This weekend, the play “At Liberty Hall” premiered in the Carriage House of Liberty Hall in Union, New Jersey. Liberty Hall was built by New Jersey’s first governor, William Livingston, who hosted Alexander Hamilton while Hamilton attended a preparatory school in Elizabethtown.
The play “At Liberty Hall” explores time-bending interactions between Alexander Hamilton as a young teen immigrant in Elizabethtown and a modern-day teenager with a similar background to Hamilton’s.
Jon Ciccarelli writes for New Jersey Stage about the play in “A Meet-Up in Time with ‘At Liberty Hall’ at Premiere Stages, Kean University”:
We often have been asked the question: “If you could have dinner with anyone alive or dead, who would it be?” or “If you could have a conversation with anyone, who would be they be? Such a fantastical scenario is very appealing as it usually implies our desire to connect with someone that we knew who has died or a historical person that we couldn’t possibly communicate with and who represents a time or place that we have an interest in. Even the idea of either traveling to another time or having historical people interact with us in the present is a staple of sci-fi and a plot device that never seems to go out of style from Mark Twain’s “A Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” to the current TV incarnation of “Sleepy Hollow”.
This mash up of time periods is on display in the special engagement presentation of “At Liberty Hall” running from Oct 16-19, literally at Liberty Hall Museum, the 1882 Carriage House in Union, NJ presented by Premiere Stages as part of the “Liberty Live” program. The story follows the meeting and friendship of two unlikely teenagers, Christian Rosario, a recently arrived high school student from the Dominican Republic and another teenager named Alexander Hamilton. The two teenagers naturally are dumbfounded by the circumstance of seeing someone out of time but soon find a common bond in shared experiences.
Playwright James Christy was inspired to write the piece by his 10-year old son who became very interested in American history and the founding fathers. “I started doing research into Alexander Hamilton’s story, his very difficult childhood. He’s the only founding father who was really poor and had to struggle to make something of himself. The fact that he has this real link to [the city of] Elizabeth and Liberty Hall made his story really attractive. I wanted to find links between teenagers of that time and now, show how they may have cared about similar things, had similar obstacles. We think of founding father’s when they’re older, I wanted to show Hamilton at this formative time in his life,” Christy said.
Photo Credit: Dave Thomas Brown as Alexander Hamilton and Jeffrey Sanchez as Cristian in James Christy’s At Liberty Hall, directed by Kel Haney, at Premiere Stages. Photo by Steve Hockstein.
"This device of having characters from different time periods interact opens up a lot of possibilities. We are inherently curious about what things were like in the past, and it’s fun to see the reactions of historical characters about how much the world has changed," added Christy on the story telling possibilities.
According to Clare Drobot, Premiere Stages producing associate and resident dramaturg, the group is very excited to present the world premiere of Christy’s play and as part of the special “Liberty Live” event.” The play was specifically commissioned for Liberty Live, Premiere Stages’ partnership with Liberty Hall Museum, and was written with this particular performance space in mind. ”At Liberty Hall” marks the second iteration of the “Liberty Live” initiative. Liberty Live partners Premiere, the professional theatre in residence at Kean University, with Liberty Hall Museum, the former residence of New Jersey’s first elected governor, said Drobot.
"Every two years, Premiere commissions a New Jersey resident playwright to write a new family-friendly play celebrating New Jersey’s rich history. Proposals were solicited from writers across the state, and the 2013-2014 project specifically challenged writers to dramatize the 350th anniversaries of the founding of New Jersey and Elizabethtown. James Christy’s play was selected and developed over the past year and a half, and had a staged reading at Premiere in November 2013. New Jersey has such a rich and varied history, and we are particularly interested in developing new work that brings that history to life. Jim has done a really wonderful job in finding the parallels between Cristian and Alexander Hamilton’s journeys, and their time-bending friendship exemplifies the unlimited possibilities of the American experience," Drobot elaborated.
Meet “Alex,” the new mascot for Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. It’s the first official mascot of the college, which has its origins in the Hamilton-Oneida Academy from 1793. Alexander Hamilton served as a trustee for the academy, which was created to educate both Native Americans and European Americans together. Now the college honors its namesake with a mascot in his likeness.
From the Clinton Courier is the story on how the college came up with the new mascot:
Tara Huggins and Lisa Magnarelli giggled as they tried to figure out how to strap oversized buckle booties over a pair of running shoes. Huggins, a Clinton native and 2014 Hamilton College graduate, would be the actor behind Hamilton College’s new mascot, Alex, during its Fallcoming unveiling.
“Since this was the big debut, I really wanted someone with experience,” said Magnarelli, the associate dean of Students for Student Engagement and Leadership on the Hill, draping a large blue coat over the body suit.
“This is how a federalist gets dressed,” Huggins remarked, breaking into more laughter.
During her time as a student, Huggins had played the role of Al Ham, the College’s now defunct pig mascot assigned to the campus in early 2000s by students desperate for a mascot identity.
As many students and faculty will note, the unofficial pig caused confusion. The Hamilton College student body is known as the Continentals and a pig mascot, albeit witty, had nothing to do with the Continental Army during the Revolution. Thus, the concept for Alex was born.
“If you had asked people, they thought our mascot was a pig,” said Mike Debraggio, the College’s assistant vice president for communications. “Alex is our first official mascot on campus.”
The mascot was revealed to a board room of trustees, followed by a campus community unveiling accompanied by bagpipes in true Continentals fashion. Alex shook hands with students, snuck up on parents and posed for pictures—typical mascot stuff.
“You’ve just got to go over the top in everything that you do,” said Huggins. “Everything’s got to be big. You’ve just got to be comfortable with people hugging you and poking you.”
So far, people seem to be accepting and excited about of the campus’ new addition.
“Honestly, I didn’t care at all about the pig,” said Ashley Vanicek, a member of Hamilton College’s Class of 2013 who was on campus for Fallcoming. “I’m very much for this new mascot look.”
The helmet, wardrobe and a special mascot first aid kit for Alex had arrived a week ahead of the unveiling, where it sat in Debraggio’s closet to be aired out of its factory smell.
