August 21, 1798
The two men rode into the city just as the sun reached its zenith in the afternoon sky. The younger one squinted up at the bright, blue sky, breathed in the damp, hot air, and looked around at the looming buildings of the American capital. The older remained unimpressed. Warren saw Norwich on a regular basis and could walk through the city blindfolded. The younger man, however, was visiting the city for the first time since its reconstruction and was enthralled by the sights. The last time he had seen the city, he and his troops had been fighting on its outskirts.
They rode along, approaching the Federal Building, its lofty six-story height towering over the older structures of the Capital Territory. Even within the shadow of the brick building, evidence of the city’s past abounded. Even passing a bar simply called the “Baltimore Pub,” caused Alex to do a double-take. Up north, they hadn’t called the capital by its former name in almost a decade and a half. Joe Warren watched his young friend and smiled. Young, Warren thought with a laugh, Alex turned forty-one last year.
A sergeant in dark green uniform hitched both men’s horses in the main yard of the Federal Building. The sergeant, who turned out to be one of the President-General’s aides, saluted Hamilton, who also wore the uniform of the American Army. “General,” the sergeant said, receiving a salute in return from the General. Surrounded by a thick, ten-foot-tall brick wall, the Federal Building, with its massive size and white dome, was impressive, to say the least. The men took the steps slowly and Hamilton watched Joseph Warren favor his right leg (the result of a wound he had suffered at the Battle of Bunker Hill), the sergeant in tow.
Nearing the massive wooden doors of the building, the men were thrown down the steps as the doors were flung open. A well-dressed man, high with his own natural superiority, rushed out of the building, a continuous of stream of words pouring out of his mouths. From the tone of the man’s voice and his own limited knowledge of French, Warren knew that the man was cursing and swearing about his American hosts and, especially, the President-General. The man leaped on his horse and galloped towards the foreign embassies near the waterfront.
“What had the Ambassador so cross with our great Republic?” Warren asked the man standing inside the door, a slight smile playing across his face. Benjamin Rush, the Director of Foreign Affairs, had evidently shown the French Ambassador the door, as he stood just inside, ordering the sergeant to assign a detail to make sure the Frenchman found his way to the embassy with ‘all due haste and care.’ Rush looked over at his counterpart from the Department of Domestic Affairs and flashed a smile. Holding up a single finger, signaling for Warren to wait one moment, Rush finished giving instructions to the sergeant, who hurried off at a jog.
The Pennsylvanian watched the sergeant hurry off before stepping towards Warren and Alex, a tired, but familiar, smile on his face, his arms spread wide. “Director Warren, good to see you back in town. General Hamilton, always a pleasure,” Rush said, bowing slightly and then offering his hand. Hamilton smiled and responded in kind. He’d only met Rush once, and for only a handful of minutes, at that. Seeing the question on Warren’s face, Rush held up both hands and said, “Hold the questions for just a moment, gentlemen, and I think you’ll both find the reasons for calling you here apparent.”
With that, Rush, the highest ranking diplomat of the Republic of America, spun on his heels, ushering the Director of Domestic Affairs and General, the second-highest ranking officer in the American Army, to follow him. The four men, including the sergeant who quietly followed, bounded up five flights of stairs, whipping by the Department of Foreign Affairs on the second floor, Hall of Assembly on the third (actually, with its thirty-foot ceilings, the third and fourth floors), the Department of Domestic Affairs on the fifth, and, finally, the executive suites, housing the offices of the President of the Congress, Director of Domestic, and Foreign, Affairs, plus, most importantly, the President-General’s office suite, on the sixth, and final, floor.
The sergeant trailed off, headed for his own office as the three men swept into first the President-General’s sitting room and finally his office overlooking the port. Hamilton looked around. It was the second time he’d been in the President-General’s office and it was every bit as luxurious as he remembered. Even, the President-General hunched over his desk, reading a thick sheaf of paper, a flask lying on his desk. Exactly the same, Hamilton thought. It was widely rumored that the flask was full of water and was the President-General’s way of shocking others, and, thus, gaining an upper hand in negotiations and meetings. Hearing the door close, the President-General looked up, a pair of reading glasses perched on his nose. Maybe not exactly the same, Hamilton thought.
“Good afternoon, Gentlemen, General.” This came not from the President-General, who looked back down at the report in front of him, but from the couch across the room. Turning, Rush and Warren nodded. Hamilton saluted General Nathanael Greene. Greene threw a half-assed salute back in his direction.
“You look well, sir,” Hamilton said. And it was true. Twelve years earlier, after the Revolution, Greene had taken ill. While he was ill, the President-General sent for him to fight in a projected rematch against their British nemesis. Greene had, almost miraculously, been out of bed and in the newly renamed capital in less than three weeks. Now, Greene, age 56, was the highest ranking officer in the American Army. All four heads swung around at once as the President-General cleared his throat and began to speak.
“Gentlemen, as you may know, following the ejection of French Foreign Minister Talleyrand at my request, the…despicable French government has been extremely hostile to our own.” Everyone knew that ever before the French had abandoned America following the death of General Washington in 1777, the President-General, himself a former military commander, obviously, had hated the French. “Now, the representatives of this new French leader –“ the President-General looked at his report “– Napoleon Bonaparte, have informed me that they will not tolerate further incursions on French shipping. Our Navy’s operation has currently captured –“ again he looked at the report “– twenty one ships operating under the illegal flag of the French revolutionary forces. Now, the most latest development, our friends, the British, have offered support in any action against the French.
“In short, after a confrontation with the French minister to the Republic of America, I have ordered all French diplomats and citizens to leave our nation. As you may have seen, the French minister was not exactly pleased.” President-General Benedict Arnold looked around the room, his gaze stopping on Greene and Hamilton. “General Greene, General Hamilton, I believe it is time that we start preparing for war…”
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