THE MASTER BUILDER
The subject of national finance had long interested Hamilton. His ideas had been matured by a diligent and minute study of English precedents, and now that his opportunity had come he was ready to grasp it. Soon after he took office, the House resolved that “an adequate provision for the support of the public credit” should be made, and it directed the Secretary of the Treasury “to prepare a plan for that purpose and to report the same to the House at its next meeting.” This was, in effect, a postponement until the second session of the First Congress, which began in January, 1790. In his opening address to Congress, Washington pointedly referred to the public credit resolution which he had noted “with peculiar pleasure.” On the next day a letter from Hamilton was read in the House stating that he had prepared his plan and was ready to report the same to the House when they should be pleased to receive it.
This announcement brought up anew the question in what manner the Secretary should make his report. Gerry was on his feet at once with a motion that it should be made in writing. Boudinot “hoped that the Secretary of the Treasury might be permitted to make his report in person in order to answer such inquiries as the members might be disposed to make, for it was a justifiable surmise that gentlemen would not be able clearly to comprehend so intricate a subject without oral illustration.” The allusion to the intricacy of the subject had the effect of turning against the plan of oral communication some who had favored giving the Secretary the same direct access to Congress that the Superintendent of Finance had formerly enjoyed. Ames, for instance, now desired that the Secretary’s communications should be in writing since “in this shape they would obtain a degree of permanency favorable to the responsibility of the officer, while, at the same time, they would be less liable to be misunderstood.” Benson