“When I saw it, it was right on in terms of the drawings that were done,” said Debraggio. “We had hoped to take on the project in conjunction with the bicentennial observance in 2011-12, but weren’t able to get to the project until the last year.”
The costume was built by a company called Street Characters, but the design and the overarching themes came from Joe Bosack & Co., a company out of Pottsville, Pennsylvania, who specializes in athletic and collegiate branding.
“Besides that block ‘H’ logo, they really didn’t have a representation of Alexander Hamilton that they can be proud of,” said Joe Bosack, the company’s founder and creative director, who began in the NHL and has been working in this niche industry for 20 years.
A team of three designers crafted a new logo, along with a series of full body character illustrations, from which the Alex costume was based on. There were several concept meetings and presentations, as well as a number of visits to the campus and the surrounding community to get a sense of the environment. In total, from pitch to presentation, the process took eight months.
“This one took a little bit longer than what is typical for us, because it was a little bit more involved,” said Bosack. “Not only were we developing additions to the Hamilton College brand … but we were also developing the actual, physical mascot.”
Alex is intended as an overall College mascot, not just for athletics. The goal was to create an identity that reflected the history of the campus, and Alexander Hamilton, in honor of whom the institute’s founder Samuel Kirkland named the college in the late 1700s.
With Hamilton being a prominent historical figure, there was a certain sensitivity that needed to be addressed. Mascots often lean toward absurdity—Syracuse University’s mascot, Otto, is a giant orange that does somersaults up and down the court. The Utica Comets mascot, Audie, is a friendly outer space alien. Hamilton’s former mascot, Al Ham, was cut from a similar, cartoonist cloth.
Rather than a fictional creature or your standard animal, there was a fine line that needed to be walked with Alex being respectful to history, but also avoiding a stuffiness that would work against school spirit.
The College recognized this conundrum from the beginning and, as a result, you’ll see the mascot’s giant head and accentuated features countered with a stern, hand-painted expression on his face. Instead of the formal “Alexander Hamilton,” he goes by the casual, “Alex.” And he holds the College’s signature cane, but it’s lined with felt.
“A lot of times we get to campus and there’s a lot of back-and-forth on what the client really wants it to be,” said Bosack. “[Hamilton] was very thought-out and organized when they approached us. They had a very good idea of who they were from day one.”
Looking ahead, the role of the mascot is still being defined—it will become a work-study program and student organizations will be able to request Alex’s presence for events.
“Honestly, I’ve only thought through [Fallcoming] weekend,” said Magnarelli “We’re going to have to build a program around him and we’ll find a group of students who want to play him.”
There has been some big news announced about the upcoming musical Hamilton, created by Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Miranda announced on his Twitter earlier today:
Ahem. You bought all the Hamilton tickets so we extended 4 weeks. Thank you. Thrilled to announce most of our cast: http://t.co/XE7arNEIn1— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel)October 2, 2014
The musical, which will start its run at the Public Theater on January 20th, will now have performances extended through March 22nd.
Also part of the announcement today is the casting for the musical:
Miranda himself will take on the title role, with a principal cast that includes Christopher Jackson (George Washington), Brian d’Arcy James (King George), Renée Elise Goldsberry (Angelica Schuyler), Phillipa Soo (Eliza Hamilton), Leslie Odom Jr. (Aaron Burr), Daveed Diggs (Marquis De Lafayette, Thomas Jefferson), and Anthony Ramos (John Laurens, Phillip Hamilton), as well as an ensemble made up of Carleigh Bettiol, Ariana DeBose, Sydney James Harcourt, Sasha Hutchings, Thayne Jasperson, Stephanie Klemons, Jon Rua, Seth Stewart, Betsy Struxness, Ephraim Sykes, and Voltaire Wade-Greene. A full cast list will be announced in the coming weeks.
Hamilton features scenic design by David Korins, costume design by Paul Tazewell, lighting design by Howell Binkley, sound design by Nevin Steinberg, music direction and orchestrations by Alex Lacamoire, and choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler. [Source]
The musical is narrated by Aaron Burr and includes 52 songs. Interested to learn more about the musical? Read a review of the 2013 Vassar Reading for the musical from the-aha-society.com or browse the AHA! blog archive for past blogs about the musical.
10/3/2014 Update: As the Arts Beat of the New York Times noted, Hamilton “will feature a multiracial cast as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Aaron Burr and others in addition to Mr. Miranda’s performance as Alexander Hamilton.” Read more about the cast.
Tickets for the musical are now available! Get yours today from Public Theater.
Christian Parenti, a teacher at New York University, recently published an extensive article in the Jacobin Magazine (which was subsequently republished in Huffington Post and other outlets) on Alexander Hamilton’s economic policies and the lesson he sees in them today for those championing green energy and environmental protection.
The Left has always favored Thomas Jefferson over Alexander Hamilton. But not only was Hamilton more progressive for his time, he has lessons for our response to climate change.
wo hundred years ago, Alexander Hamilton was mortally wounded by then Vice President Aaron Burrin a duel at Weehawken, New Jersey. Their conflict, stemming from essays Hamilton had penned against Burr, was an episode in a larger clash between two political ideologies: that of Thomas Jefferson and the anti-Federalists, who argued for an agrarian economy and a weak central government, versus that of Hamilton and the Federalists, who championed a strong central state and an industrial economy.
In the American political imagination, Jefferson is rural, idealistic, and democratic, while Hamilton is urban, pessimistic, and authoritarian. So, too, on the US left, where Jefferson gets the better billing. Michael Hardt recently edited a sheaf of Jefferson’s writings for the left publisher Verso.
Reading “Jefferson beyond Jefferson,” Hardt casts him as a theorist of “revolutionary transition.” We like Jefferson’s stirring words about “the tree of liberty” occasionally needing “the blood of patriots and tyrants,” and his worldview fits comfortably with a “small is beautiful” style localism. We recall Jefferson as a great democrat. When Tea Partiers echo his rhetoric, we dismiss it as a lamentable misunderstanding.
But in reality, Jefferson represented the most backward and fundamentally reactionary sector of the economy: large, patrimonial, slave-owning, agrarian elites who exported primary commodities and imported finished manufactured goods from Europe. He was a fabulously wealthy planter who lived in luxury paid for by slave labor. Worse yet, he raised slaves specifically for sale.
