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William Hogeland gets semi-medieval on historical revisionists in Inventing American History...

"Neo-Hamiltonians have been chopping up the past to make it conform to their political aims. Alexander Hamilton's national vision and founding economics are far more troubling--so more compelling--than his promoters acknowledge ... Hamilton is routinely credited for favoring a strong executive branch. What he really favored was an executive branch run by him, strong enough to do anything it deemed in the national interest. For Hamilton, personal and military force, unrestrained by the slightest consideration of law, were joined ineluctably to American wealth, American unity, and America modernity. "

Gonna have to get this. I've done a decent amount of historical destination marketing and strategy and it always amazes me how contorted some can get in their efforts to burnish a favorite mythology and push it as "Historical Fact." Imagine a late-1700s version of how critics portray Al Gore today. That was Hamilton. Except...

his worldview was much less kum-ba-ya and more like today's Neo-conservative crazy mated with Wall Street-worship and a hefty dose of Dr. Laura Schlesinger.

Hamilton was the ultimate "elitist"--an acknowledged righteous blowhard most definitely interested in telling others what to do and how to comport their lives. And that made him the uber-Federalist. For example, about the tax that started the Whiskey Rebellion he famously said as Treasury Secretary: "[it was] more as a measure of social discipline than as a source of revenue." Yep, that sounds like the Fox News version of Gore. The weird part? Look at who loves Hamilton's ideas and uppityness.

Today's Federalist Society of libertarian and conservative lawyers and jurists (Bork, Scalia, Roberts, Alito, etc) lay claim to being Constitutional Originalists (the strict reading of, no "wandering interpretation" or "Judicial Activism" allowed.) But what they really like are Hamilton's ideas about what the finished Constitution didn't clearly tidy up about States Rights. Their reasoning finds it's roots in the Federalist Papers, particularly #78, written by Hamilton, on the worry of judges not buying into the idea that possessors should decide 9/10ths of the law.  But, as venally and politically useful as his words may be, as noted above, Hamilton the know-it-all would be a damned poor spokesmodel for a movement championing supposed lost freedoms beneficial to the masses. So, what do they do? They claim James Madison as their Archetype and Logo.

Problem is, while it's true Madison wrote 29 of the 85 Federalist papers, he was also vehemently opposed to much of what Hamilton believed about power and vested interests and the supposed "enlightened thinking" of the learned and moneyed. In other words, Madison thought Hamilton was full of self-serving crap. What's more, he was temperamentally and politically aligned with Thomas Jefferson and the Democratic-Republican Party, not the Federalists of Alexander Hamilton.  Those two, Madison and Jefferson, however imperfect, were true progressives, leery of putting a new American stamp of approval on an old-country superiority-complex of privilege, connections and wealth.

As I'm guessing Hogeland's book fleshes out, Hamilton then,  just as the Federalists of today, had little problem with elitism, double-standards, corporate welfare and the offering of advantage to the already advantaged. Problem is, the people who need to hear that will stomp and gnash and scream and call William Hogeland and his book, yep, you guessed it: Elitist!!

[Hogeland's book release Via boingboing]

Originally posted to fouro on Thu May 14, 2009 at 03:17 PM PDT.


My Favorite Founding Father is

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| 81 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Hamilton was hardly (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fouro, hhex65, Plubius

    an asshole.  I'm sure I could find equally elitist comments by Madison and Jefferson without much effort.  In your intensive historical research, have you have read a biography on Hamilton?

    They tortured people to get false confessions to fraudulently justify our invading Iraq.

    by gchaucer2 on Thu May 14, 2009 at 03:22:03 PM PDT

    •  No. Just repeated viewings of Liberty Kids on PBS (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Seriously? I read Chernow's bio a few years back and some others I can't recall. Look, it's an opinion reached after reading plenty of ensemble surveys also like The Long Fuse or the aged Patriots, even snips from Patricia Brady's Martha Washington bio. Nobody's perfect, as I mentioned. The point of the piece is intended to take the gloss off the hagiography that ideology imposes, often to ridiculous extremes when left up to guys like Bork and Scalia. If it helps, the historians at Colonial Williamsburg tell me that Patrick Henry was quite the dickhead and farted a lot.

    •  Jesus was a mass-murderer (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      2nd balcony

      'Cause the Crusades.

  •  Been ages since I posted, thanks for reading! (6+ / 0-)
    gonna look for a snarky history ad to post
  •  No Aaron Burr? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fouro, Snarky McAngus, chrome327

    For busting Ye Olde Cap in Hamilton's pompous ass?

  •  I think that the Federalists of today believe (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fouro, JVolvo

    no one else can see the aristocratic shoulders against which they rub.

    Q: Why does Grover Norquist want to drown the government in a bathtub? A: So he can replace it.

    by Snarky McAngus on Thu May 14, 2009 at 03:25:45 PM PDT

  •  I'd have voted for Jefferson (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fouro, chrome327

    Except for that whole affair with a slave business. She didn't exactly have the option to leave his employment.

    Smiting trolls on the tubes since 1977!

    by blue aardvark on Thu May 14, 2009 at 03:41:11 PM PDT

    •  And they're still losing the Hemmings' invitation (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      to the Jefferson Reunions: Richmond Times Dispatch

      Three authors and researchers, addressing about 40 in the Capitol's Jefferson Room, rebutted DNA evidence from nearly a decade ago that has led some scholars and Jefferson buffs to conclude that he and Hemings had a continuing liaison.

