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VINDICATION OF CONGRESS - 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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VINDICATION OF CONGRESS
HOWEVER men actuated by private pique or party views may take pleasure in stigmatizing the conduct of Congress, with or without reason, considerate and good men, who are solicitous for the honor of their country, will act upon very different principles. They will view with regret those instances in which the measures of that body may be really entitled to blame, will be cautious how they bestow it where it is not merited, and will always examine with candor before they condemn. Though it is certainly true that the infallibility of that or any other body is a doctrine to be reprobated in a free country, and a servile complaisance to its errors would be as dangerous as despicable, yet it must be allowed that an opposite extreme may be little less pernicious.
A captious disposition to arraign without examination—to accumulate undistinguishing censure—to excite jealousies against the phantom, without the substance of power—to blame for defects in the Constitution itself, not in the administration of it—is a vice of nearly as mischievous a tendency in the public mind, as a blind and superstitious reverence.
In the present circumstances of this country, most evil is to be apprehended from the prevalency of the former spirit; for new governments emerging out of a revolution are naturally deficient in authority, and require that every effort should be made to strengthen, not to undermine, the public confidence. This observation applies with peculiar force to the government of the Union—the constitutional imbecility of which must be apparent to every man of reflection.
It is therefore painful to hear, as is too fashionable a practice, indiscriminate censure heaped upon Congress for every public failure and misfortune, without considering the entire disproportion between the means which that body have it in their power to employ, and their responsibility.
It is equally exceptionable to see all the errors of their predecessors concentred in a mass of accusation against the subsisting body. If there have been meritorious acts performed by Congress at any period of the Revolution, all the praise of it is confined to the immediate actors; if there have been faults committed, they descend with increasing odium upon all who come after. The good deeds of Congress die, or go off the stage with the individuals who are the authors of them, but their mistakes are the inheritance of all those who succeed.
It is true, Congress in a political capacity are perpetual; but the individuals who compose it in fact undergo frequent changes. It is not more reasonable to charge any present set of members for the mismanagement of a former set—allowing it to be real—than it would be to impute to George the Third the crimes of Henry the Eighth. It is a principle of the English law that the king never dies, and yet no man in his senses, on account of this fiction of the law, will transfer to the reigning monarch the infamy of his predecessor's misconduct. It is not less unjust or absurd to blame a subsisting Congress, the greater part of whose members have had no agency in the measures which are the objects of crimination, for the ill consequences of those measures.
It is not much to be wondered at that this error should exist among the uninformed parts of the community, who can only be expected to have general notions of Congress, without any precise ideas of their constitution, and who, therefore, will be disposed to view them always under the same form, without attending to the changes which the body is continually undergoing. But when men more enlightened fall into the same fallacy, it is an argument of disingenuous intentions, and proves them to be under the influence of passion, of prejudice, or of something worse.
The chief topics of clamor against Congress are, either positive breaches of faith, by avowed departures from express stipulations, as in the reduction of the Continental money from forty to one, or negative, as the general non-performance of the public engagements.
As to those of the first kind, without entering into a discussion of particular instances—without examining whether those which may have happened may have been produced by inexperience, necessity, levity, or design—it will be sufficient, in justification of the present Congress, to say that a large majority of them had no share whatever in those acts which are the subject of complaint. And to those of the last kind, there always has been, and is, a conclusive and satisfactory answer to be given for Congress. The power of raising money is not vested in them. All they can do is to assign their quota to the several States, and to make requisitions from them. This they have not failed to do in the most ample manner; and if the States do not comply, to enable them to execute their engagements, the delinquency is not to be charged upon Congress.
Should it be said that Congress ought not to have made engagements without the power of fulfilling them, this is to say that they ought to have given up the contest, and to have betrayed the liberty of America. It was necessary to incur debts to support the Revolution; and no man who is a sincere friend to it can be serious in advancing the position that this essential resource ought not to have been employed, from a scruple of that nature.
If Congress, indeed, after a definitive conclusion of the peace, consent to be the instruments of future engagements, without more effectual provisions at their disposal, they will then merit the indignation of every honest man.
But the present Congress have more than this general argument to offer in their vindication. They can say with truth, that so far from having committed any positive violations of faith, they have manifested a uniform and anxious solicitude for the restoration of public credit, and for doing complete justice to every class of public creditors. Having found, by repeated and daily experience, that the provisions of the Confederation were unequal to the purpose, they have had recourse to extraordinary expedients. The plan of April 18, 1782, for funding the public debt, is now depending before the several Legislatures; nor is it possible for them to give a more decisive proof of their disposition to justice than is contained in that plan.
Congress stand in a very delicate and embarrassing situation. On the one hand they are blamed for not doing what they have no means of doing; on the other their attempts are branded with the imputations of a spirit of encroachment and a lust of power.
In these circumstances, it is the duty of all those who have the welfare of the community at heart to unite their efforts to direct the attention of the people to the true source of the public disorders—the want of an efficientGeneralGovernment,—and to impress upon them this conviction, that those States, to be happy, must have a stronger bond of Union and a Confederation capable of drawing forth the resources of the country. This will be a more laudable occupation than that of caviling against measures the imperfection of which is the necessary result of the Constitution. [The residue is not preserved.1
This is the statement of John C. Hamilton; and yet, in his History of the Republic (ii., 566, et seq.), he makes further quotations, apparently from this paper. The editor has not been able to recover the complete paper. If it should be found before these volumes are all printed, the missing residue will be given in the appendix.