Monday, July 4, 2016
The First American Financier
This 240th birthday weekend for the United States of America marks the beginning of a very interesting summer ahead. In politics; 16 days to the Cleveland Republican convention, 23 days to Philadelphia Democratic Convention, 130 days to Election Day, who knows what fun is ahead in the political future of America. The Rio Olympic Games begin in 32 days under a looming variety of health hazards. A new United Kingdom Prime Minister is to be elected in 67 days, the result of the Brexit vote in June. Britain shocked the world by voting to leave the European Union but how exactly they will leave and over what period is far from clear. No nation has ever left the 28-nation bloc and the surprise Brexit victory has plunged UK politics into chaos, with the Prime Minister resigning, Tory candidates vying for his position stabbing each other in the back, and opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn facing a rebellion from Labour MPs.
61 days to the opening games for University of Michigan and University of La Verne football, 66 days to the NFL opening night, 94 days to St. Lawrence University Hockey opener, and 100 days until opening night in the National Hockey League.
Since this is Independence Day weekend I thought a good topic would be an individual we are hearing and reading about quite often these days: Alexander Hamilton. Besides being a “cool” play and impossible tickets, who is this first American Financier?
”How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore
And a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a
Forgotten spot in the Caribbean by providence
impoverished, in squalor
Grow up to be a hero and a scholar?”
— The opening words of “Alexander Hamilton.”
Though he never attained the highest office of his adopted country, few of America’s founders influenced its political system more than Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804). Born in the British West Indies, he arrived in the colonies as a teenager, and quickly embarked on a remarkable career. He was a member of the Continental Congress, an author of the Federalist Papers, a champion of the Constitution and the first secretary of the Treasury, where he helped found the first national bank, the U.S. Mint and a tax collection bureau that would later become the U.S. Coast Guard. Troubled by personal and political scandals in his later years, Hamilton was shot and killed in one of history’s most infamous duels by one of his fiercest rivals, the then Vice President Aaron Burr, in July 1804.
Born in the West Indies, Hamilton moved to the mainland in 1772 and entered King’s College (now Columbia University) the following year. By 1774 he was speaking at public meetings and writing revolutionary essays, and in 1776 he became a captain of artillery. After taking part in the Battle of Long Island and the retreat from New York City, he joined Washington’s staff in 1777, where he remained until February 1781. He commanded a battery of artillery at the Battle of Yorktown.
In 1780 he married Elizabeth Schuyler, daughter of the major general and Hudson Valley landlord Philip Schuyler. He was already close to the Livingston family, and the marriage cemented his social position and his political, elitist point of view. He argued throughout the 1780s for strengthening the national government in The Continentalist essays, the two Letters from Phocion, and The Federalist, written with James Madison and John Jay. He served in Congress and the New York state legislature and was a delegate to the Federal Convention of 1787. Although he had been central to the movement that led to the convention, his role was relatively minor and he was privately critical of the Constitution it produced. He nonetheless devoted his full energy to ratification in 1787 and 1788.
As secretary of the treasury Hamilton’s great achievement was funding the federal debt at face value, which rectified and nationalized the financial chaos inherited from the Revolution. But he accomplished still more. He was responsible for creating the First Bank of the United States on the model of the Bank of England, and his Report on Manufactures fostered commercial and industrial development in the new nation. He also played a significant role in generating the Washington administration’s policy of unfriendly neutrality toward the French Revolution and in establishing a rapprochement with Britain.
Hamilton’s policies and actions provoked intense opposition, led by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Just as Hamilton and Madison had collaborated in the Federalist movement during the 1780s, so Jefferson and Madison now collaborated against Hamilton’s Federalist party in the 1790s. The result was division, both within the Washington administration and in the country as a whole. After Hamilton left the Treasury in 1795 to practice law, he continued to be active in Federalist politics, but he was deeply critical of the presidency of John Adams. Nonetheless, at Washington’s insistence, he was made inspector general of the army during the Quasi War with France in 1798.
Despite his personal and political dislike of Jefferson, Hamilton was instrumental in securing his victory over Aaron Burr in the presidential election of 1800. That and his subsequent opposition to Burr’s bid to become governor of New York led to his death at Burr’s hands in a duel in 1804.
Hamilton mistrusted the political capacities of the common people and insisted on deference to elites. In a speech delivered at the Constitutional Convention, Hamilton praised the hierarchical principles of the British political system. He argued, for example, that the new American president and senators should serve for life. Many of the Convention participants feared the “excess of democracy,” but Hamilton went much further. He wanted to bring an elective monarchy and restore non-titled aristocracy to America. “The people are turbulent and changing,” he declared. “They seldom judge or determine right.” They must be ruled by “landholders, merchants and men of the learned professions,” whose experience and wisdom “travel beyond the circle” of their neighbors. For America to become an enduring republic, Hamilton argued, it had to insulate rulers and the economy as much as possible from the jealous multitude.
