Alexander Hamilton arrived at the Constitutional Convention on May 25, 1787. He left in a huff when his searing oratorical defense of his proposal for a chief executive was rejected by the body. Hamilton proposed an executive elected for life by electors appointed by Congress. He also proposed that state governors be appointed by the national government. When others failed to go along, he left, and did not return (except for one day on August 13) until September 6, when only a few details left to be decided.
Hamilton was the only member of the New York delegation remaining to sign the Constitution, and went on to write the bulk of the Federalist Papers urging its ratification by the states. Hamilton’s meticulous arguments in favor of the Constitution are so contradictory of his original positions that historians still wonder if they are a sincere change of heart or mere political calculation.
Alexander Hamilton was highly skilled, articulate, and principled. He was highly respected by those who knew him, but those same people realized that to disagree with Hamilton, one had to prepare for a verbal assault of mammoth proportions. The nation took a different path than Hamilton proposed, but he (at least publicly) supported that path after it was determined.
There are lessons to be learned here by all defenders of liberty. Most importantly is that if you really believe in the rule of law as generated and endorsed by the people, you must yield to its rule in your own life. If you love “liberty more than life” you do not continue to put yourself before the good of the nation.
Excerpted from The Language of Liberty ©2016 by Phillip Whitaker
Raphael, Ray. Mr. President. Alfred Knopf, New York, 2012.