Are we Jeffersonian or Hamiltonian?

by admin on 01/04/2018 6:45 AM

Healthcare may be in the same Conundrum that Jefferson and Hamilton were in during the 1760s. Are we now under Hamiltonian control by central government? Will we be able to return to Jeffersonian freedom at the individual level? The current Hamilton Production based on the Grand scale biography of Ron Chernow may not give us the clues that others emphasize.  

The previous biography by Richard Brookhiser (© 1999, The Free Press, a Division of Simon & Schuster Inc.) who was the senior editor for National Review, and defined Hamilton as someone who tried to define what it meant to be American in an age when the definition was up for grabs. Hamilton’s theories of rights are at odds with modern rights talk. His thinking was pre-constitutional, appealing to common law, the law of nations, and the law of nature. He gave as much thought to the rights of governments as to those of individuals. . . In one of his last letters, he wrote that democracy was America’s “disease,” and a “poison.”

Brookhiser discusses a deeper layer of his reputation that is less flattering. According to this view, although Hamilton signed the Constitution, he did not believe in it, or the liberties it secured. He put up with republican government because he had to, while laboring to transform it, or even subvert it. At heart, he was an aristocrat and a plutocrat, who favored rule by an elite of the rich. James Madison, a colleague and coauthor who became an enemy, said as much in a left-handed tribute long after Hamilton had died. “If his Theory of Government deviated from the Republican Standard, he had the candor to avow it, and the greater merit of cooperating in a system which was not his choice.” For the sake of Hamilton’s achievements, we are willing to ignore his political preferences in the same grudging spirit in which he swallowed America’s preferences. But he is not one of us.

The most lurid version of this view makes Hamilton a corrupter, as well as an alien, a serpent in the American Eden, forcing on us the dominion of big money or big government or both. When Thomas Jefferson, another enemy, reached the presidency on the ruins of Hamilton’s party and political hopes, he complained that he was in fact the loser. “When this government was first established, it was possible to have kept it going on true principles but . . . the ideas of Hamilton destroyed that hope in the bud. We can pay off his debts in fifteen years, but we can never get rid of his financial system.”  The poet and economist Ezra Pound put it more bluntly: “As for Hamilton . . . he was the prime snot in ALL American history.” When I bought a nineteenth-century biography of Hamilton, by Henry Cabot Lodge, in a used bookstore, I found on the first page a penciled note: “Remember, in reading this book, that Lodge is greatly prejudiced in favor of Hamilton.” You wouldn’t find a warning label in a secondhand copy of Dumas Malone’s Jefferson and the Rights of Man.

Brookhiser concludes that Hamilton’s positions fit no current political model. Modern conservatives would distrust his trust in government; modern liberals would find him lacking in compassion (one reason he wanted federal taxes was to make the poor work. . .) The founders appear in later times to be bathed in a timeless glow: the face of Janus looks both ways, and all things seem possible, including great things. Then the moment passes, and founders become politicians once again. They were politicians all along, of course, but afterward their nature becomes inescapable. Founding fathers, unless they die just after the moment of victory, are also sons; they are us. Alexander Hamilton did what we do; he just did it earlier. Because he was a great man, he generally did it better. His life, and the lives of his peers, can guide and caution us.

Brookhiser’s review of Chernow’s Hamilton from the Los Angeles Times: “Now, Ron Chernow, whose previous books have chronicled the American Beauty roses and Kudzu vines of mature American capitalism—Warburgs, Morgans, John D. Rockefeller, Sr.—examines the man who planted the seeds . . .  Alexander Hamilton is thorough, admiring, and sad—just what a big book on its subject should be.”

Editor’s Note: The question in the US healthcare conundrum is also not settled. The Liberals trust government as Hamilton did. He considered Government as elitist. However, government direction is always in a 360-degree circle of constant change—tries any new idea or concept because it looks new, or progressive, even though it may be a rerun of a failed system. Hence, it digresses in a backward or downward direction as often as in a forward and upward direction. The feudal system may return. The conservatives believe in individual freedom in healthcare which then includes individual responsibility. This is the traditional view of a truly liberal mind which is open to the future based on past experiences. Therefore, the direction is always forward and upward since it is based on experience. That is the issue which HealthPlanUSA addresses. We welcome your support in our Jeffersonian entourage.

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