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Alexander Hamilton
by [?]

He had letters to several good clergymen in New York, and they proved wise and good counselors. The boy was advised to take a course at the Grammar School at Elizabethtown, New Jersey.

There he remained a year, applying himself most vigorously, and the next Fall he knocked at the gate of King’s College. It is called Columbia now, because kings in America went out of fashion, and all honors formerly paid to the king were turned over to Miss Columbia, Goddess of Freedom.

King’s College swung wide its doors for the swarthy little West Indian. He was allowed to choose his own course, and every advantage of the university was offered him. In a university, you get just all you are able to hold–it depends upon yourself–and at the last all men who are made at all are self-made.

Hamilton improved each passing moment as it flew; with the help of a tutor he threw himself into his work, gathering up knowledge with the quick perception and eager alertness of one from whom the good things of earth have been withheld.

Yet he lived well and spent his money as if there were plenty more where it came from; but he was never dissipated nor wasteful.

This was in the year Seventeen Hundred Seventy-four, and the Colonies were in a state of political excitement. Young Hamilton’s sympathies were all with the mother country. He looked upon the Americans, for the most part, as a rude, crude and barbaric people, who should be very grateful for the protection of such an all-powerful country as England. At his boarding-house and at school, he argued the question hotly, defending England’s right to tax her dependencies.

One fine day, one of his schoolmates put the question to him flatly: “In case of war, on which side will you fight?” Hamilton answered, “On the side of England.”

But by the next day he had reasoned it out that if England succeeded in suppressing the rising insurrection she would take all credit to herself; and if the Colonies succeeded there would be honors for those who did the work. Suddenly it came over him that there was such a thing as “the divine right of insurrection,” and that there was no reason why men living in America should be taxed to support a government across the sea. The wealth produced in America should be used to develop America.

He was young, and burning with a lofty ambition. He knew, and had known all along, that he would some day be great and famous and powerful–here was the opportunity.

And so, next day, he announced at the boarding-house that the eloquence and logic of his messmates were too powerful to resist–he believed the Colonies and the messmates were in the right. Then several bottles were brought in, and success was drunk to all men who strove for liberty.

Patriotic sentiment is at the last self-interest; in fact, Herbert Spencer declares that there is no sane thought or rational act but has its root in egoism.

Shortly after the young man’s conversion, there was a mass-meeting held in “The Fields,” which meant the wilds of what is now the region of Twenty-third Street.

Young Hamilton stood in the crowd and heard the various speakers plead the cause of the Colonies, and urge that New York should stand firm with Massachusetts against the further encroachments and persecutions of England. There were many Tories in the crowd, for New York was with King George as against Massachusetts, and these Tories asked the speakers embarrassing questions that the speakers failed to answer. And all the time young Hamilton found himself nearer and nearer the platform. Finally, he undertook to reply to a talkative Tory, and some one shouted, “Give him the platform–the platform!” and in a moment this seventeen-year-old boy found himself facing two thousand people. There was hesitation and embarrassment, but the shouts of one of his college chums, “Give it to ’em! Give it to ’em!” filled in an awkward instant, and he began to speak. There was logic and lucidity of expression, and as he talked the air became charged with reasons, and all he had to do was to reach up and seize them.