Hamilton: The New Hero of the Progressive Left

Hamilton, the Musical, opened on Broadway in August 2015, and by the spring, won the Tony Award for Best Musical. Hailed by all as a great musical, the cast was rather a curious mixture that had little to do with historical fact.

 

The musical became a particular hit with the Left. No fans of the Founding Fathers, they found their Founding Father in Alexander Hamilton, who advocated for a centralized government (for the sake of taxation; in the previous incarnation as the Articles of Confederation, the individual states refused to ante up to support the Colonial Army, leaving them in rags to starve) and believed in the redistribution of wealth:

 

“Happy it is when the interest which the government has in the preservation of its own power coincides with a proper distribution of the public burdens and tends to guard the least wealthy part of the community from oppression.” The Federalist Papers, No. 36.

 

Hamilton recruited John Jay and James Madison to write a series of essays defending the proposed Constitution, now known as The Federalist Papers, and made the largest contribution to that effort, writing 51 of 85 essays published (Madison wrote 29, Jay only five).  Hamilton supervised the entire project, enlisted the participants, wrote the majority of the essays, and oversaw the publication.

 

During the project each person was responsible for their areas of expertise; Jay covered foreign relations, Madison covered the history of republics and confederacies, along with the anatomy of the new government and Hamilton covered the branches of government most pertinent to him: the executive and judicial branches, with some aspects of the Senate, as well as covering military matters and taxation.  The papers first appeared in The Independent Journal on October 27, 1787.

 

Hamilton wrote the first paper signed as “Publius,” and all of the subsequent papers were signed under the name. Jay wrote the next four papers to elaborate on the weakness of the Articles of Confederation and the need for unity against foreign aggression and against splitting into rival confederacies, and, except for Number 64, was not further involved.

 

Hamilton’s highlights included discussion that although republics have been culpable for disorders in the past, advances in the “science of politics” had fostered principles that ensured that those abuses could be prevented, such as the division of powers, legislative checks and balances, an independent judiciary, and legislators that were represented by electors (Numbers 7–9).

 

Hamilton also wrote an extensive defense of the constitution (No. 23–36), and discussed the Senate and executive and judicial branches in Numbers 65–85. Hamilton and Madison worked to describe the anarchic state of the confederation in numbers 15–22, and have been described as not being entirely different in thought during this time period in contrast to their stark opposition later in life. Subtle differences appeared with the two when discussing the necessity of standing armies.

 

Hamilton was born out of wedlock to a married woman of French Huguenot (Catholic) and British Ancestry and a Scottish father, James A. Hamilton. as a child by his mother’s death and his father’s abandonment, he was taken in by an older cousin, and later by a prosperous merchant family which engaged in trade in the Caribbean. History does not indicate that he was Hispanic, although he was born in Charlestown on the island of Nevis, in what is now known as Saint Kitts and Nevis in the Leeward Islands.

 

He married Elizabeth Schuyler and purchased land in northwestern New Jersey, which he named “New Barbados.”   He fought in no less than eight battles during the Revolutionary War and was considered a great leader.

 

Although Hamilton and James Madison, along with John Jay, co-authored the Federalist Papers, they had many ideological differences. Hamilton favored building a national army to go to war with France, a war which George Washington opposed, while then-President John Adams eventually found a diplomatic solution to the conflict.

 

Hamilton helped defeat John Adams for re-election. Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr tied for the presidency in the electoral college in 1801, and Hamilton helped to defeat Burr, whom he found unprincipled, and to elect Jefferson despite philosophical differences.

 

Hamilton continued his legal and business activities in New York City, but lost much of his national prominence within the Federalist Party. Vice President Burr ran for governor of New York State in 1804, and Hamilton crusaded against him as unworthy. Burr took offense at some of Hamilton’s comments and challenged him to a duel in 1804 in Weehawken, N.J. He mortally wounded Hamilton – a man who he had rescued during the Revolutionary War – (who, according to legend, fired into the air), who died the next day.

 

Burr was never tried for the illegal duel, and all charges against him were eventually dropped, but Hamilton’s death ended Burr’s political career.

