Law and the Loyalists
When Hamilton first came to Congress in 1782, he hoped to find in that body wisdom, decision and energy. Only by the exercise of leadership on the part of Congress did he believe that the republic could be saved. A year in Philadelphia, however, confirmed all of Hamilton's fears that congressmen themselves were much too Jeferential toward the states to play a commanding part in the newly created "American empire." They were, he now admitted, "not governed by reason or foresight, but by circumstances"--and circumstances seldom worked in their favor. As a result, he declared, Congress was no place for a man of vision, boldness and zeal for the public good: among the timeservers and trimmers who made an art of evading responsibility, Hamilton feared that he would experience only frustration. As one of his friends wrote him at this time: "if you could submit to spend a whole life in dissecting a fly you would be in their opinion one of the greatest men in the world."
Rather than purchase fame by such means, Hamilton decided not to stand for re-election to Congress. It was a wise decision; probably he could not have been re-elected had he wished. For a radical change had taken place in the attitude of the prevailing party in New York toward the general government and toward the policies advocated by Hamilton himself. As a result, politically speaking, New York became for Hamilton the enemy's country.
During the early part of the war, Hamilton and Governor George Clinton of New York had been political allies. The governor had been a vigorous and uncompromising nationalist; indeed, he was prepared to go even further than was Hamilton in strengthening the hand of the central government: in 1780, he recommended that Congress be given power to coerce recalcitrant states with military force. Under Clinton's leadership, New York had been one of the first states to approve the impost. And Hamilton had gone to Congress in 1782 authorized by his state--Hamilton himself was the author of the proposal--to move for a Constitutional Convention.