GOVERNOR HAMILTON. 1748-1754
C ONTRARY TO EXPECTATION, James Hamilton did not experience a pleasant and placid life as Governor of Pennsylvania. In fact, after six years, he gave up the office, a disappointed and disillusioned man. Hamilton was the son of a more famous father, Andrew Hamilton, who had given memorable services to the province as a lawyer of distinction and Speaker of the Assembly. The Hamiltons were Scotch and members of the Episcopalian Church. Although a man of ability, James had a conservative frame of mind which kept him narrowly loyal to the Penns and quite unappreciative of the desires as well as the capabilities of the average citizen of Pennsylvania.
Prior to becoming Lieutenant-Governor in 1748, Hamilton had been prothonotary of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, a member of the Assembly for five years, Mayor of Philadelphia, and a member of the Governor's Council. Thus, when he became the Penns' Deputy-Governor at the age of thirty-eight, he was a man of maturity with a good background of political experience.
The question which caused James Hamilton ceaseless trouble and embarrassment during his term of office, and finally prompted him to resign, was that of paper money. The history of paper money or bills of credit, as they were called, goes back to 1723 in Pennsylvania. That year the Assembly authorized the emission of £45,000, in bills of credit, to provide a circulating medium in an economy where gold and silver were almost non-existent, as a result of unfavorable balance of trade with Great Britain and the attraction which that money market offered for specie.
During times of war, bills of credit went directly into circulation as the money was laid out for military uses. At other times they were put into circulation through loans from a government agency in the form of mortgages on real estate and other property.1 The fact that the currency appeared to stimulate business convinced the people that paper money was a blessing to a country starved by a lack of specie. The law made the bills legal tender for all debts equal to sterling. Naturally this provision was disliked by the Proprietors, whose collections in Pennsylvania were depreciated because paper money never attained a par with sterling. British merchants, many of whom had sustained losses through the excessive issues of bills of credit in New England____________________