“I consider the labor of a breeding woman,” Jefferson wrote, “as no object, and that a child raised every 2 years is of more profit than the crop of the best laboring man.”
Even if it could somehow be dislodged from the institution of slavery, Jefferson’s vision of a weak government and an export-based agrarian economy would have been the path of political fragmentation and economic underdevelopment. His romantic notions were a veil behind which lay ossified privilege.
Hamilton was alone among the “founding fathers” in understanding that the world was witnessing two revolutions simultaneously. One was the political transformation, embodied in the rise of republican government. The other was the economic rise of modern capitalism, with its globalizing networks of production, trade, and finance. Hamilton grasped the epochal importance of applied science and machinery as forces of production.
In the face of these changes, Hamilton created (and largely executed) a plan for government-led economic development along lines that would be followed in more recent times by many countries (particularly in East Asia) that have undergone rapid industrialization. His political mission was to create a state that could facilitate, encourage, and guide the process of economic change — a policy also known as dirigisme, although the expression never entered the American political lexicon the way its antonym, laissez-faire, did.
To be sure, Hamilton was living in the era of “bourgeois” revolutions and the state he was building was a capitalist state, complete with the oppressive apparatus that always involves. Hamilton did not oppose exploitation. Like most people of his age, he saw child labor as normal and defended the rights of creditors over debtors. But regarding slavery, he firmly and consistently opposed it and was a founder of theSociety for Manumission of Slaves. It was Hamilton — not Jefferson — who had the more progressive vision.
Even today, Hamilton’s ideas about state-led industrialization offer much. Consider the crisis of climate change. Alas, we do not have the luxury of making this an agenda item for our future post-capitalist assembly. Facing up to it demands getting off fossil fuels in a very short time frame. That requires a massive and immediate industrial transformation, which must be undertaken using the actually existing states and economies currently on hand. Such a project can only be led by the state — an institution that Hamilton’s writing and life’s work helps us to rethink.
Unfortunately, many environmental activists today instinctively avoid the state. They see government as part of the problem — as it undoubtedly is — but never as part of the solution. They do not seek to confront, reshape, and use state power; the idea of calling for regulation and public ownership, makes them uncomfortable.
And so green activism too often embodies the legacy of Jefferson’s antigovernment politics. It hinges on transforming individual behavior, or on making appeals to “corporate social responsibility.”
Hamilton’s work, by contrast, reveals the truth that for capital, there is no “outside of the state.” The state is the necessary but not sufficient pre-condition for capitalism’s development. There is no creative destruction, competition, innovation, and accumulation without the “shadow socialism” of the public sector and state planning. We may soon find that there is no potable water or breathable air without them, either.
At the heart of Hamilton’s thinking was a stark political fact — one that is now sometimes hard to recall. The newly created United States was a mess. Politically disorganized, economically underdeveloped, and militarily weak, its survival was in no way guaranteed.
All the more alarming was the international context. The world was dominated by the immense power of the British, French, and (admittedly declining) Spanish Empires. Hamilton saw that the colonists’ victory over Britain, won by the direct military intervention of France, would only be secured if the new nation built up its economy.
Hamilton learned the danger of weakness early on. Born of humble origins in the Caribbean, he was an “illegitimate” child and then orphaned at age thirteen. Taken in by friends, he found work as a shipping clerk. Having a prodigious intellectual talent, Hamilton also applied himself to study with fanatical discipline. Soon he was penning essays for the local press. One piece caught the attention of St. Croix notables, who in 1772 sent the young Hamilton to preparatory school in New Jersey and then to Kings College, now Columbia University.
In 1775, as conflict between British soldiers and colonial irregulars began, Hamilton joined the newly formed New York militia. Hamilton began studying artillery and then formed the New York Provincial Company of Artillery. Before long, Hamilton became Washington’s most important aide-de-camp and artillery, Hamilton’s forte, became crucial to Washington’s strategy. (Even then, the American style of warfare was capital intensive.)
Hamilton wanted to command troops in the field and disliked Washington, whom he found crass and dull. Washington nonetheless kept the young savant on as part of “the family,” as the general called his staff.
Hamilton’s time in the Continental Army included wintering at Valley Forge. It was an object lesson in the dangers of political decentralization and economic underdevelopment.
The Continental Congress, operating under the loose Articles of Confederation, would levy taxes on the states; only a fraction of the resources would be delivered, but Congress had little power to compel payment. As a result, soldiers died and went hungry, territory was lost, and the new nation gave signs of fragmenting when prominent leaders (including Jefferson) deserted Congress and Washington’s army for their respective state governments and militias.
All this shaped Hamilton’s politics. He saw his adopted nation as being in a similar position to himself — in search of strength, but profoundly weak — and he had a firm grasp on economic realities. Because Jefferson had slaves and a plantation, he could maintain the illusion of independence and write fetishistic paeans to the yeoman farmer while enjoying the luxury to which he had become accustomed. Hamilton operated with an acute sense of his own vulnerability. He depended on patrons throughout his career; he appreciated structures of power for what they were, and what they made possible, and developed the ability to adapt and graft himself on to them. Even his attraction to artillery (the mechanization of war) seems like a comment on the utility of power.
At the war’s end, Hamilton resigned his commission and studied law. Meanwhile, the country’s economy was in shambles. Officers and farmers were growing restive. Parts of the backcountry of North Carolina declared themselves an independent state, and a similar attempt at secession was made in Pennsylvania’s Wyoming Valley. By 1786-87, class tensions in western Massachusetts had boiled over in the form of Shays’ Rebellion: Armed and indebted farmers marched on the state government and were violently crushed by the militia.
In moments of despair, Hamilton predicted a future of interstate warfare and re-colonization.“A man must be far gone in Utopian speculations,” Hamilton wrote in Federalist No. 6,
who can seriously doubt, that if these States should either be wholly disunited, or only united in partial confederacies, the subdivisions into which they might be thrown would have frequent and violent contests with each other. To presume a want of motives for such contests, as an argument against their existence, would be to forget that men are ambitious, vindictive and rapacious.
