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Randy Boyagoda is a professor of American literature and chairman of the English department at Ryerson University. His new novel is “Beggar’s Feast.”

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We do not expect, nor require, that all should depend upon our integrity or generosity, but only a part; and this, every rule of equity entitles us to. We have assented to the exercise of a power which gives a certainty to Great Britain of a vast annual income; any further aids that may be necessary ought to be intrusted to our fidelity. When the circumstances of two parties will not admit of precise boundaries to the duty of each, it is not a dictate of justice to put one entirely into the power of the other. If the mother country would desist from grasping at too much, and permit us to enjoy the privileges of freemen, interest would concur with duty, and lead us to the performance of it. We should be sensible of the advantages of a mutual intercourse and connection, and should esteem the welfare of Britain as the best security for our own. She may, by kind treatment, secure our attachment in the powerful bands of self-interest. This is the conduct that prudence and sound policy point out; but, alas! to her own misfortune as well as ours, she is blind and infatuated.


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Let us examine it in another light. The House of Commons receives all its authority from its electors, in consequence of the right they have to a share in the legislature. Its electors are freeholders, citizens, and others, in Great Britain. It follows, therefore, that all its authority is confined to Great Britain. This is demonstrative. Sophistry, by an artful play of ambiguous terms, may perplex and obscure it, but reason can never confute it. The power which one society bestows upon any man, or body of men, can never extend beyond its own limits. The people of Great Britain may confer an authority over themselves, but they can never confer any over the people of America, because it is impossible for them to give to another which they never possessed themselves. Now I should be glad to see an attempt to prove that a freeholder, citizen, or any other man in Great Britain, has any inherent right to the life, property, or liberty, of a freeholder, citizen, or any other man in America. He can have no original and intrinsic right, because nature has distributed an equality of rights to every man. He can have no secondary or derivative right, because the only thing which could give him that is wanting—the consent of the natural proprietor. It is incumbent upon you to demonstrate the existence of such a right, or anything else you may produce will be of little avail. I do not expect you will be discouraged at the apparent difficulty. It is the peculiar province of an enterprising genius to surmount the greatest obstacles, and you have discovered an admirable dexterity in this way. You have put to flight some of my best arguments, with no greater pains than a few positive assertions and as many paltry witticisms; and you become altogether irresistible by adding, with a proper degree of confidence,


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The newly elected president, George Washington, picked his old to fill the position of secretary of the treasury, and it was here that he left his most lasting stamp on the republic. The measures he pursued as treasury secretary all aimed at the construction of national unity, and the construction of the instruments of national power sufficient to the needs of a world of nation-states. Thus, in his Report on Credit (1790), he wanted domestic securities paid at face value, despite the fact that most had been obtained at steep discounts. He also proposed that the debts of the states be assumed by the Treasury. In the former case, he aimed at winning moneyed and mercantile wealth to the cause of the new government, to ensure a reliable source of government credit for future exigencies. In both cases the tax requirements of debt service would justify a panoply of federal taxes for a long period of time, thus solidifying the essential powers of the new government. Rather than conceiving of the federal government as a tool to enrich the moneyed men, Hamilton was convinced that their favor, and the nation’s credit, were essential “as long as nations in general continue to use it as a resource in war. It is impossible for a country to contend, on equal terms, or to be secure against the enterprises of other nations, without being able equally with them to avail itself of this important resource.”