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30 SAMUEL ADAMS
oratory. Adams continued in Congress during the war, and afterwards remained a prominent figure in Massachusetts politics, being Governor from 1795 to 1797. He died in 1803 at a good old age.
THE STRUGGLE FOR INDEPENDENCE [The only extant speech of Samuel Adams was delivered at the State House in Philadelphia, to a very numerous audience, on the 1st. of August, 1776, its subject
being American Independence. We give its eloquent and inspiring peroration.] -owe to ****
If there is any man so base or so weak as to prefer a dependence on Great Britain, to the dignity and happiness of living a member of a free and independent nation, let me tell him that necessity now demands what the generous principle of patriotism should have dictated. We have now no other alternative than independence, or the most ignominious and galling servitude. The legions of our enemies thicken on our plains; desolation and death mark their bloody career; whilst the mangled corpses of our countrymen seem to cry out to us as a voice from heaven : “Will you permit our posterity to groan under the galling chains of our murderers? Has our blood been expended in vain 2 Is the only reward which our constancy, till death, has obtained for our country, that it should be sunk into a deeper and more ignominious vassalage 2'' Recollect who are the men that demand your submission ; to whose decrees you are invited to pay obedience Men who, unmindful of their relation to you as brethren, of your long implicit submission to their laws; of the sacrifice which you and your forefathers made of your natural advantages for commerce to their avarice, formed a deliberate plan to wrest from you the small pittance of property which they had permitted you to acquire. Remember that the men who wish to rule over you are they who, in pursuit of this plan of despotism, annulled the sacred contracts which had been made with your ancestors; conveyed into your cities a mercenary soldiery to compel you to submission by insult and murder, who called your patience, cowardice; your piety, hypocrisy.
Countrymen the men who now invite you to surrender your rights into their hands are the men who have let loose the merciless savages to riot in the blood of their brethren, who have taught treachery to your slaves, and courted them to assassinate your wives and children. These are the men to whom we are exhorted to sacrifice the blessings which Providence holds out to us—the happiness, the dignity of uncontrolled freedom and independence. Let not your generous indignation be directed against any among us who may advise so absurd and maddening a measure. Their number is but few and daily decreases; and the spirit which can render them patient of slavery will render them contemptible enemies.
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Our Union is now complete; our Constitution composed, established, and approved. You are now the guardians of your own liberties. We may justly address you, as the Decemviri did the Romans, and say— “Nothing that we propose can pass into a law without your consent. Be yourselves, O Americans, the authors of those laws on which your happiness depends.”
You have now in the field armies sufficient to repel the whole force of your enemies and their base and mercenary auxiliaries. The hearts of your soldiers beat high with the spirit of freedom—they are animated with the justice of their cause, and, while they grasp their swords, can look up to Heaven for assistance. Your adversaries are composed of wretches who laugh at the rights of humanity, who turn religion into derision, and would, for higher wages, direct their swords against their leaders, or their country. Go on, then, in your generous enterprise, with gratitude to Heaven for past success, and confidence of it in the future. For my own part, I ask no greater blessing than to share with you the common danger and common glory. If I have a wish dearer to my soul than that my ashes may be mingled with those of a Warren and Montgomery —it is, that these American States may never cease to be free and independent.