Hamilton knew that economic recovery was the key to peace. In the same Federalist paper, he wrote:“If SHAYS had not been a desperate debtor it is much to be doubted whether Massachusetts would have been plunged into a civil war.” To prevent national disintegration and push the economy back into action, Hamilton sought to control the centrifugal forces of “faction” — a term which referred to both class and geographic conflict. He labored hard to draft and ratify a new Constitution and create a strong central government.
Recall the Supremacy Clause: “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States… shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.” In other words, federal law always trumps state and local laws.
In Federalist 11, Hamilton laid out the economic logic of a strong central state in terms of a defense against European imperialism:
If we continue united, we may counteract a policy so unfriendly to our prosperity in a variety of ways. By [creating] prohibitory regulations, extending, at the same time, throughout the States, we may oblige foreign countries to bid against each other, for the privileges of our markets.
Here, Hamilton is outlining the central mechanism of economic nationalism: the state creates economic conditions; it does not merely react to them. Before the Revolution, Britain’s mercantilist policies sought to maintain captive markets and thereby enforced under-development on its American colonies. Britain had banned export to America “of any tools that might assist in manufacture of cotton, linen, wool, and silk.” None of that changed with independence. And Britain was soon harassing American trade, stopping and searching ships at sea, seizing American sailors as alleged deserters.
For Hamilton, the crucial components of real independence were industrialization led by a strong federal government, combined with a permanent military that could serve both political and economic functions — defending the new nation while driving and absorbing the output of a new manufacturing sector. (It was, in effect, military Keynesianism before the fact.)
After ratification of the Constitution in 1790, Hamilton was recruited by the Washington administration to be the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury. In this capacity, he issued a series of detailed economic reports to Congress outlining a program for the development of the US economy that rested on three core policies: federal assumption of state debts, creation of a national bank, and direct government support for domestic manufacturing.
The linchpin of his economic proposal was a system of public credit and a national money system with a government supported Bank of the United States at its center. “Public utility,” wrote Hamilton, “is more truly the object of public banks than private profit.” In 1790, three new bond issues backed by the Federal Government replaced the miscellany of various state and federal bonds that had structured the new nation’s debt. Early the following year, Congress chartered the Bank of the United States for twenty years. With that, the first two pieces of his system were in place.
But in all this, Hamilton faced the opposition of Jefferson and the Southern planter class. Comparative economic history shows that semi-feudal agricultural elites, like Jefferson’s Virginia squirearchy, hold back political and economic development. To paraphrase Perry Anderson, semi-feudal elites extract economic surplus from the immediate producers by customary forms of extra-economic violence and coercion; they do so by demanding labor services, deliveries in kind, or rents in cash, and preside over areas where free commodity exchange and labor mobility are relatively rare. They prefer stasis to change.
For Jefferson, this was expressed in his romantic praise of rural life: “Corruption of morals in the mass of cultivators is a phenomenon of which no age nor nation has furnished an example.” He condemned manufacturing as morally and politically corrosive:
While we have land to labor then, let us never wish to see our citizens occupied at a work bench… let our work shops remain in Europe. It is better to carry provisions and materials to workmen there, than bring them to the provisions and materials, and with them their manners and principles … The mobs of great cities add just so much to the support of pure government as sores do to the strength of the human body.
Put differently, Jefferson feared the proletariat.
For Hamilton, conversely, national survival depended on industrialization. He pushed Congress to foster domestic manufacturing with a program known as “the American School” that had four central policies: 1) tariffs on imports; 2) direct subsidies, or “bounties,” for domestic manufacturers; 3) a partially public-owned national bank; 4) broad public investments in infrastructure, or “internal improvements,” like roads, canals, and ports.
The young Treasury Secretary’s most famous statement of his analysis is The Report on the Subject of Manufactures, submitted to Congress on December 5, 1791. It begins with a critique of the Physiocrats — a school of thought in France that Karl Marx would call “the true fathers of modern political economy.” They established a labor theory of value, but restricted its realm to agriculture. In their view, all other labor and economic activity was parasitic upon farming. They were pioneering but myopic. In their analysis, Marx said, “bourgeois society is given a feudal semblance.”
Hamilton’s critique of the Physiocrats was sharp and devastating. “It has been maintained, that Agriculture is, not only, the most productive, but the only productive species of industry,” he wrote.
The reality of this suggestion in either aspect, has, however, not been verified… It is very conceivable, that the labor of man alone laid out upon a work, requiring great skill and art to bring it to perfection, may be more productive, in value, than the labour of nature and man combined, when directed towards more simple operations and objects.
In dismantling the Physiocrats’ fixation with agriculture, Hamilton was also taking aim at slavery and the self-delusions of the plantation elite. The Southern elites were increasingly defensive of their “peculiar institution.” Vermont outlawed slavery when it broke away from New York in 1777. Pennsylvania severely restricted slavery in 1780, while Massachusetts abolished it outright in 1783.
In reaction, Southern politicians and writers concocted a series of elaborate but inconsistent defenses. They went from arguing that slavery was a necessary evil to proclaiming it as a positive good, with Southern agrarian society as the highest form of civilization. (From this unhinged doctrine would eventually flow the South’s suicidal project of secession and offensive war against the North.)
Next, The Report addressed the laissez-faire line associated with Adam Smith. “Industry, if left to itself, will naturally find its way to the most useful and profitable employment, ” wrote Hamilton in a summary of this then-new doctrine; “whence it is inferred, that manufactures without the aid of government will grow up as soon and as fast, as the natural state of things and the interest of the community may require.”
He countered this with demands for protectionist policy, couched in arguments about what we would now call “uneven development”: “To maintain between the recent [industrial] establishments of one country and the long matured establishments of another country, a competition upon equal terms, both as to quality and price, is in most cases impracticable.”
To level the playing field, the weaker economy had to rely on“the extraordinary aid and protection of government.” And he pointed out that other governments aided their manufacturing sectors — the doctrines of British political economy notwithstanding.