 

During Hamilton’s tenure as Treasury Secretary, political factions began to emerge. A Congressional caucus, led by James Madison and William Branch Giles, began as an opposition group to Hamilton’s financial programs, and Thomas Jefferson joined this group when he returned from France. Hamilton and his allies began to call themselves “Federalists”. The opposition group, now called the Democratic-Republican Party by political scientists, was at the time known as Republicans.

 

Hamilton assembled a nationwide coalition to garner support for the Administration, including the expansive financial programs Hamilton had made Administration policy and especially the president’s policy of neutrality in the European war between Britain and France. Hamilton’s public relations campaign attacked the French minister Edmond-Charles Genêt (he called himself “Citizen Genêt”) who tried to appeal to voters directly, which Federalists denounced as foreign interference in American affairs.  If Hamilton’s administrative republic was to succeed, Americans had to see themselves as nation citizens, and experience an administration that proved firm and demonstrated the concepts found within the United States Constitution. The Federalists did impose some internal direct taxes but they departed from the most implications of the Hamilton administrative republic as risky.

 

The Jeffersonian Republicans opposed banks and cities, and favored France. They built their own national coalition to oppose the Federalists. Both sides gained the support of local political factions; each side developed its own partisan newspapers. Noah Webster, John Fenno, and William Cobbett were energetic editors for the Federalists; Benjamin Franklin Bache and Philip Freneau were fiery Republican editors. All the newspapers were characterized by intense personal attacks, major exaggerations and invented claims. In 1801, Hamilton established a daily newspaper, the New York Evening Post. It is still publishing today, as the New York Post.

 

The quarrel between Hamilton and Jefferson is the best known and historically the most important in American political history. Hamilton’s and Jefferson’s incompatibility was heightened by the unavowed wish of each to be George Washington’s principal and most trusted advisor.

 

Hamilton is the first major American politician known to have had a sex scandal. In 1791, Hamilton became involved in an affair with Maria Reynolds over a nine-month period that would be revealed to the public several years afterward [sound familiar?].  Reynolds appeared to Hamilton as a woman who had been abandoned by her husband, James, at New York and wished to return to there.  Hamilton did not have any money on his person, so he retrieved her address in order to deliver the funds in person.

 

After the brief dialogue in Reynolds’ bedroom [can anyone say “Paula Jones”?], he had frequent meetings with her. Hamilton then received two letters on December 15, 1791, one from both Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds. The first letter was Maria warning of her husband’s knowledge and of James attempting to blackmail Hamilton. By this point Hamilton contemplated ending the relationship, and briefly ceased to visit, but both apparently were involved in the blackmailing scheme as both sent letters, and at one point James Reynolds requested to “befriend” her. By May 1792, James Reynolds had requested for Hamilton to no longer see his wife, but not before receiving fifty and two hundred dollars out of over $1300 in blackmail.  Hamilton possibly was aware of both Reynolds’ being involved before the blackmailing incident.

 

In the 1800 election, Hamilton worked to defeat not only the rival Democratic-Republican candidates, but also his party’s own nominee, John Adams. In November 1799, the Alien and Sedition Acts had left one Democratic-Republican newspaper functioning in New York City; when the last, the New Daily Advertiser, reprinted an article saying that Hamilton had attempted to purchase the Philadelphia Aurora and close it down, Hamilton had the publisher prosecuted for seditious libel, and the prosecution compelled the owner to close the paper.

 

Aaron Burr had won New York for Jefferson in May; now Hamilton proposed a rerun of the election under different rules—with carefully drawn districts and each choosing an elector—such that the Federalists would split the electoral vote of New York. (John Jay, a Federalist who had given up the Supreme Court to be Governor of New York, wrote on the back of the letter the words, “Proposing a measure for party purposes which it would not become me to adopt,” and declined to reply/”).

 

Hamilton wrote a pamphlet called Letter from Alexander Hamilton, Concerning the Public Conduct and Character of John Adams, Esq. President of the United States that was highly critical of him, though it closed with a tepid endorsement.  He mailed this to two hundred leading Federalists; when a copy fell into the Democratic-Republicans’ hands, they printed it. This hurt Adams’s 1800 reelection campaign and split the Federalist Party, virtually assuring the victory of the Democratic-Republican Party, led by Jefferson, in the election of 1800; it destroyed Hamilton’s position among the Federalists.

