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Sad, my fellow-citizens, are the recollections and forebodings which the present solumnities force upon the mind. Five years have not elapsed since your tears flowed for the Father of your country, and you are again assembled to shed them over her eldest son. No, it is not an illusion-would to God it were: your eyes behold it: the urn which bore the ashes of Washington is followed by the urn which bears the ashes of HAMILTON. Cruel privation!—but I forbear. God's way is in the sea, and his path in the great waters, and his footsteps are not known. It is not for mortals to repine, much less to arraign. Our Hamilton is removed; and we have nothing left but to recall his image ; to gather up his maxims, and to profit by our affliction. Accompany me, therefore, to a short retrospect. I feel that I shall not justify an appointment too imposing to be declined. Your own hearts must supply my deficiency. I aspire to nothing more than a faint outline of the man whom you loved.
Presages of his future eminence were evolved by the first buddings of intellect in ALEXANDER HAMILTON. The course of the boy, like that of the man, was ardent, rapid, and beyond the reach of his contemporaries. History will hereafter relate that he was numbered among statesmen at an age when in others the rudiments of character are scarcely visible. In the contest with Great Britain, which called forth every talent and every passion, his juvenile pen asserted the claims of the colonies against writers from whom it would derogate to say that they were merely respectable. An unknown antagonist, whose thrust was neither to be repelled nor parried, excited inquiry; and when he began to be discovered, the effect was apparently so disproportioned to the cause, that his papers were ascribed to a statesman who then held a happy sway in the conncils of his country, who has since rendered her the most essential services; and who still lives to adorn her name.* But the truth could not long be concealed. The powers of HAMILTON created their own evidence; and America saw, with astonishment, a lad of seventeen in the rank of her advocates, at a time when her advocates were patriots and sages. · A distinction thus nobly acquired, and ably maintained, was a pledge to the commonwealth, which he lost no time in redeeming. His first step from the college was into a military post ; his second into the family and confidence of WASHINGTON.
* John Jay, Esq.
Here he had opportunities of studying a man, from whom no other man was too great to learn ; of analyzing those rare qualities which met in his character ; and of nourishing his own magnanimity by free communication with the magnanimity of his chief. His sound understanding, his comprehensive views, his promptitude, application, and patience, would have endeared him to a man less discriminating than WASHINGTON; but to him they were inestimable, and they speedily sunk the patron in the friend. The pair became inseparable. While others were indulging in wonted gaiety, they were closeted on matters of state ; and the pensive brow of the youth, was often the first intimation of serious design in the veteran.
It was impossible for such a pupil in such a school, not to be conspicuous. The materials furnished by Washington's experience, by his consummate prudence, by the disclosure of his plans, and of the springs of national operations, fostered the genius of Hamilton, and fitted him for command. His agency in the correspondence of the commander-in-chief, and in directing the movements of the army, is for the research of his biographer. I pass over his personal valor, not only because it never was disputed, but because the possession of it, as being one of the most common of military attributes, is not so much the praise of a soldier, as the want of it is his infamy. But be it remembered with pride, that he was as humane as he was brave. He knew how to storm an enemy's intrenchments, but not how to sacrifice a suppliant. His gentleness assuaged martial rigor ; nor was his sword polluted by a drop of blood wantonly or carelessly shed.
The capture of Lord Cornwallis having secured our independence, there was nothing to protract the war, but a few measures proper to save appearances, and to prepare for acceding, with decorum, to preliminaries of peace. It became, of course, a subject of solicitude to reflecting young men who had no profession but that of arms, how they should procure an honorable subsistence, and be useful to the community, when that profession should be superseded. Among these was HAMIL
Encumbered with a family, destitute of funds, and having no inducement to continue in the army, he sheathed his sword, and at the age of twenty-five, applied to the study of the law.
To most men, sudden alterations of habit are seldom advantageous, often ruinous. HAMILTON they did but introduce to an acquaintance with his own inexhaustible mind. Hardly had he exchanged the camp for the bar, when he burst forth