Recalling The Words From Alexander Hamilton

Impeachment history in brief form here today.

Federalist Paper #65, written by my favorite Founding Father, Alexander Hamilton, outlines some of the reasoning and thinking behind the establishment of the Senate, presided over by the Cheif Justice, as the jury, requiring a two-thirds majority to convict, and the House, as the prosecutor, requiring a simple majority to present the evidence. Ponder the words.

In many cases it will connect itself with the pre-existing factions, and will enlist all their animosities, partialities, influence, and interest on one side or on the other; and in such cases there will always be the greatest danger that the decision will be regulated more by the comparative strength of parties, than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.

The delicacy and magnitude of a trust which so deeply concerns the political reputation and existence of every man engaged in the administration of public affairs, speak for themselves. The difficulty of placing it rightly, in a government resting entirely on the basis of periodical elections, will as readily be perceived, when it is considered that the most conspicuous characters in it will, from that circumstance, be too often the leaders or the tools of the most cunning or the most numerous faction, and on this account, can hardly be expected to possess the requisite neutrality towards those whose conduct may be the subject of scrutiny.

William Stephen Hamilton Important To Wisconsin


For decades Alexander Hamilton has been my favorite Founding Father.  His personal drive and energy, his rise to power, his intellect, his concern about populism and unbridled passions, and his ability to write are all reasons Hamilton is favored above the others.  With great eagerness, James and I have tickets for Hamilton, coming to Madison’s Overture Hall for 24 performances.  We might even don white wigs for the night!

In preparation for what will be the largest money-making performance (over $6 million) at Overture, the Wisconsin State Journal is reporting some interesting stories connected to the national icon.

He was educated for a time at West Point, became a skilled surveyor and drove cattle from central Illinois through the wilderness to feed hungry troops in what is now Green Bay.

William Stephen Hamilton later came to what is now Lafayette County in 1828 to mine lead. He also ran a grocery store, established a post office and built a school, as well as a fort to fend off intruders during the Black Hawk War.

William Hamilton’s contribution to Wisconsin’s history is noteworthy, even if there is no musical in the works about him.

Instead, there are at least two books, countless newspaper articles, letters, maps and a mural in front of Zimmerman Cheese at the corner of Mineral Street and Highway 78 in Wiota. The Wisconsin Historical Society even has a set of sleigh bells given to William Hamilton by his mother, Eliza, at the age of 80 or 81, who made an arduous journey from New York in the late 1830s to visit her son at his mining operation — known then as Hamilton’s Diggings, not Wiota.

The entire article is very much worth your time.

Favorite Founding Father Was Born Today

Alexander Hamilton was born on January 11, in 1755 or 1757 at Charlestown, on the British island of Nevis.

This past year I read, and so very much enjoyed, Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton.


Closing Out 2018 With Hope

He was slender and slight of build.  Wrestling with childhood memories that would darken his mood for a lifetime.  Rushing always to make a name for himself.  A writer of volcanic ferocity.  An autodidact.  He was an immigrant.  Strong evidence he was in love at one time with a man.  We know him as nothing short of being the father of our national government.

If George Washington was the father of our country, and James Madison the father of the Constitution, then it is also true that Alexander Hamilton was the most important founding father in the creation of our strong central government.

After another year of shocking news and dispiriting politics from Washington (and Madison) this blog is taking a hopeful turn in this final post for 2018.  And the reason for my hope comes from the pages of a book.   Books, after all, are where many find their solace following the chaos and bombast that pours from the headlines, day after day.

For decades Hamilton has been my favorite founder.   The reasons are many and over time they change in degree–such as now when his immigrant status underscores the folly of tarring those from another place as having no value to America.  For the past weeks the tome that is Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton has been a daily conversation in this home.  Famed historian Joseph Ellis said in an interview that his research and writings, which dig deep into the founding fathers, makes it seem that the men and their families are so ‘alive’ they might as well be living next door.  That is how Chernow made it feel with his book which was published in 2004.  Why I only read it this year says more about the number of books ‘on my pile’ than the subject or the writer.   I honestly can not say enough about either one.

