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We have rather inclined to the belief, that the causes must be various and complicated, and only to be discovered by a diligent study of the past history of the Union.
Any contribution to that history should, therefore, be of some value; and it has struck me, that a brief account of the Eise of the American Constitution — in connexion with the life and opinions of the remarkable man, who did the most to call it into existence and to bring it into working order, while he foresaw its dangers from the beginning, and laboured incessantly to guard against them—might not be without interest at the present moment. In the career of Hamilton we trace the progress of the Constitution, from its first germ in the mind of the young soldier, through all the difficulties of its establishment, and the trials of its early years, until its administration passes from the control of its authors, to fall into the hands of the champions of an absolute democracy. But, apart from all political speculations, the story of Hamilton himself, his character, his services, and his fate, are well worthy of record and ought to be better known than they have hitherto been— especially in that England which he understood with the instinct of genius, and loved with the enthusiasm of a high and generous nature. Such knowledge can only tend to the honour of his name, and to the growth of kindly feelings between his country and our own.
In treating of this theme, I have written as a foreigner at a distance from the scene of action, and have had to collect my materials from such sources as were open to me. I have done my best, however, to arrive at the truth, and have little doubt as to the general accuracy of the following sketch. Though much indebted to the elaborate, and yet unfinished work, which Mr. John Church Hamilton has devoted to the memory of his father, I have distrusted the inevitable bias of filial reverence, and have tried, wherever I could, to test his statements by a comparison with independent authorities. With regard to Hamilton's contemporaries, I have for the most part endeavoured to estimate them by their own acts and words, rather than by the comments of friends or enemies; and, if I have erred in my appreciation of any amongst them, I am conscious of no other motive than the wish to render justice to all.
To you, whose calm and sober judgment is so well fitted to form an impartial opinion of its contents, I dedicate this book. You will read it without passion or prejudice, and give due weight to the facts it has brought together; and, even should you not agree in some of its political conclusions, you will respect the sincerity of the convictions on which it is founded, and welcome it if only as a token of the esteem and affection of
London, January, 1864.