HAMILTON, ALEXANDER. 1757-1804.
Report of the Secretary of the Treasury ... for the Support of the Public Credit of the United States ... presented to the House on Thursday the 14th Day of January, 1790. New York: Printed by Francis Childs and John Swaine, 1790.
Folio (311 x 192 mm). -26, 31-51 pp. Disbound. Without 2 leaves (pp 27-30), title toned and with a corner chip, ownership inscription trimmed at head and a few page numbers shaved.
Provenance: Benjamin Huntington [1736-1800] (cropped ownership inscription on title), 5 period manuscript corrections.
FOUNDING DOCUMENT OF AMERICAN CAPITALISM in which Hamilton sets forth his plan for strengthening the nation's public credit and significantly increasing the size of the national debt.
This copy is without the two leaves between Schedules E & F which comprise the reports of debt from the states of Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and Virginiawith no evidence of removal. A few clauses are lined through in period manuscript towards the end of the document and a single word added. Benjamin Huntington was a member from Connecticut of the U.S. House of Representatives during the First United States Congress; though the ownership inscription is cropped, his is the only plausible name from the first U.S. Congress.
Drawing on his reading of Enlightenment philosophers and economists, Hamilton makes an impassioned case for the importance of financial strength to domestic and international political well-being. "Had Hamilton stuck to dry financial matters his Report on the Public Credit would never have attained such historic renown. Instead, he presented a detailed blueprint of the government's fiscal machinery, wrapped in a broad political and economic vision" (Chernow Hamilton 297). Hamilton urges the federal assumption of $25 million of state debt to be paid off via raised taxes and import duties. His report was highly controversial, particularly so for his call to honor old Continental Congress notes, many of which had already been traded by Revolutionary War veterans to New York stock speculators. To many, including to James Madison, Hamilton's call smacked of insider trading and a betrayal of patriotic ideals. Worse yet, the assumption of state debts seemed to southerners, especially Virginians, to give too much power to the federal government. The animosity that developed over these issues between Hamilton and the Jeffersonians laid the ground-work for the two-party system in America. This plan of Hamilton's did not pass on the first attempt, but a compromise was reached, the so-called "dinner table compromise" of 1790 in which the fears of the Virginians were assuaged by a promise of Hamilton's to pressure the Pennsylvanians to let the nation's capital pass from Philadelphia to the Potomac. Hamilton accomplished this and about 2 weeks later his financial plan squeaked through. Evans 22998.