George Washington was dying. The rumor spread quickly through Manhattan neighborhoods ravaged by influenza, the "contagious distemper" first diagnosed on Roman streets half a century earlier. Impartial to class, color, or politics, the disease was more democratic than the young American republic whose ruling elite it threatened. At a boardinghouse on Maiden Lane, Congressman James Madison took to his bed, too sick to argue with Alexander Hamilton over the secretary of the treasury's audacious plan to consolidate federal power by having the government in New York assume the debts and revenue sources formerly reserved for individual states.
- From Patriarch: George Washington and the New American Nation by Richard Norton Smith