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his son-in-law :-“Participate afresh in the satisfaction I experience from the connexion you have made with my beloved Hamilton. He affords me happiness too exquisite for expression. I daily experience the pleasure of hearing encomiums on his virtue and abilities, from those who are capable of distinguishing between real and pretended merit. He is considered, as he certainly is, the ornament of his country, and capable of rendering it the most essential services, if his advice and suggestions are attended to. In short, every true patriot rejoices that he is one of the great council of these States."
The principal questions, which occupied the attention of Congress during this session, were the adjustment of the terms of peace with England, the reduction of the expenditure of the Confederacy, the disbanding of the army, and the organization of a peace establishment. No authentic reports of the debates exist, but it is well known that Hamilton took an important part in almost every discussion, and that his influence was felt and acknowledged from the commencement. He had clearly before his mind one grand design—the union of the several States into a nation, under a free and settled government--and to this end he devoted all his energies. He was aware that, to effect his purpose, many petty fears, many local jealousies, must be met and conquered; but, above and before all, he was convinced that the Congress must begin by redeeming its credit, and satisfying all who had rightful claims on its justice or its gratitude, if it hoped to establish the Confederacy on sure and lasting foundations.
One of the chief difficulties was the army. After all its hard service, it was about to be disbanded, without any provision for the promised half-pay of the officers, or even for the arrears due to the men. The treasury was empty, and could only be replenished with the consent of the several States; for Congress had no authority to raise taxes, and the concurrence of nine States. was required even to contract a loan, or to appropriate public money. The soldiers saw with dismay that, now they were no longer needed, their claims were likely to be postponed to an indefinite future, and they not unnaturally resolved to ask for justice, while they had yet arms in their hands, and were able to enforce their demands. Meetings were held, and language
, was uttered in the army, which filled the peaceable citizens with alarm, and it needed all the firmness, the moderation, and the popularity of Washington to avert the danger. He addressed the officers in terms which found a way to their hearts, and implored them by every consideration of honour and patriotism, not to sully the glory they had acquired, by any violent or mutinous conduct. He pledged himself to exert whatever abilities he possessed in their favour; but he conjured them to rely on the plighted faith of their country, and to place full confidence in the purity of the intentions of Congress. He produced a letter he had received, to prove the good disposition of the governing body, and when, after reading the first paragraph, he paused to take out his spectacles, and excused himself with the remark, “that he had grown gray in their service, and now found himself growing blind,” every heart was touched, and every eye moistened. He finished by persuading them to wait the result of the deliberations in Congress, and not to take any measures that might “open the floodgates of civil discord, and deluge their rising empire in blood.”
While Washington was thus labouring to control the impatience of the army, and at the same time representing their grievances to Congress, Hamilton was pleading their cause in the bosom of that assembly. Renouncing his own claim to half-pay from motives of delicacy, he fought the battle of his fellow-soldiers with dauntless and resolute perseverance. The debates were long and stormy, and Hamilton, who had nothing to conceal, wished them to be open to the public; but in this he was overruled by the majority, and the delegate from Rhode Island observed, “that if the member wished to
, display his eloquence, he should address the people from the balcony." No taunts or opposition, however, could silence the gifted orator in his advocacy of the claims of justice. The decision was indeed delayed, till the troops were on the verge of mutiny, but Hamilton and the friends of fair dealing at length prevailed. Nine States were brought to agree in a tardy and reluctant act of good faith. The halfpay was commuted into a sum equal to five years' full pay, for which securities were to be issued, like those given to the other public creditors, with interest at six per cent. In the resolution making this grant (which had been prepared by Hamilton) it was stated, “that Congress was desirous, as well of gratifying the reasonable expectations of the officers of the army, as of removing all objections which may exist in any part of the United States to the principle of the half-pay establishmentpersuaded that those objections can only arise from the nature of the compensation, not from any indisposition to compensate those whose services, sacrifices, and sufferings have so just a title to the approbation and rewards of their country.”
And now the news arrived, that the long-wishedfor peace was really concluded. In December, 1782, George III. had already acknowledged the independence of the American Colonies in the speech from the throne. “In thus admitting their separation,” he said, “from the Crown of these kingdoms, I have sacrificed every consideration of my own to the wishes and opinion of my people. I make it my humble and earnest prayer to Almighty God, that Great Britain may not feel the evils which might result from so great a dismemberment of the empire; and that America may be free from those calamities, which have formerly proved in the mother-country how essential monarchy is to the enjoyment of constitutional liberty. Religion, language, interest, affections, may, and I hope will, yet prove a bond of permanent union between the two countries. To this end neither attention nor disposition shall be wanting on my part.” On the 20th of the following January, the preliminaries of peace were signed at