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The story, however, may be more complicated than appears from Hamilton’s tract. Because the Congress lacked tax powers, and because requisitions on the states were unevenly complied with, Congress began issuing paper money to pay its expenses in June 1775. What began with a two-million-dollar issue had, by 1778, become a torrent of paper, one million dollars a week. As inflation began to gallop, Congress searched desperately for expedients to preserve the value of its notes, and the press was filled with stories of peculation and lack of patriotism by war profiteers. One might, in other words, suspect that to some degree it was more convenient to scapegoat the speculators and engrossers who were responsible for rising prices than to lay the blame on the only resource the government had.

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By 1792 the divisions had hardened to the point that a newspaper duel of polemics occurred between essays appearing in the Hamilton-backed and the Jefferson and Madison–created The French Revolution, and the outbreak of war in Europe, inflamed partisan divisions in America to a fever pitch, with Federalists seeing their Republican adversaries as incipient Jacobins, and Republicans viewing the Federalist administration as toadies of the British. Hamilton stepped into the fray with gusto, writing tracts defending abrogation of the treaty with France, calling for the suppression of whiskey tax rebels, and arguing that the deeply unpopular treaty with Britain negotiated by John Jay was in fact the best deal which prudence allowed. Hamilton retired from office at the start of 1795, but continued to be at the center of the polemical warfare that grew increasingly shrill in the last years of the eighteenth century. He was by far the most prolific pamphleteer of all the Founding Fathers. Unfortunately for his political career, he employed his pen in the last years of Adams’s presidency in splenetic attacks on the leader of his party. The Republicans won victory in the presidential election of 1800, but produced a tie between Jefferson and Burr which threw the election into the House of Representatives. Hamilton now turned his venom on Burr, whom he reviled in a letter-writing campaign to House members as an unscrupulous, dangerous Catiline. Jefferson won. It was Hamilton’s last service to the republic. In 1804, the bad blood between the two stirred mysteriously again, and Burr shot him dead in a duel in New Jersey.

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Sartor Resartus by Thomas Carlyle. - Gutenberg