Hamilton and the Tenner

It does seem to me historically tone deaf for the Treasury Dept. to consider taking Alexander Hamilton, of all people, off U.S. currency, of all things, or even reducing his presence there. I can’t say I care who is on the money — easier to have nothing there but graphic design, I think — but if any face should be engraved on money, it’s Hamilton’s. Money is what he was all about.

That obvious fact has recently inspired a burst of Hamilton adulation, summed up in Steven Rattner’s New York Times Op Ed today. Rattner takes the controversy as an occasion for making a boatload of wrongheaded comparisons among the U.S. founders, arriving at the foregone conclusion that Hamilton was morally and politically superior to others. That requires glib assertions that misrepresent Hamilton and end up making no historical sense at all. Continue reading

Hamilton wanted weak government?

Via Twitter, from Bill Chapman and then J.L. Bell, : a nice, straight-ahead, witty piece here by Tim Hodson of Sacramento State, on how rightwingers like Armey, Bachmann, et al, make up stuff about American history. Hodson writes:

… For example, Dick Armey recently proclaimed the Jamestown Colony as “socialist venture” that left “everybody dead and dying in the snow.”  Let’s see:  Jamestown was founded as a for-profit venture by the London Company, a joint stock company in 1607, or about two hundred years before French thinker Saint-Simon first wrote about socialism.  Perhaps Armey confused Capitan John Smith, soldier of fortune and tireless promoter of North America as a place to get rich, with Karl Marx. After all, both men had beards.

Armey also invoked the Federalist Papers as a guide to small government and insisted that Alexander Hamilton believed in a weak national government.   …

Love it. Things do get a little dicier, at least to me, when further along Hodson says:

… many conservatives trotted out the canard that the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery.  Sorry, folks, that just ain’t so …

The apodictic “yes, it was!” “no,  it wasn’t!” on this question, with all of its oft-cited chapter and verse on each side, feels old to me, and fruitless. Maybe there’s a fresher and more complicated way to air that matter out? Anyway, the piece is smart and fun and worth checking out.