This article was originally published in the May 8, 2015 issue of Executive Intelligence magazine · by Robert Ingraham
There are myths and counter-myths surrounding the early history of the United States of America. It is often difficult for the mere observer to discern what was actually going on, and what the nature of the battle was. This document will demonstrate that from the very beginning, this nation was defined by a titanic war between two opposing forces, opponents who differed not merely on practical political issues, but on the very nature of the human species itself. On the one side was the New York leadership who created the United States Constitution and defined the mission of the United States during the Presidency of George Washington. Against them were arrayed the Virginia combine of the Southern “Slave Power,” an anti-human aristocracy who were determined that it would be the slavocracy of the South who would control the future destiny of the nation. This is the story of that battle. A PDF of this article is available here.
From left to right: Alexander Hamilton, Gouverneur Morris, John Jay and Robert Livingston.
In the years immediately prior to the American Revolutionary War, four young graduates of King’s College (today’s Columbia University) in New York City began a friendship, a personal bond, from which sprang forth the leadership of a new nation. This bond was strengthened and deepened during the years of the American War for Independence, a war which also witnessed the beginning of their intimate relationship with George Washington, and later, in 1787, it would be these four,—Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Gouverneur Morris and Robert Livingston,—who performed the vital role in the creation of the finished form of the United States Constitution, as well as in that document’s successful ratification one year later. Beginning in 1789, three of these individuals—Hamilton, Jay and Morris—would form the nucleus of the leadership in the new Presidential Administration of George Washington, a Presidency whose nature can only be grasped by recognizing that it was a “New York Administration.”
They were joined and supported by other key New Yorkers, including Steven Van Rensselaer, Philip Schuyler, and Isaac Roosevelt, along with Hamilton’s protégé Rufus King, who moved from Massachusetts to New York at Hamilton’s urging. Later, the legacy of this grouping would be continued through the efforts of DeWitt Clinton, James Fenimore Cooper, and others.
Even before the inauguration of Washington, stretching back to the Constitutional Convention and earlier, the philosophy and policy of what would become this 1789 New York Administration was ruthlessly and bloodily opposed by the Slave Interests of the South.
Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States.
There are two related delusions concerning slavery and the American Republic. The first is that the founding fathers were either pro-slavery, or at least tolerant of that institution. The second is that slavery did not emerge as a decisive national crisis until the 1830s or 1840s, or until the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. The truth, is that beginning with the inauguration of George Washington in 1789, war was declared against that Administration by the Slave Power, and beginning with the election of Thomas Jefferson in 1800, the Southern Slave Power unleashed a relentless, unceasing effort to increase its power, expand geographically and ultimately take over the entire nation.
More was at stake than simply the institution of slavery. The first Washington Administration was an experiment as to whether the principles of the new American Constitution, a constitution steered to its completion by New Yorkers, might succeed in practice. It was the Administration of Alexander Hamilton’s creation of a National Bank, and Hamilton’s formation of the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures. The Washington Presidency was the battleground for the creation of a type of Republic never before existent in human history. From the beginning, the mortal enemy of this design was the Slave Power of the South.
Part I: The Beginnings
King’s College, circa 1773
John Jay and Robert Livingston met as students at King’s College in the mid-1760s, and they became the closest of friends until their break in 1792-1794. Within a few years Gouverneur Morris was part of their group, and this trio was to provide the revolutionary leadership for New York State during the ensuing decade. Hamilton, the youngest of the group, was a slightly later addition, but it was this final arrival whose destiny was to be the greatest of them all. All four emerged from, or were linked to a network of prominent New York families, including the Livingstons, Van Rensselaers, Schuylers, and Morrises. Alexander Hamilton and Steven Van Rensselaer both married daughters of Philip Schuyler, and John Jay married one of the daughters of Walter Livingston.
During the Revolution, not only did Hamilton serve as Washington’s most trusted aide, but it was Jay, Livingston, and particularly Morris who became Washington’s most vigorous defenders in the Continental Congress. Morris and Livingston defended Washington against repeated attempts to remove him from command,1 and throughout the war, no one fought harder than Morris to secure food, ammunition and medical care for Washington’s troops.2 It is vital to recognize that to a very real extent, the leadership of the later Washington Presidency was forged, so to speak, over the “campfires of war,” by individuals who served directly with Washington during that conflict, including Hamilton, Gouverneur Morris (who spent four months with the army at Valley Forge), Henry Knox (later Washington’s Secretary of War), John Marshall (also at Valley Forge) and Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee. These individuals, together with others not named here, remained unassailable in their loyalty to Washington until the moment of his death.
In 1774, after the British government closed the Port of Boston, a committee is formed under John Jay’s leadership, to organize a new revolutionary government for New York State: the New York Provisional Congress. Morris and Livingston are elected as representatives to the new legislature, and Jay is the first delegate chosen to the new Continental Congress in Philadelphia.
In 1776, the New York Provisional Congress, at the urging of Jay and Morris, authorize their representatives in Philadelphia to vote for independence. Livingston serves on the Committee of Five, together with Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Roger Sherman, and John Adams, which drafts the final version of the Declaration of Independence. Later that year Jay and Morris author a new constitution for New York State, and elections are held to form a new state government. Jay is elected Chief Justice, Livingston is elected Chancellor, and their ally Philip Schuyler is barely defeated for Governor by George Clinton.
From 1781 to 1783, Gouverneur Morris, together with Robert Morris, are the vital leaders in reorganizing the nation’s finances and staving off national bankruptcy, and, together, they found the Bank of North America.
John Jay, from 1779 to 1782, serves as Ambassador to Spain and then, at the request of Benjamin Franklin, proceeds to Paris to aid Franklin (whose efforts are being sabotaged by John Adams) in securing the final peace treaty which ends the war.
Part II: The Constitution
A continuing lie surrounding the United States Constitution is that Alexander Hamilton played a minor role at the Constitutional Convention and had little input into the final document. The truth is that there would have been no Constitution without Hamilton. He was the initiator of the project and, almost single-handedly, responsible for the convening of the Convention in the summer of 1787; and, afterwards, Hamilton was the driving force for ratification in 1788. In addition, he intervened in two crucial and decisive ways at the Convention itself.
Hamilton’s campaign from 1783 to 1787 to replace the Articles of Confederation is well-known, and the details will not be repeated here, except to emphasize his role in initiating the Annapolis Convention, which met on September 12, 1786 and ended two days later with the Hamilton-authored “Annapolis Resolution,” calling for the convening of a national convention in Philadelphia in May of 1787, to be attended by all the states.
This was Hamilton’s project from the beginning.
1787 Constitutional Convention.
The Philadelphia Convention opened with the presentation of the “Virginia Plan,” a document which emanated from James Madison. Madison’s proposal was a mess, particularly in the extreme weakness of the Presidency and the Judiciary, and the extensive power it granted to the individual state legislatures. More important, the Madison plan had no intent; it was merely a social contract. Even worse, the Virginia proposal was followed several days later by the presentation of the “New Jersey Plan,” a rewarmed version of the Articles of Confederation. The grim choice between some version of these two bad alternatives would have been inevitable, but, on June 17, 1787, Hamilton met with George Washington and convinced him to turn over the entirety of the next day’s agenda to only one speaker, Hamilton himself. On June 18th Hamilton spoke, uninterrupted, for six hours, presenting his own vision for the new government. Historians almost universally deride this intervention, calling Hamilton’s proposal the “British Plan” (despite the fact that it bears no resemblance whatsoever to the British government), and claiming that his speech had no support and little effectiveness. On the contrary! Through his sheer will and the brilliance of his argument, Hamilton transformed the entire nature of the gathering. From the moment of Hamilton’s speech, the New Jersey Plan died, and the nationalists gained the ascendency in the Convention. The battle then became one to improve upon the Virginia Plan, to transform it into the basis for a sovereign Republic.
Shortly after his speech, Hamilton left the Convention for most of the rest of the summer. Again, historians point to this as evidence of Hamilton’s pique at the supposed lack of support for his proposal, but a major reason that Hamilton absented himself from most of the convention, was due to his status. New York State had sent three delegates, but two of them, allied with George Clinton, withdrew when they discovered that the Convention intended to overthrow the Articles of Confederation. Without them the New York delegation did not have a quorum, and thus lost its vote. Hamilton’s official position had been reduced, according to the rules of the Convention, to that of a mere observer. This is why, at the end of the Convention, Washington stated that the Constitution had been signed by “11 states and Col. Hamilton,” New York not having a valid vote, and Rhode Island boycotting the Convention.
After Hamilton’s departure, it was Gouverneur Morris who led the battle against States’ Rights and Slavery at the Convention. More than any other individual, it was Morris who was responsible for the clauses creating a strong Presidency—the American Presidential System—and it was Morris who battled, almost alone, against the institutionalized Slave Power of the South. During the Convention, Gouverneur Morris roomed with Washington at the home of Robert Morris, and it was very clear to all of the delegates that when Gouverneur Morris spoke,—and he spoke more often than any other delegate at the Convention,—the views he propounded were sometimes his own, but often those of Washington as well.
This is what Hamilton and Morris together accomplished:
- First, the establishment of a strong, independently-elected Executive, through the Office of the Presidency. Morris was unsuccessful in his attempts to establish a full democratic popular election of the President,3 but he and Hamilton were successful in preventing the selection of the President by either the Congress or the State Governments, which were the majority views at the beginning of the convention. They also were able to empower the President with broad executive powers.
- The inclusion of a broad General Welfare clause, both within the body of the Constitution, and more importantly the Morris-authored Preamble, which charges the National government to protect and defend the General Welfare for future generations.
- The establishment of a strong independent Judiciary, something which later became a major source of conflict with the Jeffersonians.
- Morris and Hamilton were the most eloquent champions of nationalism at the convention,—particularly Morris, who spoke repeatedly and passionately as the champion of national unity. He attacked states’ rights and localism from every angle and at each time it reared its head.
- Morris led a critically important fight over slavery at the convention. Practically alone, he waged this fight all the way through to the closing hours of the convention, brilliantly and uncompromisingly. The Three-Fifths clause which vastly inflated the national political power of the slave states was adopted against Morris’s intense opposition.
At the conclusion of the Convention, a “Committee of Style and Arrangement” was appointed to write the final draft of the Constitution. The chairman of the committee was Hamilton, and both Gouverneur Morris and Rufus King were members. This Committee did not merely “polish” the final wording of the Constitution. They were given a hodgepodge of individual clauses that had been approved by majority vote, and their instructions were to arrange them into a unified composition. In doing this, nothing that had been already approved was changed, but the wording and phrasing of the final document all derived from the Committee, and, repeatedly, the emphasis in the final document is such as to strengthen the truly national character of the new government. Among other things, they clarified the General Welfare clause, and they made significant changes to Article III which strengthened the Federal Judiciary.
The great history-changing accomplishment of Hamilton’s Committee, however, was its addition of the Preamble to the Constitution. All contemporary witnesses agree that it was Gouverneur Morris who personally authored the Preamble, thus giving the entire document its philosophical intent. Reportedly, some of the delegates, upon receiving the completed Constitution from the Committee on Style, were unhappy with a Preamble they had neither asked for nor authorized, but it remained, unchanged, in the final document. When you read the words,
“We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare,4 and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
you are reading not only the words of Gouverneur Morris but the Principle which he, together with Hamilton, embedded in the founding document of our nation.
