The AHA! Blog

The Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society (The AHA Society) was established to provide extensive and accurate information on one of the United States' most influential Founding Fathers - Alexander Hamilton. The AHA! blog discusses present-day articles, events, and projects that focus on Alexander Hamilton.
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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. Auxiliarist, Louis DiLeo singing the Star Spangled banner in front of Hamilton's grave in New York City on July 14th, 2014. 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.

USCG Auxiliary Bugler Louis DiLeo, sounds taps at the memorial ceremony for Alexander Hamilton's 210th anniversary of his funeral.

USCG Auxiliarist Bugler Louis DiLeo sounds taps at the memorial ceremony for Alexander Hamilton’s 210th anniversary of his funeral.  USCG Auxiliary photo by Lieutenant Colonel Robert Burns, US Army.

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.

Hamilton's grave at the Trinity Cemetery, Manhattan, NY

Hamilton’s grave at the Trinity Cemetery in Manhattan, NY.  USCG Auxiliary photo by Lieutenant Colonel Rober

See the original article source.

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.

Read the full article.

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

See the full article.

*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.

Read full article.

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.”

Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill gets several different face lifts as one artist transforms paper money into works of art depicting pop culture characters.

Redditor Shmyah showed off his talent for creating money art by posting pictures of his crazy drawings. As for why most of the bills he draws on are $10 bills, he says, “Hamilton just has a lot of blank space, he’s kinda balding, not wrinkly … easy to work with.”

See all the designs.

Also, learn more about Alexander Hamilton’s history on US paper currency.

In a recent American Numismatic Association (ANA) auction, a 1792 coin sold for a record-breaking $1,997,500. Alexander Hamilton’s coinage plan (Read Alexander Hamilton’s Report on Establishing a Mint here) got a mention in the article:

gr mills 1792 Million Dollar Coins in ANA Auctions ....Part 1

Photo Credit: Coinweek.com

1792 Silver Center Copper Cent Pattern

The Norweb pedigree 1792 Silver Center Copper Cent pattern (Judd #1) in this auction sold for $1,997,500, an auction record for a non-gold pattern. 

Silver Center Copper Cent patterns directly relate to Alexander Hamilton’s path breaking coinage plan of 1791 and to controversial provisions in the legislation of 1792 that authorized the establishment of the U.S. Mint. Information regarding the history of these pieces may be found in an article on the sale of the PCGS graded MS-61, Morris 1792 Silver Center Copper Cent pattern for $1.15 million in April 2012. 

See the source article.

*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. 

Last month, RareBookBuyer.com had an incredible announcement of a discovery of a rare historic artifact:

This checkbook, which dates from the 1790s, was recently discovered at the bottom of a truck of personal papers that had descended in a NJ family. Research indicated that it is the oldest surviving American Checkbook from the Bank of New York, the oldest bank in the United States (Established in 1784 by the American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton). One check is even made out to Hamilton for legal services! In a new digital age, when checkbooks are quickly becoming part of a bygone era, it is an evocative object of early American banking and, with its yet unwritten checks, of raw New York capitalism in particular. 

The article goes on to describe the checkbook itself in more detail. It states it is “exceeding rare: while individual cancelled checks from the period survive (and are scare by themselves), I been [sic] unable to trace another example of a full surviving check book from the period. [Ref: Domett, Henry W. A history of the Bank of New York, 1784-1884. Putman, NJ 1884].”

Below: A photo of the used stub (No. 153) made out on October 18, 1797 to Alexander Hamiton and James Kent for legal services. (Photo Credit: RareBookBuyer.com).

Below: A photo of the checkbook as a whole, with its original binding of “18th century marbled paper over paste-boards and quarter calf.”  (Photo Credit: RareBookBuyer.com).

Below: A close-up of unused checks for the Bank of New-York, founded by Alexander Hamilton (Photo Credit: RareBookBuyer.com).

See full article.

