NB: Cross-posted from the Cranky Conservative.
“Show, don’t tell” is a staple rule of writing. Though normally applied to narrative fiction, it ought to be a tenet of non-fiction, as it is crucial to provide substantiating evidence to prove a claim. Unfortunately, Brion McClanahan defies this cardinal rule throughout How Alexander Hamilton Screwed Up America, turning what could have been a valuable contribution to the internal debate on the right into an anti-Hamilton screed.
McClanahan’s thesis is that America’s founding principles were betrayed right out of the gate, and the arch antagonist is none other than the celebrated Alexander Hamilton. Hamiltonian nationalism, and the economic program it inspired, were unconstitutional usurpations of the original vision of an agrarian republic dominated by state and local interests. Hamilton’s constitutional interpretations were defiantly at odds with the bulk of his compatriots. What’s more, Hamilton outright lied during the ratification debates, underselling his nationalist vision to lull his fellow citizens into a fall sense of security, before unleashing his full-throated, state usurping program on an unsuspecting public.
Did I mention Alexander Hamilton lied? This is an oft repeated accusation in a book that at times reads liked a souped-up blog post, unleashing ad hominem attacks on the villains in McClanahan’s play-act, of which Hamilton is joined by three others: Supreme Court justices John Marshall, Joseph Story, and Hugo Black, who all solidified Hamilton’s betrayal through their extra-constitutional rulings.
McClanahan’s brief is pithy and concise. The narrative portions of the book are generally accurate (minus a few whoppers, such as labeling Stephen Knott a “liberal” historian), and distill the essences of the history and cases in a breezy manner. I could have used McClanahan while trudging through dull, dry constitutional law briefs in graduate school. Unfortunately, this pithiness comes at the expense of ever offering documentary evidence to substantiate his claims. Continue Reading
Events in history sometimes seem as if they were written by a novelist, or should I say Novelist. Such was the sad case of Philip Hamilton. Eldest son of Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Hamilton, Hamilton graduated at the age of 19 from Columbia, a brilliant student like his father. It was at a Fourth of July celebration at Columbia that he heard George I. Eacker, a 27 year old lawyer and a political supporter of Aaron Burr, give a speech attacking his father. Hamilton and his friend Richard Price called Eacker out in a Manhattan theater on November 21, 1801. Eacker called them damned rascals and they responded by challenging Eacker to duels. Eacker fought a duel the next day with Richard Price in which neither of the participants was injured, although shots were exchanged.
On November 22, 1801 in Weehawken, New Jersey, the same place where his father would receive his fatal wound from Aaron Burr, Hamilton and Eacker faced each other. Apparently they faced each other about a minute without raising their pistols, and one wishes that reason had prevailed. Eacker finally fired, hitting Hamilton in his right hip and left arm. Hamilton also fired, but this may have been merely an involuntary reaction to the force of the shot that hit him. Some sources say that Alexander Hamilton had counseled his son to fire in the air before his opponent fired, so that the matter could be settled honorably without blood shed. Continue Reading
Alternate history has always fascinated me. What if Hamilton hadn’t been killed by Burr at that fateful duel on July 11, 1804, two hundred and ten years ago. Could he have led a revival of the Federalist Party? Would he have finally achieved his lifelong ambition of military glory in the War of 1812? If he had become a national hero in the War of 1812, would I now be blogging about President Hamilton? So many possibilities snuffed out by the well aimed pistol of the worthless Burr.
This country was blessed at its founding to have on the scene a member of the Founding Fathers, Alexander Hamilton, who was a financial genius. His idea to have the Federal government adopt the Revolutionary War debts of the states in order to establish the credit of the new Federal government was a policy of genius. At a stroke he restored the credit of the country as a whole, made certain the debt would be paid, made America attractive to foreign investors and laid the basis of future American prosperity. His ideas on the subject were set forth in his first report to Congress on public credit, 1789, and which may be read here.
The final paragraph of the report is salient for the time in which we live: Continue Reading
The Congress shall have Power . . . To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water; – Article I, Section 8
The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment. – Article II, Section 2
It’s not a good feeling agreeing with Dennis Kucinich. Finding myself on the same side of an issue as Kucinich makes me seriously reconsider my opinion. But as they say, even a bind, deaf, paralyzed, rabies-afflicted squirrel finds a nut every now and again.
It’s less distressing to disagree with Charles Krauthammer. He’s usually spot on, but he tends to go off the rails when it comes to foreign policy. Not always, mind you, but in Krauthammer you can see the legitimate difference between neoconservatism and traditional conservatism. Last night he had this to say about the War Powers Act and President Obama’s
war hostilities kinetic military action in Libya:
KRAUTHAMMER: I understand why Congress wants to retain prerogatives, as does the president. I’m not surprised that Durbin would act this way. I am surprised that so many Republicans are jumping on the war powers resolution. They will regret it. If you have a Republican in office, you have isolationists Democrats trying to restrain his exercise of his powers under constitution and the Republicans aren’t going to like it.
