Alexander Hamilton: Contribution to American Literature

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      ALEXANDER HAMILTON (1757-1804), because of his wonderful youthful precocity, reminds us of Jonathan Edwards. In 1774, at the age of seventeen, Hamilton wrote in answer to a Tory who maintained that England had given New York no charter of rights, and that she could not complain that her rights had been taken away:—

"The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records. They are written as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the Divinity itself, and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power."


Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton

      A profound student of American constitutional history says of Hamilton's pamphlets: "They show great maturity, a more remarkable maturity than has ever been exhibited by any other person, at so early an age, in the same department of thought."

      After the Americans were victorious in the war, Hamilton suggested that a constitutional convention be called. For seven years this suggestion was not followed, but in 1787 delegates met from various states and framed a federal constitution to be submitted to the states for ratification. Hamilton was one of the leading delegates. After the convention had completed its work, it seemed probable that the states would reject the proposed constitution. To win its acceptance, Hamilton, in collaboration with JAMES MADISON (1751-1836) and JOHN JAY (1745-1829), wrote the famous Federalist papers. There were eighty-five of these, but Hamilton wrote more than both of his associates together. These papers have been collected into a volume, and to this day they form a standard commentary on our Constitution. This work and Hamilton's eloquence before the New York convention for ratification helped to carry the day for the Constitution and to terminate a period of dissension which was tending toward anarchy.

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