Morris vs. the Slavocracy
The great untold story of the Constitutional Convention is that the slave interests of the South, led by Virginia, were determined and unyielding that the final agreement would lead to a domination of the new nation by the Slavocracy. Their power and their system was to be enshrined, with legal finality, in the founding document of the nation. This included their demands for enhanced political power based on their states’ total slave population, for no restrictions to be placed on the slave trade, for no restrictions on the expansion of slavery into the territories, and for the use of various clauses in the Constitution dealing with property rights to protect slave ownership.
James Madison’s original Virginia Plan called for one-to-one representation of the slaves for the purpose of determining an individual state’s number of Representatives in the Congress, as well as that state’s number of Presidential Electors. For example, in 1790, Virginia had 435,000 free inhabitants and 300,000 slaves, while Pennsylvania had 434,000 free inhabitants and no slaves. Under the Madison Plan, Virginia’s representation would be based on 735,000 people.
James Madison, fourth President of the United States.
They almost got away with it, but there was enough opposition among some of the northern delegates, that on June Eleventh (when Gouverneur Morris was absent from the Convention), James Wilson of Philadelphia proposed the Three-Fifths “compromise,” allowing the South to count 60 percent of their slaves towards representation. This would, for example, allot to Virginia representation for 615,000 “people.” Wilson’s proposal was adopted with eight states voting for it, and two (Delaware and New Jersey) opposed, and that is where matters stood for one month.
On July Eleventh, Gouverneur Morris rose to speak at the Convention to re-open the already-decided issue of the Three-Fifths clause. The record of his speech and the ensuing lengthy debate with James Wilson is not preserved, but it must have been effective, for at day’s end, the Convention voted six states to four to eliminate the Three-Fifths clause and to award no representation for slaves. However, the fight was not over, and during the next two days there were heated exchanges, with only Morris repeatedly taking a strong anti-slavery position, in the face of Southern threats to walk out of the convention.
On July Thirteenth, another vote was held, and the Three-Fifths clause was reinstated, with the Southern concession that Three-Fifths of the slaves would be counted for both representation and direct taxation. The vote to reinstate the Three-Fifths clause was six to two, with two abstentions. Morris was the only member of the Pennsylvania delegation5 to oppose the compromise.
Morris was not yet done. On July 24th he delivered yet another speech demanding that the Convention revisit and remove the Three-Fifths clause. Incredibly, the five-person Committee on the Whole, in response to Morris’s intervention, then voted to reinstate full one-to-one representation (!) for slaves.
On August Eighth, when no other delegate was willing to openly defy the ultimata of the Slave Power, Morris rose and faced the entirety of the assembled delegates. He said the following:
Upon what principle is it that the slaves shall be computed in the representation? Are they men? Then make them citizens and let them vote. Are they property? Why then is no other property included? The houses in [philadelphia] are worth more than all the wretched slaves that cover the rice swamps of South Carolina…. The admission of slaves into the representation when fairly explained comes to this: that the inhabitant of Georgia and South Carolina who goes to the coast of Africa and, in defiance of the most sacred laws of humanity, tears away his fellow creatures from their dearest connections and damns them to the most cruel bondages, shall have more votes in a government instituted for the protection of the rights of mankind, than the citizen of Pennsylvania or New Jersey who views with laudable horror so nefarious a practice….
American patriot, Gouverneur Morris
Domestic slavery is the most prominent feature in the aristocratic countenance of the proposed Constitution. The vassalage of the poor has ever been the favorite offspring of aristocracy. And what is the proposed compensation to the Northern States for a sacrifice of every principle of right, of every impulse of humanity? They are to bind themselves to march their militias for the defense of the Southern States; for their defense against those very slaves of whom they complain. They must supply vessels and seamen in case of foreign Attack….
On the other side, the Southern States are not to be restrained from importing fresh supplies of wretched Africans… nay they are to be encouraged to it by an assurance of having their votes in the National Government increased in proportion, and are at the same time to have their exports and their slaves exempt from all contributions for the public service….
Slavery is a nefarious institution, the curse of heaven on the states where it prevails. Compare the free regions of the Middle States, where a rich and noble cultivation marks the prosperity and the happiness of the people, with the misery and poverty which overspread the barren wastes of Virginia, Maryland and the other States having slaves. Travel through the whole Continent, and you behold the prospect continually varying with the appearance and disappearance of slavery. The moment you leave the Eastern States and enter New York, the effects of the institution become visible,—passing through the Jerseys and entering Pennsylvania, every criterion of superior improvement witnesses the change. Proceed southwardly and every step you take through the great region of slaves presents a desert increasing, with the increasing proportion of these wretched beings.
At the conclusion of his speech, Morris proposed one small editorial change: to insert the word “free” before the word “inhabitants,” which would, of course, have eliminated all slave representation. Morris’s motion was overwhelmingly rejected, but in the aftermath of the speech, the Convention voted to reinstate the Three-Fifths representation instead of the Committee’s one-to-one proposal. This vote effectively ended the debate over slave representation.
The slave trade was debated from August 21st to 28th. South Carolina led the fight in demanding an unrestricted slave trade. Morris counterattacked, speaking repeatedly, even at one point proposing—as a provocation—that the constitution prohibit the slave trade, but that Virginia, Georgia, and South and North Carolina be exempted due to their commitment to “human bondage.” This caused a furor on the convention floor. Eventually, James Wilson proposed another compromise, one allowing the slave trade to continue for 20 years and imposing a head tax on imported slaves. Morris spoke sharply against it, but it passed. The effect of this “compromise” was that over the next 20 years, from 1790 to 1810, 203,000 slaves were brought into the United States, compared with only 56,000 in the previous 20 years.
The last slave-related issue was that of run-away slaves. The Convention had already agreed to a clause requiring Governors to surrender criminals for extradition to other states, but on August 28th the South Carolina delegation demanded that fugitive slaves must be included in the definition of criminals. Wilson again proposed a “compromise,” whereby slaves would not come under legal extradition agreements, but slave-owners would have the legal right to enter into other states (or hire someone to do this for them), and seize their run-away slaves, i.e., recover their rightful property. This was the origin of all later “fugitive slave” laws. Again, Morris was vehement in his opposition, but it was voted up by the convention.
The Philadelphia Convention ended with the proviso that the new Constitution would go into effect only after it had been ratified by nine states. Hamilton initiated the fight for ratification with the publication, on October 27, 1787, of the first of what later would become known as the Federalist Papers. Hamilton initially intended his political offensive to be a two-man operation run out of New York City. At the outset he asked Gouverneur Morris to join in authoring a series of essays, but he declined due to prior obligations to Robert Morris in Philadelphia. Hamilton then turned to John Jay, but after Letter Nine, Jay was forced to withdraw because of bad health. Hamilton then chose William Duer, another New Yorker, as his collaborator, but ended up rejecting Duer’s submissions as inadequate. It was only then that Hamilton turned to Madison, his fourth choice, to aid in writing the series.
Over the course of 1788, there were several key battleground states in which ratification was in doubt, including New York, Massachusetts and Virginia. In Massachusetts it was Rufus King and Henry Knox who played the key roles in winning over the leery John Hancock and Samuel Adams to ratification, but the fight in New York was the most intense. For well over a month, during the summer of 1788, a ratifying convention was held at Poughkeepsie, New York, and until the final days, ratification was uncertain. The majority of the delegates, under the direction of Gov. George Clinton,6 were opposed to ratification, but the delegation from Manhattan, which included Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Robert Livingston, and Isaac Roosevelt, battled ferociously until ratification was secured in late July.7
At the end of the summer, the Continental Congress declared the Constitution to be lawfully ratified, and named New York City as the temporary seat of the government.
Part III: The New Administration
George Washington, first President of the United States.
It was not inevitable that Washington would head the new government. Following his service in the French and Indian War and the American Revolution, Washington had informed many of his associates of his desire to retire from politics. Hamilton and others knew that a Washington Presidency was indispensable to what had to be done next. Neither Hamilton nor any of his close associates were happy with the final Constitution, but as Morris was later to describe the finished document, “it was the best that could be accomplished … and infinitely better than the existing Articles of Confederation.” The task now was to bring the words on the page to life, and to utilize all of the powers granted by the Constitution to secure the permanent continuance of a sovereign republic. To accomplish that, Washington was urgently needed.
Hamilton, Jay, Morris, and Henry Knox all communicated directly with Washington, expressing their belief that the historic mission could not be completed without his leadership. Morris wrote, “Should the idea prevail that you would not accept the Presidency, it would prove fatal to ratification in many Parts… your cool steady Temper is indisputably necessary to give a firm and manly Tone to the new Government… you therefore must, I say must mount the Seat. The Exercise of Authority depends on personal character, and you are the indispensable man.” Three weeks after authoring that letter Morris traveled to Mount Vernon and spent three days in private discussion with Washington.
Washington was duly elected, and on April 30, 1789, in Manhattan, he was sworn in as the first President of the United States, Robert Livingston, the Chancellor of New York, delivering the Oath of Office.
Washington was the man in charge, and his word was final, at least to his friends and allies, but, from the beginning, it was Hamilton to whom Washington turned for policy leadership. Washington was not a “figurehead,” but he recognized in Hamilton that genius necessary for the establishment of the new Nation, and Hamilton’s role in the government became so pronounced, so quickly, that Jefferson and his allies began to denounce New York City, the Capital of the Nation, as Hamiltonopolis.
The Washington Administration was an experiment as to whether a self-governing Republic—a government of, by and for the people—could be created and sustained. Hamilton was the second in command and the recognized leader in matters of policy. John Jay became not only the first Chief Justice of the United States, but he was also the individual whom Washington repeatedly chose for key tasks of great importance, such as the Jay Treaty of 1795. Gouverneur Morris, Hamilton’s closest friend, spent the entirety of Washington’s eight years as President in Europe, to which he had been deployed in the role of Washington’s private agent, his “eyes and ears,”—and during the entirety of this period, it was Morris, rather than the individual U.S. Ambassadors to France, Holland, Britain and Spain, who became Washington’s most trusted advisor in matters of foreign policy.8 There were others as well, who played important roles, including Hamilton’s protégé Rufus King and Henry Knox (the first Secretary of War), both of whom moved permanently from Massachusetts to New York; Philip Schuyler (Hamilton’s father-in-law), and Steven Van Rensselaer. All New Yorkers. This was the leadership of the Washington Administration in 1789.
In 1789 Washington wanted the permanent U.S. Capital to be located in Albany, New York, while Gouverneur Morris lobbied for Newburgh, a city on the Hudson River just north of West Point. Hamilton was adamant that the capital should remain in Manhattan, and it was from Manhattan that the battle to create and consolidate the United States of America as a sovereign nation was directed.
Thomas Jefferson, confronted with this phalanx of New York hegemony within the Washington Administration, and after failing to stop the approval of Hamilton’s National Bank in 1791, quit the administration so as to attack it from the outside. The idea that “Jeffersonianism” arose out of a later corruption of the Federalist Party under John Adams, or in opposition to the rise of the Boston Connecticut Essex Junto types, is simply a lie. By as early as 1790, at precisely the time that Hamilton was attempting to create the National Bank and the Society for Useful Manufactures, the Virginia attack on the Administration was at full throttle, and it would reach a crescendo with the signing of the Jay Treaty of 1795.
