I’ve had about all I can take of the election of 2016. The two major parties have not offered us any good choices and the 3rd parties are still down in the polls, so I’m just going to look at history. We are told by pundits that this is the most devisive election we’ve ever experienced. It’s best to remind ourselves that this is not true. There was once a time when political partisans counted off paces and fired pistols at dawn when things became ugly. Thus, I turn my attention to Alexander Hamilton.
Since Ron Chernow’s 2004 book Alexander Hamilton criticizing Hamilton is likely to risk stoning at dinner parties. Supposedly Chernow cleared up all the myths and lies and brought Hamilton out from Jefferson’s shadow to be shown as “the founding father who did more than any other to create the modern United States.” Gag! The fact is that Hamilton owns our current state of disaster lock, stock and barrel. Nearly all of the problems of the current American tyranny can be blamed on Hamilton and his cronies. He and his party of centralizers changed the face of American culture in the space of a decade and we have not recovered our lost liberty since.
Hamilton sincerely believed that if America ran the course of “democracy” it would go the way of the French Revolution. He was convinced that Thomas Jefferson’s anti-federalists ultimately intended this course. He feared that the uncontrolled, anarchical masses would immediately become vulnerable to a would-be Caesar.
But was his stated belief an accurate description of the states’ rights party or was it just politically convenient for Hamilton to portray them as such?
Let’s start with how a popular uprising and dictatorship could possibly have occurred on a national level in Hamilton’s time. Even if he believed it was possible, the problem with the belief is that the anti-federalists were advocates for State sovereignty. It was Hamilton and his cohorts who advocated for centralized power. Any baby Caesar that had arisen in Jefferson’s America would have no central Senate awaiting his grasp and a citizenry quite zealous of protecting their own states with little or no attachment to the national government.
It was Hamilton’s centralization of political, economic and military power that even allowed the specter of any national Caesar to arise.
Historically, decentralized societies do not welcome a Caesar. Instead, a national power first centralizes power, then crumbles and a dictator fills the vacuum. Democracy did not pave the way for Hitler. It was Bismarck who unified Germany. When the nationalized state could no longer sustain itself, it crumbled and Hitler stepped forward to fill the power vacuum. Veneto, that wants to secede—it’s not just the South in America).
Listen to Hamilton’s argument for why we needed a national government, found in Federalist 21:
Without a guaranty the assistance to be derived from the Union in repelling those domestic dangers which may sometimes threaten the existence of the State constitutions, must be renounced. Usurpation may rear its crest in each State, and trample upon the liberties of the people, while the national government could legally do nothing more than behold its encroachments with indignation and regret. A successful faction may erect a tyranny on the ruins of order and law, while no succor could constitutionally be afforded by the Union to the friends and supporters of the government. The tempestuous situation from which Massachusetts has scarcely emerged, evinces that dangers of this kind are not merely speculative. Who can determine what might have been the issue of her late convulsions, if the malcontents had been headed by a Caesar or by a Cromwell? Who can predict what effect a despotism, established in Massachusetts, would have upon the liberties of New Hampshire or Rhode Island, of Connecticut or New York?
Hamilton is saying that without a strong Union, the little states are prone to would-be Caesars and the national government would be helpless to intervene to save the hapless state. “A successful faction may erect a tyranny”! A little Caesar in Massachusetts might invade New York! Despite the fact that people are not stupid, and such neighboring States would simply raise militias and form confederacy as they did against Britain, Hamilton expected his readers to ignore the biggest point of all, something those who lived through the Revolution should have known well.
What happens when the big government of the Union erects a tyranny? Then what? Is there protection against that?
Indeed, “a successful faction” did “erect a tyranny.” They were called Federalists and it was called the Constitution.
Mine is an odd destiny. Perhaps no man in the U[nited] States has sacrificed or done more for the present Constitution than myself. . . . I am still labouring to prop the frail and worthless fabric. Yet I have the murmurs of its friends no less than the curses of its foes for my reward. What can I do better than withdraw from the Scene? Every day proves to me more and more that this American world was not made for me.
His self-awareness came 15 years too late. Hamilton interpreted the loss of his personal power to be a failure of the Constitution. In his view, the Constitution did not exist to limit government, but to act as a tool of that government and of the people in charge of it. Hamilton did not see himself as bound by the shackles of law. The law is, according to Hamilton, upheld by the strength and energy of Hamilton, for the good of the people, whether they like it or not.
Does that sound like any contemporary politicians?
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both could play the role of Hamilton. They certainly sound like him.