Thursday, April 2, 2009

Alexander Hamilton Writes To Republicans

To Set The Scene:

This was written in response to Jefferson and other "Democratic Republicans" who were disputing the right of the federal government to set an excise tax on whiskey, raise an army, and defend the agents of the government who had been assaulted.

One of the excise officers, who was attempting to collect an account that was more than two years in arrears was according to Hamilton's records: "Stripped naked, beaten severely incurring numerous broken bones, cuts and permanent injuries, then tortured with a red hot iron bar, before and after. This torture is sufficient to make human nature shudder."

Another inspector was locked inside a distillery warehouse for three days without food. Then he was taken out and subjected to having his nose ground off at a grindstone. The "good yoeman farmers" of Jeffersonian romance called that "mild punishment." Hamilton called it what it was, brutal torture.

Citing these and other cases Hamilton said in 1792 that this "seems to call for vigorous measures on the part of government."

President Washington was himself the nation's single largest distiller of whiskey. He knew when he signed the law into effect that the 7 1/2 cent per gallon tax would cost him more than any other American. He saw the sense of the law, he signed it, and he paid his fair excise.

As he was raising the troops and arranging the logistics of the foray into western Pennsylvania Hamilton, writing as "Tully" (the nickname of Cicero, one of Hamilton's heroes) distilled the issue into its essence as surely as the renegade farmers of the frontier had turned bushels of corn into pints of whiskey.

The issue at hand is simple enough. Shall the majority govern, or be governed? Shall this nation rule, or be ruled? Shall the general will of the people, expressed through the actions of Congress prevail, or the will of a faction? Those who resist these duly passed excises, and do such resistence with cruelty and violence undertake to rejudge and reverse the will of the People of the United States. Such villains may prate and babble about republicanism and the virtues of opposition, when, in fact, they are setting the will of a faction against the clear will of the majority. They contrive, through violence a lawless combination against the sacred authority of law. They have denounced the indisputible commision granted to Congress and the President through the process of election. Respect for the law and the Constitution under which they are formulated are the most sacred duty and the greatest source of security in a Republic. The rule of law is the only bulwark against the designs of malevolent elites against the common liberty. To disregard or resist with violence these laws is treason against every thing which ought to be dear to a free, enlightened and prudent society. Those who seek to appease such treason are the People's Worst Enemies, implacable foes who treat the people as fools or cowards, too weak to perceive their own interest and their duty, or too dastardly to pursue such miscreants. Only cowardice or perdify could counsel inaction in the face of such a dangerous threat to the the rule of law.

Hamilton often gets a lot of undeserved scorn. Yes, he was indeed a complicated and often conflicted man. He many times thwarted his own genius through poor, and sometimes reckless judgement. To my thinking he was, along with Adams, Washington, and Jefferson, one of the absolutely essential thinkers and actors in our revolution, the creation of a Constitutional Union, and the preservation of that same union. Hamilton was most assuredly an essential force among our founders. He might also have been the most dangerous. Hamilton could easily have become our revolution's "Che" exporting our revolution throughout the hemisphere and the world. He saw himself, at the head of course, leading the Federal army to Florida, Louisiana, Mexico and all points of the compass. When Hamilton showed up to visit John Adams with that scheme, wearing a general's uniform of his own elaborate design, Adams rebuffed him curtly, saying "Armies are not things to be toyed about with."

Hamilton responded to the huge deficit left by the revolution and the inept administration under the Articles of Confederation by creating, out of whole cloth, a national bank. It was that Bank of the United States, which became the engine that allowed for the birth of industry and the establishment of trade.

The "conservatives," especially those who belong to the Federalist Society are very fond of citing Hamilton as one of their guiding lights.

Read 'em and weep motherfuckers.