In his series of reports and actions between 1789 and 1793 Hamilton did not set forth a “program” nor a “formula” for economic policy. The intent, the Principle, underlying Hamilton’s initiatives is grounded in the goal of an ever-increasing National productivity, rooted in scientific and technological advancement. For Hamilton, this was the axiomatic principle at the heart of the Republic, without which there could be no republic, and thus the full power of the sovereign National Government, led by the Presidency, must be brought to bear to secure that directionality.
Far too often, Hamilton’s financial initiatives are viewed as just that, financial or banking initiatives, and, after Hamilton left office, the functioning of both the First and Second National Banks was frequently relegated to that lower-level status, of a mere financial or monetary institution. To understand what Hamilton was doing, one has to look at the relationship between the National Bank, the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures (SUM), and his Report on Manufactures, not as separate initiatives, but one unified thrust.10
Hamilton was determined to use the full power of the National Government to drive forward industrial and scientific expansion, and toward that end he battled intensively for a national policy of “bounties” to directly finance industrial enterprises. As Hamilton asked in the Report on Manufactures, “In what can it [the national debt] be so useful, as in prompting and improving the efforts of industry?”—and Hamilton proposed that the National Government use two percent of the national debt to finance the creation of a “national manufactory.”11
Hamilton’s Report on Manufactures, which was submitted to Congress on December 5, 1791, unveiled the formation of the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures with the words, “It may be announced, that a society is forming with a capital which is expected to be extended to at least a million dollars, on behalf of which measures are already in train for prosecuting on a large scale, the making and printing of cotton goods.”
The Paterson, New Jersey works of the SUM were intended as a “pilot project.” The 1791 Report to Congress defined an ongoing policy of national manufacturing development through the use of bounties, intimately interwoven with the credit-generating power of the National Bank. In that Report, Hamilton argued that the authorization to undertake such a policy of national development rested entirely in the powers granted to the National Government under the General Welfare provisions of the Constitution.
Hamilton’s revolutionary 1791 Report on Manufactures.
In January 1792, James Madison, in the House, and Jefferson, inside the Cabinet, declared war. Madison wrote to a colleague, “What do you think of the commentary on the terms general welfare… this broaches a new constitutional doctrine of vast consequence and demanding the serious attention of the public, I consider it myself as subverting the fundamental and characteristic principle of the Government, as contrary to the true & fair, as well as the received construction, and as bidding defiance to the sense in which the Constitution is known to have been proposed, advocated and adopted. If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the general welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one subject to particular exceptions.”
In February 1792, Jefferson circulated a memo, “Notes on the Constitutionality of Bounties to Encourage Manufacturing,” wherein he states that import duties were the only legal and allowable means of promoting manufactures, and that direct government support for manufacturing has not been delegated by the Constitution to the General Government, but remains with the state governments.
In late February, during a meeting with Washington, held at Jefferson’s request, Jefferson attacked the Report on Manufactures, which he charged meant to establish the doctrine that the power given by the Constitution to collect taxes to provide for the general welfare of the United States, permitted Congress to take every thing under their management which they should deem for the public welfare. According to Jefferson’s own notes on the meeting, Washington’s response was frigid, and the meeting ended abruptly.
Nevertheless, the Report was never presented before Congress for debate or a vote. One year earlier, the National Bank had been approved by the Senate by only one vote, with Philip Schuyler and Rufus King leading the fight for it, and James Monroe leading the opposition.
Virginia Declares War
The Slave Power assault on Hamilton began from the day that Washington took office. Just as Hamilton, Jay, and Morris were determined to complete the work of the Constitutional Convention, to create “a More Perfect Union,” the Virginia complex was insanely intent on destroying Hamilton, breaking the grip of the New Yorkers on the new government, seizing power for themselves and spreading both slavery and the Slave Power across the new nation.
The attack on Hamilton began immediately. It was not confined to a policy fight, but included efforts to destroy him politically, financially, and personally. An indication of their intent was the Jefferson/Madison blackmailing of Hamilton to agree to moving the national capital into the very heart of the Slavocracy,12 in exchange for their cooperation in the national assumption of state debts, an action vital for the establishment of a sovereign government. The battle erupted publicly with Jefferson’s 1791 declaration of war against the proposed National Bank. Then came the all-out the attempt to destroy Hamilton personally through the Reynolds Affair,13 in which James Monroe played a particularly despicable role.
Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe were on the attack from Day One, at first within the Administration and Congress, but by no later than early 1791, they began organizing a national party. The method chosen was to create Jacobin Clubs, which on the surface were associations sympathetic with the French Revolution,14 but in reality were tentacles of the Virginia slavocracy reaching into the North. These political clubs became the vehicle through which the entire New York leadership of the Washington Administration was accused of being “aristocrats,” pro-British, and conspiring to establish a monarchy.15
To my knowledge, the only prominent Federalist Party leader who ever publicly advocated a monarchy was John Adams. Hamilton, Morris, and Jay were all impassioned in their commitment to republican government. Additionally, actions speak louder than words, and the policy initiatives which Hamilton battled for—and which Jefferson and Madison opposed—would have led to a dramatic increase in scientific and industrial progress, and the concurrent uplifting of the cognitive skills and productivity of the American people,—the true basis for a republic. Most incredibly, the charges of “monarchist” and “aristocrat” which were hurled against Hamilton, all originated among Southern slave-owners, who themselves parodied the lifestyle of the landed English gentry, and amused themselves by abusing their slaves, or in Jefferson’s case breeding with them.
The Virginians began picking off and recruiting weaker members from among Washington’s supporters. John Jay’s intimate friend Robert Livingston went over to Jefferson in 1792, largely because Hamilton had blocked two of his personal initiatives in New York, the first being Livingston’s incompetent attempt to create a Land Bank, and the second when Hamilton secured a New York Senate seat, which Livingston coveted, for Philip Schuyler. Tench Coxe is another example, a man who throughout his career—as his private letters attest—was primarily driven by personal ambition. Supposedly Hamilton’s trusted assistant, by 1791 Coxe was de-facto Jefferson’s spy within the U.S. Treasury, reporting regularly to Jefferson and Madison on everything Hamilton was saying and doing.
This brings up a touchy subject. The story goes that Philadelphia became the birthplace for a new type of republicanism, Hamiltonian in policy but Jeffersonian in spirit. But there are also uncomfortable truths. Philadelphia was the northern stronghold of the Jeffersonian Jacobin Clubs, which later morphed into the official electoral machine of the Jeffersonian Party. From 1791 to 1794, thousands of Philadelphians marched around waving the Tri-Color flag, singing the Marseillaise, donning the Phrygian cap of the sans culotte and addressing each other as Citizen,—all of them pawns of the Virginia Slave Power. Remember, this was during Washington’s FIRST term as President, when Hamilton was fighting for the National Bank and the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures, and these Jefferson “republican” clubs were deployed to stop Hamilton dead in his tracks. Painfully, it must also be stated that it was not just Tench Coxe. Rather, Mathew Carey, Alexander Dallas, and other later boosters of the Monroe Presidency all went over to Jefferson at this time,—not later, but in the very heat of the battle between Hamilton and Jefferson. In a letter dated September 13, 1792, Elisha Boudinot (one of the directors of the SUM), wrote to Hamilton noting that a petition campaign was beginning against the SUM, and that in Philadelphia, “a strong party is forming in that city against the Secretary of the Treasury.”
Then, in 1792 Washington appointed Gouverneur Morris as Ambassador to France, and the Slave Power went wild. The slave-owner James Monroe denounced Morris as an avowed monarchist, unfit to represent the United States. Various Jeffersonian allies attacked Morris’s “immoral” character,16 in which they were joined by John Adams.17 After a lengthy, intense fight, the Senate, despite Monroe’s efforts, confirmed the Morris’s appointment by a narrow majority.
The Jay Treaty
In 1794, as relations were worsening with Great Britain, Washington sent John Jay as a special emissary to London for the purpose of negotiating a new treaty, intended to resolve many of the conflicts left over from the earlier 1783 Treaty of Paris. (Three years earlier, Washington had deployed Morris from Paris to London to “feel out” the British leaders on the possibility of a new treaty.) The result was what today is known as the Jay Treaty of 1795, and it was the massive nationwide Slave Power attack on this Treaty which gave birth to the organized Jeffersonian Party.
As in the appointment of Gouverneur Morris to France, the appointment of Jay as a special Ambassador to Britain was strongly opposed in the Senate by James Monroe, and only approved by an eighteen-to-eight vote.
Earlier, after his paramount role in securing ratification of the Constitution by New York State, Jay had been named Chief Justice of the Supreme Court by Washington. In 1792 he ran for Governor of New York against Jefferson ally George Clinton, only to be robbed of the election, when the Clinton-controlled legislature nullified the votes of two entire counties that would have given Jay victory. During that campaign, the Clinton forces circulated articles and broadsheets charging that if Jay were elected he would free all of New York’s slaves.
Jay spent one year in London, and in 1795 the treaty which he had successfully negotiated was submitted to the U.S. Congress. For more than 200 years that treaty has been vilified by pro-Jefferson historians as pro-British. I will not attempt a “defense” of that treaty here, for there is nothing to defend. Between 1794 and 1814 three treaties were signed with the British: the Jay Treaty, the Monroe-Pinckney Treaty of 1806 (under Jefferson), and the Treaty of Ghent (under Madison), negotiated by Henry Clay and John Quincy Adams, which ended the War of 1812. Unlike the Jay Treaty, the later Monroe-Pinckney treaty was strictly a commercial treaty, and its provisions— negotiated by an individual who had declared the Jay Treaty treasonous—are almost a carbon copy of the Jay Treaty,—a little stronger on a few points, a little weaker on others, but practically identical. The later Treaty of Ghent was a fiasco, with the United States agreeing to the pre-war status quo, and surrendering every single one of its pre-war aims. The Jay Treaty, on the other hand, not only secured peace and U.S. neutrality; it also achieved significant commercial concessions from the British, and was successful in resolving a number of critical issues left over from 1783, including an agreement by the British to surrender all of the forts they continued to occupy on U.S. soil in the Great Lakes region, which, in fact, they did by 1796.
Hamilton strongly backed the Treaty and campaigned for it; Morris believed that Jay could have pressed the British much harder on trade concessions, but that, nevertheless, the Treaty represented a solid success. Once Congress ratified the Treaty, Washington signed it immediately.
The Slave Power declared war. The “Pennsylvania Democratic Society” was organized in Philadelphia, and an invitation sent out for the formation of affiliated societies throughout the Union. In Savannah, New York, Charleston, and many other locations, groups were organized, all professing the same object, to rescue the people from the oppression of their monarchical pro-British rulers.18
The immediate goal of these Jeffersonian-directed societies was to overturn Washington’s 1793 Proclamation of Neutrality and to bring the United States into the European war, allied with the mass-murderer Robespierre (and afterwards with the Directory). The New York society proclaimed:
We take pleasure in avowing that we are lovers of the French nation; that we esteem their cause as our own. We most firmly believe that he who is an enemy to the French revolution cannot be a firm republican; and, therefore … ought not to be intrusted with the guidance of any part of the machine of government.
The Pennsylvania society resolved that the President had no right to issue the proclamation of neutrality, and asked
Is our President, like the grand sultan of Constantinople, shut up in his apartment, and unacquainted with all talents or capacities but those of the seraskier or mufti that happens to be about him?