Perhaps his most contemporary sounding defenses of an activist government had to do with failure and innovation. Hamilton argued that “it is of importance that the confidence of cautious sagacious capitalists both citizens and foreigners, should be excited,” and their fear of risk allayed by “a degree of countenance and support from government” so they might “be capable of overcoming the obstacles inseperable from first experiments.”
Deeper in The Report, Hamilton made a number of detailed policy recommendations. They included higher import duties on some finished products (and even, if necessary, the outright prohibition of some imports); lowering or removing duties and taxes on key raw materials; subsidies paid to whole sectors of industry; government-paid premiums for specific firms that excel at innovation and production; government assistance for the immigration of skilled workers; an almost patent–like style of artificial monopoly for the inventors and importers of new technology; the creation of national regulations for, and the regular inspection of, manufactured goods so as to improve quality; government facilitation of a single national money system; and public investment in roads and canals.
Pretty much all of this was achieved, despite Southern opposition — and it remains the basis for the growth of American capitalism.
Throughout The Report, Hamilton tried to assuage Southern fears by arguing that a rising tide lifts all boats. “If the Northern and middle states should be the principal scenes of such [manufacturing] establishments, they would immediately benefit the more southern [states], by creating a demand for… Timber, flax, Hemp, Cotton, Wool, raw silk, Indigo, iron, lead, furs, hides, skins and coals.”
And in time, his proposed tariffs would help pay for publicly funded infrastructure that would expand internal markets and lower the cost of exporting. “Good roads, canals, and navigable rivers,” Hamilton wrote “by diminishing the expense of carriage, put the remote parts of a country more nearly upon a level with those in the neighborhood of a town.”
If the private sector could not consume enough to drive rapid industrialization, the public sector would. Since few export markets could absorb American manufactured goods, military procurement would created an artificial internal market for them. America’s nascent manufacturing sector relied heavily on military consumption — products associated with shipbuilding, weapons, munitions, uniforms, and food rations. This socialized demand would drive private sector accumulation, investment, wages, and thus consumption.
Hamilton drew up the blueprints for a planned economy — a capitalist economy, to be sure, but one that would be guided by a long-range sense of the country’s problems and potentials. And that was just what worried the reactionaries of his day. The line of development that Hamilton envisioned spelled the doom of a political economy based on slavery.
One of the few who was honest about this was North Carolina’s Nathaniel Macon, who a decade after Hamilton’s death, explained to a confused, young, canal-loving Southern politician: “If Congress can make canals, they can with more propriety emancipate.”
In the decades after Hamilton, the struggle between the forces of pro-industrial modernization and the forces of agrarian underdevelopment continued. Hamilton’s “American School” of economics had it successor in the “American System” of Henry Clay of Kentucky, with its package of policy ideas drawn fromThe Report: a high tariff, a national bank, public funding of infrastructure or “internal improvements.”
Clay and his supporters added a commitment to maintaining artificially high public land prices. This boosted the government revenue needed to fund land surveys, roads, canals, ports, and later railroads. High public land prices also benefitted eastern manufacturing, since cheap land would draw off labor and force up wages.
Ultimately, the American System was only partially realized and more often than not at the state level, as in the famous New York state-built Erie Canal. The developmentalist camp — the largely northern, urban, manufacturing and financially-oriented interests that followed Clay — ultimately coalesced into the Whigs, and then Lincoln and the Republican Party.
Only with war and the secession of southern states did the Hamiltonian-inspired agenda make real headway with passage of the Homestead Act, opening western lands to small farmers, and the Railroad Acts which, at government expense, set off construction of the transcontinental railroad.
This American dirigiste model has had a major impact on global history. As the South Korean economist Ha-Joon Chang has pointed out, every successful case of industrialization has used some version of the Hamiltonian model. A line runs directly from it to the postwar rise of the developmental states of East Asia. During Henry Clay’s heyday as John Quincy Adams’s Secretary of State, the German political economist Fredrich List — who would formulate the developmentalist theory of “infant industry” protection — moved to Pennsylvania where he soaked up the statist ideas of Hamilton and Clay.
Now Clay’s “American System” morphed into List’s more detailed “National System.” When he finally returned to Germany in the 1830s, List and others associated with the German “Historical School” of Economics rejected Adam Smith’s fixation on the individual as a category of analysis; they held that economies were based on nations and states.
In place of classical political economy’s “general laws,” the Historical School sought a theory based on national and historical specificity. (At the level of applied policy, this meant pushing for government support for railway construction and industrialization.) Their ideas were studied closely in Meiji Japan, where a state-led project of land reform and industrialization began in the early 1870s. The other classicdirigiste economies of East Asian — Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, and now China — have also relied heavily on List and the German Historical School.
In most of the world, the real story of capitalism is not the story of laissez-faire — a doctrine the strong impose upon the weak — nor a quaint story about egalitarian local economies, but the story of the state presiding over a mixed economy. Hamiltonian developmentalism — the unnamed ideology — is amoral, pragmatic, instrumentalist, and flexible.
So what is the lesson of this attenuated tale?
Like Hamilton, we face a profound crisis rooted in an economy that demands to be remade. The old redistributive agenda is not enough. Due to its dependence on the environmental curse of fossil fuels, the economy must also be significantly rebuilt around a clean energy sector. And history is very clear on the implications: In capitalist society, moments of crisis and transformation have always involved an increased economic role for the state. We are entering one of those periods.
As the waters rise and the storms grow more intense, the state and the public sector will be called forth. What the state can or will become as it “returns” is an open question — or rather, open to being reshaped by pressure from social movements.
Unfortunately, American society is very far from facing the crisis. And a huge part of the problem is the Jeffersonian notion that “the government that governs best is the one that governs least.” While that is true as regards individual liberty, it is absolutely dangerous to think that way as regards the economy.
*Note: Third-party articles or posts quoted on the AHA! blog are shared in order to explore contemporary discussion of Alexander Hamilton. The Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society does not guarantee that all information contained in these articles is accurate. The opinions expressed in the source article do not necessarily represent the views held by the AHA Society or its members.
Nathan Raab wrote a great article on Forbes showing lessons leaders can still glean today from a letter Alexander Hamilton wrote 225 years ago as Secretary of the Treasury. Here are “Alexander Hamilton’s 10 Tips To Organizational Management”:
Yes, that Alexander Hamilton. Think you know how to run an organization? He is a couple centuries ahead of you.
