Monday, February 6, 2017

Alexander Hamilton: Traitor to the Constitution (Part I)

Alexander Hamilton receives a lot of attention these days, especially for the hit Broadway play named after him. When the cast of the play, including Javier Munoz, who plays Hamilton, decides to lecture the vice president elect, Mike Pence, it certainly does not hurt in garnering more attention (even if it is bad) for Hamilton. But Hamilton is a highly overrated founding father for a number of reasons not highlighted in the play. Hamilton is portrayed as abolitionist, but he really did little to help slavery. Hamilton is correctly portrayed as controversial for his personal lifestyle choices (martial affairs and a duel that led to his death), but he was also politically controversial for being two faced (and that is not portrayed). Hamilton’s defense of the constitution in the federalist papers is vastly contradictory and hypocritical to how he governed.

Alexander Hamilton was a founding father and great American. He was a senior aide to George Washington during the Revolutionary War and won a key battle at Yorktown leading up to the surrender of England and General Cornwallis. He was regarded as an abolitionist especially for his lobbying efforts that helped to end slave trade in the port of New York City. However, what most people do not know is that Hamilton did purchase and sell servants. As President Washington’s Secretary of the Treasury Hamilton wanted a strong federal government at the expense of state governments. For example, Hamilton supported issues such as establishing a national bank and the controversial whiskey tariff. Because of this, he was proclaimed as a hero by the first progressives in United States history including Republican Presidents such as Teddy Roosevelt and William Taft. Hamilton was the founder and leader of the Federalist Party (It included founding fathers such as George Washington, John Adams, John Marshall, etc.). The Federalist Party main objective was for a strong federal government. All that said, Hamilton was controversial both in his private and political lives. He was the first politician involved in a sex scandal when he had an affair with a married women – Maria Reynolds. He was a war monger and desired a war against France following the XYZ affair. That is not surprising since over 10 of his federalist papers dealt with “providing for the general defense” of the United States. Hamilton was pro-Britain and a key contributor to the Jay Treaty that angered France further. Hamilton’s temperament was at times confrontational and as Adams and Jefferson said: he was “unprincipled”. Aaron Burr took the brunt of Hamilton political attacks. Hamilton attacked Aaron Burr viciously often using false statements. Burr felt these attacks cost him the Presidency in 1801 and the New York governorship in 1804. Because of this animosity between the two: Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel and killed him.

Hamilton was instrumental in the drafting of the constitution of the United States. He was also a main cog in getting the state of New York to approve the constitution by drafting the federalist papers. However, Hamilton would quickly change his views on the constitution once he obtained power in the government when he was selected as Washington’s Secretary of Treasurer. Hamilton policies, in my view, turned out to be the enemy of the constitution by setting a bad precedent that allowed for a broad interpretation of the constitution’s enumerated powers allowed by the federal government.

The bill of rights (the first ten amendments to the constitution) was added to the constitution over the fear that the federal government would become too strong and powerful and therefore limit the rights of the people and the individual states. Individuals and states wanted assurances the new government proposed under the Constitution would not overstep its bounds. States collaborated and most submitted a list of proposed amendments to the constitution. The bill of rights consists of those ten amendments that were universal to all states that submitted requests. Not all requests were added as amendments though there was a universal tone in all the proposed amendments: prevent a powerful federal government. Of those amendments submitted by states but not added to the bill of rights consist of asking for term limits on the president and a cap on the number of House of Representatives are law today. Others like term limits on Congress are still being debated. Most had the tone of this one: “That all power is naturally vested in, and consequently derived from the people; that magistrates therefore are their trustees and agents, and at all times amenable to them.”- In other words, the government answered to the people and not vice versa.

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