Alexander Hamilton was one of the few revolutionaries to contribute both the power of his words and the might of his sword to the cause for American independence. Beginning in December 1774 -- while a seventeen-year-old student at King’s College -- he wrote a series of anonymously published political essays defending the right of Americans to govern themselves. These writings established him as one of the leading voices of the American cause and one of the best essayists in the colonies -- “our oracle,” said one New Yorker.
These pamphlets were responses to pro-British essays penned by a loyalist, Samuel Seabury, who wrote under the pseudonym “a Farmer.” Hamilton invoked the philosophy of natural rights and civil liberties, and the limits of English constitutional authority, to argue for American self-governance. His first essay, A Full Vindication of the Measures of the Congress, defended the formation of the Continental Congress and its boycott of British goods. Just two months later, in February 1775, Hamilton published his second essay -- a much longer, more elegant, and more persuasive plea for protecting Americans’ rights and liberties in the face of British oppression. In this work, he expressed hope for a peaceful solution to the colonial crisis, but he urged his readers not to underestimate the American side if war could not be avoided: “Whatever may be said of the disciplined troops of Britain, the event of the contest must be extremely doubtful. There is a certain enthusiasm in liberty that makes human nature rise above itself in acts of bravery and heroism.” Hamilton’s essays contributed to the growing fervor for independence in New York, especially after word of the Battles of Lexington and Concord reached the city on April 23, 1775.