One of the most recent current events is news of Argentina defaulting on its sovereign debt. In an article on the History News Network, David O. Stewart (author of The Summer of 1787: The Men Who Invented the Constitution) explores the difference between modern-day Argentina’s policy and the United States’s policy on sovereign debt under Alexander Hamilton.

"Argentina Defaults. The U.S. Didn’t. You Think There’s a Lesson in that?" 

Before leading her nation into default on its sovereign debt for the second time in twelve years, Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner might profitably have examined the work of America’s first Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton, when he faced a debt crisis.

In 1789, the new government of the United States confronted a tower of “sovereign debt.” In a nation with only three fledgling banks and a rudimentary financial structure, the debts of state and national governments totaled roughly 40 percent annual economic output. The national government had no revenues other than funds voluntarily contributed by states. When the Massachusetts state government raised taxes to pay down its debts, thousands of armed citizens marched on the federal arsenal in Springfield in Shays’ Rebellion of 1786.

The American debts accrued during eight years of Revolution against the British Empire. The debt instruments ranged from formal loan papers, to largely worthless paper currency, to scribbled receipts for seized supplies or soldier pay, to “indents” for missed interest payments. For four years before 1789, no American government had paid interest on its debts.

The new Treasury Secretary, a 32-year-immigrant from the Caribbean, confronted a wildly unstable financial market when he took office. As with Argentine debt in recent years, the value of American debt paper had been driven down to 20 percent of face value or less.

Canny investors – including Abigail Adams, wife of new Vice President John Adams – were snapping up those bargains, betting that the new government would have to make good on the debts.

Investors’ agents carried satchels of cash to Southern and Western communities, sweeping up debts while sometimes misleading the sellers about the political situation. A congressmen traveling to New York passed two express riders headed south with money for speculation; a financier sent two ships to South Carolina with goods and cash for buying military certificates. The atmosphere in New York, then the center of government and of speculation , grew feverish. James Madison referred disdainfully to the prevailing “avidity for stock.”

The questions swirled, reinforcing all that was speculation. Would Hamilton honor all of the debts of the national government? Would he assume the debts of the state governments? Would he pay the face value of the debt? Would he pay in hard money or create a new shaky paper currency? What interest would he pay? What schedule for redemption?

In early January 1790-, after only four months on the job, Hamilton issued his “Report on Public Credit.” With the implicit backing of President George Washington, he proposed to repay all the federal debt and all the state debts, and to do so with hard money. The redemption periods would be long and some of the interest rates would be reduced. Only current holders of the debt would be paid. For most speculators, the result would be a bonanza.

Speculation continued for eight long months later, until Congress largely adopted Hamilton’s plan.

Some opposed Hamilton’s scheme. It rewarded wealthy speculators and gave nothing to the poor soldiers and farmers who had sold their government IOUs for pennies on the dollar. America, James Madison complained, was erecting monuments of gratitude “not to those who saved her liberties, but to those who had enriched themselves in her funds.”

But Hamilton’s hardheaded approach established the credit of both the national and state governments. The United States prospered on that solid foundation.

Argentina today, in contrast, denounces as “vultures” those speculators who scooped up Argentine debt at dramatically discounted prices. Having failed to come to terms with them, Argentina defaults and its markets tumble. That’s not how Alexander Hamilton did it.

View article source.

*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. 

Hamilton, the current project of Lin-Manuel Miranda will open at the Public Theater, an off-broadway non-profit venue in New York City, in January 2015. Tickets for the much-anticipated musical tracing the life of Alexander Hamilton just recently became available for purchase. Here are excerpts from some of the press releases about the Public Theater’s upcoming season:

From the New York Theatre Guide:

image

Tony and Grammy Award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda’s new musical Hamilton will be the first show of 2015, beginning performances on 20 Jan through 22 Feb, with an official opening on 17 Feb 2015. The musical follows the scrappy young immigrant who forever changed America, Alexander Hamilton, from bastard orphan to Washington’s right hand man, rebel to war hero, loving husband caught in the country’s first sex scandal to Treasury head who made an untrusting world believe in the American economy. Inspired by the book “Alexander Hamilton” by Ron Chernow, this eagerly anticipated new musical is directed by Thomas Kail.