      The Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society was established largely to knock down, through continuing research of Jefferson, his family and the vast body of his work, the view that he was romantically entangled with the mixed-race slave from his Albemarle County estate.

      •  There are quirks within quirks (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        fouro, JVolvo

        to the whole Sally Hemings business. Just to begin with, she was more "white" than "black". Her father was Jefferson's father-in-law - which means she was his wife's half-sister. Her mother was also of mixed race (reportedly, half and half). All in all she was about as "black" as Alexandre Dumas pere. (Yes, the French writer had a black grandmother.)

        She was Jefferson's wife's younger half-sister, and absolutely nothing happened until after his wife's death. (She was too young, and Jefferson loved his wife very much.) Several contemporary accounts have it that she strongly resembled her sister, though in darker tones.

        Sally was still in her teens when Jefferson selected her to be among the servants to accompany his family to France. The affair is often said to have started in France - where she could have claimed her freedom because the laws of that country permitted it. (In France, in other words, she had the right to say no.) There was a catch, of course: she would have had to stay in France in order to remain free. And that meant never seeing the Jefferson family - or Jefferson - again.

        Change WHO can believe in?

        by TheOtherMaven on Thu May 14, 2009 at 06:04:27 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Jefferson expanded executive powers (0+ / 0-)

    While he espoused a limited role for the executive, he didn't exactly follow his own principles when he became president.

  •  they were all oligarchs (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Come on, why are we singling out Alexander Hamilton again? Didn't that guy get shafted enough, first they specifically drafted the Constituion is such a way as to preclude him from ever becoming President, and then the Democratic Republican VP actually just straight out killed him. That's rough treatment right there. Sure he was a powermad elitist, but so were the rest of them.

    Washington used the law and his troops to drive small distillers out of business to get a nearly complete monopoly on whiskey. He was always a bit more about the money, he married an old rich widow when he was in his twenties, that's a tip off usually.

    John Adams passed the Alien and Sedition Acts and was going to go much further before the Virginian junto unseated him.

    Jefferson, Madison and Monroe created a one party state where they ran unchallenged and passed power to each other for 20 years. One party system. As in, uncontested Presidential elections. And yet they are never even called out on that. Nobody ever heard of that.

    So lay off Hamilton, I used to eat lunch by his grave.

    Law is a light which in different countries attracts to it different species of blind insects. Nietzsche

    by Marcion on Thu May 14, 2009 at 04:03:01 PM PDT

    •  A gaggle of imperfectos, granted (0+ / 0-)

      and I can't say Adams wasn't as "unique" as Hamilton either. But come on, Martha was what, 8 months older than George? In the end, your lunchspot angle wins it for me. That's just cool.

      I must say this is kinda like primary season 2004--whooda thunk FFs had such a rotisserie league?

    •  Hamilton's grave... (0+ / 0-)

      I used to have lunch in the strip joint about a block away from the grave when I worked in that neighborhood.

      I also visited the duel over in Weehawken Heights. It's worth the trip.

  •  Madison gets just one vote? (mine) (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    . . .you have got to be kidding me. The man that said the rich should be taxed and help given to the lower classes towards a more equitable middle doesn't get many votes here?

    Maybe Kossaks are as historically ignorant as the tea-baggers.

    And why was Thomas Paine, the most "socialist" of the founding fathers, not even on the list?

  •  As for your poll (0+ / 0-)

    It was the whole lot.

  •  A close look at Jefferson... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Once you get past the skillful rhetoric, a close look at Jefferson is not a pretty picture. He is honored as the founder of Democratic-Republican party, which was the promoter and defender of the slavocracy for generations. He was a political opportunist a la Bill Clinton, and his personal life was the subject of incessant scandal even in that more tolerant age.

  •  This is completely oversimplified demonization (0+ / 0-)

    of a level of federal POWER that WE support!
    At a bare minimum, we need a federal government
    POWERFUL enough to enforce a minimum wage and
    basic voting rights AGAINST STATE governments
    that are hell-bent on doing wrong.  This was
    of course a lot clearer back when state governments
    were championing slavery.  Nowadays, in (for example)
    Georgia and Florida, they are still championing the
    basic denial of voting rights, which makes every
    person whose right to vote was compromised a slave
    of the majority whose will was enacted into law.

    The road to hell has not YET been paved with Republicans, but it SHOULD be -- Corrected BumperSticker

    by ge0rge on Thu May 14, 2009 at 05:17:51 PM PDT

    •  Hey my posts are always over-simplifications (0+ / 0-)

      Like here with the elementary school explanation of the plame story in 2005 or here in 2004 predicting the desperate reasons for Abu Ghraib/Torture.

      You mistake me for someone who doesn't appreciate government. No. I just don't like venal or vindictive or megalomaniacal people running it for their narrow ends.

  •  c'mon folks...franklin loved science, was funny (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fouro, samddobermann

    and took his fill of all the pleasures of the flesh.  he was a lover, not a hater.

    to point out his imperfections would to belabour the obvious and diminish oneself.  the coolest.

    we'll stand him up against a wall and pop goes the weasel /rufus t. firefly

    by 2nd balcony on Thu May 14, 2009 at 05:48:27 PM PDT

    •  See, that's why I like Franklin... (0+ / 0-)

      for the most part short on pretense, long on the view thing, plus he like the ladies and they liked him and at 70-something that ain't bad.

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