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alexander hamilton The “Camillus” Essays 22 July 1795–9 January 1796 - Lance Banning, Liberty and Order: The First American Party Struggle 
Liberty and Order: The First American Party Struggle, ed. and with a Preface by Lance Banning (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2004).
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alexander hamilton The “Camillus” Essays 22 July 1795–9 January 1796
During the fall of 1795 and into the winter, public opinion began to shift quite markedly behind the treaty. Not least among the reasons was the appearance of capable defenses of its terms by “Curtius” (Noah Webster) and others. Incomparably the best of these defenses were the thirty-eight essays of “Camillus,” which were published originally in two New York newspapers, the Argus and the Herald, and reprinted widely around the country before appearing also as a pamphlet. Hamilton wrote twenty-eight of these essays, Rufus King the rest.
“The Defence, No. 1” 22 July 1795
It was to have been foreseen that the treaty which Mr. Jay was charged to negotiate with Great Britain, whenever it should appear, would have to contend with many perverse dispositions and some honest prejudices. That there was no measure in which the government could engage so little likely to be viewed according to its intrinsic merits—so very likely to encounter misconception, jealousy, and unreasonable dislike. For this many reasons may be assigned. …
It was known, that the resentment produced by our revolution war with Great Britain had never been entirely extinguished, and that recent injuries had rekindled the flame with additional violence. It was a natural consequence of this that many should be disinclined to any amicable arrangement with Great Britain and that many others should be prepared to acquiesce only in a treaty which should present advantages of so striking and preponderant a kind as it was not reasonable to expect could be obtained, unless the United States were in a condition to give the law to Great Britain. …
It was not to be mistaken that an enthusiasm for France and her revolution throughout all its wonderful vicissitudes has continued to possess the minds of the great body of the people of this country, and it was to be inferred that this sentiment would predispose to a jealousy of any agreement or treaty with her most persevering competitor—a jealousy so excessive as would give the fullest hope to insidious arts to perplex and mislead the public opinion. It was well understood that a numerous party among us, though disavowing the design, because the avowal would defeat it, have been steadily endeavoring to make the United States a party in the present European war, by advocating all those measures which would widen the breach between us and Great Britain and by resisting all those which could tend to close it; and it was morally certain that this party would eagerly improve every circumstance which could serve to render the treaty odious and to frustrate it, as the most effectual road to their favorite goal.
It was also known beforehand that personal and party rivalships of the most active kind would assail whatever treaty might be made, to disgrace, if possible, its organ.
There are three persons prominent in the public eye as the successor of the actual President of the United States in the event of his retreat from the station: Mr. Adams, Mr. Jay, Mr. Jefferson.
No one has forgotten the systematic pains which have been taken to impair the well earned popularity of the first gentleman. Mr. Jay too has been repeatedly the object of attacks with the same view. His friends as well as his enemies anticipated that he could make no treaty which would not furnish weapons against him—and it were to have been ignorant of the indefatigable malice of his adversaries to have doubted that they would be seized with eagerness and wielded with dexterity. …
From the combined operation of these different causes, it would have been a vain expectation that the treaty would be generally contemplated with candor and moderation, or that reason would regulate the first impressions concerning it. It was certain, on the contrary, that however unexceptionable its true character might be, it would have to fight its way through a mass of unreasonable opposition; and that time, examination and reflection would be requisite to fix the public opinion on a true basis. It was certain that it would become the instrument of a systematic effort against the national government and its administration: a decided engine of party to advance its own views at the hazard of the public peace and prosperity. …
At Boston it was published one day, and the next a town meeting was convened to condemn it, without ever being read; without any serious discussion, sentence was pronounced against it. …
The intelligence of this event had no sooner reached New York than the leaders of the clubs were seen haranguing in every corner of the city to stir up our citizens into an imitation of the example of the meeting at Boston. An invitation to meet at the City Hall quickly followed, not to consider or discuss the merits of the treaty, but to unite with the meeting at Boston to address the president against its ratification. …
In vain did a respectable meeting of the merchants endeavor, by their advice, to moderate the violence of these views and to promote a spirit favorable to a fair discussion of the treaty; in vain did a respectable body of citizens of every description attend for that purpose. The leaders of the clubs resisted all discussion, and their followers, by their clamors and vociferations, rendered it impracticable, notwithstanding the wish of a manifest majority of the citizens convened upon the occasion. …
It cannot be doubted that the real motive to the opposition was the fear of a discussion; the desire of excluding light; the adherence to a plan of surprise and deception. Nor need we desire any fuller proof of that spirit of party, which has stimulated the opposition to the treaty than is to be found in the circumstances of that opposition.
