Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Death of Hamilton

It was on this day in 1804 that U.S. Vice President Aaron Burr shot first U.S. Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton in a duel. Oddly enough both men have some of the most monarchist connections of all the prominent Americans in the early history of the United States. This blog has remarked on the strange life of Aaron Burr who dreamed of making himself "King of Texas" or some such notion in this post. Alexander Hamilton was accused of being a closet-monarchist almost from the very begining. He earned few friends for defending the persecuted Tories (American loyalists) of the Revolutionary War and he often spoke admiringly of the British system of government. Some of his monarchism can be attributed to the efforts of his enemies to smear his reputation as he called for a more elitist republic, greater centralization of power and often condemned the radical revolutionary elements as being little better than anarchists. He also earned the wrath of some quarters by supporting renewed friendship with Britain and for his strident opposition to revolutionary France to the point of even becoming the defacto military leader of U.S. forces during the "Quasi-War" between the USA and the French revolutionary government. Hamilton himself, reportedly, did say that he considered some form of limited monarchy, with power shared among those worthy in his eyes to rule wisely, to be the ideal form of government. He was also unimpressed by the likes of Bacon, Newton and Locke who Thomas Jefferson adored and told Jefferson plainly that he considered Julius Caesar to be the greatest man who ever lived. Jefferson respected his abilities (once calling him a host unto himself) but was nonetheless Hamilton's greatest ideological enemy. He viewed Hamilton as the most prominent anti-republican among the Founding Fathers. However, keeping in mind that the Constitution that was finally produced and adopted was a compromise by all parties, it has often been said that while most U.S. citizens admire Jefferson's America we live in Hamilton's America; whether that is a good thing or not is still a matter of debate.

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