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Some modern scholars believe that the historical record confirms Hamilton as a "steadfast abolitionist"; others see him as a "hypocrite.". For example, Hamilton returned an escaped slave to a friend. Hamilton's first polemic against King George's ministers contains a paragraph which speaks of the evils which "slavery" to the British would bring upon the Americans. One biographer sees this as an attack on actual slavery; such hostility was quite common in 1776. During the Revolutionary War, there was a series of proposals to arm slaves, free them, and compensate their masters. Freeing any enlisted slaves had also become customary by then both for the British, who did not compensate their American masters, and for the Continental Army; some states were to require it before the end of the war. In 1779, Hamilton's friend John Laurens suggested such a unit be formed under his command, to relieve besieged Charleston, South Carolina; Hamilton wrote a letter to the Continental Congress to create up to four battalions of slaves for combat duty, and free them. Congress recommended that South Carolina (and Georgia) acquire up to three thousand slaves, if they saw fit; they did not, even though the South Carolina governor and Congressional delegation had supported the plan in Philadelphia. Hamilton argued that blacks' natural faculties were as good as those of free whites, and he forestalled objections by citing Frederick the Great and others as praising obedience and lack of cultivation in soldiers; he also argued that if the Americans did not do this, the British would (as they had elsewhere). One of his biographers has cited this incident as evidence that Hamilton and Laurens saw the Revolution and the struggle against slavery as inseparable. Hamilton later attacked his political opponents as demanding freedom for themselves and refusing to allow it to blacks. In January 1785, he attended the second meeting of the New York Manumission Society (NYMS). John Jay was president and Hamilton was secretary; he later became president. He was also a member of the committee of the society which put a bill through the New York Legislature banning the export of slaves from New York; three months later, Hamilton returned a fugitive slave to Henry Laurens of South Carolina. Hamilton never supported forced emigration for freed slaves; it has been argued from this that he would be comfortable with a multiracial society, and this distinguished him from his contemporaries. In international affairs, he supported Toussaint L'Ouverture's black government in Haiti after the revolt that overthrew French control, as he had supported aid to the slaveowners in 1791 - both measures hurt France. He may have owned household slaves himself (the evidence for this is indirect; one biographer interprets it as referring to paid employees), and he did buy and sell them on behalf of others. He supported a gag rule to keep divisive discussions of slavery out of Congress, and he supported the compromise by which the United States could not abolish the slave trade for twenty years. When the Quakers of New York petitioned the First Congress (under the Constitution) for the abolition of the slave trade, and Benjamin Franklin and the Pennsylvania Abolition Society petitioned for the abolition of slavery, the NYMS did not act. Historian James Horton concludes that Hamilton's racial views, while not entirely egalitarian, were relatively progressive for his day.

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โˆ™ 2008-02-18 13:55:54
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Q: What was Alexander Hamilton's viewpoint on slavery?
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