Alexander Hamilton: Portrait in Paradox

By John C. Miller | Go to book overview

19.
The Report on Manufactures

With the establishment of the Bank of the United States, Hamilton reached the pinnacle of his influence and-- such as it was--his popularity. He had carried everything before him; the opposition was as yet unorganized; and the businessmen of the country hailed him as their benefactor. In Boston, among the "better sort," those who could claim an acquaintance with Colonel Hamilton were besieged with questions concerning this remarkable young man; and his portrait, painted by John Trumbull for the citizens of New York, was hung in the City Hall. All the wise, the rich and the good delighted to do him homage; in this select circle, it was not deemed improper to rank him with Washington, and there were some who even whispered that the "Little Lion" was the more redoubtable of the two. Hamilton was the golden boy of the Federalist party--the darling of fortune who dazzled the opulent and the well-born by the brilliance and versatility of his talents. So closely were his policies identified with the integrity of the United States government that his supporters considered an attack upon the Secretary as equivalent to an attack upon the laws and the Constitution--a view with which Hamilton was wholeheartedly in agreement.

In American colleges and universities, rapidly becoming strongholds of conservatism, professors marched in solemn procession to pay tribute to Hamilton. In 1790, the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws was conferred upon him by Dartmouth College; and two years later, Harvard University bestowed a similar degree upon the man "to whose Wisdom and unremitted exertions these United States owe so much of their present tranquillity and prosperity, and the national respectability." He was made a trustee of Columbia College and, as a reward for his services in securing the passage of the bill by which Columbia became a university, he was given an honorary M.A. by his alma mater. At about the same time he attained the dignity of having his effigy exhibited at Bowen's Wax Work Museum near the New York Exchange.

Even the ultimate honor of the academic world was awarded Hamilton-- a college was named after him. In 1792, Hamilton agreed to act as trustee

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