“Alexander Hamilton is the foremost political figure in American history who never attained the presidency, yet he probably had a much deeper and more lasting impact than many who did.” Ron Chernow
Honesty compels me to confess that Broadway piqued my interest in Alexander Hamilton. Family and friends who were fortunate enough to see Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical about Hamilton raved.
My formal education in American history was deplorable. I took the required course in the eleventh grade. Probably made a “C” and probably didn’t deserve that. But I spent most of July 2016 overcoming that deficiency. I read all 738 pages of Ron Chernow’s biography of Hamilton. I loved it.
Somewhere in my under-utilized cranium was awareness of Hamilton versus Jefferson. I knew the name Aaron Burr. This volume remedied my early American history deficit.
Chernow covers Hamilton’s view of church and state: “The best government posture toward religion was one of passive tolerance, not active promotion of an established church.”
About mud slinging, Hamilton lamented that, “no character, however upright, is a match for constantly reiterated attacks, however false.” I’ve observed that in politics, religion, business and education.
Hamilton and George Washington often sided with one another against Thomas Jefferson and other “state’s rights” advocates. Hamilton and Washington “had drawn the same conclusions: the need for a national army, for centralized power over the states, for a strong executive, and for national unity.” When twenty-first century Americans want to interpret the Constitution according to the desires of our Founding Fathers, we would need to ask, “Which Founding Fathers?” They were no more homogeneous in thought than we are today.
Some of the issues our forebears wrestled with sound modern: “Hamilton had to combat the utopian notion that America could dispense with taxes altogether.”
Another twenty-first century conundrum: “For Hamilton, the federal government had a right to stimulate business and also when necessary to restrain it.”
Another current dilemma is mirrored from early years of our history: “It irked Hamilton that Jefferson claimed a monopoly on morality, and he made the following retort to his adversary: ‘As to the love of liberty and country, you have given no stronger proofs of being actuated by it than I have done. Cease then to arrogate to yourself and to your party all the patriotism and virtue of the country.’”
I love it!