A Biography of Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804)

Citizen Hamilton (1782-1789)

Hamilton's letter to Robert Morris had not been a wasted effort. Upon hearing of Hamilton's recent availability, Morris appointed him Continental receiver of taxes for the state of New York in April of 1782. Hamilton also began studying law in Albany in May, and within six months had completed a three year course of studies, passed his examinations, and was admitted to the New York bar. If he did not have a full enough plate already, Hamilton was appointed a delegate to the Continental Congress. With tongue in cheek, Hamilton summarized his activities in a letter to Lafayette, then in Paris:

"I have been employed for the last ten months in rocking the cradle and studying the art of fleecing my neighbours. I am now a Grave Counsellor at law, and shall soon be a grand member of Congress. The Legislature at their last session took it into their heads to name me pretty unanimously one of their delegates."

Hamilton went to Philadelphia in November of 1782 with the pocketful of reforms he had collected while in the army and during his recent stint as Continental tax receiver with no authority to collect the money due him, and only excuses forthcoming from state collection agents. Happily, Hamilton found that he was not the only disgruntled representative in congress; he soon found a kindred spirit in fellow delegate James Madison.

On the table were urgent issues to discuss. Rhode Island's resistance of the impost, which was preventing the passage of the law; and an army petition for back pay and half-pay pensions. Committees were created to deal with these problems, and Hamilton was appointed to both.

The impost was crushed when Virginia withdrew its support; and meanwhile the army situation reached crisis proportions. While congress debated the terms of payment--whether the states should pay their armies, or whether Congress should pay with continental securities--mutinies began to spring up around the country in early 1783, and by June, General Anthony Wayne's mutinying troops were knocking on congress's door. The delegates moved their operation to Princeton New Jersey.

Hamilton, who shared the army's frustrations, decided to leave congress. Before he returned to New York, he penned a document enumerating the inefficiencies of the confederation government, once again calling for a convention to amend the Articles of Confederation. It probably came as no surprise to Hamilton that his suggestions were not considered by his fellow congressmen. He noted on his copy of the resolution, "abandoned for want of support."