ALEXANDER HAMILTON (1757–1804)
THE CREATOR OF THE AMERICAN REVENUE
N a noble speech by Daniel Webster we read the following passI age: “How he fulfilled the duties of such a place, at such a time, the whole country perceived with delight and the whole world saw with admiration. He smote the rock of the national resources and abundant streams of revenue gushed forth. He touched the dead corpse of the public credit, and it sprang upon its feet. The fabled birth of Minerva, from the brain of Jove, was hardly more sudden and more perfect than the financial system of the United States, as it burst forth from the conceptions of Alexander Hamilton.” We can add little to this splendid outburst of poetic oratory. In 1789, when the Government of the United States under the Constitution was organized and Alexander Hamilton was made Secretary of the Treasury by President Washington, the finances of the new republic were in a deplorable state. The country was drowned in debt and practically bankrupt. The expenses of the Revolution had been mainly met with paper money, which had become more worthless than the paper on which it was printed. During the years after the war the government had been carried on almost without money. It was obliged to beg the states for every penny it needed, and it often begged in vain. The new government began with an empty purse and a ruined credit. All this was reversed by Hamilton's magic touch. Within a year's time the country's credit was restored, its purse was filled, and its great financial career had fairly begun. This is the work which Webster so highly eulogized. Its details may be found in the financial history of the United States. Alexander Hamilton was a man brimful of talents, in his way as remarkable as Washington himself. Coming from his birthplace
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in the West Indies to the United States in 1772, a boy of fifteen, he soon began to make his power felt, and in 1774, still a small, slender lad, he made a striking speech before a great meeting in New York, in which he denounced Great Britain, called upon the colonies to resist, “and described the waves of rebellion sparkling with fire, and washing back upon the shores of England the wrecks of her power, her wealth, and her glory.” This wonderful boy grew into a remarkable man. When the war broke out, he entered the army and fought with distinguished valor in the battles from Brooklyn to Trenton and Princeton. He afterwards became military secretary to Washington, and showed that he could write as ably as he could fight. At Yorktown he was in arms again, and made a brilliant attack on the British works. The war ended, he took an active part in striving to adjust the wrecked finances of the country, aiding Robert Morris in this work. The first bank of the United States was suggested by him. No man was more active than he in bringing about the convention to form a new Constitution, and no man aided it more with voice and pen. His papers, published in the Federalist, are the most valuable parts of our Constitutional history. His speeches on the same subject are welcome additions to our oratory. His work as a member of Washington's cabinet was beyond praise. As a lawyer, he was among the ablest the country possessed. And when, in 1804, he fell a victim to the bullet of Aaron Burr, the whole land put on sackcloth and ashes for the loss of its ablest statesman and financier. His name will always stand high in the list of those eminent citizens to whom this country owes its greatness and its prosperity.
THE NEW CONSTITUTION
[Hamilton's work for the Constitution was not confined to his labors leading up to it and on the floor of the Convention, and his brilliant writings in its defence. Still more able were his efforts to overcome the bitter opposition in the State of New York to the ratification of the new Constitution. Day after day, and week after week he worked in the New York Convention, fighting the enemies of that invaluable state paper with voice and pen, showing the fatal defects of the old Confederation and the ruin that would come upon the country if the Constitution were not adopted and the Union formed, and finally winning against the marshalled forces of its foes. From his many speeches on this subject we are obliged to content ourselves with a brief extract in illustration of his style.]
34 ALEXANDER HAMILTON
MR. CHAIRMAN : The honorable member, who spoke yesterday, went into an explanation of a variety of circumstances to prove the expediency of a change in our national government, and the necessity of a firm union; at the same time, he described the great advantages which this State, in particular, receives from the Confederacy, and its peculiar weaknesses when abstracted from the Union. In doing this, he advanced a variety of arguments, which deserve serious consideration. Gentlemen have this day come forward to answer him. He has been treated as
having wandered in the flowery fields of fancy; and attempts have been
made to take off from the minds of the committee that sober impression which might be expected from his arguments. I trust, sir, that observations of this kind are not thrown out to cast a light air on this important subject, or to give any personal bias on the great question before us. I will not agree with gentlemen who trifle with the weaknesses of our country, and suppose that they are enumerated to answer a party purpose, and to terrify with ideal dangers. No ; I believe these weaknesses to be real, and pregnant with destruction. Yet, however weak our country may be, I hope we shall never sacrifice our liberties. If, therefore, on a full and candid discussion, the proposed system shall appear to have that tendency, for God's sake let us reject it. But let us not mistake words for things, nor accept doubtful surmises as the evidence of truth. Let us consider the Constitution calmly and dispassionately, and attend to those things only which merit consideration. . Sir, it appears to me extraordinary, that while gentlemen in one breath acknowledge that the old Confederation requires many material amendments, they should in the next deny that its defects have been the cause of our political weakness, and the consequent calamities of our country. I cannot but infer from this, that there is still some lurking, favorite imagination, that this system, with corrections, might become a safe and permanent one. It is proper that we should examine this matter. We contend that the radical vice in the old Confederation is, that the laws of the Union apply only to States in their corporate capacity. Has not every man who has been in our legislature experienced the truth of this position ? It is inseparable from the disposition of bodies who have a constitutional power of resistance, to examine the merits of a law. This has ever been the case with the federal requisitions. In this examination, not being furnished with those lights which directed the deliberations of the general government, and incapable of embracing the general interests of the Union, the States have almost uniformly weighed the requisitions by their own local interests, and have only executed them so far as answered their particular convenience or advantage. Hence there