THE AMERICAN WORLD WAS NOT MADE FOR ME

Alexander Hamilton's contribution to welding the thirteen semi-independent states which had won the Revolution into a unified political entity was greater than that of any other Founding Father, with the exception of Washington. But this tells only half the story. The other half is that while Hamilton's genius built national unity, his psychic wounds caused disunion which was also absorbed into the permanent structure of the United States.

Hamilton's lack of balance was such that his greatest contributions were realized only when he was working side by side with another statesman, also brilliant but more stable. He had two major collaborators: James Madison and George Washington.

At the Annapolis Convention of 1786, Madison changed into what was almost a new document the over-aggressive and over-visionary summons Hamilton had drafted to call up the Constitutional Convention of 1787. And Madison was a collaborator on the Federalist Papers in which Hamilton supported and explicated, with such lasting effect, a Constitution that he had opposed as too mild and in which he was never really to believe. Hamilton's most impressive solo flight took place shortly thereafter when he dominated New York's ratifying convention, persuading that crucial but reluctant state to join the other states in the by then already established union.

Washington's role as what Hamilton called "an aegis essential to me" was divided into two extensive phases. Hamilton's most important contributions to winning the Revolutionary War were carried out as Washington's aide. And the achievements which have given Hamilton his greatest fame came, some years later, when he was Washington's Secretary of the Treasury. Then, he carried to fruition the fiscal reforms he

____________________
An earlier version of this essay, entitled "The American World Was Not Made for Me: The Unknown Alexander Hamilton," appeared in American Heritage, 29, No. 1 ( December 1977), 70-77.

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