 

Jefferson had beaten Adams, but both he and his running mate, Aaron Burr, had received 73 votes in the Electoral College (Adams finished in third place, Pinckney in fourth, and Jay received one vote). With Jefferson and Burr tied, the United States House of Representatives had to choose between the two men. Several Federalists who opposed Jefferson supported Burr, and for the first 35 ballots, Jefferson was denied a majority. Before the 36th ballot, Hamilton threw his weight behind Jefferson, supporting the arrangement reached by James A. Bayard of Delaware, in which five Federalist Representatives from Maryland and Vermont abstained from voting, allowing those states’ delegations to go for Jefferson, ending the impasse and electing Jefferson President rather than Burr.

 

Even though Hamilton did not like Jefferson and disagreed with him on many issues, he viewed Jefferson as the lesser of two evils. Hamilton spoke of Jefferson as being “by far not so a dangerous man,” and that Burr was a “mischievous enemy” to the principle measure of the past administration. There is some circumstantial evidence (much disputed), however, that what Hamilton really feared was Burr’s appeal to the members of the Federalist Party and loss of his control over them. Many Federalists, it is hypothesized, viewed Burr as a moderate who was willing to dialogue with them.  It was for that reason, along with the fact that Burr was a Northerner and not a Virginian, that many Federalist Representatives voted for him.

 

Hamilton wrote an exceeding number of letters to friends in Congress to convince the members to see otherwise.  However, the Federalists rejected Hamilton’s diatribe as reasons to not vote for Burr.  Nevertheless, Burr would become Vice President of the United States. When it became clear that Jefferson had developed his own concerns about Burr and would not support his return to the Vice Presidency, Burr sought the New York governorship in 1804 with Federalist support, against the Jeffersonian Morgan Lewis, but was defeated by forces including Hamilton.

 

Soon after the 1804 gubernatorial election in New York, the Albany Register published Charles D. Cooper’s letters, citing Hamilton’s opposition to Burr and alleging that Hamilton had expressed “a still more despicable opinion” of the Vice President at an upstate New York dinner party.  Cooper claimed that the letter was intercepted after relaying the information, but stated he was “unusually cautious” in recollecting the information from the dinner. Burr, sensing an attack on his honor, and recovering from his defeat, demanded an apology in letter form. Hamilton wrote a letter in response and ultimately refused because he could not recall the instance of insulting Burr; also, Hamilton would have been accused of recanting Cooper’s letter out of cowardice. After a series of attempts to reconcile were to no avail, the duel was accepted through liaisons on June 27, 1804.

 

The night before the duel, Hamilton wrote a defense of his decision to duel. Hamilton viewed his roles of being a father and husband, putting his creditors at risk, placing his family’s welfare in jeopardy and his moral and religious stances as reasons not to duel, but he felt it impossible to avoid due to having made attacks on Burr which he was unable to recant, and because of Burr’s behavior prior to the duel. He attempted to reconcile his moral and religious reasons and the codes of honor and politics. He intended to accept the duel and throw his fire [not shoot at Burr] in order to satisfy his morals and political codes, respectively. His desire to be available for future political matters also played a factor.

 

So what earned Aaron Burr the wrath of Alexander Hamilton? According to Wikipedia (note:  W is not well-known for its accuracy), it went something like this:

 

After Burr left the Vice-Presidency at the end of his term in 1805, he journeyed into what was then the Western frontier, areas west of the Allegheny Mountains and down the Ohio River Valley eventually reaching the lands acquired in the Louisiana Purchase (from Napoleon). Burr had leased 40,000 acres (16,000 ha) of land—known as the Bastrop Tract—along the Ouachita River, in what is now Louisiana, from the Spanish government. Starting in Pittsburgh and then proceeding to Beaver, Pa., and Wheeling, Va., and onward he drummed up support for his plans.

 

His most important contact was Gen. James Wilkinson, Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Army at New Orleans and Governor of the Louisiana Territory. Others included Harman Blennerhassett, who offered the use of his private island for training and outfitting Burr’s expedition. Wilkinson was later proved to be a bad choice.

