Hamilton: Speeches and Resolutions in Congress, Open Debate

Alexander Hamilton was a Founding Father, soldier, economist, political philosopher, one of America’s first constitutional lawyers and the first United States Secretary of the Treasury.

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Alexander Hamilton: The Works of Alexander Hamilton, Volume 1, 1774: Speeches and Resolutions in Congress, Open Debate

Wednesday, February 19th.
Mr. Hamilton said, in support of his motion,1 that it was in vain to attempt to gain the concurrence of the States by removing the objections publicly assigned by them against the impost; that these were the ostensible and not the true objections; that the true objection on the part of Rhode Island was the interference of the impost with the opportunity afforded by their situation of levying contributions on Connecticut, etc., which received foreign supplies through the ports of Rhode Island; that the true objection on the part of Virginia was her having little share in the debts due from the United States, to which the impost would be applied; that a removal of the avowed objections would not therefore remove the obstructions, whilst it would admit, on the part of Congress, that their first recommendation went beyond the absolute exigencies of the public; that Congress, having taken a proper ground at first, ought to maintain it till time should convince the States of the propriety of the measure.

Mr. Hamilton opposed the motion2 strenuously; declared that, as a friend to the army as well as to the other creditors and to the public at large, he would never assent to such a partial distribution of justice; that the different States, being differently attached to different branches of the public debt, would never concur in establishing a fund which was not extended to every branch; that it was impolitic to divide the interests of the civil and military creditors, whose joint efforts in the States would be necessary to prevail on them to adopt a general revenue.

Whereas it is the desire of Congress that the motives of their deliberations and measures (so far as they can be disclosed consistently with the public safety) should be fully known to their constituents, therefore Resolved, That when the establishment of funds for paying the principal and interest of the public debt shall be under the consideration of this House, the doors shall be opened.

[1]To postpone clause limiting time of duration of impost, and to make it unlimited in duration.

[2]By Mr. Rutledge, to appropriate impost to army exclusively.

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The Works of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Henry Cabot Lodge (Federal Edition) (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904). In 12 vols. The copyright for the original of this document is held in the Public Domain. Font, formatting, spelling modernizations, typo/transcription corrections, and explanatory footnotes for this version of  ”The Works of Alexander Hamilton” Copyright © 2011 Steve Farrell and The Moral Liberal.