Four American Patriots  by Alma Holman Burton

"The Vindicator of Congress"

Not long after young Hamilton's return to New York, news came that the king and his council had closed the port of Boston. British soldiers had marched into the city with bayonets fixed. They would not allow an American vessel in the harbor, not even a fishing smack.

The trade of the merchants was ruined. More than half the people were without work, and hundreds would starve if food were not sent overland from the other towns on the coast.

There was great excitement in New York over this news from Boston. On a hot afternoon in July a crowd of people met on the green to talk about it.

Many spoke; but a slender boy, who sat listening, thought they had left out some very important arguments. He stepped to the front. His face was pale. He was so small that he looked like a child; yet his voice rang out clear and strong, and he spoke with so much elegance that people were amazed. "Who is he?" they asked. It was Alexander Hamilton, only seventeen years old. "Ah, the wee lad," said one; "he is bigger than he looks!"

The excitement about the taxes continued until all the colonies agreed to meet in a convention at Philadelphia. This convention was called the Continental Congress. The delegates decided to resist the taxes to the bitter end.

Then the people were divided into two parties. Those who were willing to obey the king's unjust demands were called Tories, and those who refused to obey them were called Whigs.

And Whigs and Tories were talking from morning till night. Some New York merchants met together at the coffee-house to consider their condition.

They said that all they had was on the sea. Prosperity depended on trade, and the Continental Congress at Philadelphia must not hurt trade with England by opposing the king's laws too much. They said that everybody must be cautious.

Now, Alexander Hamilton was at this meeting. He felt that to keep up trade at the expense of liberty would destroy trade in the end, and he decided to tell the merchants what he thought.

He mounted a chair. Smiles were seen about the room. Someone said: "What brings that child here? The poor boy will disgrace himself." But the two years in the counting-house had taught the little West Indian more about British trade than most of the merchants knew. He made one of the very best speeches of the evening. He urged sympathy with Congress, and so pleased the rich men that they shook hands with him. They said he would be a great man some day.

Now, Dr. Cooper, the president of Columbia College, was a Tory, and wrote a letter in a newspaper against the Continental Congress.

Alexander Hamilton replied to Dr. Cooper with much wit. He signed his letter, "A Sincere Friend to America." The letter was well written. Everybody wanted to read it. The demand for the newspaper was so great that the printer could not publish it fast enough. "Who is  this 'Sincere Friend to America'?" men asked on the streets.

Some said it was Governor Livingston. Others said that only John Jay, the eloquent lawyer, could have written such a fine letter. Dr. Cooper said it must  be John Jay, and he was so angry about it that he would not speak to him on the streets.

And all the time young Hamilton was laughing to himself about their bad guessing!

Some collegians had seen the letter before it was published, and told, at last, who the "Sincere Friend to America" was. Then people admired the "Little West Indian" more than ever. They said he would some day be an honor to New York, and they called him the "Vindicator of Congress."