Benjamin F. Wright says, “Hamilton was a mercantilist.” John C. Miller is more balanced; “he owed more to Colbert, the exponent of mercantilism, than to Adam Smith, the apostle of laissez faire.” But Clinton Rossiter protests that “all mercantilists and neo-mercantilists in England and France could not have spoiled his taste for the common-sense views of Adam Smith.” On the other hand, according to Broadus Mitchell, “he refused and refuted laissez-faire teachings…and found surer guidance in the maxims that had made strong nations in Europe.” For Joseph Dorfman, Hamilton may have been a mercantilist, “but he had his own way of handling the logic.” However, after quoting a passage from Hamilton’s Continentalist No. V, Russell Kirk exclaims: “This is mercantilism. Hamilton had read Adam Smith with attention, but his heart was in the seventeenth century.” But Louis Hacker will have none of this. “His…preferences are clear. He follows Adam Smith so plainly and completely that one can only express wonder that the Hamilton text has been misunderstood for so long.” Paul Studenski disagrees. “His outlook was…mercantilistic rather than laissez-faire.” Hacker again: “Mercantilism…Hamilton rejects again and again in all his famous reports.” Mercantilist or advocate of laissez faire? “The answer,” suggests Rossiter judiciously, “…is that he was both, that his eclectic, undogmatic mind had room for the best teachings of both Colbert and Adam Smith.”
Stanley Elkins, The Age of Federalism
Now you know how to successfully start a flame war among Hamilton scholars.
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Alexander Hamilton fails the Mary Sue litmus test.
John Laurens miniature by Charles W. Peale; Second Bank of the US in Philadelphia
Surrender of Lord Cornwallis by John Trumbull; Capitol Rotunda in Washington D.C
In countries where there is great private wealth much may be effected by the voluntary contributions of patriotic individuals, but in a community situated like that of the United States, the public purse must supply the deficiency of private resource. In what can it be so useful as in prompting and improving the efforts of industry?
― Alexander Hamilton, Report on Manufactures December 5, 1791
That spring , Hamilton received a long overdue letter from Scotland - several decades overdue, in fact - that afford him profound satisfaction. It came from William Hamilton, one of his father’s younger brothers, who amiably related news of his Scottish relatives. This mark the first time that Hamilton, forty-two, had any contact with his paternal family. Despite a lack of direct dealings with them, he had valued his Scottish ancestry, serving as an officer of the St. Andrew’s Society of New York State.
In a cordial reply, Hamilton included the only thumbnail sketch of his life that he ever set down. It provided the contours of his life without shading; as so often in personal matters with Hamilton, the letter was essentially evasive. He assumed that his uncle knew about his father’s early mishaps in the West Indies and the separation it had caused in the family. But Hamilton’s letter confirms that James Hamilton had subsequently lost touch with his family, since alexander had to inform his uncle that James still languished on St. Vincent: “I have strongly pressed the old gentleman to come to reside with me, which would afford him every enjoyment of which his advanced age is capable. But he has declined it on the ground that the advice of his physicians leads him to fear that the change of climate would be fatal to him.”….
Hamilton seemed eager to stay in touch with his reclaimed relatives. This eagerness has a certain pathos, for Hamilton did not fathom the self-interested nature of the sudden overture from Uncle William. The Scottish Hamiltons had never tried to rescue Alexander from an impoverished, orphaned state and had never congratulated him on his amazing ascent in the world. The only reason William now wrote to Hamilton was for selfish purposes. He had been a successful tobacco and sugar merchant, but his business had gone awry, and he needed help. Pretty soon, Hamilton had the odd sensation of receiving a reverential letter from his first cousin Alexander Hamilton, a Sanskrit scholar, who had returned from India because of his father’s business troubles. The following year, the Scottish Alexander Hamilton disclosed the true reason behind the correspondence: the family had to find work for his brother, a sailor named Robert, who was prepared to become a naturalized American citizen if he could obtain an assignment in the U.S. Navy. The willingness of the Scottish Hamiltons to exploit their American cousin’s eminence seems shameless. Nevertheless, having lacked a family and suffered the taint of illegitimacy, Hamilton took Robert Hamilton into his home for five months, squired his young relative around New York, and landed him an appointment as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy. The grateful Scottish kinsmen hung a portrait of Hamilton above their mantel - sweet vindication for a man who had started out as a castaway of the islands - but they never made an afford to aid Hamilton’s father on St. Vincent or showed the least curiosity about him. Hamilton continued to do favors of his Scottish relatives, who had never done any favors for him.
― Ron Chernow, Alexander Hamilton
Some quick Papa Washington and Tsundere Hamilton
I’ve been promising ladyhistory that I’d pick up the Mr. Washington Kindergarten teacher series again, so, this is me working on trying to get back to it!
(the t shirt is available here)
The next year , Hamilton published two more poems in the paper, now recreating himself as a somber religious poet. The change in heart can almost certainly be attributed to the advent in St. Croix of a Presbyterian minister named Hugh Knox. Born in northern Ireland of Scottish ancestry, the handsome young Knox migrated to America and became a schoolteacher in Delaware. As a raffish young man, he exhibited a lukewarm piety until a strange incident transformed his life. One Saturday at a local tavern where he was a regular, Knox amused his tipsy companions with a mocking imitation of a sermon delivered by his patron, the Reverend John Rodgers. Afterward, Knox sat down, shaken by his own impiety but also moved by the sermon that still reverberated in his mind. He decided to study divinity at the College of New Jersey (later Princeton) under its president, Aaron Burr, an eminent divine and father of the man who became Hamilton’s nemesis. It is almost certainly from Knox’s lips that Alexander Hamilton first heard the name of Aaron Burr.
Ordained by Burr in 1755, Knox decided to propagate the gospel and was sent to Saba in the Dutch West Indies…. Knox left a bleak picture of the heedless sinners he was assigned to save. “Young fellows and married men, not only without any symptoms of serious religion…but keepers of negro wenches…rakes, night rioters, drunkards, gamesters, Sabbath breakers, church neglecters, common swearers, unjust dealers etc.” An erudite man with a classical education, Knox was starved for both intellectual companionship and money. In 1771, he visited St. Croix and was received warmly by the local Presbyterians, who enticed him to move there. In May 1772, he became pastor at the Scotch Presbyterian church at a salary considerably beyond what he had earned inside his old crater.
After the lonely years in Saba, the forty-five-year-old Knox felt rejuvenated in St. Croix. Humane and tolerant, politically liberal (he was to fervently support American independence), opposed to slavery (though he own some slaves), and later author of several volumes of sermons, he held a number of views that would have attracted Hamilton. In his earlier surviving letter, he defended his confirmed belief that illegitimate children should be baptized and argued that clergymen should rescue them from their parents instead of rejecting them. He departed from a strict Calvinist belief in predestination. Instead of a darkly punitive God, Knox favored a sunny, fair-minded one. He also saw human nature as insatiably curious and reserved his highest praise for minds that created “schemes or systems or truth.”
― Ron Chernow, Alexander Hamilton