.
On February 2, 1788, in a letter to William Rutledge,
Jefferson expressed his approval in these words:
. . . I am glad to hear that our new Constitution is
pretty sure of being accepted by States enough to se­
cure the good it contains, & to meet with such opposi­
tion in some others as to give us hopes it will be ac­
commodated to them by the amendment of its most glaring
faults, particularly the want of a declaration of
On May 17, 1788, to the Count De Moustier, Jefferson
wrote, "I this instrument the Constitution a great
deal of good.
. . .n
To Colonel Carrington on May 27,
1788, Jefferson wrote, "I. learn with great pleasure the
progress of the new Constitution.
Indeed I have presumed
it would gain on the public mind, as I confess it has on my
At first, tho’ I saw that the great mass & groundword
was good, I disliked many appendages.
cussion have cleared off most of these.
Reflection and dis. . ."
To Mr.
Francis Hopkinson on March 13, 1789, Jefferson wrote: I approved, from the first moment, of the great mass
of what is in the new Constitution, the consolidation
69 Ibid.. V, 4.
70 Ibid., V, 11.
71 I b i d ., V, 19.
of the government, and organization into Executive,
legislative, & judiciary, and the subdivision of the
legislative; the happy compromise of interests between
the great & little States, . . . the.qualified negative
on laws given to the Executive which however I should
have liked better if associated with the judiciary also
as in New York and the power of taxation. . .
To Colonel Humphreys on March 18, 1789, Jefferson
declared that wthe Constitution, too, which was the result
of our deliberations, is unquestionably the wisest ever yet
presented to men.
. .
In several of the communications referred to above
Jefferson also pointed out some features of which he did
not approve; but this, it seems, would not be termed rtgrudg­
ing and inconsistent approval," in view of the fact, that
he so frequently expressed his approval of numerous features
which appealed to him.
then, as he indicated, no
man approved of all of the Constitution, and, possibly, he
approved of as much as any one did.
72 Ibid., V, 76.
73 Ibid., V, 89.
Mrs. Atherton, apparently, in her study of Alexander
Hamilton, in the book, The Conqueror, has departed widely
from the "veracity of history.”
In the first place, her highly exaggerated and ex­
tremely prejudiced style of writing does not conform with
the demands of historical accuracy.
In the second place,
many of her statements are characterized by a fallacious
reasoning process, the use of which has not only produced
hasty assumptions and bold assertions which are of question­
able type, but also sweeping and conclusive generalizations
which are obviously 'erroneous.
In the third place, Mrs.
Atherton, employing the general style of writing referred
to above, has not analyzed Alexander Hamilton, any more
than she has analyzed George Washington, lames Madison, and
Thomas Jefferson; neither have the ideas and the motives
which guided his life and their lives been impartially inter'
preted, nor his influence and their influence fairly meas­
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