A Biography of Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804)

Cruel winter II - Impeachment proceedings (January-March 1793)

Jefferson's next move following his 21 objections was to mount a two-pronged attack to try to unseat Hamilton on corruption charges. Through his spokesman in the House, William Branch Giles, the Secretary of State introduced a series of resolutions which called into question Hamilton's appropriations of foreign loan funds and demanded a concise accounting of his handling of such funds. At the same time the senate drafted its own similar resolutions. Both sets of resolutions were issued on January 23, 1793. The date was carefully chosen by the Republicans who were confident that Hamilton would have no time to respond before congress adjourned in early March. Even if Hamilton were to hand over spotless books when congress reconvened after the summer, they could contend that Hamilton had used the time to sanitize his records.

Hamilton knew full well the game congress was playing, and, as usual, executed an impressive check-mate. Working himself to exhaustion, he stunned his opposition by handing over more than 200 pages of spotless records and reports in less than a month. Stymied, Jefferson tried again, this time drafting for Giles a series of resolutions explicitly accusing Hamilton of violating numerous laws. The final resolution read: "Resolved, That the Secretary of the Treasury has been guilty of maladministration in the duties of his office, and should, in the opinion of Congress, be removed from his office by the President of the United States." Nothing would have been more satisfying to Jefferson at that point than to have seen Hamilton unseated in disgrace. The second set of resolutions was set before the House on February 27, but was soundly defeated. One of the only five Republicans who voted in favor of the resolutions was James Madison.