Hamilton took the point in rallying the population behind the treaty, but, at an open air mass meeting in Manhattan, Jeffersonian agents attacked the speaker’s platform, and Hamilton was struck in the face with a large stone, barely escaping serious injury or death. In Philadelphia, on the 4th of July, a mob assembled and paraded in the streets with an effigy of John Jay bearing a pair of scales, one labeled “American Liberty and Independence,” and the other, “British Gold,” while from the mouth of Jay proceeded the words, “Come up to my price, and I will sell you my Country.” The effigy was afterward publicly burned in the center of the city.19
A riot occurred in front of Washington’s residence in Philadelphia,20 with death threats hurled against the President.
Dozens of articles were published attacking Jay, Washington, and the Treaty. In New York, Hamilton’s enemy and Jay’s former friend Robert Livingston took the lead. He authored 16 essays under the name of Cato, excoriating the treaty as a surrender to Britain. In Philadelphia, Alexander Dallas wrote “Features of Mr. Jay’s Treaty,” which was published by Mathew Carey, wherein he joined the ranks of those calling for a military alliance with our “sister republic” France. Several of the other Philadelphia publishers, including Bache and Freneau, were far more rabid in their attacks on Jay, Hamilton, and Washington.
But the real intent spewed forth from the heart of the Slavocracy. A Jefferson-allied newspaper in Virginia wrote:
South Carolina’s Charles Pinckney, who had publicly battled Gouverneur Morris over slavery at the Constitutional Convention and authored the “fugitive slave” clauses in the Constitution, joined in the public attacks on the Treaty as treasonous.21
Jefferson vilified the Treaty, and in the Congress James Monroe fought almost insanely for its rejection.
Hamilton fought back. In New York City, under the name of Camillus, Hamilton published, from July 1795 to January 1796, 38 essays simply titled “The Defense,” the first one appearing only four days after the attack that was intended to injure or kill him. These essays had such an impact that Jefferson wrote to Madison, urging him to respond: “Hamilton is really a colossus to the anti-republican party. Without numbers he is a host within himself… In truth, when he comes forward, there is nobody but yourself who can meet him.” Madison sent a letter to Jefferson declining the challenge to confront Hamilton head-on.
Again, even if it is repetitious, it must be re-stated—so that there is no possibility of denying the consequences—that the political war launched by the Virginia Slavocracy was aimed, not at the Federalist Party, but at Hamilton, Jay, Morris, and the New York leadership. It did not begin later, after the “corruption” of the Federalist Party, but from the moment Washington was sworn in as President. And the intent was to destroy Hamilton, ruin his policy initiatives, drive the New Yorkers out of the Administration, and leave Washington isolated in the fight against the interests of the Slave Power.
As for John Jay, he would later be elected Governor of New York State twice, both times with Steven Van Rensselaer as his Lieutenant Governor, and during his second term, he would successfully steer through the legislature and sign into law a bill leading to the abolition of slavery in New York.
Part IV: The Slave Power
A word of warning—or advice—is required here. It is not possible to grasp the dynamic of the battle between the young nation’s New York leadership and the Virginia-centered Slave Power, without an honest, perhaps wrenching, re-evaluation of certain accepted truisms concerning the patriotic tradition in American history. That said, the rest speaks for itself.
It is the case that at the time of the Constitutional Convention, many leading Americans expected slavery to be abolished within a relatively short period of time. Unlike in 1860, when Southern leaders would regularly invoke God to defend the morality of slavery, in 1788 even many in the South admitted to the horror of the institution, and it was apparent to the majority of Americans that the continuation of slavery and the principles of the Declaration of Independence were incompatible. Prior to 1770, slavery was legal in all 13 colonies; but by 1790 all of the states north of Maryland had either emancipated their slaves or taken steps in that direction, and this momentum was spreading to the South. During the Revolutionary War, Hamilton’s close friend John Laurens had introduced a bill into the South Carolina legislature for statewide emancipation (for which he received a congratulatory letter from George Washington), and in the 1780s Delaware came within a hair’s-breadth of abolishing slavery.
At the same time, between 1776 and 1789 a substantial number of Southern slave-owners freed their slaves, either outright or in their wills. George Washington was one of these.22 The eccentric John Randolph of Virginia was another. John Dickinson, once Delaware’s largest slaveholder, sided openly with Gouverneur Morris against slavery at the Philadelphia Convention and freed all of his slaves by 1787. The most compelling case is that of Edward Coles, one of the largest slave-owners in Virginia, a neighbor of Jefferson, and an individual of equal social rank to that future President. Coles gathered up all of his slaves, transported them to the Northwest Territory, loaded them all out on rafts and barges in the middle of the Ohio River, climbed up on a crate, and announced to all of them that he was setting them free. He established a fund to aid them in getting started. Upon his return to Virginia, he wrote to Jefferson urging him to do the same thing. Jefferson replied that it was not the right time.
Additionally, in the North, it was believed—or at least hoped—by many anti-slavery advocates that the success of Hamilton’s economic policies and the increasing commercial and industrial prosperity of the nation, would lead to the general recognition of the counter-productive nature of slave labor as an economic system and compel the South to abandon it.
What halted this momentum, this directionality, was not the invention of the Cotton Gin, as some historians claim. It was the election of Jefferson to the Presidency in 1800, and the iron-clad grip over the national government by the Virginia Slave Power for the next 24 years, that changed the future of the nation. By 1824 the Slavocracy had placed itself in a position of dominant national power, and, except for the fours years of the John Quincy Adams Presidency, it would retain that power until 1861.
Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello.
Between 1800 and 1860, the number of slaves in the United States grew from 800,000 to 4 million.
More important than the simple numbers, was the unyielding Southern determination to spread slavery geographically. During his Presidency, Thomas Jefferson became a vocal advocate for the Southern doctrine of “defusion.” Jefferson wrote that spreading slavery into new areas, would benefit the economies of these newly settled regions, while at the same time decreasing the concentration of slaves in the South, making them more valuable as property, and resulting in better treatment for the Southern slaves, thus lessening (defusing) the likelihood of slave revolts.23
The 1787 Northwest Ordinance had banned slavery in all of the western territory north of the Ohio River. The South’s interpretation of that Ordinance was two-fold: first, that they would simply ignore it, continue to bring slaves into the Northwest, and eventually overturn the ban on slavery, and second, that since no mention was made of the area south of the Ohio River, that this area was de-facto open for slavery. Two new states, Kentucky and Tennessee, were carved out of territory previously claimed by Virginia and North Carolina. Almost all of the settlers were natives from those two states, and many had brought their slaves with them. Kentucky and Tennessee were admitted as new slave states in 1792 and 1796, the only alternative being to deny them admission to the Union.
In the Northwest Territory, many of the initial settlers were from Virginia and later Kentucky, and despite Article VI of the Northwest Ordinance, by the time of Ohio’s admission to the Union as a free state in 1800, slavery was entrenched in much of the rest of the territory. As early as 1788, the territorial agent for the area that later became the states of Illinois and Indiana, asked Congress to modify the Northwest Ordinance to allow slavery, and his report was endorsed by James Madison. In 1802, a convention of settlers meeting at Vincennes, presided over by future President William Henry Harrison, asked Congress to repeal Article VI; and in 1806 the territory adopted a new law aptly titled “An Act concerning Slaves and Servants.” This was nothing less than a full slave code. During this entire period, leading up to the admission of Illinois as a “free state” in 1818, not one action was taken in the Territory to free the slaves in the region. After 1803, under Virginia native and territorial Governor Harrison, slavery began to actually expand in the territory, and this continued after statehood. When Illinois applied for admission to the Union in 1818, DeWitt Clinton protégé James Tallmadge of New York fiercely opposed statehood, based on the fact that slavery was still rampant in the territory. Not until 1848, when Illinois adopted a new State Constitution, was slavery officially abolished in Illinois.
The Louisiana Purchase was the golden opportunity to put Jefferson’s “defusion” scheme into practice. Many Federalist Party leaders opposed the Louisiana Purchase, but Hamilton and Morris were not among them. Morris wrote a letter of congratulation to his old friend Robert Livingston, and both he and Hamilton spoke out praising what this would mean for the future of the nation. But the New Yorkers were also keenly aware of the potential grave danger, and Morris and Jay both insisted that as the vast new territory was “federal land,” not previously part of, or claimed by, any pre-existing state—unlike Tennessee and Kentucky—that the anti-slavery principle of the Northwest Ordinance must be imposed on the new territory. Morris in particular spoke frequently and vehemently on this theme.24 It was to no avail. With Jefferson and Madison running the country, settlers from Virginia, Georgia, the Carolinas and Kentucky poured across the Mississippi River, and with them came their slaves. New Orleans was quickly transformed into the slave hub of the South,25 and the State of Louisiana was admitted as a slave state in 1812, under Madison.
Following the War of 1812, the Slave Power land grab became an avalanche. Mississippi and Alabama, which were formed on land partially seized from Spain, were admitted as slave states in 1817 and 1819; Arkansas constituted as a slave Territory in 1819;26 Missouri was admitted as a slave state in 1821; and in 1822, Florida was organized as a slave territory. In a mere ten years, from 1812 to 1822—under the Virginians Madison and Monroe—341,000 square miles of new territory had been brought under the control of the Slave Power.
This was the intent all along. To crush the republic of Hamilton and his allies and replace it with a Slavocracy—this was the goal of Jefferson, Madison and Monroe from no later than 1789 and probably earlier. In 1800, almost half the slaves in the United States were in Virginia. Another 35 percent were in Maryland and the Carolinas. That is the actual Jeffersonian “republican” movement.
Missouri and Afterwards
In 1819 the first move was made to spread the electoral power of the Slavocracy northward up the Mississippi River. Henry Clay supported it. Thomas Jefferson supported it. President Monroe stated publicly that he would veto any bill which admitted Missouri as a “free” state. After 18 years in power, the South was prepared to make its move.
Eventually, as most Americans know, Henry Clay’s Missouri Compromise brought in Missouri as a slave state, and supposedly secured peace between the North and South for the next 30 years. But remnants of Washington’s New Yorkers, now fewer in numbers and politically weakened, saw things differently. John Jay, the last still-living member of Washington’s inner circle, came out of retirement and denounced Clay’s plan as a plot to spread slavery, as did Elias Boudinot, Hamilton’s former partner in the Society for Useful Manufactures. In the Congress, a fierce fight was launched in both houses to block the admission of Missouri as a slave state. This was led by two New Yorkers. In the Senate, Hamilton’s friend Rufus King (still a Federalist), the last signer of the U.S. Constitution still serving in the Senate, single-handedly took on the Slave Interest, and he was joined, in the House of Representatives, by New Yorker and DeWitt Clinton protégé James Tallmadge (a Democrat-Republican). Tallmadge almost succeeded. His Tallmadge Amendment of 1819, which would have abolished slavery in Missouri, passed the House of Representatives on February 16, 1819, despite Henry Clay’s opposition, but was then defeated in the Senate.
