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It is in that honorable calling which he always magnified and adorned, that I love to contemplate him, devoting the marvellous force of his character, intellect, and will to the service of the community, in those great forensic contests to which he was naturally called. Chancellor Kent, whose authority on that subject is conclusive, says of him: "Among his brethren Hamilton was indisputably pre-eminent. This was universally conceded. He rose at once to the loftiest heights of professional eminence by his profound penetration, his power of analysis, the comprehensive grasp and strength of his understanding, and the firmness, frankness and integrity of his character." The same qualities it will be noted made him so nearly supreme in political and public life.
I would not have you believe that I am presenting Hamilton as a hero without spot or blemish. He had many and glaring faults, but they were mostly the result of that passionate and impetuous nature which was a striking feature of his personality. An intrigue in private life, which his enemies seized upon as a means of defaming his public character, by the pretence that he had spent upon its object public moneys, compelled him to an elaborate vindication of his official conduct. He not only silenced but convinced his slanderers, although at the expense of a humiliating confession on his own part which marred the sanctity of his private life. His political conflicts, even within the party of which he was the acknowledged head, were often marked
by fierce outbreaks of temper and vindictive passion. These involved him in personal quarrels which sadly interfered with the plans and the policy of the Federalists, and one of which directly led to their overthrow. But his commanding talents and weight of character were so transcendent, his genius for public service so unfailing, his political vision so clear, and his devotion to public duty so constant, that even these great faults have hardly diminished the lustre of his fame, or the gratitude of his countrymen for his matchless services in laying the foundations of the Republic. He scorned all mercenary ideas and motives, all low ambitions, and his integrity was so absolute, and his patriotism so unselfish and exalted, that his name and career are a cherished national treasure.
The tragical death of Hamilton has done much to embalm his name in the memory of his countrymen. Great as we have seen him to be, he was not great enough to rise above the barbarous and brutal theory and practice of that age, which sanctioned and compelled a resort to the duel as the honorable mode of settling personal disputes, but to which the cruel sacrifice of his precious life put an end, at least in the Northern States. Two years before, he had followed to the grave his eldest son, a victim to the same senseless code of honor, and now, still in the very prime of his own life, at the age of forty-seven, in the midst of a great career of usefulness, crowned with all the laurels which his grateful country could bestow,
he was called to meet his own untimely fate. He accepted the challenge, forced upon him by his most dangerous and unscrupulous political adversary, with whom he had had many bitter contests, and who was at last determined to be rid of him. One glorious July morning, on the heights of Weehawken, overlooking the Hudson and in sight of his own happy home in New York-whose idol he had been they met for the last and mortal combat. Hamilton fell fatally wounded at the first shot of his adversary, having fired his own pistol in the air, and so unhappily and unworthily ended the life of one of the noblest, manliest and most useful men of whom we have any recordthe trusted friend and companion of Washington- and one of the best gifts of God to the Nation which they labored together to found.