Big Government and Demagoguery: Are We on the Path to Tyranny?

I recently gave a speech (twice) about how demagogues use the promise of big government to gain power. Here it is:

A “forgotten” essay by Alexander Hamilton? Reasons to be cautious.

Today, Stephen Brumwell presents a “forgotten” essay possibly written by Alexander Hamilton. Brumwell argues “there’s compelling evidence” that Hamilton penned this essay. According to Brumwell:

A long article…appeared on Thursday October 12 in The New-York Packet, and the American Advertiser… The essay of October 12, 1780, which sought to exploit the widespread anger over Arnold’s treason to revitalize the flagging and divided Patriot war-effort, was anonymous, but carried the bold, capitalized pseudonym “PUBLIUS.” Typical for that era, the same piece was swiftly re-published by other newspapers, making the front page of The Pennsylvania Gazette of October 18, 1780 (“From the New York Packet, Fishkill, October 12”) and later surfacing in The Norwich Packet, and the Weekly Advertiser on Tuesday October 24 (“From the Fish Kill Papers”).

Considering this coverage, including a conspicuous slot in one of early America’s best-known newspapers, it is surprising that neither Hamilton’s biographers nor the editors of his writings have noted this article, if only to eliminate it as the work of some other, less celebrated, “Publius.”

Publius, of course, is the pseudonym Hamilton, Madison, and Jay used to write the Federalist essays in 1787–88. Hamilton had also used it in 1778 to criticize Samuel Chase for “allegedly deploying insider knowledge in an unfair – and unpatriotic – bid to monopolize the flour market.” Read Brumwell’s post for this and more evidence he presents.

As I had done in Alexander Hamilton: The Formative Years regarding other essays attributed to Hamilton, I decided to do a simple stylometric analysis of this Publius essay, the complete text of which Mr. Brumwell was kind enough to provide in a link. Looking at word length and sentence length compared to known Hamilton essays, here are the results:

Publius1780

It clearly appears based on sentence length that Hamilton did not pen this essay. Although it is possible that Alexander Hamilton chose to write this essay in a different style, this is strong evidence against Hamilton’s authorship.

Of course, I also read this Publius essay and I think it does not read like something Hamilton wrote, but that is just the personal opinion of one person.

Mr. Brumwell also writes of an essay by A.B. that Hamilton may have also authored:

Previously unrecorded, however, is the fact that “A. B.” had also been used by the anonymous author of an article published in Loudon’s newspaper on April 20, 1780. Written at a time when Hamilton was with Washington at Morristown, New Jersey, this essay tackled a topic close to his heart: the worsening state of his country’s finances as the paper currency issued by Congress fueled rampant inflation. In particular, it criticized Congress’s decision of March 18 to fix “Continental money at forty to one.”

“A.B” was the pseudonym Hamilton used for his Continentalist essays and he may have also used it to try to convince British General Henry Clinton to trade Benedict Arnold for John André. Unfortunately, Mr. Brumwell did not provide the complete text of this essay for analysis.

I salute Mr. Brumwell for his great find and surely hope other evidence can be found regarding the authorship of these essays, but until then we must be cautious when trying to attribute anonymous works to certain people without any direct evidence.

Michael E. Newton interviewed on Gene Pisasale’s “Living History” Program

On December 2, 2015, Gene Pisasale interviewed Michael E. Newton, author of Alexander Hamilton: The Formative Years, about Hamilton’s wartime service on his “Living History” radio show.

http://wche1520.libsyn.com/living-history-12-2-15

“Alexander Hamilton’s Revolutionary War Service” by Michael E. Newton at Washington’s Headquarters in Morristown, NJ

The AHA Society presents a talk by author and historian Michael E. Newton on Alexander Hamilton’s indispensable services during the Revolutionary War, followed by a book signing of Alexander Hamilton: The Formative Years. The talk took place at Washington’s Headquarters Museum, Morristown – NJ, as part of the third day of Events of the CelebrateHAMILTON 2015.

Michael E. Newton talks about ‘Alexander Hamilton Before the American Revolution’ on C-SPAN American History TV

My apologies for posting this at such a late date but I only now noticed that I never shared this on my blog (you may have seen it on my other social media sites).

C-SPAN’s description: “Michael E. Newton talked about his book, Alexander Hamilton: The Formative Years, about the early life of the Founding Father from the West Indies. Mr. Newton talked about his research process and how Hamilton’s early experiences helped prepare him to become one of the most influential of the Founding Fathers.”

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The Hamilton Musical: Let’s not confuse art with history

In a piece about the Hamilton musical, The New Yorker gave examples of how Republican presidential candidates can learn from it. Of course, the musical is not 100% historically accurate, so it may not be wise to learn from it rather than from real history. Here are two quotes from the musical which were included in the article as lessons for the candidates:

“Everything is legal in New Jersey.” Duelling was not legal in New Jersey. New Yorkers chose Weehawken for their duels not because it was legal but because it was a secluded spot (a beach backed by a cliff).