In a letter that has been for generations in a private collection, a letter our firm handled earlier this summer, the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury laid out his vision for how to not only run the organization but also to allow it to evolve. It’s “Management 101″ from the school of Hamilton.
Some background. Hamilton’s rise to leadership was rapid. More than a decade younger than Thomas Jefferson, two decades the junior of his mentor, George Washington, Hamilton honed his skills as an apprentice clerk, tracking inventories and shipments for a mercantile business in the Caribbean. Within a decade of this, he would be serving under George Washington in the Continental Army, and in approximately 20 years, he would be running the nation’s finances. Washington recognized his superior intellect and organizational skills, as well as his flexible and pragmatic mindset.
Here are 10 things Hamilton’s letter teaches us about what in practice he saw as constituting effective management. The letter is his philosophy in action. In reading this, it is helpful to remember Hamilton’s employees were essentially collecting taxes on goods being imported into the United States, so his advice relates to that subject.
Dateline: New York, October 2, 1789, to Stephen Smith, his collector in what is today the state of Maine.
1) Communicate consistently and regularly: This letter is called a circular. It is comparable to when today an executive might send a regular memo of important information to a leadership team. It is written “circular” at the opening of the letter so that the recipient would know. The collectors of customs, who were stationed in the various ports, received such communications with regularity, and major announcements usually contained the same messages sent to all.
2) Make it easier for your employees to communicate with you: In this letter, he sends a form he created for his collectors to use in reporting back to him. He also sets expectations of how often he is to receive these reports. ”In mine of the 22nd of September, I directed you to render me a Weekly Account of your receipts and payments. I now enclose you a form for rendering this account, which I trust will be punctually complied with.”
3) Never forget: your people on the ground are your eyes and ears, and they can help you evolve: “…Carefully note and from time to time communicate to me whatever may serve to discover the merits or defects of [my] plan, and to point out the means of improving it.”
4) You can’t predict everything, so expect the unexpected:“Imperfections and inconveniences will naturally present themselves in practice, which could not have been foreseen in their formation; it is of the greatest moment that the best information should be collected for the use of the Government as to the operation of those which may have been adopted.”
5) Listen to criticism, even if it’s crazy: “Though the complaints of the Merchants will not always be infallible indications of defects, yet they will always merit attention, and when they occur, I shall be glad to be particularly informed of them.”
6) Ask your employees for their input: “You will doubtless have observed, that it was in the contemplation of Congress to employ Boats for the security of the Revenue against contraband. I shall be glad to have your ideas as to the expediency of employing them in your quarter, and (if any appear to you necessary) of the number and kind you deem requisite; their equipments, and the probable expense.”
7) Fix problems at the ground level: “It has been very much apprehended that the number of Ports in several of the States would conduce to great evasions of the duties. It is my wish to be informed how far experience has justified this apprehension, and what can be done to correct the Mischiefs which may have ensued, avoiding as much as possible the inconveniences which the multiplication of Ports was designed to obviate.”
8) Encourage innovation broadly: “In hinting these particulars it is not my aim to confine your attention to them only; It will give me pleasure to find that your observation has been as diffusive as the object is extensive.”
9) Set expectations early: This letter is just the second circular of serious consequence he sent, and he wrote this less than a month after he became the Secretary.
10) Collect data. Even before the digital age, Hamilton was crunching numbers and gathering information. The entire premise of this letter is data collection, positioning himself as the collector and analyzer of that information.
That’s a lot to gather from one letter. Here is a larger image of the first of the three pages. Learn anything else?
Though business management is not the first thing that people generally associate with Alexander Hamilton, he has long been recognized as a model for it. Even the 1917 preamble for the Franklin Research Board quoted the example of Alexander Hamilton as the “Ideal American Business Executive.”
*Note: The AHA! blog was created to share and explore contemporary discussion of Alexander Hamilton. This material is shared in that light. The Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society does not guarantee that the information contained in third-party material is accurate.
The Twitterverse often has silly tweets about Alexander Hamilton. This third edition of “Funny Alexander Hamilton Tweets” is in honor of the 225th anniversary of Alexander Hamilton becoming the first Secretary of the Treasury.
Nothing like a good ole pun to kick things off:
@justtrya_SAMple How does Alexander Hamilton get to work everyday? He takes the BUS
[Fun Fact: The Bank of the United States (BUS) actually was located right next to Alexander Hamilton’s office as Treasury Secretary.]
Alexander Hamilton’s efforts to maintain public credit have earned him some street cred:
@MrBlanketfort A real hommie wouldn’t let you pay back your debts at anything less than face value #FiscalResponsibility @cblank28 on Alexander Hamilton
The Founding Fathers match-up in video game form:
@TheMarkKnight_ Alexander Hamilton beats Thomas Jefferson in Call of Duty by a score of 75-64. Guess who’s economic plan we’re following?
Or a Harry Potter crossover?
@MSVarnado #SortingHistoryHP Alexander Hamilton: #Ravenclaw Intelligence: very learned in economics, Creativity: Well, he did create the National Bank.
And a modern pop song also gets a Founding Fathers remix:
@LetsGetItJon Alexander Hamilton: “No Taxation without representation! We will never be Royals”!
Benjamin Franklin: “Rooooyals”.
Then there are the quips about Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill:
@PhillyTripMob Alexander Hamilton looking to the left instead of the right like everyone else on money #OriginalHipster
@daiquiri_maker alexander hamilton heights: no wonder all the ATMs have tens.
Put it on your Christmas wish list now:
@KnowSomethingAP Merry Christmas! Maybe there’s a copy of Alexander Hamilton’s “Report on Public Credit” under each of your trees! :) #yay! #bestgiftever
And of course for every pick-up line, there’s an even better rejection line:
@jennseasick aye boy r u Alexander Hamilton and in charge of the bank? cuz u need to leave me a loan bye
Or follow the AHA Society on Twitter: @theahasociety
*Note: The AHA! blog was created to share and explore contemporary discussion of Alexander Hamilton. These tweets are shared in that light. The opinions or sentiments expressed in these tweets are not necessarily endorsed by the AHA Society or its members.
