Alexander Hamilton’s plan for a ‘Constitutional Society’ was outlined in a letter penned by Hamilton to James Bayard in April of 1802, two years before Hamilton’s fateful duel with Aaron Burr; this plan was the basis upon which the Constitutional Organization Of Liberty was created (essential text has been highlighted):
Your letter of the 12th instant has relieved me of some apprehension. Yet it is well that it should be perfectly understood by the truly sound part of the Federalists that there do, in fact, exist intrigues in good earnest between several individuals not unimportant, of the federal party, and the person in question, which are bottomed upon motives and views by no means auspicious to the real welfare of the country. I am glad to find that it is in the contemplation to adopt a plan of conduct. It is very necessary; and, to be useful, it must be efficient and comprehensive in the means which it embraces, at the same time that it must mediate none which are not really constitutional and patriotic. I will comply with your invitation by submitting some ideas which, from time to time, have passed through my mind.
Nothing is more fallacious than to expect to produce any valuable or permanent results in political projects by relying merely on the reason of men. Men are rather reasoning than reasonable animals, for the most part governed by the impulse of passion. This is well understood by our adversaries, who have practised upon it with no small benefit to their cause; for at the very moment they are eulogizing the reason of men, and professing to appeal only to that faculty, they are courting the strongest and most active passion of the human heart, vanity! It is no less true that the Federalists seem not to have attended to the fact sufficiently; and that they have erred in relying so much on the rectitude and utility of their measures as to have neglected the cultivation of popular favor, by fair and justifiable expedients. The observation has been repeatedly made to me by individuals with whom I particularly conversed, and expedients suggested for gaining good will, which were never adopted. Unluckily, however, for us, in the competition for the passions of the people, our opponents have great advantages over us; for the plain reason that the vicious are far more active than the good passions; and that, to win the former to our side, we must renounce our principles and our objects and unite in corrupting public opinion till it becomes fit for nothing but mischief. Yet, unless we can contrive to take hold of, and carry along with us some strong feelings of the mind, we shall in vain calculate upon any substantial or durable results.
Whatever plan we may adopt, to be successful, must be founded on the truth of this proposition. And perhaps it is not very easy for us to give it full effects; especially not without some deviations from what, on other occasions, we have maintained to be right. But in determining upon the propriety of the deviations, we must consider whether it be possible for us to succeed, without, in some degree, employing the weapons which have been employed against us, and whether the actual state and future prospect of things be not such as to justify the reciprocal use of them. I need not tell you that I do not mean to countenance the imitation of things intrinsically unworthy, but only of such as may be denominated irregular; such as, in a sound and stable order of things, ought not to exist. Neither are you to infer that any revolutionary result is contemplated. In my opinion, the present Constitution is the standard to which we are to cling. Under its banners, bona fide, must we combat our political foes, rejecting all changes but through the channel itself provides for amendments. By these general views of the subject have my reflections been guided. I now offer you the outline of the plan which they have suggested.
Let an association be formed to be denominated “The Christian Constitutional Society.” Its objects to be:
1st. The support of the Christian religion.
2d. The support of the Constitution of the United States.
1st. A council, consisting of a president and twelve members, of whom four and the president to be a quorum.
2d. A sub-directing council in each State, consisting of a vice-president and twelve members, of whom four, with the vice-president to be a quorum.
3d. As many societies of each State as local circumstances permit to be formed by the sub-directing council.
The meeting at Washington to nominate the president and the vice-president, together with four members of each of the councils, who are to complete their own numbers respectively.
The diffusion of information. For this purpose not only the newspapers, but pamphlets, must be largely employed, and to do this a fund must be created; five dollars annually, for eight years, to be contributed by each member who can really afford it (taking care not to burthen the less able brethren), may afford a competent fund for a competent term. It is essential to be able to disseminate gratis useful publications. Wherever it can be done, and there is a press, clubs should be formed, to meet once a week, read the newspapers, and prepare essays, papagraphs, etc.
2d. The use of all lawful means in concert to promote the election of fit men; a lively correspondence must be kept up between the different societies.
3d. The promoting of institutions of charitable and useful nature in the management of Federalists. The populous cities ought particularly to be attended to; perhaps it would be well to institute in such places 1st, societies for the relief of emigrants; 2d, academies, each with one professor, for instructing the different classes of mechanics in the principles of mechanics and the elements of chemistry. The cities have been employed by the Jacobins to give an impulse to the country; and it is believed to be an alarming fact that, while the question of presidential election was pending in the House of Representatives, parties were organizing in several of the cities in the event of there being no election, to cut off the leading Federalists and seize the government.
The foregoing to be the principal engine…. This is the general sketch of what has occurred to me. It is at the service of my friends for so much as it may be worth.