Hamilton and Lafayette declare, “Immigrants, we get the job done.” Lafayette was not an immigrant. He came to fight in the Continental Army and spent much time in the US during and after the war, but he never moved to the US or set up residency here. But there were many Europeans who did stay in the US after the war, most notably the Baron von Steuben.

There is no doubt we can learn much from art such as the Hamilton musical, but let’s be sure we don’t confuse a musical based on history, which uses much poetic license, and real history.

Correcting Wikipedia: Which two major generals asked Alexander Hamilton to serve as aide?

Following up on my previous post about how Wikipedia gets the story of Hamilton’s “early military career” wrong, I plan to continue my criticism of Wikipedia as a source for information regarding Hamilton’s life and career. According to Wikipedia:

 Hamilton was invited to become an aide to Nathanael Greene and to Henry Knox;[27]

HamiltonTwoMajGensAide

Wikipedia cites “Randall, p. 120.” “Randall” is “Randall, William Sterne (2003). Alexander Hamilton: A Life. HarpersCollins.” Interestingly, Randall on page 120 does not state that Greene and Knox asked Hamilton to serve as an aide. Randall does have Greene inviting Hamilton to serve as his aide-de-camp on page 101. He also has Elias Boudinot asking Hamilton if he wanted to serve as an aide, or brigade major, to Lord Stirling on page 100. Nowhere does Randall have Knox asking Hamilton to be his aide.

Other biographers have also written that Greene asked Hamilton to be his aide (Mitchell, Alexander Hamilton: The Revolutionary Years 6; Chernow, Alexander Hamilton 74). Although Randall did not, at least one historian did write that Knox asked Hamilton to serve as his aide (Lefkowitz, George Washington’s Indispensable Men 108).

So what is the truth? Here’s an excerpt from Alexander Hamilton: The Formative Years:

Prior to Washington’s invitation, Hamilton had already “refused to serve in this capacity with two major generals.” In early 1776, Lord Stirling asked Hamilton to be his brigade major, whose duties included that of an aide. Elisha Boudinot informed Stirling on March 10 that Hamilton “had already accepted the command of Artillery and was therefore deprived of the pleasure of attending your Lordship’s person as Brigade Major.” Lord Stirling was only a brigadier general at the time, but he would be promoted to major general in February 1777. Although Hamilton, in recalling these events in February 1781, incorrectly remembered Stirling’s rank at the time the offer was made, this was clearly one of the offers from the “two major generals.”

The second offer has never been positively identified, but is often assumed to have come from Nathanael Greene. It is possible that Greene offered to make Hamilton his aide after they reportedly met in the spring or summer of 1776. It was around this time, in August 1776 to be exact, that Greene was promoted from brigadier general to major general. But there is no evidence that Greene asked Hamilton to serve as his aide and no one who wrote about Greene meeting Hamilton in 1776 mentioned this invitation.

Alternatively, it has been suggested that the second offer came from Henry Knox. It will be recalled that Robert Troup said that Knox noticed Hamilton during the campaign of 1776 and then recommended him to Washington. Knox may have also learned that Hamilton authored The Farmer Refuted, copies of which Knox had sold in his bookstore before the war. As the commander of the Continental Army’s artillery regiment, Knox would have loved to appoint this distinguished artillery captain and revolutionary pamphleteer as his aide. But Knox was only a colonel during most of the campaign of 1776–77. He would be appointed a brigadier general on December 27, 1776, but would not be made a major general until March 1782. As Knox did not become a major general until after Hamilton made his statement about refusing “to serve . . . two major generals” and Hamilton surely knew Knox’s rank, Hamilton could not have been referring to Knox.

Perhaps some other major general asked Hamilton to serve as an aide. Possibly Alexander McDougall, who was a friend and supporter of Hamilton, was the other major general. McDougall was made a brigadier general in August 1776 and a major general in October 1777, so he fits the profile. While there is no evidence that McDougall made this invitation, there is equally scant evidence of Greene having done so.

Supporting evidence and citations will be found in the endnotes of Alexander Hamilton: The Formative Years.

So yet again we see that Wikipedia cannot be relied upon for accurate information regarding Alexander Hamilton. There is no evidence to state definitively, as Wikipedia does, that Greene asked Hamilton to serve as his aide. Additionally, it is known that Knox could not have been one of the two major generals in question. Moreover, Wikipedia totally omits Lord Stirling even though it is known with certainty that he asked Hamilton to be his aide.

Since its publication a month ago, Alexander Hamilton: The Formative Years has been called the “definitive” book on Hamilton’s early life. Having the correct information in this instance, in contrast to Wikipedia and some historians who get it wrong, demonstrates why Alexander Hamilton: The Formative Years is receiving rave reviews.