Sunday, December 29, 2019

Hamilton versus Jefferson: what was at stake?

Today, my wife Carmen and I toured the Grange, the home of Alexander Hamilton, in Hamilton Heights on 141 Street, NYC. Hamilton's rise from being an orphan as a child to fighting in the Revolutionary War and becoming a confidant of George Washington and then Secretary of the Treasury was spectacular. But with the election of his unyielding rival Thomas Jefferson as president in 1800, his fortune changed. As cabinet members in the 90s, the two men fought bitterly, and Jefferson accused Hamilton of unethical conduct. Us progressives tend to sympathize with Jefferson over Hamilton, who after all had been a banker. But the fact is that Hamilton represented a nascent capitalism which in the context of post-Revolutionary War USA was progressive, in contrast to the system of slavery that Hamilton opposed and Jefferson, as a champion of states rights and agrarian society, defended. The Grange in the largely unsettled northern Manhattan, was a refuge for him together with his strong-willed wife Elizabeth and their 8 children.

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