Alexander Hamilton, along with Franklin and Jefferson, helped found the Bank of North America in 1781.
In 1784, Hamilton also founded the Bank of New York, which later merged with Mellon Bank.
Bank of New York stock were the first shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
In 1789, Hamilton became the first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury. His Bank of New York provided the U.S. Government with its first loan, used to pay the salaries of members of Congress and the President.
In 1791, Hamilton arranged for the Bank of North America to be replaced by the Bank of the United States.
Hamilton and Federalist leaders were concerned that if the United States Government showed financial instability, foreign countries may be lured to interfere in American politics.
Jefferson and Madison opposed Hamilton's plan as it concentrated too much power into the hands of too few.
Hamilton's main political opponent was Aaron Burr.
In 1791, Aaron Burr defeated the first U.S. Senator from New York, Major General Philip Schuyler, who was Alexander Hamilton's father-in-law.
Burr was a U.S. Senator for six years till he ran for President in 1796, coming in fourth behind John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Pinckney.
In 1798, during a threatened "quasi-war" with France, President John Adams asked retired George Washington to serve as Commanding General of U.S. forces.
Burr applied for a brigadier general's commission but Washington rejected him, writing:
"By all that I have known and heard, Colonel Burr is a brave and able officer, but the question is whether he has not equal talents at intrigue."
In 1799, Burr founded Manhattan Water Company to bring fresh water into New York City.
With no financial accountability, Burr raised two million dollars for the project, but only used one hundred thousand for supplying water to the city, using hollow tree trunks for pipes.
The rest of the money, he used to start The Manhattan Bank, which later merged with Chase, to compete with Hamilton's Bank of New York.
Burr used his Bank's resources to influence politics toward Jefferson's Democratic-Republican Party in opposition to Hamilton's Federalist Party.
Originally there were no political parties in the United States. In the 1790s, the first two political parties began to take shape:
- Hamilton's Federalist Party; and
- Jefferson's Democrat-Republican Party.
President Washington saw the early development of political parties and warned in his Farewell Address, 1796:
"Let me now ... warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of Party ... having its roots in the strongest passions of the human mind ...
The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to Party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism ...
Disorders and miseries ... ill founded jealousies and false alarms,kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection ...
opens the doors to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the Government itself through the channels of party passions."
Burr turned the social club Tammany Hall into the infamous New York political machine.
As a member of the New York State Assembly, 1798-1799, Burr worked on behalf of a foreign company, the Holland Land Company, to pass legislation allowing aliens to hold and convey lands in America.
John Barker Church, brother-in-law of Alexander Hamilton, accused Burr of taking a bribe from the Holland Company.
Burr challenged Church to a duel, September 1799, though both fired and missed.
Burr's Tammany Hall political machine was able to get more New York City assembly members elected than Hamilton,giving Burr's party control of New York's state legislature.
Presidential elections at this time in U.S. history had each Congressional District chose an elector who cast two electoral votes.
Whichever candidate received the most electoral votes would be President and whoever received the second most votes would be Vice-President.
Rather than each Congressional District elector being able to cast their vote independently, Burr convinced New York's legislature to change this to a "winner-take-all" policy, where the political party receiving the majority would get ALL the states' electoral votes as a block.
Other states soon followed this policy.
In the divisive and smear-filled campaign of 1800, Federalist candidates John Adams and Charles Pinckney were defeated by Democratic-Republican candidates Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr.
When the electoral votes were counted, there was an unprecedented dilemma.
Burr and Jefferson both received exactly the same number of electoral votes - 73 each.
Everyone assumed that Aaron Burr would defer to Jefferson being the President and him being the Vice-President.
Burr, though, did not immediately concede. He was suspiciously quiet, rumored to be working behind the scenes, using intrigue to maneuver himself into being the President.
This resulted in the House of Representatives having to break the electoral tie, with each state getting one vote.
Rumors circulated that Burr, through Federalist Congressman James Bayard, attempted to bribe Rep. Samuel Smith and Rep. Edward Livingston with political appointments if they voted for him.
Though Hamilton was the leader of the Federalist Party, he intensely opposed Burr.
Hamilton embarked on a letter writing campaign, stating that Jefferson was "by far not so dangerous a man." This convinced several Congressmen to switch and vote for Jefferson, or cast a blank ballot.