 

Burr saw war with Spain as a distinct possibility. In case of a war declaration, Andrew Jackson0 stood ready to help Burr, who would be in position to immediately join in. Burr’s expedition of about eighty men carried modest arms for hunting, and no war materiel was ever revealed, even when Blennerhassett Island was seized by the Ohio militia.  His “conspiracy,” he always avowed, was that if he settled there with a large group of (armed) “farmers” and war broke out, he would have an army with which to fight and claim land for himself, thus recouping his fortunes.  However, the 1819 Adams–Onís Treaty secured Florida for the United States without a fight, and war in Texas did not occur until 1836, the year Burr died.

 

After a near-incident with Spanish forces at Natchitoches, Wilkinson decided he could best serve his conflicting interests by betraying Burr’s plans to President Jefferson and to his Spanish paymasters. Jefferson issued an order for Burr’s arrest, declaring him a traitor before any indictment.  Burr read this in a newspaper in the Territory of Orleans on Jan. 10, 1807. Jefferson’s warrant put Federal agents on his trail. Burr twice turned himself in to the Federal authorities. Two judges found his actions legal and released him.

 

Jefferson’s warrant, however, followed Burr, who fled to Spanish Florida. He was intercepted at Wakefield, in Mississippi Territory (now in the state of Alabama), on Feb. 19, 1807. He was confined to For Stoddert after being arrested on charges of treason.

 

Burr’s secret correspondence with Anthony Merry and the Marquis of Casa Yrujo, the British and Spanish ministers at Washington, was eventually revealed. He had tried to secure money and to conceal his true designs, which was to help Mexico overthrow Spanish power in the Southwest. Burr intended to found a dynasty in what would have become former Mexican territory.  This was a misdemeanor, based on the Neutrality Act of 1794, which Congress passed to block filibuster expeditions against U.S. neighbors, such as those of George Rogers Clark and William Blount.  Jefferson, however, sought the highest charges against Burr.

 

In 1807, Burr was brought to trial on a charge of treason before the United States Circuit Court at Richmond, Va. Burr had been arraigned four times for treason before a grand jury indicted him. The only physical evidence presented to the Grand Jury was Wilkinson’s so-called letter from Burr, which proposed the idea of stealing land in the Louisiana Purchase.  During the jury’s examination, the court discovered that the letter was written in Wilkinson’s own handwriting. He said he had made a copy because he had lost the original. The grand jury threw the letter out as evidence, and the news made a laughingstock of the general for the rest of the proceedings.

 

Chief Justice of the United States John Marshall presided over the trial. Article 3, Section 3 of the United States Constitution requires that treason either be admitted in open court, or proved by an overt act witnessed by two people. Since no two witnesses came forward, Burr was acquitted, in spite of the full force of the Jefferson administration’s political influence thrown against him. Burr was immediately tried on a misdemeanor charge and was again acquitted.

 

Given that Jefferson was using his influence as president in an effort to obtain a conviction, the trial was a major test of the Constitution and the concept of separation of power. Jefferson challenged the authority of the Supreme Court and its Chief Justice John Marshall, an Adams appointee who clashed with Jefferson over John Adams’s last-minute judicial appointments. Jefferson believed that Burr’s treason was obvious. Burr sent a letter to Jefferson in which he stated that he could do Jefferson much harm. The case as tried was decided on whether Aaron Burr was present at certain events at certain times and in certain capacities. Thomas Jefferson used all of his influence to get Marshall to convict, but Marshall was not swayed.

 

Historians Nancy Isenberg and Andrew Burstein write that Burr:

 

…was not guilty of treason, nor was he ever convicted, because there was no evidence, not one credible piece of testimony, and the star witness for the prosecution had to admit that he had doctored a letter implicating Burr.

 

David O. Stewart, on the other hand, insists that while Burr was not explicitly guilty of treason according to Marshall’s definition, evidence exists that links him to treasonous crimes. For example, Bollman admitted to Jefferson during an interrogation that Burr planned to raise an army and invade Mexico. He said that Burr believed that he should be Mexico’s monarch, as a republican government was not right for the Mexican people. Many historians believe the extent of Burr’s involvement may never be known.

 

But before Leftist Progressives begin crying “racist,” they should know this;

 

In 1784 as a New York state assemblyman, Burr unsuccessfully sought to abolish slavery immediately following the American Revolutionary War. The legislature in 1799 finally abolished slavery in New York.  John Quincy Adams wrote in his diary when Burr died:  “Burr’s life, take it all together, was such as in any country of sound morals his friends would be desirous of burying in quiet oblivion.”  Adams’s father, President John Adams, had frequently defended Burr during his life. At an earlier time, he wrote, Burr “had served in the army, and came out of it with the character of a knight without fear and an able officer.”

