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The Revolutionary Writings of Alexander Hamilton - …

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The writer of the ensuing sheets can, with truth, say more than the generality of those who either espouse or oppose the claim of the which is, that political opinions have been the result of mature deliberation and rational inquiry. They have not been influenced by prejudice, nor by any interested or ambitious motives. They are not the of licentious clamors, or popular declamation; but the genuine offspring of sober reason. To those who are inclined to doubt sincerity, begs leave to recommend a little more To those who are possessed of greater candor, and who yet may be disposed to ask how can be sure that his opinions have not been influenced by prejudice, answers, Because he remembers the time when he had strong prejudices on the side now opposes. His change of sentiment ( firmly believes) proceeded from the superior force of the arguments in favor of the American claims.

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I will now venture to assert, that I have demonstrated, from the voice of nature, the of the British constitution, and the charters of the colonies in general, the absolute non-existence of that parliamentary supremacy for which you contend. I am not apt to be dogmatical, or too confident of my own opinions; but if I thought it possible for me to be mistaken, when I maintain that the Parliament of Great Britain has no sovereign authority over America, I should distrust every principle of my understanding, reject every distinction between truth and falsehood, and fall into a universal skepticism.


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Given to neither the studiousness of Madison nor the wide-ranging intellectual curiosity of Jefferson, Hamilton gravitated to the technical issues of governance. His moment came when Washington organized the first presidential administration under the new Constitution and chose him as secretary of the treasury. No man in the United States was as prepared as Hamilton to use the new federal powers to craft a series of mutually enhancing statutes dealing with taxes, trade, and the revolutionary debt. He possessed a strong political philosophy, congenial to the Federalists who gravitated around Washington but at odds with the increasingly popular democratic sentiments that triumphed with Jefferson’s election in 1801 and the subsequent sweep of successive Congressional elections.

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It happened that the charter of Massachusetts was vacated by a decision in Chancery, and a new one was conferred by The agents for that colony did not accept it till they had first consulted the most judicious civilians and politicians upon the contents of it, and then drew up an instrument in which they assigned the reasons of their acceptance. The following extract will serve to show their sense of it: “The colony,” say they, “is now made a province; and the General Court has, with the King’s approbation, as much power in New England as the King and Parliament have in England. They have all English privileges and liberties, and can be touched by and by but of their own making. All the liberties of their religion are for ever secured.”

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As to the expression, as our liege people of this our realm of England, or any corporation or body politic within the same, if any stress be laid on the particle it will imply not only that the colonies were simple matters of corporation, but that the inhabitants of them were considered as being within the realm of England. But this cannot be admitted as true without contradicting other clauses of the same charters. Thus, in the preamble to that of Rhode Island, it is said that the first planters “did, by the consent of our royal progenitors, transport themselves of this kingdom of England America.” And in each of the charters the king stipulates that all the children born in America shall enjoy “all the liberties and immunities of free and natural subjects, within any of his dominions, as they and every of them born within the realm of England.”

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An act of the twenty-fifth of Charles the Second was the first that ever imposed duties on the colonies for any purpose; and these, as the preamble itself recites, were simply as a regulation of trade, and were of a prohibitory nature. Notwithstanding this, it was the source of great dissatisfaction; and was one of the principal causes of the insurrection in Virginia, under Colonel Bacon, which after his death subsided; and then the province sent agents to England, to remonstrate “against taxes and impositions being laid on the colony by any authority but that of the General Assembly.” In consequence of this, a declaration was obtained, under the privy seal of King Charles, dated nineteenth of April, 1676, to this effect: that “taxes ought not to be laid upon the proprietors and inhabitants of the colony, but by the common consent of the General Assembly.”

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But I have found out an argument, which I imagine will go very near convincing yourself of the absurdity of what you have offered on this head. It is short, but conclusive. “” How can you, my dear sir, after making this confession, entertain a single thought that it is incumbent upon us to suffer her to raise a revenue upon our trade? Are not the a sufficient recompense for protecting it? Surely you would not allow her the whole. This would be rather too generous. However ardent your affection to her, and however much it may be your glory to advance her imperial dignity, you ought to moderate it so far as to permit us to enjoy some little benefit from our trade. Only a small portion of the profits will satisfy us. We are willing to let her have the share, and this you acknowledge she already has. But why will you advise us to let her exhaust the small pittance we have reserved as the reward of our own industry in burthensome revenues? This might be liberality and generosity, but it would not be prudence; and let me tell you, in this selfish, rapacious world a little discretion is at worst only a sin. It will be expedient to be more cautious for the future. It is difficult to combat truth, and unless you redouble your vigilance you will (as in the present instance) be extremely apt to ensnare yourself.