Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton’s powder horn is up for auction.

alexander-hamiltonI’ve become obsessed with Alexander Hamilton for a while now. He was married to Elizabeth Schuyler, a member of First Presbyterian Church in Albany (my current church!), in 1780. When Aaron Burr killed Hamilton in an 1804 duel, First Presbyterian Albany minister Eliphalet Nott wrote a persuasive sermon which led to the demise of dueling in America.

It definitely intensified with that campaign by some group to put a woman on the $20 bill, replacing Andrew Jackson, something I fully supported.

But then I heard about the Treasury Department’s plan to put a woman on the $10 bill, replacing Hamilton, our first Treasury secretary, and the greatest immigrant among the founders of the country. That plan was tweaked to keep Hamilton on the bill somewhere.

Hamilton’s greatness has became clear as I started listening to the soundtrack of the Broadway musical Hamilton, an extraordinary work by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Here’s the introductory piece. The production is quite influential among some folks; for instance, I found an article titled ‘Hamilton’ Makes Me Want to Be Great.

My family has given three copies of the soundtrack to the musical as Christmas presents this season, and I finally got a copy myself. Getting a ticket to the show is much more difficult, though President Obama has seen it twice, once in previews.

This is a prediction, based on nothing but a gut feeling, and the unexplained postponement of the $10 redesign. Obama decides that the $10 won’t be replaced after all, because, in his feisty last year, he wouldn’t do that to old Alex. Instead, he dumps Jackson, opponent of the banking system. He suggests a woman, a black woman, maybe Rosa Parks, but I’m hoping Harriet Tubman.

Chuck Miller points out that Alexander Hamilton’s powder horn is up for auction on January 11, 2016.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. i hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

One thought on “Hamilton”

  1. Right now I’m reading a book about the Whiskey Rebellion of 1792, the military invasion of western Pennsylvania. Basically, this was a crisis planned and manufactured by Hamilton, a plan which he presented to President George Washington. The problem was that almost no one west of the Appalachian mountains had been paying the new excise tax (internal, as opposed to external import and export taxes) on distilled spirits. And revenue collectors on the frontier were regularly being assaulted or killed. So Hamilton looked for a test case were he could force compliance at gunpoint, with the idea that other western regions would then fall into compliance voluntarily.

    Hamilton’s original plan called for invading Kentucky, but Washington considered the plan too politically risky. The original settlers of Kentucky had, a few years earlier, been openly negotiating with Spain to secede from the US and declare allegiance to the Spanish crown in exchange for access to the Mississippi River! True fact. The negotiations fell through partly because Spain moved too slow (their empire was approaching collapse at that point) and Washington had just bought off the leaders of the Kentucky secession movement by giving them all federal jobs.

    So Hamilton switched the plan to western Pennsylvania (which was frontier at the time.) This plan had a better chance of success, partly because since the US capital was nearby in Philadelphia at the time operations would be easier to coordinate over the mountains. But also, Washington was a great land speculator and was one of the biggest landowners in western Pennsylvania, so Hamilton calculated correctly that Washington would pursue the project enthusiastically.

    During the first few decades of the founding of this country the big rivalry was not North and South, but East and West, either side of the Appalachians. The Westerners had more complaints than paying unjust taxes. They felt they were not represented in Congress, that Eastern land speculators (such as Washington) had claimed all the best land for themselves, the government was not defending them from violent Indian raids, and most importantly that the government was not helping to provide transportation of goods to markets. Since the cost of moving farm goods to Eastern Cities was so expensive, the only profitable way to sell and transport grain was to turn it into alcohol. And now the Easterners were once again conspiring to keep their economy depressed with this new tax.

    Hamilton’s invasion, as we know from grade school, was successful, but it took two years. I’ll see how it turns out as I read the book, and I’ll judge Hamilton’s actions in his crisis accordingly.

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