To every man who is not an enemy to the national government, who is not a prejudiced partisan, who is capable of comprehending the argument and passionate enough to attend to it with impartiality, I flatter myself I shall be able to demonstrate satisfactorily in the course of some succeeding papers—
1. That the treaty adjusts in a reasonable manner the points in controversy between the United States and Great Britain, as well those depending on the inexecution of the treaty of peace as those growing out of the present European war.
2. That it makes no improper concessions to Great Britain, no sacrifices on the part of the United States.
3. That it secures to the United States equivalents for what they grant.
4. That it lays upon them no restrictions which are incompatible with their honor or their interest.
5. That in the articles which respect war, it conforms to the laws of nations.
6. That it violates no treaty with, nor duty toward, any foreign power.
7. That compared with our other commercial treaties, it is upon the whole entitled to a preference.
8. That it contains concessions of advantages by Great Britain to the United States which no other nation has obtained from the same power.
9. That it gives to her no superiority of advantages over other nations with whom we have treaties.
10. That interests of primary importance to our general welfare are promoted by it.
11. That the too probable result of a refusal to ratify is war, or what would be still worse, a disgraceful passiveness under violations of our rights, unredressed and unadjusted; and consequently, that it is the true interest of the United States that the treaty should go into effect. …
“The Defence, No. 2” 25 July 1795
… All must remember the very critical posture of this country at the time that mission was resolved upon. A recent violation of our rights too flagrant and too injurious to be submitted to had filled every American breast with indignation and every prudent man with alarm and disquietude. A few hoped, and the great body of the community feared, that war was inevitable.
In this crisis two sets of opinions prevailed; one looked to measures which were to have a compulsory effect upon Great Britain—the sequestration of British debts and the cutting off of intercourse wholly or partially between the two countries—the other to vigorous preparation for war and one more effort of negotiation by a solemn mission to avert it.
That the latter was the best opinion no truly sensible man can doubt, and it may be boldly affirmed that the event has entirely justified it.
If measures of coercion and reprisal had taken place, war in all human probability would have followed.
National pride is generally a very intractable thing. In the councils of no country does it act with greater force than in those of Great Britain. Whatever it might have been in her power to yield to negotiation, she could have yielded nothing to compulsion, without self-degradation and without the sacrifice of that political consequence which, at all times very important to a nation, was peculiarly so to her at the juncture in question. It must be remembered too that from the relations in which the two countries have stood to each other it must have cost more to the pride of Great Britain to have received the law from us than from any other power.
When one nation has cause of complaint against another, the course marked out by practice, the opinion of writers, and the principles of humanity, the object being to avoid war, is to precede reprisals of any kind by a demand of reparation. To begin with reprisals is to meet on the ground of war and puts the other party in a condition not to be able to recede without humiliation.
Had this course been pursued by us it would not only have rendered war morally certain, but it would have united the British nation in the vigorous support of their government in the prosecution of that war, while on our parts we should have been quickly distracted and divided. The calamities of war would have brought the most ardent to their senses and placed them among the first in reproaching the government with precipitation, rashness, and folly; for not having taken every chance by pacific means to avoid so great an evil. …
Few nations can have stronger inducements than the U States to cultivate peace. Their infant state in general—their want of a marine in particular to protect their commerce—would render war in an extreme degree a calamity. It would not only arrest our present rapid progress to strength and prosperity, but would probably throw us back into a state of debility and impoverishment from which it would require years to emerge. Our trade, navigation, and mercantile capital would be essentially destroyed. Spain being an associate with Great Britain, a general Indian war would probably have desolated the whole extent of our frontier. Our exports obstructed, agriculture would have seriously languished. All other branches of industry must have proportionally suffered. Our public debt, instead of a gradual diminution, must have sustained a great augmentation and drawn with it a large increase of taxes and burdens on this people.
But this perhaps was not the worst to be apprehended. It was to be feared that the war would be conducted in a spirit which would render it more than ordinarily calamitous. There are too many proofs that a considerable party among us is deeply infected with those horrid principles of Jacobinism which, proceeding from one excess to another, have made France a theater of blood and which notwithstanding the most vigorous efforts of the national representation to suppress it keeps the destinies of France to this moment suspended by a thread. It was too probable that the direction of the war if commenced would have fallen into the hands of men of this description. The consequences of this even in imagination are such as to make any virtuous man shudder.
