“Dark and Menacing Evils”
Creating the New National System,
ON A WINSOME SEPTEMBER EVENING in 1788, just weeks after Adams' return to America and about a year before Jefferson sailed home, Alexander Hamilton sat at his desk in his residence on Wall Street in New York to write General Washington. His message was simple: Washington should accept the presidency in the new national government, disregarding his pledge, made at the end of the war, to never again hold public office. 1 Hamilton had a personal stake in getting Washington into the presidency. He badly wished to be part of the first administration and to design the program that would battle the economic distress that had lingered for a decade.
Understanding that Washington feasted on acclaim, Hamilton advised that the general would expose his reputation to greater hazard by refusing to serve. To spurn his countrymen's entreaties, Hamilton warned, was to risk arousing a sense that he had deserted them. 2 Soon after he received Hamilton's missive, Washington consented to serve. In February 1789 every member of the electoral college cast one of his votes for Washington, making him their unanimous choice to be the first president of the United States. Adams, who received the second greatest number of votes, though not a majority, was elected vice president. Several weeks after he was sworn in, Washington named Hamilton his secretary of the Treasury.