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The Hamilton Hustle

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  1. skybrian
    A false binary, considering that he was the author of most of the Federalist papers? Hamilton made a pretty out-there proposal during the Constitutional Convention, but was happy to fall into line...

    But Alexander Hamilton simply didn’t believe in democracy, which he labeled an American “disease.”

    A false binary, considering that he was the author of most of the Federalist papers? Hamilton made a pretty out-there proposal during the Constitutional Convention, but was happy to fall into line and defend democracy vigorously when it counted.

    I think it's fair to say he was wary of populism. Then again, after Shay's Rebellion, he had good reason to be. And in the Trump era, aren't we all? The People's decisions haven't been all that wise as of late.

    The abolition arguments are laughably false; Hamilton married into a slaveholding family and traded slaves himself.

    He was also a member of the "Society for the Promotion of the Manumission of Slaves in New York." It seems pretty clear that the man was not an uncompromising abolitionist, but that he did make some effort in that direction? Another false binary.

    In 1782 several men tried to organize an uprising against the Continental Congress. The key leader was Robert Morris, Congress’s superintendent of finance and one of Hamilton’s mentors. Morris was the wealthiest man in the country [...]

    Huh. I thought George Washington was the richest? Can't find a real comparison but here's a quote: "Although [Morris] was very wealthy for that area, his fortune paled in comparison to the fortune of plantation owners or the Englishmen that lived in the United Kingdom."

    Anyway, Hamilton was clearly in favor of the U.S. government paying its debts, not just to soldiers, but to everyone. Eventually he got his way. I think this is something most of us agree is a good thing? Apparently not the author of this article, who seems to think that a government capable of paying its debts is somehow sinister and valuing government debt at par is a "payoff." I guess he thinks the US should borrow money like Argentina and default every so often?

    The debt was owned by the wealthy, while ordinary farmers who had fought in the Revolution had to pay the tax in gold that they didn’t have.

    My understanding is that many soldiers who had somewhere to go back to didn't fight for very long before leaving due to the lack of pay and bad conditions. The soldiers who stuck to it at Valley Forge did so largely because they were destitute and had nowhere else to go. Also, the reason they had a hard time getting fed is not that there was no food, but the government's credit was no good. This is the difference between an army that has to loot and pillage versus one that can buy supplies. (Although, sometimes the lines were a bit blurry, paying with paper that might be worthless.)

    Hamilton's later military adventures were pretty darn weird, it is true. It seems in the post-revolutionary war era, having just won an improbable victory against the British, more than one leader got very optimistic about their chances to win wars?

    Attitudes about the military were different back then and very partisan. Not having an army was supposed to be good, according to Jefferson and the Republicans. (Local militias were supposed to be good enough.) It might be understandable that soldiers who had actually fought in the war rather than fleeing (as Jefferson had) and had seen militias in action might be skeptical of that.

    Also important to note that when FDR dedicated the Jefferson memorial, the Democrats were the party of the South, during the Jim Crow era. A tricky business, keeping that coalition going. Southern Democrats especially talked about being the party of Jefferson and Jackson. I'm wondering if promoting Jefferson over Hamilton was FDR's way of making peace with the segregationists?

    More and better-sourced history would have been nice. It would have been interesting to read more about how exactly Hamilton got onto the ten dollar bill in 1928, but I didn't find any further detail in a brief search.

    1 vote