A Biography of Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804)

Affection and disaffection (1780-1781)

Some happy new events would have Hamilton singing a different tune in 1780. During winter camp at Morristown, Hamilton met and fell in love with Elizabeth Schuyler, whom he would marry at the end of the year. The Schyuler family was one of the wealthy Dutch dynasties of New York. Elizabeth's father, Major General Philip Schuyler, was acquainted with Hamilton and was delighted with the match, despite the fact that Hamilton was penniless and propertyless. Not inconsiderable was the fact that the marriage would be a mutually beneficial arrangement. Schuyler had a feeling that Hamilton would go far and was willing to give him a push if necessary; although it turned out that Hamilton ended up doing most of the pushing. In "Betsy" Hamilton found a loving and adoring wife, who proved a steadfast companion even in his darkest moments.

When not busy with correspondence or courting his wife-to-be, Hamilton turned back to the business of building a better nation. During his tenure as aide-de-camp, Hamilton had formed important ties among New York politicians with whom he regularly corresponded. On the request of congressman James Duane, Hamilton wrote a lengthy missive on his "ideas of the defects of our present system, and the changes necessary to save us from ruin." Hamilton then enumerated the weaknesses of the current government, and offered a very forward-thinking solution: ". . .by calling immediately a convention of all the states with full authority to conclude finally upon a general confederation." The Philadelphia convention was still seven years away.

The rest of the letter reveals a great chunk of what was to become Hamilton's official policies. Indeed, a study of his unofficial political musings prior to his taking office as Secretary to the Treasury show the unfolding of a consistent political plan for America based upon his experiences with the government of a weak confederation. Congress's inability to provide even the most basic of the army's needs proved the dire necessity for a more powerful government. The army, Hamilton observes "is now a mob . . . without cloathing, without pay, without provision, without morals, without discipline. We begin to hate the country for its neglect of us; the country begins to hate us for our oppressions of them." The poor state of the army comprises "three fourths of our civil embarrassments." Once again, he casts the eyes of the world on the doings of the American government.

Hamilton then goes on to detail a financial plan for the country. Had his future political rivals read this letter, none of Hamilton's fiscal policies would have taken them by surprise. He suggests revenue sources--securing a foreign loan, a money tax on business, and a tax in kind on farmers. He expounds upon turning the public debt to the nation's advantage; creating an economy based on paper money; and dwells at length on the founding of a national bank which would be established by the investments of "monied men of influence" who would "relish the project and make it a business."

Knowing full well how his plan would be received by the bulk of Americans, Hamilton opines: "There are epochs in human affairs, when novelty even is useful."