In the Senate, Rufus King delivered two speeches strongly opposing Missouri’s admission as a slave state. These speeches infuriated Jefferson, Madison and Monroe. (Monroe had hated King for years.) John Quincy Adams states in his Diary that the Slaveholders in the Senate who listened to King, “gnawed their lips and clenched their fists in anger.” King’s two speeches paraphrased,—almost directly quoted,—Gouverneur Morris’s anti-slavery speeches from the Constitutional Convention, particularly his attacks on the Three-Fifths clause. Later, in his 1860 Cooper Union address, Abraham Lincoln would name King twice, for his authorship of the anti-slavery Article VI of the Northwest Ordinance, and for his opposition to the Missouri Compromise, as an example of a founding father who opposed the spread of slavery into the territories.
Many people who recognized the evil of Missouri’s admission as a slave state, individuals who should have spoken out, did nothing. Mathew Carey was silent. Carey’s ally, the anti-slavery Hezekiah Niles, wrote to Carey saying, “I am rather discouraged, but frightened not. The Southern influence rules, and that is hostile to free white labor. It is great in its means, indefatigable in its exertions and united. It must be put down, or in my honest opinion, the country will literally be beggared,”—but publicly Niles endorsed the Compromise and uttered not one word of criticism of Monroe or Clay. Perhaps the most conflicted individual was John Quincy Adams, who wrote admiringly of Rufus King’s stand in the United States Senate; and when Congress passed the Missouri Enabling Act, Adams wrote, “Take it for granted that the present is a mere preamble—a title page to a great, tragic volume,”—yet Adams would not break with Monroe and the Virginia combine in 1820, and he publicly endorsed the Compromise and lobbied in Congress for its passage.27
Contrary to most high-school history books, the issue of slavery did not fade into the background after the Missouri Compromise. Slaveowners and their “property” continued to pour up the Mississippi River and into the West. Arkansas was admitted as a slave state in 1836 and Florida in early 1845. In late 1845, Texas was admitted as a slave state, an action which both John Quincy Adams and Abraham Lincoln opposed as a massive expansion of the Slave Power. After the war with Mexico, the South connived to bring all of the newly acquired possessions into the Union as slave territory, including intensive nearly-successful efforts to bring in both California and Oregon as slave states.
When, in 1849, David Wilmot, a Northern congressman, proposed an amendment preventing the extension of slavery into any of the territory gained from Mexico,28 the aging Henry Clay (now with the support of Stephen Douglas) acted for the Slave Power once again, this time with the Compromise of 1850, which allowed the expansion of slavery into the entire southwest (Arizona, New Mexico and Utah), legalized the inter-state slave trade, and imposed a brutal fugitive slave law.
Then came 1854, and victory for the Slave Power was within reach. Stephen Douglas’ Kansas-Nebraska Act, with its provisions for “popular sovereignty,” effectively legalized the introduction of slavery into all the territory west of the Mississippi River, as Jefferson and Madison had intended in 1803. With this act, the Whig Party, after a mere 20 years of appeasement to the Slave Power, vanished. Three years later, the Dred Scott Decision de facto opened up the entire nation, including the Northeast, to slavery.
There are many, past and present, who defend the compromises of 1820 and 1850, proclaiming that they were the only way to prevent a break-up of the Union. As we now know, despite the “compromises” the Union did break up, and when that came in 1861 it was terrible. What almost everyone fails to recognize, is that the South never wanted to “be left alone;” that it was never the case that as long as no one interfered with their “peculiar institution” of human bondage, they would peacefully co-exist with the North. From the beginning, it was the design of the Virginia Slave Power to take over and dominate the entire nation, and over a span of 70 years their efforts were unceasing and relentless.
Part V: The Erie Canal & DeWitt Clinton
First, let us discuss the Erie Canal from the standpoint of the war between Hamilton’s New Yorkers and the Slave Power. Then we will look at a little of its history and other implications.
Look at two maps. First, a map of the Mississippi-Arkansas-Ohio-Missouri River system.
From New Orleans the Mississippi River stretches up through Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, and into Minnesota. Of its three main tributaries, the Arkansas River reaches out to Kansas, Oklahoma and Colorado; the Missouri River flows north to Nebraska, South Dakota and Montana; and the great Ohio River extends eastward into Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and western New York State. It is a river basin that covers 50 percent of the total land mass of the continental United States.
After 1803 it became the intention of the Virginia Slave Power to transform New Orleans into the largest port in the United States, as well as the commercial and financial capital of a slave-dominated economic system that would control the future of the nation. New Orleans would become the entry-point into a vast inland slave territory, with commercial goods coming down the river and slavery spreading up the river.
Next look at a map of the Great Lakes region, with New York City as the easternmost point.
This covers an area stretching from Manhattan, out through Buffalo to Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Minnesota. The Erie Canal was intended to direct all of the commerce of this region through New York, as well as to enable the settlement of these new regions by free New Yorkers and New Englanders.
Furthermore, a second canal—the Ohio & Erie Canal—was constructed in tandem with the Erie Canal through the collaboration of DeWitt Clinton and Ohio Governor Thomas Worthington. It linked Lake Erie to the Ohio River, thus allowing all the traffic from that river to travel eastward to New York City.
The Erie Canal was a strategic flank (attack) on the Slave Power. And it was understood to be so by Gouverneur Morris. The issue was “who would control the westward expansion of the nation.” Morris, Jay, and most emphatically Hamilton, before his death, were determined to make New York City the commercial, cultural, and political capital of the Republic. By 1803, Morris viewed the Erie Canal project as a life-and-death strategic necessity to prevent the takeover of the nation by the Slave Power.29
Morris and Clinton
If one had to bestow the title of “Father of the Erie Canal” on any one person, that honor most certainly would have to be given to Gouverneur Morris. He was the first to propose the canal, in 1777, and after his return from Europe in 1797, the Erie Canal project consumed most of the rest of his life. In 1800 Morris drafted detailed plans for a canal to Lake Erie which he submitted to New York Surveyor General Simeon DeWitt. At the time DeWitt dismissed the plan as impractical, but years later he would write:
The merit of first starting the idea of a direct communication by water between Lake Erie and the Hudson River unquestionably belongs to Gouverneur Morris.
In 1801, Morris toured the region, from Albany to Lakes Ontario and Erie and Niagara Falls, exploring the topology and the obstacles to a future canal.
American patriot, and ‘Father of the Erie Canal’, Gouverneur Morris.
Between 1800 and 1808, Morris wrote letters, lobbied in Albany, and propagandized for the Canal. In 1809 he traveled to Washington D.C. and testified before a special Committee in the House of Representatives, requesting (unsuccessfully) that the National Government undertake and finance the Canal project. In 1810, DeWitt Clinton, who had been working with Morris since 1807 on Morris’s design to transform Manhattan Island, came on board the campaign to build the Canal.
In 1810, at Morris’s request, the New York legislature appointed a seven-person “Commission to Explore a Route for a Canal to Lake Erie,” which became known as the Erie Canal Commission. Gouverneur Morris was selected first, Steven Van Rensselaer second, and DeWitt Clinton third. For the next five years, Morris served as Chairman of the Commission.30 During the summer of 1810, the entire Commission would spend two months in western New York exploring possible routes for the Canal.
In 1811, Morris and Clinton, now joined by Robert Fulton (whose steamboat had been launched on the Hudson River four years earlier), launched an all-out campaign for the Canal, criss-crossing the state and speaking at numerous public events to organize support. As part of the campaign, Clinton authors the “Atticus” letters, which appear in the New York Evening Post to popularize the project, and in January of 1812, Morris and Clinton make a second trip to Washington D.C., which this time includes a meeting with President Madison. Madison turns down their request for aid, stating that it would be unconstitutional to finance such a project.
Finally, following the submission of an extensive report, authored by Morris, to the New York Legislature, in June of 1812 the Legislature authorizes the Commission to borrow $5 million to begin work on the canal. Within weeks engineering studies begin.
And that is where the project almost died. Less than one month after the New York vote, the United States declared war on Great Britain, and over the next two and one-half years, funding dried up and political support evaporated. In 1814, the Legislature repealed the 1812 Act which had authorized the Canal construction, and by 1815 the project was dead. But on December 31, 1815, Morris, Clinton, and the other commissioners meet with 100 potential financial backers in New York City, and present a detailed plan, at an estimated cost of $6 million, with a completion timetable of ten to fifteen years. Public meetings are organized throughout the Hudson and Mohawk Valleys to explain the plan and organize support, and in early 1816, a petition, signed by tens of thousands throughout the state, is presented to the Legislature, stating that a completed canal will “convey more riches on its waters than any other canal in the world.”
In April, a new Commission is selected, now headed by Clinton and including Stephen Van Rensselaer, and in 1817 a New Canal Bill authorizes the beginning of construction, which starts at Rome, New York on July 4.
It would take eight years to complete, but when finished there was nothing like it anywhere. At 353 miles, it was by far the world’s longest man-made waterway, with 83 locks and 17 aqueducts. Its construction overcame staggering natural obstacles.
It could not have happened without DeWitt Clinton.31 He was attacked every step of the way by the political machine of the Slavocracy-allied Martin Van Buren, who at one point even had him thrown off the Canal Commission, and throughout the entire period, no one in the Monroe Administration would lift a finger to help (Monroe despised Clinton). But year-in and year-out he fought, and in 1824, running against the Democratic-Republican Party, he was elected Governor on the ticket of the People’s Party, and by 1825 the Canal was completed. Here is a description of what followed:
Within five years of the Canal’s opening, Buffalo became the busiest lakeport in the United States, and between 1830 and 1850 more Americans emigrated to the west (via the Great Lakes) through the Erie Canal than by any other land or sea-based route. Manhattan was now the gateway to the nation’s heartland.
By 1812 there were two surviving members of Washington’s 1789 New York inner circle still alive—John Jay and Gouverneur Morris. Additionally, Washington’s two closest Virginia friends—John Marshall and Henry Lee32—were also still alive, as were several others who had been closely associated with the first Washington Administration, such as Rufus King. All of these people, every single one of them, opposed—strongly opposed—the War of 1812.
That reality alone should cause one to stop and reflect. That War was bitterly opposed and denounced by every individual who had been closely allied with George Washington between 1789 and 1797—among whom were Alexander Hamilton’s most intimate friends and associates. You can not shrug this off, or ignore it.
Not surprisingly, Morris was the most vocal and the least cautious in his attacks, and Morris placed the responsibility for the war squarely at the feet of the Slave Power. Morris charged, repeatedly and publicly, that the war was pushed through by the slave states for the purpose of vastly expanding their power over the nation. In a letter to Rufus King, Morris blamed the Three-Fifths clause of the Constitution as the ultimate casus belli, and stated that the war was all about “strangling commerce, whipping Negroes, and bawling about the inborn and inalienable rights of man.” Later, after the fighting had begun, he declared “If Peace be not immediately made with England, the Question on Negro votes [i.e., the Three-Fifths clause] must divide the Union.”