I would not truck in war powers resolution. I have also think the administration’s defense of what it is doing is extremely week and misguided. Obama’s answer essentially is well, the resolution is out there. But it’s not relevant because it isn’t really a war, which is absurd.
BAIER: We’re not in hostilities.
KRAUTHAMMER: Right. What he should say I, like my other predecessor, I do not recognize the legality of this act and its authority over the presidency. That’s where he should make his stand.
BAIER: When he was Senator Obama he spoke the opposite.
KRAUTHAMMER: And as a president he is implicitly supporting the resolution saying it doesn’t apply here. It implies if it were a real war, as he pretends it’s not. I have to comply. No president ought to do that.
I agree with him with regards to Obama’s duplicity. I also share his skepticism about the War Powers Act. But he’s wrong about the rest. Continue Reading
There’s been some buzz lately about states kicking the idea of nullification around. State legislators in Nebraska have been circulating a little tome by Thomas Woods on the subject, and there’s been some news reports of states considering the idea with regards to health care. Before conservatives go trumpeting this idea as some way of saving the republic, let’s keep in mind something: it’s a bad idea that happens to be unconstitutional.
Whenever the idea of nullification comes up we inevitably hear about Thomas Jefferson’s Kentucky Resolution and James Madison’s Virginia Resolution. They were penned in response to the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. The key passages from Jefferson’s resolution is as follows: Continue Reading
The proposed mosque set to be built near Ground Zero, site of the September 11, 2001 attacks has brought a sweeping condemnation from both rank and file conservatives and the Conservative Intelligentsia. Now that President Barack Obama has weighed in the matter, seemingly supporting the effort, one can only imagine how this will be used in the fall elections. However, a rift has appeared to have been opened concerning the views of the rank and file conservatives and the Conservative Intelligentsia following the ruling of Judge Vaughn Walker over same-sex marriage. Many of the conservative intelligentsia, along with the establishment wing of the Republican Party has either been silent or voiced the view that the wished the whole gay marriage issue would simply go away. This has led to bewilderment from some conservative voices.
The best Catholic tie in with the efforts to build a mosque on Ground Zero came from the famed conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer, who is Jewish. In his opposition to the mosque being built near Ground Zero, he correctly pointed out that Pope John Paul II ordered Carmelite nuns, who were living right next to Auschwitz, to move closer to a nearby town, since the site had become a rallying point for Jewish identity. Krauthammer correctly pointed out that Christians had been murdered there too and the nuns were doing the heroic deed of praying for the souls of those who were viciously murdered. However, Krauthammer pointed out that the late Polish pontiff felt that it created the wrong perception.
President Obama seems to carry the world view that of an elite academic, that all the problems this nation faces can be solved with government intervention through high taxes and and legislation that enacts social engineering of a society of independence to that of dependence.
Or as the average layman would say, President Obama is a socialist, plain and simple.
I understand the subtleties of his liberal leanings and his good intentions, but the path to Hell is often made with good intentions. With the failed Communist experiment in Russia in 1988 and the current economic collapse of Greece with Spain and Portugal on the horizon to experience the same, I don’t see how more spending with money we don’t have for welfare programs that we don’t need will solve our economic woes.
Like many intellectual men in Revolutionary America and Western Europe, Alexander Hamilton bought into the Deist ideas of a Creator, but certainly not a Creator who needed a Son to rise from the dead or perform miracles, and certainly not the continuous miracle of the Eucharist. Most leaders of the American Revolution were baptized Anglicans who later in life rarely attended Sunday services, the exception being George Washington. The first President was the rare exception of a Founding Father who often attended Anglican-Episcopal Services, though he occasionally did leave before Holy Communion, which many intellectuals in the colonies (and most of England) decried as “popery.”
Hamilton was a unique man, who unlike many of the Revolution was not born in the colonies, but in the Caribbean and was born into poverty at that. He was practically an orphan as his father left his mother and she subsequently died from an epidemic. At a young age Hamilton showed so much promise that the residents of Christiansted, St Croix (now the American Virgin Islands) took up a collection to send him to school in New England. As a child, Hamilton excelled at informal learning picking up on what he could from passersby and those who took the time to help him. In August of 1772, a great hurricane hit the Caribbean. Hamilton wrote about it in such vivid detail that it wound up being published in New York.
It was at this point that the residents of Christiansted answered the local Anglican pastor’s request and enough money was raised to send Hamilton to school in the colonies. While in school, Hamilton would excel and wound up in the Revolutionary Army as a young officer. By the time of Yorktown, General Washington thought enough of the 24 year old to have him lead a charge on one of the redoubts of Yorktown. It was here that the “Young Americans” and their French counterparts on land and sea, overwhelmed the British and the world turned upside down.