It was therefore in a peculiar manner the duty of the Government to take all possible chances for avoiding war. The plan adopted was the only one which could claim this advantage. …
It cannot escape an attentive observer that the language which in the first instance condemned the mission of an envoy extraordinary to Great Britain, and which now condemns the treaty negotiated by him, seems to consider the U States as among the first rate powers of the world in point of strength and resource and proposes to them a conduct predicated upon that condition.
To underrate our just importance would be a degrading error. To overrate it may lead to dangerous mistakes.
A very powerful state may frequently hazard a high and haughty tone with good policy, but a weak state can scarcely ever do it without imprudence. The last is yet our character, though we are the embryo of a great empire. It is therefore better suited to our situation to measure each step with the utmost caution; to hazard as little as possible; in the cases in which we are injured to blend moderation with firmness; and to brandish the weapons of hostility only when it is apparent that the use of them is unavoidable.
It is not to be inferred from this that we are to crouch to any power on earth or tamely to suffer our rights to be violated. A nation which is capable of this meanness will quickly have no rights to protect, no honor to defend.
But the true inference is that we ought not lightly to seek or provoke a resort to arms; that in the differences between us and other nations we ought carefully to avoid measures which tend to widen the breach; and that we should scrupulously abstain from whatever may be construed into reprisals ’till after the fruitless employment of all amicable means has reduced it to a certainty that there is no alternative and ought then only to endanger the necessity of that resort.
If we can avoid war for ten or twelve years more, we shall then have acquired a maturity which will make it no more than a common calamity and will authorize us on our national discussions to take a higher and more imposing tone.
This is a consideration of the greatest weight to determine us to exert all our prudence and address to keep out of war as long as it shall be possible to defer to a state of manhood a struggle to which infancy is ill-adapted. This is the most effectual way to disappoint the enemies of our welfare; to pursue a contrary conduct may be to play into their hands and to gratify their wishes. If there be a foreign power which sees with envy or ill will our growing prosperity, that power must discern that our infancy is the time for clipping our wings. We ought to be wise enough to see that this is not the time for trying our strength.
Should we be able to escape the storm which at this juncture agitates Europe, our disputes with Great Britain terminated, we may hope to postpone war to a distant period. This at least will greatly diminish the chances of it. For then there will remain only one power with whom we have any embarrassing discussion. I allude to Spain and the question of the Mississippi; and there is reason to hope that this question by the natural progress of things and perseverance in an amicable course will finally be arranged to our satisfaction without the necessity of the dernier resort.
The allusion to this case suggests one or two important reflections. How unwise was it to invite or facilitate a quarrel with Great Britain at a moment when she and Spain were engaged in a common cause, both of them having besides controverted points with the U States! How wise will it be to adjust our differences with the most formidable of those two powers and to have only to contest with one of them.
This policy is so obvious that it requires an extraordinary degree of infatuation not to be sensible of it, and not to view with favor any measure which tends to so impor-tant a result.
This cursory review of the motives which may be supposed to have governed our public councils in the mission to Great Britain serves not only to vindicate the measures then pursued but to warn us against a prejudiced judgment of the result which may in the end defeat the salutary purposes of those measures.
I proceed to observe summarily that the objects of the mission, contrary to what has been asserted, have been substantially obtained. What were these? They were principally—
I. to adjust the matters of controversy concerning the inexecution of the Treaty of Peace and especially to obtain restitution of our Western posts.
II. to obtain reparation for the captives and spoliations of our property in the course of the existing war.
Both these objects have been provided for, and it will be shown when we come to comment upon the articles which make the provision in each case, that it is a reasonable one, as good a one as ought to have been expected—as good a one as there is any prospect of obtaining hereafter: one which it is consistent with our honor to accept and which our interest bids us to close with.
The provisions with regard to commerce were incidental and auxiliary—some provisions on this subject were of importance to fix for a time the basis on which the commerce of the two countries was to be carried on, that the merchants of each might know what they had to depend upon—that sources of collision on this head might be temporarily stilled if not permanently extinguished—that an essay might be made of some plan conciliating as far as possible the opinions and prejudices of both parties—and laying perhaps the foundation of further and more extensive arrangements. Without something of this kind, there would be constant danger of the tranquillity of the two countries being disturbed by commercial conflicts. …
“The Defence, No. 18” 6 October 1795
It is provided by the tenth article of the treaty that “Neither Debts due from individuals of the one Nation to Individuals of the other, nor shares nor monies, which they may have in the public funds, or in the public or private banks, shall ever in any event of war or national differences be sequestered or confiscated, it being unjust and impolitic that debts and engagements contracted and made by individuals having confidence in each other and in their respective Governments should ever be destroyed or impaired by national authority on account of National Differences and Discontents.”
