A Biography of Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804)

Hamilton's return

In the midst of the flurry of anti-loyalist litigation, Hamilton twice refused the nomination for the state assembly, claiming that he was through with political office. He instead engaged in a variety of other activities. In February of 1784, he wrote the charter for and became a founding member of the Bank of New York, the state's first bank. He also founded with John Jay, his good friend and future "Federalist" collaborator, the Society for Promoting the Manumission of Slaves, whose primary purpose was to propose a "line of conduct" with respect to humane treatment of slaves, and to create a register of freed slaves to ensure that they were not deprived of their liberty. The following year, the society petitioned the state legislature to put an end the slave trade, "a commerce . . . repugnant to humanity."

Despite the fact that he attempted to stay out of the political arena, Hamilton was propelled back by a series of events in which states attempted to assert their sovereignty over federal law. The first was Pennsylvania's repeal of the charter of the Bank of North America. Although chartered by congress as well, the state's repeal endangered the existence of the bank. Several friends of Hamilton who owned shares in the bank, enlisted his advice on how to handle the situation.

The impost was also reemerging as an issue, this time in New York, which was now the lone holdout against the tax. Hamilton wrote to the assembly urging compliance. In May of 1786 he was elected to the state assembly, and this time he accepted. Shortly thereafter, he was appointed as a delegate to the Annapolis Convention in Maryland, a convention called to discuss interstate trade and other issues not dealt with in the Articles of Confederation.

The Annapolis Convention was somewhat of a non-event--only five states were represented--however, Hamilton and his fellow delegates agreed that something more needed to be done. Hamilton spoke out once again for a convention, called by Congress, to revise the Articles of Confederation. His fellow delegates were of the same mind, and they drafted a proposal for a new convention to be attended by all states the following May in Philadelphia.

The Annapolis Convention was significant to Hamilton in another respect: he was reunited with James Madison who was engaged in his own furtive efforts to press his state toward nationalism, and just as disillusioned about the prospects as Hamilton. They rekindled their enthusiasm for national politics, and soon found themselves leading the fight for their mutual passion: a strong federal government.