Just as Jefferson’s republican championing of the people’s liberties depended upon his acceptance of a permanent underclass of slave laborers, so does Hamilton’s commitment to the success of the entrepreneurial self-made man depend upon his assumption that there would be a deferential political underclass to do the heavy work. Hamilton, with his contemptuous attitude toward the lower classes, was perfectly comfortable with the inegalitarian and antidemocratic implications of his economic vision. No founder of this country more clearly envisioned the greatness of a future empire enabled by drastic inequalities of wealth and power. In this sense, Alexander Hamilton is a representation of our times.
DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE - The Declaration of Independence wasn’t signed on July 4, 1776. On July 1, 1776, the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia, and on the following day 12 of the 13 colonies voted in favor of Richard Henry Lee’s motion for independence. The delegates then spent the next two days debating and revising the language of a statement drafted by Thomas Jefferson. On July 4, Congress officially adopted the Declaration of Independence, and as a result the date is celebrated as Independence Day. Nearly a month would go by, however, before the actual signing of the document took place.
More than one copy exists. After the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, the “Committee of Five”—Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston—was charged with overseeing the reproduction of the approved text. This was completed at the shop of Philadelphia printer John Dunlap. On July 5, Dunlap’s copies were dispatched across the 13 colonies to newspapers, local officials and the commanders of the Continental troops. These rare documents, known as “Dunlap broadsides,” predate the engrossed version signed by the delegates. Of the hundreds thought to have been printed on the night of July 4, only 26 copies survive. Most are held in museum and library collections, but three are privately owned.
Eight of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence were born in Britain. While the majority of the members of the Second Continental Congress were native-born Americans, eight of the men voting for independence from Britain were born there. Gwinnett Button and Robert Morris were born in England, Francis Lewis was born in Wales, James Wilson and John Witherspoon were born in Scotland, George Taylor and Matthew Thornton were born in Ireland and James Smith hailed from Northern Ireland.
There was a 44-year age difference between the youngest and oldest signers. The oldest signer was Benjamin Franklin, 70 years old when he scrawled his name on the parchment. The youngest was Edward Rutledge, a lawyer from South Carolina who was only 26 at the time. Rutledge narrowly beat out fellow South Carolinian Thomas Lynch Jr., just four months his senior, for the title.
BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to: Wally Amos (80) Atlanta, GA.; Larry David (69) Brentwood, CA.; Sandra Lee (50) Albany, NY.; Carl Lewis (55) Houston, TX.; Lisa Looney ….famous educator.
GOOD READS - "Renewing the University," by Alan Jacobs in National Affairs: For the past several years, American universities have been buzzing with protests and counter-protests, charges and counter-charges. These have centered on a rather small cluster of concepts: safe spaces, the campus as home, microaggressions, and trigger warnings. ... Universities need to get beyond these disputes, at least to some degree, if they are going to retain any meaningful chance to fulfill their social missions. http://bit.ly/29hMINk
POTUS WEEK AHEAD - On Monday, the President and the First Lady will celebrate the Fourth of July by hosting military heroes and their families for an Independence Day celebration with a barbeque, concert, and a view of fireworks on the South Lawn. Staff and their families from throughout the Administration will also attend this event for the fireworks viewing and performance by Janelle Monáe and Kendrick Lamar. The President will deliver remarks, which will be pooled press. ... On Tuesday, the President will travel to Charlotte, North Carolina for a Hillary for America campaign event. ...
On Thursday, the President will travel to Warsaw, Poland to attend the 2016 NATO Summit, his fifth and final Summit with NATO leaders. ...
On Friday , the President will meet with the Presidents of the European Council and the European Commission ... Afterward, the President will hold a bilateral meeting with NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg. In the afternoon, the President will hold a bilateral meeting with President Duda of Poland to discuss U.S.-Polish relations ... Afterward, the President will participate in a NATO family photo and attend a NATO session on the NATO Alliance Council. In the evening, the President will participate in a family photo and attend a working dinner with NATO leaders. The President will remain overnight in Warsaw, Poland.
On Saturday, the President will attend a NATO session on Afghanistan followed by a session of the North Atlantic Council. In the afternoon, he'll participate in a session of the NATO-Ukraine Commission before holding a press conference. In the evening, the President will depart Warsaw ... to Seville, Spain. ... The President will remain overnight in Seville, Spain.
THE SWAMI’S WEEK TOP PICKS –
Major League Baseball Game of the Week: Saturday July 9, 4:15 p.m. ET, Fox; Washington Nationals (50-33) at New York Metropolitans (44-37). We are at the half way point of this Major League Baseball season, Mets are five games back of the Nats. Big weekend series, can the Mets pitching come through? The answer is no, Nats win 6 – 2.
EURO SOCCER CHAMPIONSHIPS:
Wed. July 6 – Wales 2 Portugal 1
Thurs. July 7 – France 4 Germany 2
Sunday July 10 Finals – France 3 Wales 1
Season to date (50 -37)
THE MONTH’S BLOG QUOTE –
“Perseverance in almost any plan is better than fickleness and fluctuation.” - Alexander Hamilton, July 1792
Next week: Jack Ass of the Month and Words of the Month
Until Next Time, Adios.
July 4, 2016
CARTOON OF THE WEEK –What do we celebrate on the Fourth of July?