The best and latest work on Washington is that of the Hon. Henry Cabot Lodge, and leaves little more to be said; Marshall’s Washington has long been a standard; Botta’s History of the Revolutionary War; Bancroft’s United States; McMaster’s History of the American People. In connection read the standard lives of Franklin, John Adams, Hamilton, Jefferson, Jay, Marshall, La Fayette, and Greene, with Washington’s writings. John Fiske has written an admirable book on Washington’s military career; indeed his historical series on the early history of America and the United States are both brilliant and trustworthy. Of the numerous orations on Washington, perhaps the best is that of Edward Everett.
A. D. 1757-1804.
THE AMERICAN CONSTITUTION.
There is one man in the political history of the United States whom Daniel Webster regarded as his intellectual superior. And this man was Alexander Hamilton; not so great a lawyer or orator as Webster, not so broad and experienced a statesman, but a more original genius, who gave shape to existing political institutions. And he rendered transcendent services at a great crisis of American history, and died, with no decline of popularity, in the prime of his life, like Canning in England, with a brilliant future before him. He was one of those fixed stars which will forever blaze in the firmament of American lights, like Franklin, Washington, and Jefferson; and the more his works are critically examined, the brighter does his genius appear. No matter how great this country is destined to be,—no matter what illustrious statesmen are destined to arise, and work in a larger sphere with the eyes of the world upon them,—Alexander Hamilton will be remembered and will be famous for laying one of the corner-stones in the foundation of the American structure.
He was not born on American soil, but on the small West India Island of Nevis. His father was a broken-down Scotch merchant, and his mother was a bright and gifted French lady, of Huguenot descent. The Scotch and French blood blended, is a good mixture in a country made up of all the European nations. But Hamilton, if not an American by birth, was American in his education and sympathies and surroundings, and ultimately married into a distinguished American family of Dutch descent. At the age of twelve he was placed in the counting-house of a wealthy American merchant, where his marked ability made him friends, and he was sent to the United States to be educated. As a boy he was precocious, like Cicero and Bacon; and the boy was father of the man, since politics formed one of his earliest studies. Such a precocious politician was he while a student in King’s College, now Columbia, in New York, that at the age of seventeen he entered into all the controversies of the day, and wrote essays which, replying to pamphlets attacking Congress over the signature of “A Westchester Farmer,” were attributed to John Jay and Governor Livingston. As a college boy he took part in public political discussions on those great questions which employed the genius of Burke, and occupied the attention of the leading men of America.