Alexander Hamilton: Portrait in Paradox

By John C. Miller | Go to book overview

23.
Hamilton's Quarrel with Jefferson
and Burr

As Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton had not lost sight of the importance of influencing public opinion by "sensible and popular writings." He was a frequent contributor to the newspapers, and it was observed that the policies of the Secretary of the Treasury found no more vigorous vindicator than the Secretary himself. Of all the newspapers in the United States--there were twelve in Philadelphia alone-- Hamilton's favorite, and the one which most frequently contained his work, was the Gazette of the United States. This newspaper, stentorianly Federalist in tone, came closer to enjoying a national circulation than did any other newspaper of the day. Established in 1789 before Hamilton came to the Treasury, the Gazette of the United States received printing patronage from Hamilton's department, and on several occasions Hamilton loaned money to the editor, John Fenno. He got full value for this outlay: no printer more fulsomely praised the talents and virtues of Alexander Hamilton. Dedicated to the task of endearing "the GENERAL GOVERNMENT to the PEOPLE," the Gazette of the United States helped materially to advance the policies of the Secretary of the Treasury. For that reason, Jefferson fulminated against it as "a paper of pure Toryism, disseminating the doctrines of monarchy, aristocracy, and the exclusion of the influence of the people"; and he winced whenever he encountered in its pages the "hymns & lauds chanted by Fenno" in honor of Hamilton.

This deification of Hamilton presaged to Jefferson the next step in the Secretary of the Treasury's plans for the United States--his own elevation to the presidency. With some justice, Jefferson felt that Hamilton had already made himself Prime Minister and that the State Department had been converted into a little more than an adjunct to the Treasury. As a counterweight to Hamilton and the Gazette of the United States, a Republican newspaper with a national circulation was in Jefferson's opinion a prime necessity. It so happened that at this moment Philip Freneau, the so-called

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