The official blog of the US Coast Guard Auxiliary recently posted about the Coast Guard’s participation at the 210th anniversary of Alexander Hamilton’s funeral. The event was held at Trinity Church in New York City on July 14, 2014 as part of CelebrateHAMILTON.
Auxiliarist Louis DiLeo singing the Star Spangled banner in front of Hamilton’s grave in New York City on July 14th, 2014. USCG Auxiliary photo by Lieutenant Colonel Robert Burns, US Army.
Who was Alexander Hamilton, anyway?
New York, New York – Everyone who has handled a $10 bill knows what he looked like, and maybe they know he was the first Secretary of the Treasury, and even maybe that he established the first bank in the United States, the Bank of New York. However, it is not so well known that Alexander Hamilton is considered the founding father of the US Coast Guard!
Article by John Sasso, USCG Auxiliary Band Leader
Smuggling and pirating off American coasts was problematic before and after the Revolutionary War. In response, Hamilton proposed to Congress to enact a naval police force called revenue cutters to patrol the waters and assist the custom collectors with confiscating contraband. The cutters were to be armed with muskets, bayonets, and pistols. So on August 4, 1790 Congress established the Revenue Cutter Service and the United States Coast Guard was born.
Each year, on July 14, the anniversary of Hamilton’s funeral, a ceremony is held at Trinity Church in downtown Manhattan, at his gravesite. Hosted by the Trinity Church and the Alexander Hamilton Awareness (AHA) Society, the gathering remembers the founding father, his principles, ideals, and accomplishments, that are still in our society today. This year, the 210thanniversary of Hamilton’s funeral, the ceremony was augmented with a Coast Guard color guard to render honors. The singing of the National Anthem and sounding of Taps by the Auxiliary band’s Principal Trumpeter, Bugler and Vocalist, Louis DiLeo.
In the words of the AHA Society President, Rand Scholet, “USCG Auxiliary Louis DiLeo’s contributions added to the memorial service in ways that had not been seen in over 27 years, as far as the long-time Hamiltonians had related to us. The strength of his voice during the singing of the National Anthem touched the heart. His stirring bugling of “Taps” touched our soul. Alexander Hamilton and his memory were well served that day!”
The AHA Society is anxiously awaiting the 225th anniversary celebration of the founding of the US Coast Guard on August 4th of 2015, which occurred in the US capital at the time, New York City.
The US Coast Guard will also be honoring Alexander Hamilton this year with the commissioning of a new cutter named after Hamilton. The AHA Society will be present for the commissioning ceremony in Charleston in December. To learn more, see the AHA article “Honoring the Alexander Hamilton US Coast Guard Cutter.”
On DavidPotterBooks.com, David Potter writes a post on Washington and Hamilton’s 22-year partnership:
George Washington and Alexander Hamilton get no respect.
Sure, one is on on the dollar bill, and the other is on the ten dollar bill, but when I hear folks talk about the “original intentions” of our Founding Fathers, rarely are Washington or Hamilton mentioned first.
As I see it, we are living in the nation George and Alexander envisioned.
Notice I use the word “nation.” For despite our name – “The United States” - we are most definitely a single nation.
Washington and Hamilton established this single nation. They give it its foundation. They nurtured it. And all that they did has endured to this day.
George Washington and Alexander Hamilton were the A Team of the Founding Fathers. Everyone else was either on the B team or, in the case of Jefferson and Madison, actively in the way.
It’s hardly possible for two men to be more dissimilar in person but as united in a common vision. Washington was tall, reserved, and formal, a scion of Virginia’s land-owning gentry; Hamilton was short, volatile, brilliant, a penniless immigrant from the West Indies, and illegitimately born, which was considered far more grave a condition in the 18th century than it would be today. They first encountered one another at the beginning of the Revolutionary War – Washington at 44 was the Commander-In-Chief, and the 21-year-old Hamilton was a lowly captain of the New York Provincial Company of Artillery. After seeing him in action at the Battle of Trenton, and recognizing his many natural abilities, Washington offered Hamilton the position of his chief aide-de-camp. For the next four years of the war, which included the brutal winter of Valley Forge, Washington and Hamilton worked side by side.
Throughout these years the Continental Army was plagued by the weakness of the Continental Congress. Soldiers and officers were not paid, or were paid in nearly worthless Continental script, and there were never-ending problems supplying the troops with provisions and ammunition. At war’s end, the British were defeated, but instead of new nation standing in its place there was merely a collection of colonies, with differing and conflicting interests and agendas. The Congress, and each colony, had incurred significant debts, but the financial system – if it could be called that – was in shambles.
And though the British were defeated, many threats remained, such as the Spanish and the French, who still controlled major swaths of North America. And let us not forget the various Native American tribes who were being pushed further and further away from their traditional territories by ever expanding settlement, but were keen on regaining ground that had been lost.
The war against the British crown might have been won, but the future? Dicey in the extreme.
Enter Washington and Hamilton.
Two men who had seen first hand, as perhaps no others had, the negative impact of a weakgovernment and a weak financial system that couldn’t raise money, pay soldiers, discharge debt, or make decisions. The thirteen colonies were loosely aligned under The Articles of Confederation, which meant that each colony – with its own governor and assembly – thought itself supreme and its own interests paramount.
Hamilton, now a prominent New York attorney and politician, began agitating for something better. Something decidedly more powerful. He was a major organizer of the Annapolis Convention and drafted its resolution for a subsequent constitutional convention. And in order to give weight and substance to any proceeding to jettison the Articles of Confederation and replace it with something better – and more powerful – Hamilton prevailed upon his old boss and Commander-In-Chief, George Washington, to accept the presidency of the Constitutional Convention, which met for the first time in Philadelphia on May 14th, 1787.
They weren’t looking to do weak.
They weren’t looking for ineffective, indecisive, indistinct, or inept. They’d had enough of that with the Continental Congress and the current state of affairs under the Articles of Confederation.