It was the tone of our politics and the elevation of stupidity on the national stage that put me on a three foot stepladder so to reach up on our bookshelves and pull Hamilton down this fall. I needed a tonic for our times.  Hamilton was then what we so need now.

Hamilton was the most voluminous writer of those who put this nation on the map.  While one wishes for even more of his inner personal feelings and reflections to have been offered–it is his massive outpourings about government that places him at the intellectual top among the founders.  He was among the very first to know and advocate that the Articles of Confederation be scrapped and a whole new strong national government established.  He traveled to Philadelphia to help make a country!

He grasped from the outset the need for a strong executive, deep concern about populism and passions, need for an independent judiciary, need for taxation, commerce, and trade.  He was not only well suited for the times he lived but I argue very important for the institutional foundation that still guides our nation. Not only does the workings of the Treasury Department still beat with the rhythm given to it by Hamilton, but the Coast Guard serves centuries after he created it.  When you read a news story about the New York Post know that, it too, was founded by Hamilton.

Too often in our times those who are smart are termed elitist.  If they come from somewhere else (Hamilton from the British West Indies) they are undermined and not valued.  If they provoke others into thinking outside the box (what can be more a test of that than forming a constitutional Republic?) they are called unpatriotic or some childlike epithets.  If they promote strong effective government they are termed in other demeaning ways.

What we so lack in national leadership now was so much in evidence when Madison, Jefferson, Adams, and Hamilton were allowed to use their creative power.  By looking backwards with books it blunts some of the current mess we now find ourselves.  By looking at Hamilton it reminds us that nothing is impossible.  No person should be viewed as not part of the national fabric.  It is due to such diverse and unique people that has made our story so inspiring on the international stage.

It is that reminder that ends the 2018 blogging year.

With each book that is finished means another one will be opened.  Following up on the Hamilton theme of desiring a strong Supreme Court comes the new book by Richard Brookhiser about John Marshall: The Man Who Made The Supreme Court.  Marshall was also a huge admirer of Hamilton.   That will be my first historical book for the opening days of 2019.

And that is when I will be back at this desk after the Holidays.

Until then Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Trump Says Political Criticism Should Be Reigned In, History Says No!

This weekend another unhinged and unconstitutional tweet was offered from Donald Trump regarding his dislike of a very funny and pointed Saturday Night Live skit.  What could possibly go wrong when a president tries to squash dissenting speech and opinion?

From Chapter 32, page 575 of Ron Chernow’s 2004 book Alexander Hamilton comes the answer.  In 1798 the uncontrolled Federalists in congress passed, among other measures, the absurd Sedition Act.  It took place on July 14 (my birthday) and rendered it a crime to speak or publish “any false scandalous, or malicious” writings against the US government or congress.  Those found guilty could have faced a $2,000 fine and two years in prison.

Obviously what Trump ranted over the weekend is fatally flawed in every way.  But the fact Trump did not know that such words were fundamentally flawed underscores, once again, one of the heavy criticisms I have of him.  It is the DUTY of a person in the Oval Office to know the laws of the land and the ideas of our Republic.

Here then is what resulted in the time of President John Adam’s quest for subservient behavior.



1792 Or 2018?

There is no truth–obviously–that it is only in these modern times that our politics is filled with turmoil and frothiness.  (That statement, however, does not not dismiss that never before have we been lower in morals and ethics than we witness with Donald Trump.)

There were deep political factions from the very beginning of our republic which then led to parties.   The Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson split shaped a nation.  For the record, I am a Hamiltonian with a high regard for a strong central government.

But the reason I post comes from Chapter 48 of Ron Chernow’s Hamilton.   President Washington is in his second term but it is noted that the crux of his problem is that the generation of cabinet members was decidedly inferior to the first.   There was simply a dearth of qualified people for Washington to consult.

