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to timothy pickering 1 - 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 timothy pickering1
Sept. 18, 1803.
I will make no apology for my delay in answering your inquiry, some time since made, because I could offer none which would satisfy myself. I pray you only to believe that it proceeded from any thing rather than want of respect or regard. I shall now comply with your request. The highest-toned propositions which I made in the convention were for a President, Senate, and Judges during good behavior—a House of Representatives for three years. Though I would have enlarged the legislative power of the general government, yet I never contemplated the abolition of the State governments, but on the contrary, they were, in some particulars, constituent parts of my plan. This plan was, in my conception, conformable with the strict theory of a government purely republican, the essential criteria of which are that the principal organs of the executive and legislative departments be elected by the people, and hold their offices by a responsible and temporary or defeasible tenure. A vote was taken on the proposition respecting the executive. Five States were in favor of it, among these Virginia, and though, from the manner of voting—by delegations,—individuals were not distinguished, it was morally certain, from the known situation of the Virginia members (six in number, two of them, Mason and Randolph, professing popular doctrines), that Madison must have concurred in the work of Virginia; thus, if I sinned against republicanism, Mr. Madison was not less guilty. I may truly then say that I never proposed either a President or Senate for life, and that I neither recommended nor meditated the annihilation of the State governments. And I may add that, in the course of the discussions in the convention, neither the propositions thrown out for debate, nor even those voted in the earlier stages of the deliberation, were considered as evidences of a definitive opinion in the proposer or voter.2 It appeared to me to be in some sort understood that, with a view to free investigation, experimental propositions might be made, which were to be received merely as suggestions for consideration. Accordingly, it is a fact that my final opinion was against an Executive during good behavior, on account of the increased danger to the public tranquillity incident to the election of a magistrate of this degree of permanency. In the plan of a constitution which I drew up while the convention was sitting, and which I communicated to Mr. Madison about the close of it, perhaps a day or two after, the office of President has no greater duration than for three years.3 This plan was predicated upon these bases: 1. That the political principles of the people of this country would endure nothing but republican government. 2. That in the actual situation of the country, it was in itself right and proper that the republican theory should have a fair and full trial. 3. That to such a trial it was essential that the government should be so constructed as to give all the energy and stability reconcilable with the principles of that theory.
These were the genuine sentiments of my heart, and upon them I acted. I sincerely hope that it may not hereafter be discovered that, through want of sufficient attention to the last idea, the experiment of republican government, even in this country, has not been as complete, as satisfactory, and as decisive as could be wished.
to rufus king
You will have heard before this reaches you of the fluctuations and changes which have taken place in the measures of the reigning party, as to a candidate for governor; and you will probably have also been informed that, pursuant to the opinions professed by our friends, before I left New York I had taken an active part in favor of Mr. Lansing.
It is a fact to be regretted, though anticipated, that the Federalists very extensively had embarked with zeal in the support of Mr. Burr; yet an impression to the contrary, and in favor of Mr. Lansing, had been made, and there was good ground to hope that a proper direction in the main might have been given to the current of Federalism. The substitution of Mr. Lewis has essentially varied the prospect, and the best informed among us here agree that the Federalists, as a body, could not be diverted from Mr. Burr to Mr. Lewis, by any efforts of leading characters, if they should even deem the support of the latter expedient.
Though I have no reason to think that my original calculation was wrong, while the competition was between Clinton and Burr, yet from the moment the former declined, I began to consider the latter as having a chance of success. It was still, however, my reliance that Lansing would outrun him; but now that Chief-Justice Lewis is the competitor, the probability in my judgment inclines to Mr. Burr.
Thus situated, two questions have arisen; first, whether a federal candidate ought not to be run, as a means of defeating Mr. Burr, and of keeping the Federalists from becoming a personal faction allied to him. Second, whether, in the conflict of parties as they now stand, the strongest of them disconcerted and disjointed, there would not be a considerable hope of success for a federal candidate.
These questions have received no solution in scarcely any one’s mind; but it is agreed that, if an attempt is to be made, you must be the candidate. There is no other man among us under whose standard either fragment of the democratic party could as easily rally. It is enough to say, you have been absent during the time in which party animosities have become matured and fixed, and, therefore, are much less than any other distinguished Federalist, an object of them.
To detach the Federalists from Burr, they must believe two things: one, that we are in earnest as to our candidate, and that it is not a mere diversion; the other, that there is some chance of success. All believe, and some leading candidates admit, that if either of the two democratic rival parties should come to expect a defeat, they will range themselves under your banner.
Reflect well on all these things, and make up your mind in case you should be invited to consent. I have not time to enlarge.
At this time Senator from Massachusetts.
See Madison Papers, ii., 724—762.
Ibid., iii.; Appendix xvi. and xxi.