The result was Jefferson becoming the 3rd U.S. President and Burr being Vice-President.
Jefferson distrusted Burr as elusive and unreliable.
When Jefferson was preparing to run for re-election in 1804, he let it be known that he did not intend to keep Burr on as running-mate for his second term.
Burr then ran for Governor of New York, and lost, due once again to opposition spread by Hamilton.
Burr challenged Hamilton to an illegal duel on July 11, 1804, where he shot and killed him.
Burr was indicted for murder by a coroner’s jury in New York and by a grand jury in New Jersey.
Killing Hamilton instantly ended Burr's political career.
The former Vice-President was now a persona non grata.
He fled and roamed west, traveling to New Orleans, Kentucky,Missouri, and Tennessee, even staying with General Andrew Jackson in Nashville.
Burr conceived of a plan to acquire land from the Spanish government, including part of the Louisiana Territory, and colonize it as his own empire.
British diplomat Anthony Merry claimed Burr intended to take some of the land from Jefferson's Louisiana Purchase and: “effect a separation of the western part of the United States from that which lies between the Atlantic and the mountains in its whole extent.”
When word of this reached Jefferson, he put out a warrant and Burr was arrested in Natchez.
Jefferson insisted he be indicted for treason and threw the entire weight of the government against him, but Chief Justice John Marshall determined there was not enough evidence to convict him.
In 1808, Burr fled creditors by sailing to England.
He lived there four years till he was ordered out.
Napoleon refused to let him into France.
Burr finally returned to New York, but to avoid creditors he used his mother's maiden name, "Edwards."
Aaron Burr went from Vice-President to pariah, as unpopular as Benedict Arnold.
He was infamously portrayed in Edward Everett Hale's novel, The Man Without a Country,1863.
In the novel, Hale created a fictitious character named Philip Nolan, who developed a friendship with Aaron Burr, and joined in Burr's conspiracy.
In the novel, Nolan was arrested and tried for treason as an accomplice of Burr.
When his sentence was pronounced, Philip Nolan exclaimed:
"D--n the United States! I wish I may never hear of the United States again!"
In the novel, the judge ordered Philip Nolan's wish fulfilled, that for the rest of his life he would sail the world's seas on Navy ships and never set foot or hear the name of his former country again.
Sailors were forbidden to discuss or even mention the United States to him.
Toward the end of the novel, The Man Without a Country,Edward Everett Hale wrote that a visitor met Philip Nolan:
"But he could not stand it long ... he beckoned me down into our boat ... he said to me:
'Youngster, let that show you what it is to be without a family, without a home, and without a country.
And if you are ever tempted to say a word or to do a thing that shall put a bar between you and your family, your home, and your country, pray God in his mercy to take you that instant home to his own heaven ..."
The character, Nolan, continued:
"Stick by your family, boy ... and for your country, boy,'
and the words rattled in his throat, 'and for that flag,' and he pointed to the ship, 'never dream a dream but of serving her as she bids you, though the service carry you through a thousand hells.
... No matter what happens to you, no matter who flatters you or who abuses you, never look at another flag, never let a night pass but you pray God to bless that flag.
Remember, boy ... the Country Herself, your Country, and that you belong to her as you belong to your own mother.
Stand by Her, boy, as you would stand by your mother, if those devils there had got hold of her to-day!'"
Edward Everett Hale was born April 3, 1822.
He was the grandnephew of Revolutionary hero Nathan Hale, who stated before being hanged, September 22, 1776:
"I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."
Edward Everett Hale entered Harvard at age 13 and later taught at the prestigious Boston Latin School.
He published over 50 books, opposed slavery and was the pastor of Boston's South Congregational Church for 45 years.
In 1903, Edward Everett Hale became Chaplain of the United States Senate.
"I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something.
What I can do, I should do and, with the help of God, I will do."
Trying to understand how unique the United States is, British author G.K. Chesterton traveled the country, then wrote the book What I Saw In America (1922).
In the chapter titled "What is America," he penned:
"America is the ONLY NATION IN THE WORLD that is founded on creed.
That creed is set forth ... in the Declaration of Independence ... that all men are equal in their claim to justice."
Image Credit: book cover of "A Man Without a Country and Other Patriotic Stories" edited by John M. Foote (Philadelphia: The John C. Winston Company, Illustrator: R. Pallen Coleman, Perris & Bergay, 1925, 266 pages)