More will be said below on the causes and outcome of the War, but for now, consider the following:
In June 1812, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 79 to 49 to declare war against Britain; the Senate voted 19 to 13 for war, for a combined Congressional vote of 98 to 62. This is by far—nothing else even comes close—the strongest Congressional opposition to a declaration of war in American History.33
One myth insists that the opposition to the War came solely from traitorous pro-British New England Federalists (who admittedly existed), but even a cursory examination of the Congressional vote provides a different picture. In the Senate the vote was 19 to 13 for war. The pro-war 19 included 12 Senators from slave states and 4 from free states. All 10 Senators representing a state which later joined the Confederacy in 1861 (Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee) voted for the war. The 13 anti-war votes included 9 from free states and 4 from slave states. The majority of the 13 anti-war Senate votes were cast not by Federalists (who only had 6 Senators) but by Democratic-Republicans, most of them backers of DeWitt Clinton, including both New York Senators, Clinton Democrats who voted against the Declaration of War. Another of the anti-war votes came from the Clinton-allied Ohio Senator Thomas Worthington, later famous as “the Father of the Ohio-Erie Canal.”34
The leading anti-war Democrat in the Senate was Obadiah German of New York, a DeWitt Clinton loyalist. The general view of the Clintonians was that the correct path was, first, to massively upgrade the military capabilities of the nation, something DeWitt Clinton had been calling for since 1808,—and then to intensify the negotiations with both Britain and France, but from a position of military strength. Senator German declared, “A country well-prepared to meet war will scarcely find war necessary, but if it cannot be avoided, preparation does away with half its terrors,” and “as to the great object of our wishes, an adjustment of our differences with Great Britain, I have never entertained a doubt that it might have been effected in a satisfactory manner long before the declaration of war, had our Executive entertained just and proper dispositions in regard to it.”
Senator German also posited that it was in Georgia and South Carolina that were to be found “the combustibles that have ignited this mighty war flame, and precipitated this nation to the verge of ruin.” German went on to charge that it was Crawford of Georgia in the Senate, and Calhoun of South Carolina in the House, who were leading the nation into war.
In Pennsylvania, both Senators, the Democrat-Republicans Leib and Gregg—although they ultimately voted for the final declaration of war—did everything in their power to prevent the war declaration from coming to a vote, through numerous maneuvers and repeated attempts to limit the scope of the war. During and after these efforts Senator Leib, a protégé of Benjamin Franklin, was widely and publicly criticized on the floor of Congress and by pro-Madison newspapers as a “Clintonian.”
In the House of Representatives, the proportional breakdown of the vote between free and slave states was almost identical to that in the Senate, and it must be pointed out that in 1812, there were over 1 million slaves in the South, which under the Three-Fifths clause greatly inflated the voting strength of the slave states. Of the 107 Democratic-Republican members of the House of Representatives, 52 were from slave states and 55 from free states. Among the 55 Democratic-Republican representatives from free states, half of them (50 percent) either voted against the war or abstained from voting. The Southern delegates voted overwhelmingly for war. Twelve of New York’s fifteen representatives voted against the declaration of war, almost evenly divided between Federalists and Clinton Democrats.
Additionally, if you look at the Congressional leaders who between 1810 and 1812 were agitating the most aggressively for war, almost all of them were representatives of the Slave Power, including:
Henry Clay (Kentucky), John C. Calhoun (South Carolina), William Crawford (Georgia), William Carey Nicholas (Virginia), George Washington Campbell (Tennessee), Joseph Desha (Kentucky), Felix Grundy (Tennessee), Richard Mentor Johnson (Kentucky), William Lowndes (South Carolina), Langdon Cheves (South Carolina), and William W. Bibb (Georgia). There were, admittedly, other strong war supporters, such as Jonathan Roberts from Pennsylvania, but by-and-large the “war hawks” were agents of the Slavocracy. Sometimes this Southern role is obfuscated by claiming that it was the new republican “Western” influence in the nation which rallied the country against the British in 1812,35 but between 1789 and 1812 only three “western” states had been admitted to the Union, and two of them—Kentucky and Tennessee—were slave states. During the war, Louisiana would also be admitted as a state, so that by 1814, six of the eight Senators “from the West” were representatives of the Slave Power.
Causes and Effects
The notion that the impressment of American sailors by the British was the trigger for the War of 1812, is a falsified myth created later as part of the legend of the “Second War for Independence.” The truth about the practice of “impressment” is that it was legal, its legality was recognized by every United States Administration (Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe)36, and it was practiced by all of the European empires, British, French, Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese. The involuntary seizing of idle or otherwise-occupied sailors for service into an empire’s navy was seen as the “military draft” of its day. Conflict arose with Britain only because in “impressing” British subjects serving aboard U.S. vessels, a substantial number of U.S. citizens were also being seized. But there are two things to keep in mind. At no time in 1812 did Madison, Monroe, Clay or anyone else name “impressment” as the reason to go to war; and secondly, the policy of impressment was so important to the British Royal fleet, that the United States was never able to get the British to sign a treaty outlawing the practice: not in 1783, not with the Jay Treaty, not with the Monroe-Pinckney Treaty, and not with the Treaty of Ghent in 1815. At the end of the War of 1812 the policy of impressment was still being conducted, and the United States government agreed to that.
At the onset of the war, in 1812, the key British “provocation” which was put forward by the “war hawks” as the casus belli, was the 1806 issuance by the British Government of what was called an “Order in Council,” which declared the entire coast of France and northern Europe under blockade. In 1807 the blockade was extended to the entire European continent, and all goods and ships which violated this blockade could be seized as contraband. Dozens of U.S. vessels were seized and tons of merchandise confiscated. However, the British Order in Council was actually promulgated in response to the slightly earlier Berlin Decree of Napoleon, which he then followed with the 1807 Milan Decree, declaring Britain under blockade and stating that any ships found honoring the British blockade were also liable to seizure. After 1807 all American shipping was open to seizure by the British, French or both, and both nations harassed American shipping with equal ferocity.
As many pointed out at the time, practically all of the issues of conflict with Britain could have been resolved if Jefferson had signed the 1806 Monroe-Pinckney Treaty, but in 1807 Jefferson rejected the Treaty (negotiated by his own representatives) because of its close resemblance to the 1795 Jay Treaty.
In November of 1810, President Madison issued a statement that Napoleon had revoked the Berlin and Milan decrees—which was completely false—and Madison gave Britain an ultimatum to remove all trade restrictions within three months or face retaliation. Even after France continued to seize U.S. shipping, and it became apparent that the Berlin and Milan Decrees were still in effect, from January of 1811 onward, the political escalation for war with Britain became unstoppable.
One irony in the Chain of Events, is that the British eventually did repeal the entirety of the Orders in Council on June 23, 1812, but news of the repeal did not reach America for six weeks, and by then Madison had signed the Declaration of War on July 25th. After news of the British action reached Washington D.C.— and prior to any actual fighting between the belligerents—Madison and Monroe both admitted that there was no reason to continue the war; there was, in effect, nothing to fight about.
This failure by the United States to define actual, legitimate war aims, was later reflected in the 1815 Treaty of Ghent. Negotiated by Henry Clay, Albert Gallatin, and John Quincy Adams, the treaty returned relations to the 1812 pre-war status quo. Boundaries were restored, trade polices remained unchanged, impressment of seamen went unmentioned and continued. The U.S.A. achieved NONE of its supposed war aims, which were very unclear to begin with. The British agreed to only one concession: that they would reimburse the United States $1,204,960 in compensation for the slaves they had captured and freed during the war. So the slaveowners were paid.
After reading the treaty, Rufus King stated that the document “is scarcely worth the wax of its Seals…, and leaves every point of Dispute and disagreement unsettled.”
Gouverneur Morris described the war as “rashly declared, prodigally maintained, weakly conducted, and meanly concluded.”
One thing that did emerge out of the war was the expansion of the Slave Power. Mississippi and Alabama were soon admitted as slave states (following Louisiana), and in 1813 Madison authorized a military invasion and occupation of Spanish Florida, a nation with which we were not at war,—eventually leading to the establishment of Florida as a Slave Territory under Andrew Jackson in 1818.
Later, as part of the effort to mythologize the war as the “Second American Revolution,” it was declaimed that the main accomplishment of the war was somehow linked to its effect on the National Psyche, i.e., that the nation emerged from the war with “a renewed sense of self-reliance and common national identity,”—as if previously we had been suffering from some sort of a lack of national identity or an inferiority complex vis-a-vis Great Britain. Let me assure you that George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and Gouverneur Morris had no “inferiority complex” as concerns Britain, nor were they confused about the nature of the American Republic.
One example of this rhetoric is an 1815 letter that pro-war Pennsylvania Congressman Jonathan Roberts wrote to his brother, wherein—after first admitting that none of the pre-war aims had been achieved—he goes on to proclaim that “Victory perches on our banner … the triumph over Aristocrats and Monarchists is equally glorious with that over the enemy—it is the triumph of virtue over vice, of republican men and republican principles over the advocates and doctrines of Tyranny.”
Really! Is that what the war was about? Triumph over the alleged advocates of monarchy and aristocracy inside the United States? As Gouverneur Morris had identified as early as the 1787 Philadelphia Convention, there was only one truly evil aristocracy inside the United States, and it was headquartered in the South.
At this point, I will propose a—perhaps unfair—hypothetical question to the reader: What would Alexander Hamilton and George Washington have done? Had they been alive in 1812, what would they have done? It is worth considering.
Clinton vs. Madison
On May 18, 1812 the Democratic-Republican National Caucus nominated James Madison for a second term as President of the United States. Ten days later, the New York Democratic-Republican Party, meeting in Manhattan, nominated DeWitt Clinton for President. On July 25th the United States declared war on Britain, and eleven days later, on August Fifth, Gouverneur Morris invited John Jay, Rufus King, and DeWitt Clinton to his home in New York City. At the meeting Morris proposed that they join together to prevent the Federalists from running a presidential campaign, and throw their support behind DeWitt Clinton. King refuses to endorse Clinton, but Jay and Clinton agree and a “fusion” ticket between Clinton’s Democrats and what was left of the old Washington New York leadership is born. In reply to a challenge from King as to his motives, Clinton vows that he “was separated from the administration forever; that he pledged his honor that the Breach was irreparable.”
Morris sends an invitation to Federalist Party leaders throughout the nation, inviting them to attend an emergency meeting in Manhattan. For three days, from September Fifteenth through Seventeenth, sixty Federalist Party leaders meet in New York City. The discussions are contentious, but at the end, under Morris’s influence, they agree not to run a Presidential candidate, but to unofficially and privately back Clinton. At one point, a group of Federalist leaders proposes the nomination of John Marshall, but Marshall demurs, endorsing the fusion ticket with Clinton. Only Rufus King and one or two others dissent. (In the election, the Federalist Party, with King as their nominee, appeared on the ballot in only one state, Virginia.) For the next seven weeks the national Clinton campaign is run out of an office in Manhattan by Clinton, Morris, and a mixture of Federalists and Democrats.
This was a bi-partisan challenge to the Virginia Combine. For example, an editorial in the Cooperstown Federalist read:
This nomination speaks a language that will not be misunderstood anywhere; and in our humble opinion, will tend more to lower the proud crest of the lordly Virginians than any measure which has been adopted since the election of Mr. Jefferson to the Presidency—The people of all parties in the Northern and Eastern sections of the Union have had their eyes opened by that ruinous system of measures which has been pursued for the last ten years; by a government pretending to be the friends of the people but in reality their worst enemies…. It must rejoice the heart of every good man, of every friend to his country, to find that the democratic-republicans of the FIRST STATE OF THE UNION, have dared to make a stand against the usurpation and overbearing aristocracy of Virginia.
