Do Liberals Know Who They Are Cheering?
On Sunday, June 12, the Broadway stage play “Hamilton” won 11 Tony Awards, including those for Best Musical and Best Book and Original Score for its creator Lin-Manuel Miranda.
How odd that liberals who despise Donald Trump’s alleged authoritarianism are paying $1,000 per seat to see a Hip Hop and Rap glorification of this least-liberal, and in some ways most Trump-like, of America’s Founding Fathers.
The blockbuster musical focuses on the immigrant energy and genius of Alexander Hamilton, who rose from an out-of-wedlock birth in the Caribbean to become aide to General George Washington and America’s first Secretary of the Treasury.
Miranda deserves credit for seeing the dramatic potential in Hamilton, from his battlefield courage at Yorktown to his adulterous, scandalous affair, to his quarrels with Thomas Jefferson, to his death in a pistol duel with Jefferson’s “Progressive” Vice President Aaron Burr.
Hamilton’s vision of an urban, industrial America has in our time triumphed over Thomas Jefferson’s ideal of a rural republic of farmers.
We admire Jefferson, but as George Will wrote, we live today in Alexander Hamilton’s America. So why should liberals love Hamilton and hate urban builder Donald Trump? Consider:
(1) Alexander Hamilton fought patriotically for America’s independence from King George III, but he then urged George Washington to become ruler for life. Hamilton favored lifetime appointments for future Presidents and Senators as well, and argued that the President should appoint the governor of each state.
(2) Hamilton supported the Alien & Sedition Acts of 1798, which put tight controls on immigration. These laws also made it a crime to criticize the government and its high officials, which our second president John Adams used to imprison several members of Congress and dozens of journalists.
Had Thomas Jefferson not won the presidency in 1800 and halted enforcement of these Hamilton-backed laws, the United States might have slid into permanent dictatorship like the Soviet Union.
(3) Hamilton was an elitist who looked down his nose at working people and merchants. He devised government policies designed to favored the rich while denying the same subsidies and tax breaks to Middle Class business people and small farmers.
Hamilton saw democracy as mob rule. When asked if, like Jefferson, he wanted government by the people, Hamilton snapped” “Your People, Sir, is a great beast.” He favored rule by an unchanging aristocratic elite…an odd position for someone who rose solely by talent and the luck of gaining Washington’s personal favor.
(4) Hamilton favored high taxes and heavy-handed enforcement. When small farmers west of the Appalachians distilled their crops into easier-to-ship whisky to sell in the East, the federal government imposed heavy taxes on distilled spirits. When farmers rose against this tax in the “Whisky Rebellion,” Hamilton helped lead a crushing military show of force to compel their submission. He also advocated an armada of government cutters off the coast to crack down on tax evaders.
(5) Hamilton favored a large standing military with himself as one of its leaders. Most Founders distrusted this because such militaries in Europe were used to put down and keep down the People.
(6) Hamilton strongly supported a European-style central bank to manipulate money and credit, which thanks to Jeffersonian president Andrew Jackson was unable to take full control of America’s economy until 1913, when Democrat Progressive Woodrow Wilson gained the power to create the Federal Reserve because of a Republican Party split between President William Howard Taft and former President Teddy Roosevelt.
If Hamilton’s plans for a central bank had prevailed, corrupt government interference with our economy might have doomed our young Republic from the start. On the other hand, Hamilton’s tax and credit policies gave Jefferson’s Administration enough credit to make the Louisiana Purchase from Napoleon.
The musical “Hamilton” reportedly persuaded Jack Lew, our current Secretary of the Treasury, to keep Hamilton’s image on America’s $10 bill….and instead to remove President Andrew Jackson’s image from the $20 bill.
Perhaps liberals love the musical “Hamilton” because it depicts this Founding Father opposed to slave-owners such as Jefferson. Truth be told, however, Hamilton did little to end slavery – and may have helped his relatives buy and sell a few slaves.
More likely, liberals applaud Hamilton as an advocate of a powerful central government who worked to become part of the ruling elite. They do not even know that Hamilton was eager to restrict immigration and impose trade restrictions.
Exactly the same could be said of Donald Trump, who at some not-too-distant future time will doubtless be the central figure of a successful broadway musical like “Hamilton.”
Too bad “Hamilton” does not tell the whole truth. It might have created an even better teachable moment.
Lowell Ponte’s articles about Thomas Jefferson have appeared in The New York Times and Los Angeles Times.
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Jason Frank and Isaac Kramnick, “What ‘Hamilton’ Forgets About Hamilton,” New York Times, June 10, 2016. URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/11/opinion/what-hamilton-forgets-about-alexander-hamilton.html
Nancy Isenberg, “Liberals Love Alexander Hamilton. But Aaron Burr Was a Real Progressive Hero,” Washington Post, March 30, 2016. URL: https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/03/30/liberals-love-alexander-hamilton-but-aaron-burr-was-a-real-progressive-hero/
Samuel Biagetti, “Why Did Everyone Hate Alexander Hamilton? These Elitist Policies Made Hamilton the Most Despised Man in America,” HistoryBuff.com, January 13, 2016. URL: http://historybuff.com/why-did-everyone-hate-alexander-hamilton-1-KNybdVLeDn4W
Jackie Calmes, “Success of ‘Hamilton’ May Have Saved Hamilton on the $10 Bill,” New York Times, April 15, 2016. URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/16/us/politics/success-of-hamilton-may-have-saved-hamilton-on-the-10-bill.html