So the first part of the task was to create a new nation. A new nation that had a strong central government, was powerful, and would take its rightful place among other nations. And then they would have to basically superimpose this new nation over the heads of the existing colonies. There are libraries of books that tell the tale in greater depth than I can here, but a few things stand out in my mind. The first words of the new constitution are in themselves extraordinarily radical – “We the People of the United States.” These words in effect assume citizenship in a sovereign nation – that did not yet exist! A resident of New Jersey was governed by New Jersey laws, a Virginian by Virginia’s laws, etc. - and now here were words in a constitution that gave New Jerseyans and Virginians, etc. equal standing in a common creation.
But for that common creation to succeed, it had to be ratified, and here the true craftiness of the framers showed itself. Ratification required only nine, not all, colonies to agree – they had learned the hard way during the proceedings of the Declaration of Independence that unanimous consent gave any one colony far too much power. And in order to circumvent the existing colonial power structures of Governor and assemblies, specialratifying conventions were held and delegates selected to vote on the Constitution. It took seven months, but finally New Hampshire, on June 21, 1788, voted yes – by a vote of 57-47.
George Washington, naturally, became our first President. For the second great task – establishing a sound financial system – he selected his former aide-de-camp, Alexander Hamilton, to be our first Secretary of the Treasury.
Which he immediately set out to do with remarkable vigor, competence, expertise, intelligence, and exactitude. I highly recommend Ron Chernow’s great biography of Hamilton for the details, but among many other things Hamilton proposed solutions for thedebts of the nation and each colony, successfully fought to establish a national bank, constructed a coherent tax, impost, and tariff collecting system, advocated for a governmental role in the public infrastructure, and nearly singlehandedly created from scratch a functioning national treasury. He was vehemently opposed at every step by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison – which thus began political parties and the relentless factionalization of power which continues to this day – but that is a story for another post. The salient fact is that at every turn and every debate the President, George Washington, backed his Secretary of Treasury one hundred per cent.
Because they were both after the same thing: a strong nation. Which meant a strong central government. And they both knew that no nation could be truly strong unless it had a robust and viable financial system.
Learn more about these two Founding Fathers from the C-SPAN broadcast of the AHA Society program “Washington and Hamilton’s Wartime Partnership,” available to watch online.
*Note: The Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society does not guarantee that all information contained in third-party articles linked from The AHA! Blog is accurate. The opinions expressed in the source article(s) do not necessarily represent the views held by the AHA Society or its members.
In the article “Alexander Hamilton and Israel” on the Intercollegiate Review, Ben Riggs explores Alexander Hamilton’s foreign policy and what insight it could provide to the United States today.
How does American foreign policy deal with such complex geopolitical issues? Looking to Alexander Hamilton and the Federalists we can gain better insight.
Our current political sphere is, more or less, torn between two polar views of foreign policy: one is hawkish, the other is isolationist. Both of these have their own flaws; their devotion to their respective ideals can be dangerous. Thankfully, we have Hamilton and the Federalists to give us a more moderate, workable form of foreign policy than those mentioned above. Here are a few key points of wisdom given to us by the Federalists.
1. Hamilton cautions that our policy should account for “the existing state of things, and the usual course of human affairs.” Here, Hamilton is arguing that prudence must be used to incorporate the cultural, geographical, and historical experiences of a nation into our policy. At the same time, he argues for military matters to be pursued with a sense of honor and glory simultaneously with an understanding of American interest, security and liberty.
2. In his Farewell Address [Note: drafted by Alexander Hamilton], Washington declares that the United States should avoid permanent alliance and binding political agreements so that we can account for the security and liberty of our own people. Second, American foreign policy should operate with benevolence, respecting the sovereignty of other nations.
Returning to our current position, we should understand that the Federalists never advocate for a “one-size fits all” foreign policy. It is clear that they always advocate for the security (order and financial) and liberty of the American people before engaging in international conflicts.
“It is not meant here to advocate a policy absolutely selfish or interested in nations; but to shew that a policy regulated by their own interest, as far as justice and good faith permit, is, and ought to be their prevailing policy.” -Alexander Hamilton, Pacificus Number IV
*Note: Third-party articles or posts quoted on the AHA! blog are shared in order to explore contemporary discussion of Alexander Hamilton. The Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society does not guarantee that all information contained in these articles is accurate. The opinions expressed in the source article do not necessarily represent the views held by the AHA Society or its members.
The newest Coast Guard Cutter, named in honor of Alexander Hamilton, recently passed its sea trials. Read more below in the article from ABC News Charleston.
"Cutter Hamilton passes trials, to arrive in Charleston in September"
The fourth National Security Cutter has passed several days of trials ahead of its deliver to the Coast Guard. The Hamilton will soon be delivered to Charleston.
The Hamilton conducted the acceptance trials in Pascagoula, Miss., and at sea in the Gulf of Mexico by the Coast Guard and the U.S. Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey.
“Hamilton’s acceptance trials demonstrated that Ingalls shipyard has built a superb ship that will endure for many decades,” said. Capt. Douglas Fears, prospective commanding officer of the Hamilton. “The exceptional craftsmanship in Hamilton will soon be met by the extremely talented Coast Guard men and women that will breathe life into this great ship. We are very excited to get Hamilton to sea and make the cutter’s home in Charleston.”
At 418 feet and 4,500 tons, the lead ship in the new Legend-class of national security cutters and is designed to be the flagship of the U.S. Coast Guard’s fleet.
The Coast Guard will work with the shipbuilder, Huntington Ingalls Industries, during the next few weeks to adjudicate identified discrepancies prior to Hamilton’s acceptance. Hamilton is scheduled to be delivered to the Coast Guard in mid-September.
The ship is named in honor of Alexander Hamilton, who articulated the need for the Revenue Cutter Service in The Federalist Papers and then established it as the first Secretary of Treasury, the forerunner of today’s U.S. Coast Guard. It is the sixth Coast Guard cutter to bear the name Hamilton.
Representatives from the AHA Society will be attending the commissioning ceremony in Charleston for Cutter Hamilton in December 2014.
Learn more about the history of previous cutters named for Hamilton from the AHA Society article “Dive Team Places Memorial on US Coast Guard Cutter Alexander Hamilton.”