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PREFACE - Alexander Hamilton, The Works of Alexander Hamilton, (Federal Edition), vol. 1 
The Works of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Henry Cabot Lodge (Federal Edition) (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904). In 12 vols. Vol. 1.
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Two schools of political thought have existed in the United States, and their struggle for supremacy has made the history of the country. One was the national school, the other was the school of States’-rights. One believed in a liberal construction of the Constitution, and in a strong and energetic federal government, wielding all its powers to their full extent. The other believed in a strict construction of the Constitution, in a simple and restrained federal government, exercising in a limited way only such powers as were absolutely needful. One was founded by Alexander Hamilton, the other by Thomas Jefferson. On the one side it was maintained that the United States ought to be, and were, a nation; on the other, that the Union was a confederacy. The conflict between these opposing forces began at the close of the Revolution, was ardent in the convention which framed the Constitution, continued with ever-increasing intensity for seventy years, and then culminated in the Civil War. In that fierce battle the national principle, which had strengthened with every year from the time of the formation of the government, triumphed, and it is now supreme.
The dominant purpose of Hamilton's life was the creation of a national sentiment, and thereby the making of a great and powerful nation from the discordant elements furnished by thirteen jarring States. To the accomplishment of this purpose every thing he said and did as a public man was steadily and strongly directed. The influence of the policy of Washington's administration upon the establishment and development of this great nation of ours cannot be overestimated. Much of that policy was due to Hamilton alone, and in all parts of it he made himself deeply felt. Yet his masterly policy as Secretary of the Treasury, and as cabinet officer, as well as the active and influential part which he took in the Constitutional Convention, represent but a small portion of his services to the cause of nationality. Hamilton's greatest work was in creating, forming, and guiding a powerful public opinion in support of a national system; and the sentiment thus brought into being went steadily on with ever-increasing force, until it prevailed over all its enemies. Hamilton achieved his success by the profound influence which he exerted on the public mind. No statesman in our history has ever swayed so many of the leading men among his contemporaries as Hamilton, and at the same time he appealed by his pen to the largest popular audience of any man of his time. He was the first teacher in the school of national politics. The sacred fire once lighted never went out, and the principles then inculcated were carried forward and ever raised higher through the after years.
This vast influence upon the political thought and the political history of the country Hamilton obtained by his writings, which range from elaborate Treasury reports to the brief utterances of private correspondence. The historical value and importance of these writings cannot be rated too highly, and are of themselves sufficient reason for the republication of his works, of which the original edition is now almost unobtainable.
But there is another side to Hamilton's writings which makes them of even wider and more lasting worth than their effect upon the people of the United States. This is their intrinsic merit as contributions to the philosophy or science of government, as well as to finance and political economy. These were questions much meditated upon at the close of the eighteenth century, and they have engaged the best attention of the civilized world ever since. Hamilton ranks as one of the great thinkers in the days when political economy and the huge mechanism of modern finance came into being. He stands conspicuous in that all-important period, and in that broad field of thought, side by side with such men as Turgot, Pitt, and Adam Smith, and he does not suffer by comparison with these contemporaries, either in force and originality of ideas, or in practical success. He studied Adam Smith and then wrote the Report on Manufactures, developing the theory as to the protection of nascent industries in its application to the United States, and standing firmly on the doctrine that this was a question which each nation must decide for itself. He watched the policy of Pitt with close attention, but when he came to deal with our own financial problem, although he adopted the funding system and the sinking fund he used the latter simply as a plain business expedient, and cast aside the juggling pretences by which “the heaven-born minister” deluded a whole generation of Englishmen. Beyond the field of finance and political economy, he dealt with the far-reaching questions of federative systems of government to which many thinkers look to-day for a solution of the difficulties which great armies and recurring wars constantly present in Europe. As contributions to modern thought on the most important of modern themes the writings of Hamilton hold now and must always hold a very high position.
This is not the place nor is it needful here to say anything about Hamilton either as a statesman, writer, or man. His strong personality is becoming every day more familiar and more vivid to a posterity which is now beginning to understand and appreciate him, and his influence may be traced in every page of our history. He was every inch a statesman, intellectually second to no one of his own day in that high calling, where he still waits for his superior. But these are subjects for the historian or the biographer, and Hamilton's personal history and public career have been written, rewritten, and minutely discussed from the island of Nevis down to the fatal glade at Weehawken. As for his writings they tell their won story, and their ability and force are obvious to every one who reads them.
It is enough for the editor of these volumes to say a very few words as to the general character and quality of Hamilton's mind as they appear to him after careful and repeated study. Hamilton was pre-eminently a believer in Pope's axiom that “order is heaven's first law,” and his intellect was in the highest degree lucid, well-ordered, and systematic. Whatever defects they may have had, Hamilton's arguments were invariably strong, cogent, compact, and most rigid in reasoning. His mind was penetrating and clear, and although every thing he ever wrote is simplicity itself in statement and thought, it is the simplicity of thorough knowledge and absolute command, and not that of superficiality and ignorance.
Statesmen, or rather leaders, of the destructive class can always be found when they are needed, which is, fortunately, not often. Great statesmen of the constructive order are, on the contrary, rare enough, and are always wanted. Hamilton was one of the latter kind. He was most conspicuously “cosmic, and not chaotic,” as Carlyle would have put it, and he had another quality which would have commended him still more to the great Scotchman: he saw, appreciated, and admitted facts. Never did he blink them out of sight or go upon a vain shadow-hunt, but always faced them and built upon them or did battle with them as the case might be. There is nothing vague or misty about Hamilton. Every thing is as clear-cut and well defined as the American landscape on a bright, frosty, autumn day. He had a powerful imagination for facts, if such an apparent contradiction in terms may be permitted.
