American politics at its most uncivil

1792 John Trumbull portrait of Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton

1792 John Trumbull portrait of Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton

Tim Stanley wrote in The Spectator last week about American politics. Here is some of it.

To anyone complaining that American politics in 2016 is uncivil, consider this: in 1804, the vice president of the United States shot the former Secretary of the Treasury in a duel. Alexander Hamilton, the retired secretary, probably fired first and aimed into a tree, to show he meant no harm. Vice president Aaron Burr, however, shot Hamilton in the abdomen and left him to die. He went home and had breakfast with a cousin, and failed to mention how he’d spent his morning. A few weeks later, Burr was back at his job, chairing the Senate. President Jefferson, who hated Hamilton, invited him to dinner. Trump calling Clinton a crook doesn’t compare.

Ron Chernow’s magnificent biography of Hamilton is now out in paperback in the UK and has gained fame for inspiring a musical. It also has a lot to say about the early American republic. It was a revolutionary republic, a nation crafted out of ink and imagination. […]

Hamilton argued that the republic needed a sizeable government to survive. As the nation’s first Treasurer, he helped create a national bank and new taxes. He also thought it would be wise to make peace with the British. Inevitably, he was cast as an Anglophile and a monarchist, even a traitor. […]

A talent for business and writing brought him to New England and, through heroic action in the War of Independence, he worked his way onto the staff of George Washington. In other words, Hamilton far better reflected the meritocratic ideals of the American dream than his aristocratic peers ever did.

Chernow argues that Hamilton was actually trying to make the fledgling nation work. Yes, he undermined Jefferson’s ambition of creating a libertarian utopia of family farms. But how could the republic raise arms to defend its people without taxes? How could industry flourish without access to credit? How could the United States survive if it couldn’t pay its debts? Hamilton betrayed America as an ideal when he erected a monstrous new state machinery, maybe, but that machinery was still laughably small. […]

This is America. A rowdy battle of ideals in politics, but a big compromise in practical government.

via American politics at its most uncivil — in 1804

And you know, that is still true, many many of us, on both sides, have a complete set of ideals for the government. When Tim mentioned that the entire USG that Jefferson inherited was 130 people in what we call the civil service, I’ll bet I wasn’t the only one who wished it were still so. But those times were not these, and many remember that Reagan didn’t get everything he wanted either, but neither did Obama, and neither will anybody else. It’s always been a balancing act, and it’s worked pretty well, and it always probably will, as long as we manage to remain true to another of Tim’s paragraphs, I think.

Hamilton’s conservatism was fostered first by witnessing the evils of the Caribbean slave trade and later by the violence of the revolution. He wanted a republic that would balance liberty with order. The mob must never be allowed to get its way.

I think that is what we all know, deep in our bones.


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10 Responses to American politics at its most uncivil

  1. kelihasablog says:

    This is fabulous!!! Wish I could share it on Facebook. Perhaps I can, I’ve been off for a while so honestly haven’t looked… Love it tho. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • NEO says:

      Thank you so much. It struck me last week when I read Tim’s article as well. It had to wait a bit because we were speaking of some of the seminal events in Anglo-American (military) history. But that’s what we try for here, to relate the past to the present. Often with a dash of Christianity thrown in. Feel free, it is on my Facebook page as well. Thanks again.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. If you’re interested in Hamilton, there is a very popular musical out today, though tickets are hard to come by. Also, instead of reading the Spectator, you could always read Chernow directly.

    I am surprised that you would support Hamilton, however, he does not seem to adhere to your political philosophy. Are you familiar with his life and activities?


  3. the unit says:

    Woke up to a red sky in the morning this morning. Wonder what it was on Hamilton’s last morning and if he noticed? Going to be careful today. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • NEO says:



  4. Sadly, but basically the Democratic Mob, with today’s liberal media are running the American culture!

    Liked by 1 person

    • But sadly too, the American Republican party is now basically split also! It has shot itself in the foot! And note I am just an old Irish Brit living in America. But, I do love the American Constitution, and pray it survives?


  5. Btw, can I say the new James Rosen’s book about William F. Buckley’s famous eulogies: A Torch Kept Lit is grand! Indeed old Buckley, US Army Lt. and in the CIA for a few years, was surely MR. Conservative!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Reblogged this on Practically Historical.

    Liked by 1 person

    • NEO says:

      Thank you!


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