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to rufus king - Alexander Hamilton, The Works of Alexander Hamilton, (Federal Edition), vol. 10 
The Works of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Henry Cabot Lodge (Federal Edition) (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904). In 12 vols. Vol. 10.
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to rufus king
June 3, 1802.
I have been long very delinquent towards you as a correspondent, and am to thank you that you have not cast me off altogether as an irretrievable reprobate. But you know how to appreciate the causes, and you have made a construction equally just and indulgent.
In your last you ask my opinion about a matter delicate and important, both in a public and in a personal view. I shall give it with the frankness to which you have a right, and I may add that the impressions of your other friends, so far as they have fallen under my observation, do not differ from my own. While you were in the midst of a negotiation interesting to your country, it was your duty to keep your post. You have now accomplished the object, and with the good fortune, not very common, of having the universal plaudit. This done, it seems to me most advisable that you return home. There is little probability that your continuance in your present station will be productive of much positive good. Nor are circumstances such as to give reason to apprehend that the substitute for you, whoever he may be, can do much harm. Your stay or return, therefore, as it regards our transatlantic concerns, is probably not material, while your presence at home may be useful in ways which it is not necessary to particularize. Besides, it is questionable whether you can long continue in the service of the present administration consistently with what is due, as well to your own character as to the common cause. I am far from thinking that a man is bound to quit a public office merely because the administration of the government may have changed hands. But when those who have come into power are undisguised persecutors of the party to which he has been attached, and study with ostentation to heap upon it every indignity and injury, he ought not, in my opinion, to permit himself to be made an exception, or to lend his talents to the support of such characters. If, in addition to this, it be true that the principles and plans of the men at the head of affairs tend to the degradation of the government, and to their own disgrace, it will hardly be possible to be in any way connected with them without sharing in the disrepute which they may be destined to experience.
I wish I had time to give you a comprehensive and particular map of our political situation; but more than a rude outline is beyond my leisure, devoted as I am more than ever to my professional pursuits.
You have seen the course of the administration hitherto, especially during the last session of Congress, and I am persuaded you will agree with me in opinion, that it could hardly have been more diligent in mischief. What, you will ask, has been and is likely to be the effect on the public mind?
Our friends are sanguine that a great change for the better has been wrought and is progressive. I suppose good has been done—that the Federalists have been reunited and cemented; have been awakened, alarmed. Perhaps, too, there may be some sensible and moderate men of the opposite party who are beginning to doubt. But I as yet discover no satisfactory symptoms of a revolution of opinion in the mass—”informe ingens cui lumen ademptum.” Nor do I look with much expectation to any serious alternation until inconveniences are extensively felt, or until time has produced a disposition to coquet it with new lovers. Vibrations of power, you are aware, are of the genius of our government.
There is, however a circumstance which may accelerate the fall of the present party. There is certainly a most serious schism between the chief and his heir-apparent; a schism absolutely incurable, because founded in the hearts of both, in the rivalship of an insatiable and unprincipled ambition. The effects are already apparent, and are ripening into a more bitter animosity between the partisans of the two men, than ever existed between the Federalists and Anti-federalists.
Unluckily, we are not as neutral to this quarrel as we ought to be. You saw, however, how far our friends in Congress went in polluting themselves with the support of the second personage for the Presidency. The cabal did not terminate there. Several men of no inconsiderable importance among us like the enterprising and adventurous character of this man, and hope to soar with him to power. Many more, through hatred to the chief, and through an impatience to recover the reins, are linking themselves to the new chief almost without perceiving it, and professing to have no other object than to make use of him; while he knows that he is making use of them. What this may end in, it is difficult to perceive.
Of one thing only I am sure, that in no event will I be directly or indirectly implicated in a responsibility for the elevation or support of either of two men who, in different senses, are in my eyes equally unworthy of the confidence of intelligent or honest men.
Truly, my dear sir, the prospects of our country are not brilliant. The mass is far from sound. At headquarters a most visionary theory presides. Depend upon it, this is the fact to a great extreme. No army, no navy, no active commerce; national defence, not by arms, but by embargoes, prohibitions of trade, etc.; as little government as possible within;—these are the pernicious dreams which, as far and as fast as possible, will be attempted to be realized. Mr. Jefferson is distressed at the codfish having latterly emigrated to the southern coast, lest the people there should be tempted to catch them, and commerce, of which we have already too much, receive an accession. Be assured this is no pleasantry, but a very sober anecdote.
Among Federalists old errors are not cured. They also continue to dream, though not quite so preposterously as their opponents. All will be very well (say they) when the power once gets back into federal hands. The people, convinced by experience of their error, will repose a permanent confidence in good men. Risum teneatis.