To understand how these extraordinary events transpired, it is necessary to go back two years to the creation of the Erie Canal Commission. At that time Federalists and Democratic-Republicans were at each others’ throats. The term “bitter enemies” would be an understatement. Yet Gouverneur Morris and DeWitt Clinton formed a personal alliance, around which they consciously created a bi-partisan political movement. Like-minded Federalists and Democrats were recruited to one of the greatest projects in mankind’s history, a design to transform the entire nation. In essence, the Erie Canal Project gave birth to the Clinton Presidential candidacy. It is very possible (hypothetically) that the decision for the campaign might have occurred in January of 1812, when Morris and Clinton traveled to Washington DC, and Madison told them to their faces that they would not receive one penny to construct the Canal. Whatever the actual chronology, it was the Canal—and what it represented as a means to break the grip of the Virginia Slave Power—which was at the heart of the Clinton-Morris relationship.
There were other contributing factors as well, including the effort by a cross-party alliance of Federalists and Clinton Democrats in the spring of 1812, following the 1811 abolition of Hamilton’s National Bank, to charter the $6 million Bank of America in New York City, which was seen as a means for transferring the financial center of the nation from Philadelphia back to New York. This was vetoed by Madison-allied New York Governor Daniel Tompkins.
Clinton’s campaign was anti-war but not “peacenik.” He campaigned on the same theme as had been expressed by many of his allies in Congress. That the war was ruinous, divisive, and unnecessary, and should be concluded honorably as soon as possible. At the same time, the nation’s economic strength and military capability should be rebuilt, so that in the future, negotiations with Britain, France, Spain and other European empires might be conducted from a position of strength.
In the end Clinton lost the presidential election to Madison by only 7,600 votes in the popular vote. Every state north of the Delaware River except Vermont went for Clinton. All of the slave states voted for Madison (although Clinton received a fraction of the electoral votes in the border states of Delaware and Maryland). The deciding state was Pennsylvania, whose electoral votes gave Madison the election.37 This subservience to the slave interests would continue for some years to come, with Pennsylvania voting for Monroe in 1816 and 1820, and then voting overwhelmingly for Andrew Jackson (over John Quincy Adams) in both 1824 and 1828.
If the Three-Fifths clause had not been in effect, it is very possible that Clinton would have won the election, even without Pennsylvania. There is no exact way to compute the figures, but is certainly the case that without the “slave electors” Madison would have received 30 or 40 fewer electoral votes, and the election could have gone either way.
Part VI: Into the Future
Abraham Lincoln, Sixteenth President of the United States.
The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
First Inaugural Address
A few weeks before his death, Gouverneur Morris wrote, in an open letter to leaders of the Federalist Party:
Gentlemen, let us forget party and think of our country. That country embraces both parties. We must endeavor, therefore, to save and benefit both…. Such worthy men may, I trust, be found in both parties; and if our country be delivered, what does it signify whether those who operate her salvation wear a federal or democratic cloak?… Perhaps the expression of these sentiments may be imprudent; but when it appears proper to speak the truth, I know not concealment. It has been the unvarying principle of my life, that the interest of our country must be preferred to every other interest.
Within days Morris would be dead. Through what leadership, and by what means could the words of his final political advice be accomplished? By 1816, all of the key New York leaders of Washington’s first administration were gone. Although John Jay lived until 1829, he was in very poor health during the last twenty years of his life, and, except for two occasions—his opposition to the War of 1812 and his opposition to the Missouri Compromise— he remained in retirement from politics during that entire period. Rufus King lived until 1827, John Marshall until 1835 and Steven Van Rensselaer until 1839, but, despite the sometimes vital contributions of these individuals, the truth is that the promise of the Washington Administration died with Hamilton in 1804, and after the passing of Hamilton’s partner Morris, the forces of the Slave Power controlled the nation. The obvious question was “What is to be done?”
Once again, the leadership in continuing the battle would emanate from New York, but before we turn to that story, there is one issue which must be disposed of.
Whence the Whigs?
In our discussion of the American Patriotic Tradition there has been no mention, until now, of the Whig Party. This has been deliberate.
The Whig Party, as a political party, was a deeply flawed institution, doomed to extinction from its moment of birth, and when the crises it had refused to address finally reached the point, in the 1850s, that the Nation itself faced dismemberment and ruin, that Party—lawfully—vanished, to be replaced by a new leadership, one founded on superior moral and philosophical principles. That new leadership was not the Republican Party, but the Lincoln Presidency.
There were several serious shortcomings in the Whig Party, but its horrendous, fatal flaw was its subservience to the Slave Power throughout its brief twenty years of existence. Let’s be blunt about it. Henry Clay was a slave-owner, and he pushed to extend slavery into the territories until his dying breath. Despite his positive accomplishments, William Henry Harrison was also a slave-owner who fought to bring Illinois into the Union as a slave state. We all know what happened to John Calhoun.
This is not to say that there were not good—or even very good—people in the Whig Party, and the Whig Party was certainly a bastion of relative sanity when compared with the 1829-1841 Jackson and Van Buren Presidencies, but that was simply not adequate.
One insight into this problem can be found in the “ownership” which the Virginia Combine exercised over the Philadelphia Democratic-Republican Societies. Mathew Carey’s Olive Branch is subtitled “Faults on Both Sides,” and it purports to present an even-handed criticism of the Federalist and Jeffersonian parties. But there is one, huge, glaring omission. Nowhere in that document does Carey once mention slavery, and this at a time when Gouverneur Morris and DeWitt Clinton were battling, by means of the Erie Canal Project, to break the grip of Virginia and the Slavocracy over the nation. In every Presidential election from 1800 to 1820, a Virginian had been elected President and a New Yorker Vice-President.38 The strategic battle led by Morris and Clinton was to shatter the Virginia supremacy and to make New York City the navigator for the Nation’s Destiny. This battle was raging at the time the Olive Branch was published, but it simply does not appear in that document.
What of John Quincy Adams?, one might ask. First off, Adams was no Whig. He was his own Party; or, perhaps, one might say, in the words of Charles de Gaulle, that he used political parties “like taxi-cabs, to get to where he wanted to go.” Adams went from being a Federalist, to a Democrat-Republican, to a National Republican, to a candidate of the Anti-Masonic Party,39 to a Whig, and during his post-1830 tenure in Congress, when he often stood alone against the Slave Power, he was out-of-step and shunned by the majority of the Whig leadership.
But there is more. The Whig Party is often seen as synonymous with Henry Clay’s American System of Economics, as that “American System” is delineated in the three-point policy of: 1) a National Bank, 2) Internal Improvements, and 3) a high Protective Tariff.
That “American System,” as enumerated above, is absolutely not the same thing as Alexander Hamilton’s policy, nor is it coherent with the “Hamiltonian Principle,” as Lyndon LaRouche has defined it.
First off—point by point—Hamilton actually vigorously opposed high protective tariffs. He considered them counterproductive to industrial and technological advancement, and injurious to trade. He supported a moderate tariff for revenue and to provide a modicum of protection to key parts of the economy. Secondly, on the National Bank, it must be understood that once Hamilton had left the Washington Administration, except for the brief 1825-1829 partnership between John Quincy Adams and Nicholas Biddle, neither the first nor the second National Bank ever functioned as a national Credit System in the way that Hamilton had intended. The issue was not the Bank, per se. A National Bank, yes; but for what purpose: to function as a mere monetary institution,— or as an engine for economic development?40 The issue was one of intent. After Hamilton’s death, the nation would not see a true Credit System until Lincoln’s Greenback Policy of 1862.
This brings us to the issue of Internal Improvements, and there are two critically important things to consider. During the period from 1830 to 1850, many canals, roads and other important projects were built in the United States. Certainly, the Whig Party was more supportive of these projects than most of the Democrats. Yet,—and this is very important,— except for the Quincy Adams Presidency, between 1797 and 1861 there was never any National development policy, including under Monroe and the various Whig Presidents. Essentially, the policy of Internal Improvements, as it was carried out during those years, has to be understood as a “States’ Rights” internal improvement policy. Many good people did many good things, but it was the State Governments, or sometimes even private investors, who financed and built these projects, with practically no help or participation from the National Government. States were free to “do their own thing,” but the hegemony of the Slave Power over the nation prevented any policy of unified National economic development. That Southern veto of a National policy was never seriously challenged by the Whigs.
But there is a more profound, axiomatic, aspect to this. The policy of “internal improvements,” i.e. “infrastructure” in the form of canals, roads, ports, etc.,—as important and beneficial as these endeavors might be,—is absolutely not the same thing as a Hamiltonian “Science Driver” policy. It is extremely important to recognize that, during the first Washington Administration, the Virginia Combine, led by Jefferson, Madison and Monroe, were far more opposed to the policy intent contained in Hamilton’s Report on Manufactures, than they were to his National Bank Proposal. In that Report, far from proposing a passive system of protectionism, Hamilton posited an active central role for the National government, including both his system of “bounties,” as well as the way in which a National Credit System would be utilized, in defining how the National Government would consciously and deliberately direct the industrial and scientific advancement of the Nation. National productivity, science, cognitive and skill levels would all be advanced in such a way that this would become the very nature of the Republic itself. This outlook is not the same thing as “internal improvements,” and for the Slave Power-influenced Whigs, such a Hamiltonian Principle was impossible to implement, because it stemmed from a vision of the nature of the human species, of the actual human identity, incompatible with the outlook of the Slavocracy.
The 1824 Election
Geographically, the 1824 election bears a striking resemblance to that of 1812. DeWitt Clinton had carried every state but Vermont north of the Delaware River. In 1824, John Quincy Adams carried every state but New Jersey north of the Delaware River. In both elections, Pennsylvania and the rest of the country voted for a slave-owner. The key to the election was New York State. Without its electoral votes Adams had no chance of winning the Presidency, and the Democratic Republican political machine of New York was under the thumb of Martin Van Buren, who openly backed Crawford of Virginia. There was also significant support for Jackson in the state. At the beginning of the campaign, Adams’ electoral prospects in New York were very dim. Two things changed that.
First, DeWitt Clinton mounted an insurgent campaign, through the People’s Party, for the New York Governorship, challenging the Van Buren-backed Democratic-Republican machine. Clinton’s campaign became a referendum on his leadership in the Erie Canal Project, and Rufus King’s son Charles joined the People’s Party41 and actively campaigned for Clinton. On election day, the voters overwhelming rejected the Van Buren state leadership and returned Canal-builder Clinton to office. At the same time, Rufus King publicly endorsed Adams and swung what was left of the Federalist Party base, still a significant though minority force in New York, behind the Adams campaign.42 New York gave its electoral votes for Adams.
After the nationwide election failed to deliver a majority to any of the four candidates, the choice for a new President was given to the House of Representatives, where it would be the Congressmen—not the Presidential Electors—who would decide. Here again, the allies of Martin Van Buren dominated the New York Congressional delegation. The way in which Presidential selection by the House of Representative is specified by the United States Constitution, is that each state, regardless of the number of its congressmen, shall have one vote. The vote of each individual state is determined by a majority vote within the delegation of each state. At the onset of deliberations, the majority of the New York congressional delegation was in favor of Van Buren’s choice Crawford. It was New York Congressman, and the Chairmen of the Erie Canal Commission,43 Steven Van Rensselaer who battled for an endorsement of Adams. In the final tally, Van Rensselaer cast the tie-breaking vote within the delegation, that gave the vote of New York to Adams. It was that New York State vote which then broke the tie in the House of Representatives and delivered the Presidency to Adams. Without it he would have failed to secure a majority.