The virulence with which this article has been attacked cannot fail to excite very painful sensations in every mind duly impressed with the sanctity of public faith and with the importance of national credit and character, at the same time that it furnishes the most cogent reasons to desire that the preservation of peace may obviate the pretext and the temptation to sully the honor and wound the interests of the country by a measure which the truly enlightened of every nation would condemn.
I acknowledge without reserve that in proportion to the vehemence of the opposition against this part of the treaty is the satisfaction I derive from its existence; as an obstacle the more to the perpetration of a thing which in my opinion, besides deeply injuring our real and permanent interest, would cover us with ignominy. No powers of language at my command can express the abhorrence I feel at the idea of violating the property of individuals which in an authorized intercourse in time of peace has been confided to the faith of our government and laws on account of controversies between nation and nation. In my view every moral and every political sentiment unite to consign it to execration.
Neither will I dissemble that the dread of the effects of the spirit which patronizes that idea has ever been with me one of the most persuasive arguments for a pacific policy on the part of the U States. Serious as the evil of war has appeared at the present stage of our affairs the manner in which it was to be apprehended it might be carried on was still more formidable than the thing itself. It was to be feared that in the fermentation of certain wild opinions, those wise, just, and temperate maxims which will forever constitute the true security and felicity of a state would be overruled and that a war upon credit, eventually upon property and upon the general principles of public order, might aggravate and embitter the ordinary calamities of foreign war. The confiscation of debts due to the enemy might have been the first step of this destructive process. From one violation of justice to another the passage is easy. Invasions of right still more fatal to credit might have followed, and this by extinguishing the resources which that could have afforded might have paved the way to more comprehensive and more enormous depredations for a substitute. Terrible examples were before us, and there were too many not sufficiently remote from a disposition to admire and imitate them. …
Even in a revolutionary war, a war of liberty against usurpation, our national councils were never provoked or tempted to depart so widely from the path of rectitude by every man who, though careful not to exaggerate for rash and extravagant projects, can nevertheless fairly estimate the real resources of the country for meeting dangers which prudence cannot avert.
Such a man will never endure the base doctrine that our security is to depend on the tricks of a swindler. He will look for it in the courage and constancy of a free, brave, and virtuous people—in the riches of a fertile soil—an extended and progressive industry—in the wisdom and energy of a well constituted and well administered government—in the resources of a solid, if well supported, national credit—in the armies which if requisite could be raised—in the means of maritime annoyance which if necessary we could organize and with which we could inflict deep wounds on the commerce of a hostile nation. He will indulge an animating consciousness that while our situation is not such as to justify our courting imprudent enterprises, neither is it such as to oblige us in any event to stoop to dishonorable means of security or to substitute a crooked and piratical policy for the manly energies of fair and open war. …
“The Defence, No. 37” 6 January 1796
It shall now be shown, that the objections to the treaty founded on its pretended interference with the powers of Congress tend to render the power of making treaties in a very great degree if not altogether nominal. This will be best seen by an enumeration of the cases of pretended interference.
I. The power of Congress to lay taxes is said to be impaired by those stipulations which prevent the laying of duties on particular articles, which also prevent the laying of higher or other duties on British commodities than on the commodities of other countries, and which restrict the power of increasing the difference of duties on British tonnage and on goods imported in British bottoms.
II. The power of Congress to regulate trade is said to be impaired by the same restrictions respecting duties, inasmuch as they are intended and operate as regulations of trade, by the stipulations against prohibitions in certain cases, and in general by all the rights, privileges, immunities, and restrictions in trade which are contained in the treaty, all which are so many regulations of commerce, which are said to encroach upon the legislative authority. …
The absurdity of the alleged interferences will fully appear by showing how they would operate upon the several kinds of treaties usual among nations. These may be classed under three principal heads: 1. Treaties of Commerce 2. Treaties of Alliance 3. Treaties of Peace.
Treaties of commerce are of course excluded, for every treaty of commerce is a system of rules devised to regulate and govern the trade between contracting nations, invading directly the exclusive power of regulating trade which is attributed to Congress.
