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LETTER 3 - Alexander Hamilton, The Revolutionary Writings of Alexander Hamilton 
The Revolutionary Writings of Alexander Hamilton, edited and with an Introduction by Richard B. Vernier, with a Foreword by Joyce O. Appleby (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2008).
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November 16, 1778.
The Honorable ——, Esq.
It may appear strange that you should be made a second time the principal figure of a piece intended for the public eye. But a character, insignificant in every other respect, may become interesting from the number and magnitude of its vices. In this view you have a right to the first marks of distinction, and I regret that I feel any reluctance to render you the liberal tribute you deserve. But I reverence humanity, and would not wish to pour a blush upon the cheeks of its advocates. Were I inclined to make a satire upon the species I would attempt a faithful description of your heart. It is hard to conceive, in theory, one of more finished depravity. There are some men whose vices are blended with qualities that cast a lustre upon them, and force us to admire while we detest! Yours are pure and unmixed, without a single solitary excellence even to serve for contrast and variety.
The defects, however, of your private character shall pass untouched. This is a field in which your personal enemies may expatiate with pleasure. I find it enough to consider you in a public capacity.
The station of a member of C——ss is the most illustrious and important of any I am able to conceive. He is to be regarded not only as a legislator, but as a founder of an empire* A man of virtue and ability, dignified with so precious a trust, would rejoice that fortune had given him birth at a time, and placed him in circumstances, so favorable for promoting human happiness. He would esteem it not more the duty than the privilege and ornament of his office to do good to all mankind. From this commanding eminence he would look down with contempt upon every mean or interested pursuit.
To form useful alliances abroad—to establish a wise government at home—to improve the internal resources and finances of the nation—would be the generous objects of his care. He would not allow his attention to be diverted from these to intrigue for personal connections to confirm his own influence; nor would he be able to reconcile it, either to the delicacy of his honor or to the dignity of his pride, to confound in the same person the representative of the commonwealth and the little member of a trading company. Anxious for the permanent power and prosperity of the state, he would labor to perpetuate the union and harmony of the several parts. He would not meanly court a temporary importance by patronizing the narrow views of local interest, or by encouraging dissensions either among the people or in C——ss. In council or debate he would discover the candor of a statesman zealous for truth, and the integrity of a patriot studious of the public welfare; not the cavilling petulance of an attorney contending for the triumph of an opinion, nor the perverse duplicity of a partisan devoted to the service of a cabal. Despising the affectation of superior wisdom, he would prove the extent of his capacity by foreseeing evils, and contriving expedients to prevent or remedy them. He would not expose the weak sides of the States to find an opportunity of displaying his own discernment by magnifying the follies and mistakes of others. In his transactions with individuals, whether foreigners or countrymen, his conduct would be guided by the sincerity of a man, and the politeness of a gentleman; not by the temporizing flexibility of a courtier, nor the fawning complaisance of a sycophant.
You will not be at a loss, sir, in what part of this picture to look for your own resemblance; nor have I the least apprehension that you will mistake it on the affirmative side. The happy indifference with which you view those qualities most esteemed for their usefulness to society will preserve you from the possibility of an illusion of this kind. Content with the humble merit of possessing qualities useful only to yourself, you will contemplate your own image on the opposite side with all the satisfaction of conscious deformity.
It frequently happens that the excess of one selfish passion either defeats its own end, or counteracts another. This, if I am not mistaken, is your case. The love of money and the love of power are the predominating ingredients of your mind; cunning, the characteristic of your understanding. This has hitherto carried you successfully through life, and has alone raised you to the exterior consideration you enjoy. The natural consequence of success is temerity. It has now proceeded one step too far, and precipitated you into measures from the consequence of which you will not easily extricate yourself. Your avarice will be fatal to your ambition. I have too good an opinion of the sense and spirit, to say nothing of the virtue, of your countrymen, to believe they will permit you any longer to abuse their confidence or trample upon their honor. Admirably fitted in many respects for the meridian of St. James, you might there make the worthy representative of a venal borough, but you ought not to be suffered to continue to sully the majesty of the people in an American C——ss.
It is a mark of comparison, to which you are not entitled, to advise you by a timely and voluntary retreat to avoid the ignominy of a formal dismission. Your career has held out as long as you could have hoped. It is time you should cease to personate the fictitious character you have assumed, and appear what you really are. Lay aside the mask of patriotism, and assert your station among the honorable tribe of speculators and projectors. Cultivate a close alliance with your —— and your ——, the accomplices and instruments of your guilt, and console yourself for the advantage you have lost, by indulging your genius without restraint in all the forms and varieties of fashionable peculation.
Hamilton resigned from Washington’s staff in February 1781 after three years as one of Washington’s closest aides. Although he was eager to acquire a battlefield command, while he waited for a new assignment, he continued his reading in political economy and finance. It was during this interlude that he wrote a long letter to Robert Morris, the newly named congressional superintendent of finance, congratulating him on his appointment, and offering his views on the requirements for establishing a sound credit and financial structure for the country.* He ranged over topics from the amount of circulating media required, the tax burden sustainable by the nation, and a detailed plan for the creation of a national bank. Hamilton’s proposal for a bank was offered up as a means of making loans from Dutch bankers go further; stretching loans was a key concern, as it was by now the last resource Congress had, paper money issues having finally reached the point where another effort at note issue would simply not be accepted. Despite the ratification of the Articles of Confederation in February 1781, Congress was entirely dependent upon requisitions on the states.
Hamilton’s frustration with what he perceived to be the utter worthlessness of Congress had been growing for years, and now, in the aftermath of his sustained research and writing on one aspect of the problem, he set out to advocate for his signature strong government nationalism in newspaper essays that appeared between July and August 1781 in the New York Packet.
Fishkill,July 12, 1781.
I send you the first number of a series of papers which I intend to publish on matters of the greatest importance to these States. I hope they will be read with as much candor and attention as the object of them deserves, and that no conclusions will be drawn till these are fully developed.
I am, sir,