The Ties That Bind
- John Jay’s son, Peter Augustus Jay, served as the President of the Erie Canal Commission. He also followed in the footsteps of his father as President of the New York Manumission Society, and his single most famous act was a speech he delivered at the New York State Constitutional Convention in 1821, arguing that the right to vote should be extended to free African-Americans. He was also James Fenimore Cooper’s closest lifelong friend.
- Steven Van Rensselaer, after leaving Congress in 1829, continued to serve on the Erie Canal Commission until 1839. In 1824, he conceived the idea of establishing a school of higher education “for the purpose of instructing persons, who may choose to apply themselves, in the application of science to the common purposes of life,” and he established, entirely with his own funds, the Rensselaer School in Troy, New York (now the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), located directly on the route of the Erie Canal. By the 1830s, Rensselaer’s school became the foremost engineering school in United States. Rensselaer’s son, Philip, married the daughter of James Tallmadge, the New York Congressman and protégé of DeWitt Clinton who introduced the famous Tallmadge Amendment in 1819 which almost blocked the admission of Missouri as a Slave State.
- Rufus King’s son Edward, would marry the daughter of Ohio Governor Worthington, DeWitt Clinton’s collaborator in the building of the Ohio-Erie Canal, and then would himself serve as the President of the Erie Canal Commission. Another of his sons, Charles, became president of Columbia College, and Charles’ son, Rufus King, Jr., migrated to Wisconsin, was a signer of the Wisconsin State Constitution, a founder of the Wisconsin Republican Party, and an early backer of Abraham Lincoln’s Presidential Campaign. In 1863 Lincoln named him Ambassador to the Vatican, and in 1866 King personally arrested the Lincoln assassin John Surratt, who was hiding as a Papal Zouave in Rome!
- James Tallmadge—in addition to his leadership in fighting both the Missouri Compromise and the admission of Arkansas as a Slave Territory, Tallmadge was a fierce advocate of a national economic development policy, including national funding for the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, (finally built under the Quincy Adams administration). After leaving the Congress, Tallmadge would serve from 1831 to 1850 as the President of the American Institute of the City of New York, an organization devoted to the promotion of inventions and scientific education.
- Peter Cooper—the creator of the Tom Thumb steam locomotive in 1830, the first man to successfully use anthracite coal to puddle iron, and the first person to extensively use the Bessemer blast furnace method, Cooper was a remarkable figure. In the 1830s, he began a years-long collaboration with DeWitt Clinton on the improvement of public education in New York City.44 This ultimately led to Cooper’s decision to create “The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art,” an institution, financed entirely by Cooper, and intended by him to be modeled on the École Polytechnique in Paris. Enrollment was free, open to all—men or women, black or white—and aimed primarily at the working class population of the City. In 1860 the Cooper Union hosted the prospective Presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln, and after the attack on Fort Sumter, in April of 1861, a massive public rally was held at Union Square, only nine blocks north of Cooper’s school. The 70-year old Cooper was one of the first speakers at the rally, saying:We are contending with an enemy not only determined on our destruction as a nation, but to build on our ruins a government devoted with all its power to maintain, extend, and perpetuate a system in itself revolting to all the best feelings of humanity,—an institution that enables thousands to sell their own children into hopeless bondage.
“Shall it succeed? You say ‘no!’ and I unite with you in your decision. We cannot allow it to succeed. We should spend our lives, our property, and leave the land itself a desolation before such an institution should triumph over the free people of this country….
In 1864, when there was a strong chance that the Democrat McClellan might carry New York City, it was Cooper who organized a great mass meeting for September 27, 1864, in the Hall of Cooper Union to rally the population behind Lincoln.
In 1876, this Peter Cooper, an enthusiastic supporter of Lincoln’s Greenback policy, was nominated and ran as the Presidential candidate of the Greenback Party. Seven years later, when Cooper died at the age of 92, his funeral procession was the largest in the City since that of George Washington.
The Pathfinder & the Candidate
The life and works of James Fenimore Cooper are far too vast a subject for a short work such as this, but let us simply say this:
James Fenimore Cooper’s father, William Cooper, was a close political ally to Philip Schuyler, Alexander Hamilton. and John Jay. John Jay’s son, Peter Augustus, was James Fenimore’s closest and most intimate friend throughout the lives of the two men.
In his young adult years, Cooper formed an intense political loyalty to DeWitt Clinton, which continued until Clinton’s death. Later, it would be President John Quincy Adams who would secure Cooper a European Consulship. Essentially, one might say that the Erie Canal Principle is to be found in Cooper’s personal and political life.
Over a thirty-year period, beginning with the 1821 publication of The Spy: A Tale of the Neutral Ground and ending with the 1851 writing of New York: or The Towns of Manhattan, Cooper, perhaps more than any other individual, was personally responsible for sustaining and developing the Idea of Hamilton’s New York. From his attacks on the oligarchy, beginning with The Bravo, to his vision of an American Republic of Free (non-slave) Citizens in the Leatherstocking Tales and elsewhere, to his chronicling of the civilizing of New York State in the wake of the Erie Canal, it was Cooper who bridged the span from Washington’s (Manhattan) inauguration of 1789, to Lincoln’s (Manhattan) Cooper Union Speech of 1860.
Cooper’s final work, New York: or The Towns of Manhattan, remained unfinished and unpublished at the time of his death in 1851, but the completed introduction to that work began to circulate under a variety of titles, including “On Secession and States Rights,” shortly after Cooper’s death. This work—written ten years before the inauguration of Lincoln—addresses directly the issue of the expansion of slavery into the territories, and the mortal danger that the expansion of the Slave Power poses to the nation. The wording and subject matter of Cooper’s final work, echo the battles against the Slave Power going back to the Northwest Ordinance, the Constitutional Convention, and the continuous fight led by Washington’s New Yorkers.
Nine years later, Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous Cooper Union Speech at the Great Hall, located at the intersection of Fifth Street and Third Avenue in Manhattan. For those not familiar with the speech, two things should be conveyed. First, this was the singular speech which made possible Lincoln’s achievement of the Republican Party Presidential nomination. Prior to the speech, it was considered almost certain that the nomination would go to New York State’s own William Seward. Lincoln came into Seward’s home territory and took the hearts and minds of Seward’s supporters out from under him.
Second, the subject matter of Lincoln’s speech on that occasion, was the mortal danger posed to the Republic by the continuing, rapacious drive by the Slavocracy to expand its power, particularly through the spread of slavery into the territories. In the text of the speech, Lincoln names—name by name—Hamilton, Morris, Jay, and King, as leaders of the Nation who had fought the Slave Power from the beginning.
Gouverneur Morris once stated that New Yorkers were “born cosmopolite.” In a very real way, that short assertion defines the nature of the City. The localism, the backwardness, the rural idiocy of the Southern Slave System, could find no home in New York. Even after the infestation of the financial parasites—Aaron Burr, Martin Van Buren, August Belmont and J.P. Morgan—Manhattan has always been Hamilton’s New York, and the financial agents of Empire merely a foreign bacillus that has no legitimate existence. It is still to this day the cultural, educational, financial, and—in a very real sense—the political capital of the United States.
In the mid-1960s, only about two decades after the death of New Yorker Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Lyndon LaRouche initiated a series of classes and lectures at Columbia University —the alma mater of Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and Gouverneur Morris—which attracted young people, and led eventually into the founding of the LaRouche political movement, an association which stands to this day. It is that movement, our movement, which speaks for Hamilton’s New York.
On July Ninth, 1804 Gouverneur Morris made the following entry in his diary:
Two days later, at the request of Elizabeth Hamilton, Morris delivered the Funeral Oration for Alexander Hamilton in Manhattan. These are excerpts:
If on this sad, this solemn occasion, I should endeavor to move your commiseration, it would be doing injustice to that sensibility which has been so generally and so justly manifested. Far from attempting to excite your emotions, I must try to repress my own, and yet I fear that instead of the language of a public speaker, you will hear only the lamentations of a bewailing friend. But I will struggle with my bursting heart, to portray that Heroic Spirit, which has flown to the mansions of bliss.
Students of Columbia! He was in the ardent pursuit of knowledge in your academic shades, when the first sound of the American war called him to the field. A young and unprotected volunteer, such was his zeal and so brilliant his service that we heard his name before we knew his person. It seemed as if God had called him suddenly into existence, that he might assist to save a world!
The penetrating eye of Washington soon perceived the manly spirit which animated his youthful bosom. By that excellent judge of men he was selected as an Aide, and thus he became early acquainted with, and was a principal actor in, the most important scenes of our Revolution.
At the siege of York, he pertinaciously insisted and he obtained the command of a Forlorn Hope. He stormed the redoubt; but let it be recorded, that not one single man of the enemy perished. His gallant troops emulating the example of their chief checked the uplifted arm, and spared a foe no longer resisting. Here closed his military career.
Shortly after the war, your favor, no, your discernment called him to public office. You sent him to the convention at Philadelphia: he there assisted in forming that constitution which is now the bond of our union, the shield of our defence and the source of our prosperity. In signing that compact he exprest his apprehension that it did not contain sufficient means of strength for its own preservation; and that in consequence we should share the fate of many other republics and pass through Anarchy to Despotism. We hoped better things. We confided in the good sense of the American people, and above all we trusted in the protecting Providence of the Almighty. On this important subject he never concealed his opinion. He disdained concealment. Knowing the purity of his heart, he bore it as it were in his hand, exposing to every passenger its inmost recesses. This generous indiscretion subjected him to censure from misrepresentation. His speculative opinions were treated as deliberate designs; and yet you all know how strenuous, how unremitting were his efforts to establish and to preserve the constitution. If then his opinion was wrong, pardon, oh! pardon that single error, in a life devoted to your service.
At the time when our government was organized, we were without funds, though not without resources. To call them into action, and establish order in the finances, Washington sought for splendid talents, for extensive information, and above all, he sought for sterling, incorruptible integrity. All these he found in Hamilton… And the result was a rapid advance in power and prosperity, of which there is no example in any other age or nation. The part which Hamilton bore is universally known.
His unsuspecting confidence in professions which he believed to be sincere, led him to trust too much to the undeserving. This exposed him to misrepresentation. He felt himself obliged to resign. The care of a rising family, and the narrowness of his fortune, made it a duty to return to his profession for their support. But though he was compelled to abandon public life, never, no, never for a moment did he abandon the public service. He never lost sight of your interests. I declare to you, before that God in whose presence we are now so especially assembled, that in his most private and confidential conversations, the single objects of discussion and consideration were your freedom and happiness…
Brethren of the Cincinnati! There lies our chief! Let him still be our model. Like him, after a long and faithful public service, let us cheerfully perform the social duties of private life. Oh! he was mild and gentle. In him there was no offence; no guile. His generous hand and heart were open to all….
Fellow Citizens! You have long witnessed his professional conduct, and felt his unrivaled eloquence. You know how well he performed the duties of a citizen. You know that he never courted your favor by adulation, or the sacrifice of his own judgment. You have seen him contending against you, and saving your dearest interests, as it were, in spite of yourselves. And you now feel and enjoy the benefits resulting from the firm energy of his conduct. Bear this testimony to the memory of my departed friend. I charge you to protect his fame. It is all he has left, all that these poor orphan children will inherit from their father. But, my countrymen, that fame may be a rich treasure to you also. Let it be the test by which to examine those who solicit your favour. Disregarding professions, view their conduct and on a doubtful occasion, ask, Would Hamilton have done this thing?