From Broadway.com:

Tickets are now on sale for The Public Theater’s 2014-15 season. The lineup includes new works from Tony winner Lin-Manuel Miranda, Pulitzer winner Young Jean Lee and Michael Friedman.

Miranda will present the world premiere of Hamilton, in which he tells the story of the life, death and rhymes of a scrappy young immigrant who forever changes America: Alexander Hamilton. Thomas Kail directs the heart-filled new musical that combines hip-hop and a classic Broadway sound. Hamilton will run from January 20, 2015 through February 22 at the Newman Theater and officially open on February 17.

From Broadwayworld.com:

The world premiere musical HAMILTON, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, inspired by the book “Alexander Hamilton” byRon Chernow, and directed by Thomas Kail, begins performances on Tuesday, January 20 and runs through Sunday, February 22, with an official press opening on Tuesday, February 17.

From the creative team behind the Tony Award-winning In The Heights comes a wildly inventive new musical about the scrappy young immigrant who forever changed America: Alexander Hamilton. Tony and Grammy Award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda wields his pen and takes the stage as the unlikely founding father determined to make his mark on a new nation as hungry and ambitious as he. From bastard orphan to Washington’s right hand man, rebel to war hero, loving husband caught in the country’s first sex scandal to Treasury head who made an untrusting world believe in the American economy, HAMILTON is an exploration of a political mastermind racing against time. Its score is a musical melting pot mixing soul, rap, jazz, and traditional Tin Pan Alley. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Eliza Hamilton, and lifelong Hamilton friend and foe, Aaron Burr, all make their mark in this story of the men and women who sparked a revolution and built a new nation. Tony Award nominee Thomas Kail directs this new musical about taking your shot, speaking your mind, and turning the world upside down.

And here’s a bonus article on the preparation for the musical - creative casting descriptions for the characters.

The character descriptions paint exciting pictures of Miranda’s characters, including:Aaron Burr (“Javert meets Mos Def”), George Washington (“John Legend meets Mufasa”), Hercules Mulligan/James Madison (“RZA meets Zach from Chorus Line”), King George (“Wainwright meets King Herod in JCS”), and Peggy Schuyler/Maria Reynolds (“Jasmine Sullivan meets Carla from Nine”). [see full article]

The AHA Society will have a special announcement related to the Hamilton musical in the upcoming weeks, so stay tuned for more information!

July 11th was the 210th anniversary of the duel between Vice-President Aaron Burr and former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton. This famous duel has inspired iconic pop culture videos (including the first Got Milk? commerical) and this one - the very first “Drunk History” video (currently close to 6 million YouTube hits). Today “Drunk History” is now a full show on Comedy Central.

Ryan Bort in Paste Magazine recently wrote a feature on how the show got its start and where it’s at today:

A (Drunk) People’s History of the United States

In 2007, Waters was one of countless comedic hopefuls trying to make it in Los Angeles.

Then, out for drinks one night, a drunk Jake Johnson (now best known for playing Nick on New Girl) tried to convince Waters that Otis Redding knew he was going to die before he boarded the plane that would crash and end his life. It was a totally ridiculous story and Waters couldn’t help but imagine Redding acting out Johnson’s words, wondering what the hell this drunk idiot was talking about. “I was like, ‘This would be a great video for my UCB show,’” Waters remembers.

Johnson didn’t want to drunkenly narrate with the camera rolling, so Waters asked his friend Mark Gagliardi if there was a story from history he wanted to get wasted and tell. He decided on the duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. With Konner on board to direct, Waters enlisted Johnson to play Burr and his friend Michael Cera to play Hamilton. Waters took on the role of Thomas Jefferson, side-eyeing the camera as a meek, white-wigged Cera mouthed out Gagliardi’s drunken dialogue before sipping a cup of tea. It was a ludicrous scene.

Read the full article. 

*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.