The plague of partisan recriminations had already diminished the incentives of people to serve in government.  Washington told Hamilton a woeful tale of trying to replace Edmund Randolph. “What am I to do for Secretary of State?” he asked forlornly, noting that four people has already rejected the post.

A fifth person will also turn down the job and Hamilton will write to Washington “the foul and venomous shafts of calumny” constantly being shot at government officials was the reason why.

It will take seven names before Washington finds Timothy Pickering for the position.

With that pick Washington, (in my opinion) makes the larger correct call and stops pretending that he could straddle the fence of the factions and in so doing aligned himself openly with the Federalists.

Dear reader, if you have made it this far into the post you are like me….interested in history.  Please consider the masterpiece of research and writing and pick up Hamilton. 

Ron Chernow Featured Speaker At 2019 White House Correspondents Dinner, Will Stress First Amendment Issues

I must say this is a grand way to start off the week.

Since early fall I have been reading Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow–with an app on my ipad.  It is the first time I have digitally read a book.  For all the times I have said never would such a thing happen–well–I am as surprised as some of my readers might be.  In short, the hardcover 900-page book was not comfortable in any position to hold and read–and so I relented to modernity.  Question is, once the book is finished do I revert to old ways?

The book is masterful, and since Hamilton has been my favorite Founding Father for most of my life, the topic is perfectly suited for my interests.  Today it was reported that Chernow will be the featured speaker at the White House Correspondents Dinner on Saturday, April 27, 2019.

“The White House Correspondents’ Association has asked me to make the case for the First Amendment and I am happy to oblige,” Chernow said. “Freedom of the press is always a timely subject and this seems like the perfect moment to go back to basics. My major worry these days is that we Americans will forget who we are as a people and historians should serve as our chief custodians in preserving that rich storehouse of memory. While I have never been mistaken for a stand-up comedian, I promise that my history lesson won’t be dry.”

This event may be more powerful the morning after as the nation hears quotes and news segments of provocative thoughts, and ideas. America needs to be engaged with big ideas, again.

The biography of Hamilton, published in 2004, was the first recipient of the George Washington Book Prize for the year’s best book about the founding era.  Chernow has also authored Washington: A Life in 2010 and Grant, which I bought last week while shopping at Costco.

Duel Pistols Of Alexander Hamilton And Aaron Burr To Be On Display

 Hat Tip to my James.
Long before there was a Broadway production about Alexander Hamilton I knew him to be my favorite Founding Father.  One of the most amazing and uplifting stories from the pages of history can be found in Ron Chernow’s book.
The pistols used in the infamous 1804 duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr will be on display May 25 through June 24 at the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum. They are featured in the exhibition “Alexander Hamilton: Soldier, Secretary, Icon,” along with mail, portraits, and postage and revenue stamps reflective of Hamilton’s life and career as the first U.S. treasury secretary.
The pair of flintlock pistols have been described by Hamilton scholar and author Ron Chernow as having “the best claim to authenticity” as the pistols used in the famous duel.
Made of walnut, brass and gold, and each weighing several pounds, the pistols were manufactured in England by the celebrated gunsmith Robert Wogdon. They were owned by Hamilton’s brother-in-law, John Barker Church, who had himself dueled with Burr in 1799 over a different matter (and using a different set of pistols).
Far from vindicating himself as he had hoped, Burr instead became a pariah. Indicted for the capital crime of murder in both New York and New Jersey, he was forced into hiding. President Thomas Jefferson dropped him from the Democratic-Republican presidential ticket, and later ordered Burr’s arrest on treason charges stemming from an alleged plot to set up an independent country in the Louisiana Purchase territories. Burr was eventually acquitted of murder, dueling and treason, and he resumed a modest law practice in New York but died bankrupt and living in a Staten Island boarding house in 1836.
“History remembers Alexander Hamilton as the pioneering first secretary of the treasury, but he was also responsible for the Post Office Department,” said Daniel Piazza, chief curator of philately. “He used the mail to collect import and export data from customs officers all over the country, and his ability to interpret this data made Hamilton the best informed member of Washington’s first Cabinet.”