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EULOGY ON ALEXANDER HAMILTON,
PRONOUNCED AT THE REQUEST OF THE CITIZENS OF BOS
TON, JULY 26, 1804,
BY HARRISON G. OTIS.
We are convened, afflicted fellow-citizens, to perform the only duties which our republics acknowledge or fulfil to their illustrious dead; to present to departed excellence an oblation of gratitude and respect; to inscribe its virtues on the urn which contains its ashes, and to consecrate its example by the tears and sympathy of an affectionate people.
Must we, then, realize that Hamilton is no more! Must the sod, not yet cemented on the tomb of Washington, still moist with our tears, be so soon disturbed to admit the beloved companion of Washington, the partner of his dangers, the object of his confidence, the disciple who leaned upon his bosom! Insatiable Death! Will not the heroes and statesmen, whom mad ambition has sent from the crimsoned fields of Europe, suffice to people thy dreary dominions! Thy dismal avenues have been thronged with princely martyrs and illustrious victims. Crowns and sceptres, the spoils of royalty, are among thy recent trophies, and the blood of innocence and valor has flowed in torrents at thy inexorable command. Such have been thy ravages in the old world. And in our infant country how small was the remnant of our revolutionary heroes which had been spared from thy fatal grasp! Could not our Warren, our Montgomery, our Mercer, our Greene, our Washington appease thy vengeance for a few short years! Shall none of our early patriots be permitted to behold the perfection of their own work in
the stability of our government and the maturity of our institutions! Or hast thou predetermined, dread King of Terrors ! to blast the world's best hope, and by depriving us of all the conductors of our glorious revolution, compel us to bury our liberties in their tombs! O Hamilton! great would be the relief of my mind, were I permitted to exchange the arduous duty of attempting to portray the varied excellence of thy character, for the privilege of venting the deep and unavailing sorrow which swells my bosom, at the remembrance of the gentleness of thy nature, of thy splendid talents and placid virtues ! But, my respected friends, an indulgence of these feelings would be inconsistent with that deliberate recital of the services and qualities of this great man, which is required by impartial justice and your expectations.
În governments which recognize the distinctions of splendid birth and titles, the details of illustrious lineage and connexions, become interesting to those who are accustomed to value those advantages. But in the man whose loss we deplore, the interval between manhood and death was so uniformly filled by a display of the energies of his mighty mind, that the world has scarcely paused to inquire into the story of his infant or puerile years. He was a planet, the dawn of which was not perceived; which rose with full splendor, and emitted a constant stream of glorious light until the hour of its sudden and portentous eclipse.
At the age of eighteen, while cultivating his mind at Columbia College, he was roused from the leisure and delights of scientific groves by the din of war. He entered the American army as an officer of artillery, and at that early period familiarized himself to wield both his sword and his pen in the service of his country. He developed at once the qualities which command precedency, and the modesty which conceals its pretensions. Frank, affable, intelligent and brave, young Hamilton became the favorite of his fellow-soldiers. His intuitive perception and cor
rect judgment rendered him a rapid proficient in military science, and his merit silenced the envy which it excited.
A most honorable distinction now awaited him. He attracted the attention of the commander-in-chief, who appointed him an aid, and honored him with his confidence and friendship. This domestic relation afforded to both, frequent means of comparing their opinions upon the policy and destinies of our country, upon the sources of its future prosperity and grandeur, upon the imperfection of its existing establishments; and to digest those priuciples, which, in happier times, might be interwoven into a more perfect model of goyernment. Hence, probably, originated that filial veneration for Washington and adherence to his maxims, which were ever conspicuous in the deportment of Hamilton ; and hence the exalted esteem and predilection uniformly displayed by the magnanimous patron to the faithful and affectionate pupil.
While the disasters of the American army, and the perseverance of the British ministry, presented the gloomy prospect of protracted warfare, young Hamilton appeared to be content in his station, and with the opportunities which he had of fighting by the side, and executing the orders of his beloved chief. But the investment of the army of Cornwallis suddenly changed the aspect of affairs, and rendered it probable, that this campaign, if successful, would be the most brilliant and decisive of any that was likely to occur. appeared, that his heart had long panted for an occasion to signalize his intrepidity and devotion to the service of his country. He obtained, by earnest entreaties, the command of a detachment destined to storm the works of Yorktown. It is well known with what undaunted courage he pressed on to the assault, with unloaded arms, presented his bosom to the dangers of the bayonet, carried the fort, and thus eminently contributed to decide the fate of the battle and of his country. But even here the impetuosity of the
youthful conqueror was restrained by the clemency of the benevolent man: the butchery of the American garrison, at New London, would have justified and seemed to demand an exercise of the rigors of retaliation. This was strongly intimated to colonel Hamilton, but we find, in his report to his commanding officer, in his own words, that, “ incapable of imitating examples of barbarity, and forgetting recent provocations, he spared every man who ceased to resist.”
Having, soon afterwards, terminated his military career, he returned to New York, and qualified himself to commence practice as a counsellor at law. But the duties and emoluments of his profession were not then permitted to stifle his solicitude to give a correct tone to public opinion, by the propagation of principles worthy of adoption by a people who had just undertaken to govern themselves. He found the minds of men chafed and irritated by the recollection of their recent sufferings and dangers. The city of New York, so long a garrison, presented scenes and incidents, which naturally aggravated these dispositions, and too many were inclined to fan the flame of discord, and mar the enjoyment and advantages of peace, by fomenting the animosities engendered by the collisions of war. To sooth these angry passions; to heal these wounds; to demonstrate the folly and inexpediency of scattering the bitter tares of national prejudice and private rancor among the seeds of public prosperity, were objects worthy of the heart and head of Hamilton. To these he applied himself, and by a luminous pamphlet, assuaged the public resentment against those, whose sentiments had led them to oppose the revolution; and thus preserved from exile many valuable citizens, who have supported the laws and increased the opulence of their native state.
From this period, he appears to have devoted himself principally to professional occupations, which were multiplied by his increasing celebrity, until he became
a member of the convention, which met at Annapolis, merely for the purpose of devising a mode of levying and collecting a general impost. Although the object of this convention was thus limited, yet so manifold, in his view, were the defects of the old confederation, that a reform, in one particular, would be ineffectual; he, therefore, first suggested the proposal of attempting a radical change in its principles; and the address to the people of the United States, recommending a general convention, with more extensive powers, which was adopted by that assembly, was the work of
To the second convention, which framed the constitution, he was also deputed as a delegate from the state of New York.
In that assemblage of the brightest jewels of America, the genius of Hamilton sparkled with pre-eminent lustre. The best of our orators were improved by the example of his eloquence. The most experienced of our statesmen were instructed by the solidity of his sentiments, and all were convinced of the utility and extent of his agency in framing the constitution.
When the instrument was presented to the people for their ratification, the obstacles incident to every attempt to combine the interests, views and opinions of the various states, threatened, in some of them, to frustrate the hopes and exertions of its friends. The fears of the timid, the jealousies of the ignorant, the arts of the designing, and the sincere conviction of the superficial, were arrayed into a formidable alliance, in opposition to the system. But the magic pen of Hamilton dissolved this league. Animated by the magnitude of his object, he enriched the daily papers with the researches of a mind teeming with political information. In these rapid essays, written amid the avocations of business, and under the pres
* This information is derived from a respectable member of that convention, from the state of New York.