Alexander Hamilton: Portrait in Paradox

By John C. Miller | Go to book overview

10.
The Constitutional Convention (1)

New York's veto of the impost marked Hamilton's last effort to achieve the reform of the Articles of Confederation. Henceforth he devoted himself to the only course which he had long believed held any prospect of success--a Constitutional Convention authorized to devise a wholly new frame of government.

Since it was apparent that the approval of the Continental Congress was essential to the success of this plan--a number of states, New York among them, declined to participate on the ground that the Convention lacked constitutional sanction--Hamilton proposed in the New York legislature that the state instruct its delegates to move that the Continental Congress give formal approval to the Philadelphia meeting. On February 17, 1787, the New York legislature adopted this resolution, but before it could be presented to the Continental Congress that body had already decided to give the project its blessing. It was the rejection of the impost by the New York legislature that led Congress to approve the Constitutional Convention: after that dismal news only the revision of the Articles of Confederation afforded hope of averting disaster.

Having taken a leading part in persuading New York to send delegates to Philadelphia, Hamilton's next objective was to secure for himself a place on the delegation. But in view of the fact that the New York legislature was under the control of his political enemies and that his record in the Continental Congress and the Annapolis Convention was in Clinton's opinion a complete misrepresentation of the attitude of the state toward national concerns, Hamilton's chances of going to Philadelphia seemed remote. The expedition to the City of Brotherly Love promised to be a wholly Clintonian excursion with no room aboard for a nationalist like Hamilton.

So Clinton intended and, had not General Schuyler intervened, the governor probably would have had his way. Rather than permit Clinton to pack the delegation with his followers, General Schuyler resolved to send his favorite son-in-law to Philadelphia to represent the views of the New York nationalists. Therefore when the Clintonians proposed that the delegates

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