Birth of the Nation: The First Federal Congress, 1789-1791 | Next Page
Funding the National Debt
Alexander Hamilton by John Trumbull
Alexander Hamilton by John Trumbull
(Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution)

The House referred the memorial to the secretary of the treasury and asked him to report a provision for the support of public credit. Alexander Hamilton had long been an advocate of a stronger federal government with sufficient powers to establish public credit and he believed the government should fund the debt, instead of immediately paying it off. Although several of his contemporaries had more experience in financial matters, Hamilton's appointment was widely acclaimed and great things were expected from him. Newspaper editor John Fenno described the new secretary as a man who "considers his fame as much at stake as ever a General of an army did--and . . . wealth as less than nothing and vanity [when] contrasted with Honor and Reputation--" (to Joseph Ward, October 10, 1789, Chicago Historical Society)

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