 

Gordon S. Wood, a leading scholar of the revolutionary period, holds that it was Burr’s character (he had a tendency to solicit prostitutes and may have suffered from syphilis) that put him at odds with the rest of the “Founding fathers,” especially Madison, Jefferson, and Hamilton. He believed that this led to his personal and political defeats and, ultimately, to his place outside the golden circle of revered revolutionary figures.

 

Because of Burr’s habit of placing self-interest above the good of the whole, those men thought that Burr represented a serious threat to the ideals for which they had fought the revolution. Their ideal, as particularly embodied in Washington and Jefferson, was that of “disinterested politics,” a government led by educated gentlemen who would fulfill their duties in a spirit of public virtue and without regard to personal interests or pursuits. This was the core of an Enlightenment gentleman, and Burr’s political enemies thought that he lacked that essential core. Hamilton thought that Burr’s self-serving nature made him unfit to hold office— especially the presidency.

 

Although Hamilton considered Jefferson a political enemy, he believed him a man of public virtue. Hamilton conducted an unrelenting campaign in the House of Representatives to prevent Burr’s election to the presidency and gain election of his erstwhile enemy, Jefferson. Hamilton characterized Burr as greatly immoral, “unprincipled … voluptuary,” and deemed his political quest as one for “permanent power.”  He predicted that if Burr gained power, his leadership would be for personal gain, but that Jefferson was committed to preserving the Constitution.

 

Young Progressive Marxists, it appears, know very little of the history of their hero, Hamilton, and his great adversary, Burr. Burr wanted to take over Mexico by force; Obama wants the Mexicans, and other illegal immigrants, to take over California by force of numbers and have them agitate through violence for the overthrow of the Electoral College.  Hamilton, indeed, like Obama, was an advocate of redistributing the wealth.

 

James Madison writes the most fully about the naturalization of citizens and protection of the borders. But even Hamilton defends the Electoral College, which so frustrates Democrat voters, especially the illegal ones.  ‘It’s so unfair!’ college students whine.

 

We’ve covered Federalist Paper No. 68 once already, but it bears repeating, in light of the Hamiltonians, regarding the Electoral College:

 

The mode of appointment of the Chief Magistrate of the United States is almost the only part of the system, of any consequence, which has escaped without severe censure or which has received the slight mark of approbation from its opponents. The most plausible of these, who has appeared in print, has even deigned to admit that the election of the President is pretty well guarded.  I venture somewhat further, and hesitate not to affirm that if the manner of it be not perfect, it is at least excellent.  It unites in an eminent degree all the advantages the union of which was to be desired.

 

It was desirable that the sense of the people should operate in the choice of the person to whom so important a trust was to be confided. This end will be answered by committing the right of making it, not to any pre-established body, but to men chosen by the people for the special purpose, and at the particular juncture.

 

But to answer to the specific insult to the Vice President-Elect of the United States, Mike Pence, at last evening’s performance of Hamilton, the Musical, it seems ironic that the cast would chide the impeccable Pence for choosing to run alongside the controversial, but relatively unscathed Donald Trump when the same cast embraced the seriously ethically-challenged Hillary Clinton (and her philandering husband, former President Clinton, impeached by the House of Representatives).

 

Would Hamilton, who was also not unscathed by scandal, on about the same scale as Trump – maybe even more so – be honored to find the actor playing him scolding an honorable Vice President-Elect of the United States, whose running mate and boss defeated another presidential candidate so enmeshed in scandal?

 

Hamilton permitted himself to be fatally shot rather than apologize to someone he considered to be so morally corrupt. We don’t expect Vice President-Elect Pence to travel over to Weehawken to duke it out with a ridiculous, Liberal actor.

 

The producers obviously wanted to “cast” Donald Trump in the role of an Aaron Burr, demanding an apology for such a slight, in absentia via his lieutenant, to his character.

 

They should take a long walk off the Port Imperial pier.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Published in: on November 19, 2016 at 2:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

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