blue bits. red rocks.

founding fathers

In other words, saying Hamilton can guide us today requires a) taking the man out of context or b) making the lessons impossibly broad. There is no “leftist” Hamilton because he would never have recognized such a thing could be possible. It’s a construction of Hamilton based upon chosen facts and stories that serve a modern political purpose. I guess that’s alright, but it certainly raises the eyebrows of this historian. And if we are to learn this lesson from Hamilton, what other lessons should we learn? That the Alien and Sedition Acts were a good idea? That democracy is scary and should be crushed? None of these Founders are less complex than Jefferson; that the latter was a slaveholder who hated the urban poor was terrible, but he did genuinely believe in a form of democracy that was advanced for its day, even if it was a herrenvolk democracy. Hamilton sure didn’t believe in any form of democracy that advanced. If we are reappropriating Hamilton for the left, we have to reckon with these questions because they are as central to his being as creating the institutions of American capitalism, including a functioning federal government. Otherwise, we are cherry picking what we like about him. The Leftist Hamilton?

There’s merit in trying to ascertain what the Founders intended the Constitution to mean, but that doesn’t mean that our understanding has to be the same. George Washington wanted a well-regulated militia but he couldn’t imagine a teenager gunning down two classrooms of first graders in less than five minutes. I think if Washington took a guided tour of the Pentagon and the Situation Room, his concern about having a well-regulated militia would go out the door. If he saw what happens on a regular basis in our schools, malls, and workplaces with gun violence, I think he’d be appalled. In his day mass shootings weren’t just unusual, they were impossible. I don’t think he’d believe that the NRA was being reasonable at all. Booman Tribune

During the hectic revolutionary 1790s, Jefferson lived peacefully among his many slaves, while John Adams was fortifying his house in fear that the American mob would imitate their French peers. President Adams insisted on being addressed as “Your Excellency” and riding in a fancy carriage. Jefferson walked to his inauguration, introduced relaxed manners into White House social occasions, and sent his annual message in writing to Congress rather than delivering it to the assembled congressmen like the monarch from the throne. Their behaviours marked the difference between a real aristocrat and a wannabe aristocrat. Looking for Thomas Jefferson

…Jefferson may have been America’s original “chicken hawk,” talking cavalierly about other people’s blood as “manure” for liberty but finding his own too precious to risk. Nevertheless, Jefferson later built his political career by questioning the revolutionary commitment of Alexander Hamilton and even George Washington, who repeatedly did risk their lives in fighting for American liberty. Tea Party and Thomas Jefferson

The rough equality of property that these men sometimes — and not always — hymned often refers to rough equality among those with property. Leaving aside for a moment the scabrous contradictions espoused in all this equality talk by the slaveowners Jefferson, Madison, and Washington, we should face the stark fact Adams’s and Hamilton’s visions, for example, do not embrace the enormous numbers of tenants, sharecroppers, and landless laborers that all of the founders — and too many modern writers — blur out of the rosy founding picture, even as the famous founders’ enterprises depended heavily on that source of labor. If Only: the Founders and Income Inequality

But where says some is the King of America? I’ll tell you Friend, he reigns above, and doth not make havoc of mankind like the Royal Brute of Britain. Yet that we may not appear to be defective even in earthly honors, let a day be solemnly set apart for proclaiming the charter; let it be brought forth placed on the divine law, the word of God; let a crown be placed thereon, by which the world may know, that so far as we approve as monarchy, that in America THE LAW IS KING. Tom Paine

Almost every important American founder was heavily leveraged and obsessively focused on the chaotic, swelling, inflating and deflating market for western land. George Washington, Patrick Henry, George Mason, Thomas Jefferson, Richard Henry Lee, John Dickinson, Benjamin Franklin, James Wilson, Robert Morris, James Schuyler, Alexander Hamilton, George Clinton, Samuel Adams: these are among the biggest names, some of them holding many hundreds of thousands of acres at a time, giddily buying on risky margins, borrowing to speculate, and hawking land titles to one another in a growing frenzy of terror and hope. The Fracking Boom as — Not the 19C Gold Rush! — but the 18C Land Bubble

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