Sunday, April 24, 2016

"Among the founders, Hamilton was probably the most passionate advocate of national unity...

...He wanted people to think of themselves as Americans, not as citizens of separate states."

Alexander Hamilton was among the foremost purveyors of New York Values, says Cass Sunstein. I think he's right.

And one part of those values is the very American idea that we need not be trapped by our heritage, that we can be more than an indifferent world or so-called fate would have us be. (An idea that we need to extend to more people if we are to fulfill the promise of America.)

This is precisely the story of Hamilton, the illegitimate son of a man who eventually abandoned him, born in the Caribbean, a immigrant to America, where he graduated from King's College (now Columbia University), became a leader in the Revolutionary War, wrote the lion's share of The Federalist Papers, and, while serving as George Washington's secretary of the treasury, created the American economy.

That economic system has led not only to the nation with the most sustained prosperity in world history, it also was one major factor in fostering American national unity.

That represents another of Hamilton's New York Values. He saw himself more as an American than as a New Yorker. Like Washington, he understood the importance for the nation that fought a revolution for liberty to complete that revolution by a commitment to mutual dependence and accountability, resulting in the US Constitution.

Hamilton's commitment to nationhood and his conception of what it means to be a federalist puts the lie to those who squawk about states' rights as a means of avoiding full participation in American national life (liberty and mutual accountability) and undermining America. As Sunstein writes:
Most politicians who run for national office develop a deep affection for the nation’s diverse states, with all their unique quirks and histories. It’s much worse than bad politics for a candidate to complain about “Vermont values,” “Nebraska values,” “Georgia values,” “Ohio values,” or the values of any of the states. In light of the nation’s hard-won unity, it’s a betrayal of the great motto of the United States, which can also be found on our currency: E pluribus unum (from many, one).

Hamilton was in a very real sense not only the quintessential New Yorker, but because of his commitment to New York Values, was, along with the Virginian Washington, one member of a new species that has been around now for more than two centuries. Alexander Hamilton was an American.

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