That is, he saw and felt the realities of every situation so strongly himself that he never failed to depict them vividly, and bring them home sharply to the minds of others. With such mental qualities, backed by a relentless will, a strong and even passionate nature, and burning energy, it is not to be wondered at that Alexander Hamilton left so deep a mark upon our history, and that he is in every way so well worth our careful study.
It only remains to say a word in regard to the plan and arrangement of this edition. The first object was to bring all Hamilton's writings under one roof. This has never been done hitherto, for the Federalist has always found shelter elsewhere. To accomplish this purpose in good print and within reasonable limits, it became necessary first to reduce the large amount of material gathered together in the edition of 1851 by John C. Hamilton. The omissions thus made from the earlier edition can be readily classified. All letters written by others to Hamilton, with one or two trifling exceptions, have been dropped. Many of these are, of course, historically speaking, very important, but those which deserve this description are for the most part to be found elsewhere in the works of their respective writers. All of them, however, whether valuable or worthless, were sacrificed because the edition was to embody Hamilton's works and not the letters of his contemporaries. Of Hamilton's own writings a small number have been omitted, but nothing which did not seem to the editor entirely valueless for history or any other purpose. Such are revenue circulars; reports on private claims against the government; bald statements of accounts, or estimates rendered to Congress; letters written during the Revolution and containing merely the current news or rumors of the day without opinion or comment; the letters of Washington written by Hamilton in his capacity of secretary, and attributed by the latter's son to the aide-de-camp and not to the General who signed them; brief notes acknowledging the receipt of letters or transmitting reports and the like; and, finally, routine business letters to the Amsterdam bankers and others. A calendar of all letters and documents written by Hamilton, and printed in the John C. Hamilton edition, but omitted here, will follow the index. In addition to the Federalist there are certain other papers now included in Hamilton's works for the first time. The most important is the famous Reynolds pamphlet. The editor hesitated long before deciding to include that publication in this edition, because he felt a strong distaste to even the appearance of reviving an old scandal. But the reasons for reprinting it seemed irresistible. Every one who is at all familiar with Hamilton's career, or with our early history, has heard of the Reynolds affair. Comparatively few persons have read or have been able to obtain Hamilton's own account of the matter. It was a melancholy but a very important incident in Hamilton's life, and can never be separated from it. It involves questions of private and public morality which unhappily are always likely to arise, and it throws a bright light upon the strength of Hamilton's character, as well as upon the errors into which he fell. His enemies used it at the time, and Mr. Parton has recently given copious selections from it in his Life of Fefferson. Hamilton published the story to the world to vindicate his honor as a public man. The justice which he thus sought to obtain from his contemporaries he has a right to demand at the hands of posterity. Inasmuch as the affair cannot be forgotten, and what Hamilton felt himself ought to be made public, his editor has not the right to suppress the pamphlet.
Besides the Reynolds pamphlet, there are some letters which have found their way into print since the edition of 1851 appeared. These, together with the heretofore unpublished letters still in the archives at Washington, are also included in this edition. The new letters, as well as the collation with the originals of those previously printed, are due to the untiring kindness of Mr. Theodore F. Dwight, the librarian of the State Department. To his care and thought the merit of this edition in regard to the accuracy and completeness of the private correspondence will be entirely due, and the editor cannot express too fully his indebtedness for such generous assistance. In the first volume the Continentalist, incomplete in the edition of 1851, is given in full. The speeches in the Federal convention, which were wholly omitted in the first edition, are now given entire from Madison and Yates, and John C. Hamilton's imperfect publication of the speeches in the New York convention is now replaced by a complete report. The most important addition, however, in the first volume is an address to the electors in 1789, for which the editor is indebted to the thoughtful kindness of Mr. Henry A. Homes, State Librarian of New York. This address is reprinted here for the first time from a probably unique copy of the original pamphlet at Albany. It is of great importance because it shows, in connection with a previous address to the Albany Supervisors, and with the “H. G.” letters, the policy and work of the Federalists in their efforts to secure a first Congress favorable to the Constitution, and to break down all opposition.
The editor is satisfied that nothing of any value has been omitted unless by some inadvertence which cannot always be avoided. He is, however, by no means equally sure that, in his desire to make this edition a really complete collection of Hamilton's writings, he has not included a number of papers which, for the comfort of the public it would have been better to consign to the dust-bins of the past. The work of selection is always difficult in such cases, but the editor's purpose has been to make the edition complete without loading it with material of no earthly importance to any human being.
A purely chronological arrangement of the letters and papers would have led to inextricable confusion, through which no index could have piloted any one. The writings, therefore, except in the case of the Federalist, which has a volume to itself, and of the private correspondence, are arranged by subjects, and these subdivisions are in turn arranged chronologically. Hamilton's writings lend themselves easily to such a classification, and this method of presenting them in groups seems to the editor to do them more justice, and to show better than any other the course and the results of the writer's thoughts and influence. This arrangement also, it is thought, will be found the most convenient and manageable which could be devised for general use. Hamilton is not a writer who requires much annotation, for he tells his own story in almost every case a good deal better than any one can tell it for him. The editor's notes, which are few, and, as a rule, very brief, have been inserted simply to explain the occasion of the letter or essay to which they are appended, to define some individual or occurrence therein mentioned, or to trace in outline the subsequent history of a policy which owed its inception or its establishment to Hamilton's efforts. If these volumes serve to make better known the ability and the influence of one of America's greatest statesmen, the purpose of this edition will be amply fulfilled.
The portrait in the first volume is from a picture by Trumbull, painted in 1792 for Mr. George Cabot. This portrait has always remained in the possession of Mr. Cabot's descendants, and is now engraved for the first time.
Henry Cabot Lodge.
January 10, 1885.