Treaties of alliance whether defensive or offensive are equally excluded, and this on two grounds— 1. because it is their immediate object to define a case or cases in which one nation shall take part with another in war, contrary, in the sense of the objection, to that clause of the Constitution which gives to Congress the power of declaring war, and, 2. because the succors stipulated, in whatever form they may be, must involve an expenditure of money—not to say that it is common to stipulate succors in money either in the first instance or by way of alternative. …
Treaties of peace are also excluded or at the least are so narrowed as to be in the greatest number of cases impracticable. The most common conditions of these treaties are restitutions or cessions of territory on one side or on the other, frequently, on both sides, regulations of boundary, restitutions and confirmations of property—pecuniary indemnifications for injuries or expenses. It will probably not be easy to find a precedent of a treaty of peace which does not contain one or more of these provisions as the basis of the cessation of hostilities, and they are all of them naturally to be looked for in an agreement which is to put an end to the state of war between conflicting nations. Yet they are all precluded by the objections which have been enumerated. …
It follows that if the objections which are taken to the treaty on the point of constitutionality are valid, the President with the advice and consent of the Senate can make neither a treaty of commerce nor alliance and, rarely if at all, a treaty of peace. It is probable that on a minute analysis there is scarcely any species of treaty which would not clash in some particular with the principle of those objections; and thus, as was before observed, the power to make treaties granted in such comprehensive and indefinite terms and guarded with so much precaution would become essentially nugatory.
This is so obviously against the principles of sound construction, it at the same time exposes the government to so much impotence in one great branch of political power, in opposition to a main intent of the Constitution, and it tends so directly to frustrate one principal object of the institution of a general government—the convenient management of our external concerns—that it cannot but be rejected by every discerning man who will examine and pronounce with sincerity.
It is against the principles of sound construction, because these teach us that every instrument is so to be interpreted that all the parts may if possible consist with each other and have effect. But the construction which is combated would cause the legislative power to destroy the power of making treaties. Moreover, if the power of the executive department be inadequate to the making of the several kinds of treaties which have been mentioned, there is then no power in the government to make them; for there is not a syllable in the Constitution which authorizes either the legislative or judiciary department to make a treaty with a foreign nation. And our Constitution would then exhibit the ridiculous spectacle of a government without a power to make treaties with foreign nations: a result as inadmissible as it is absurd, since in fact our Constitution grants the power of making treaties in the most explicit and ample terms to the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. …
“The Defence, No. 38” 9 January 1796
The manner in which the power of treaty as it exists in the Constitution was understood by the Convention in framing it and by the people in adopting it is the point next to be considered.
As to the sense of the Convention, the secrecy with which their deliberations were conducted does not permit any formal proof of the opinions and views which prevailed in digesting the power of treaty. But from the best opportunity of knowing the fact, I aver that it was understood by all to be the intent of the provision to give to that power the most ample latitude to render it competent to all the stipulations which the exigencies of national affairs might require—competent to the making of treaties of alliance, treaties of commerce, treaties of peace and every other species of convention usual among nations and competent in the course of its exercise to control and bind the legislative power of Congress. And it was emphatically for this reason that it was so carefully guarded, the cooperation of two thirds of the Senate with the President being required to make a treaty. I appeal for this with confidence to every member of the Convention—particularly to those in the two houses of Congress. Two of these are in the House of Representatives, Mr. Madison and Mr. Baldwin. It is expected by the adversaries of the treaty that these gentlemen will in their places obstruct its execution. However this may be, I feel a confidence that neither of them will deny the assertion I have made. To suppose them capable of such a denial were to suppose them utterly regardless of truth. …
As to the sense of the community in the adoption of the Constitution, this can only be ascertained from two sources, the writings for and against the Constitution and the debates in the several state conventions.
I possess not at this moment materials for an investigation which would enable me to present the evidence they afford. But I refer to them, with confidence, for proof of the fact that the organization of the power of treaty in the Constitution was attacked and defended with an admission on both sides of its being of the character which I have assigned to it. Its great extent and importance—its effect to control by its stipulations the legislative authority were mutually taken for granted—and, upon this basis, it was insisted by way of objection that there were not adequate guards for the safe exercise of so vast a power, that there ought to have been reservations of certain rights, a better disposition of the power to impeach, and a participation, general or special, of the House of Representatives. The reply to these objections, acknowledging the delicacy and magnitude of the power, was directed to show that its organization was a proper one and that it was sufficiently guarded. …