Friday, March 17, 2017

Alexander Hamilton on "Exil[ing] an entire category of people without hearing or trials." Was That A Good Idea?

I was reading a blog post the other day on the emotional response we have to words and how reading expands our perception of other people's take on the world around us. The ideas that the post started flying around in my head was amazing.

The Hamilton book is at my bedside now. Yesterday was a day of rest for me so I sat up in bed with a pencil reading the book and underlining passages. It was amazing how looking at life through a periscope makes things so much clearer. The right and wrong of things is easier to see when we are talking about what has happened and then have the privilege of actually seeing the outcome.

The passage that caught my interest yesterday was related to the emotional response of the rabble and radicals of NYC to those people that hung back during the war failing to decide to join the cause. In a law passed by New York, Tory's were evacuated from the city and sent back to the place they came from. In fact New York City celebrated Evacuation Day on November 25 for over 100 years beginning in 1783.

Alexander Hamilton opposed that law and defended those British sympathizers courts of law. Here was his thinking as stated by Ron Chernow, the author of Alexander Hamilton:
He railed against the baleful precedent that would be set if the legislature exiled an entire category of people without hearing or trials. If that happened, "no man can be safe nor know when he may be the innocent victim of a prevailing faction. The name of liberty applied to such a government would be a mockery of common sense."
Hamilton disputed the rhetoric of Tory baiters and said categorically that they are motivated by "little vindictive selfish mean passions". 
I might add here that Hamilton saw that those people being evacuated were taking the new country's monetary wealth with them. "-seven thousand had sailed for Nova Scotia in April" of that year and he "feared for the economic wreckage that might ensue from the large-scale exodus." so the very rich left with the money before the evacuation order because they saw the handwriting on the wall. It took many years for the new nation to catch back up again.

Change a very few words in this passage and we could talking about today's news. We could insert Muslim, Mexican, Black, Canadian etc. History is repeating itself. As history does that very thing, those of us that sit watching have the right and obligation to reference that happened in the past. We can and should learn from the past because it is being played out once again.

Now, you have to know that Hamilton was the man that actually came up with the concept that is now our constitution, the one that Jefference so elegantly put into words. He wrote and submitted a resolution to the Continental Congress setting out a plan for amending the Articles of Confederation in in 1783 or there abouts. Our constitution was not passed until 1787.

The reason this is all so interesting is that Hamilton wrote everything down. His words were there for everyone to read and understand. We are learning how permanent words are even online on sites like Twitter and Facebook even today. They NEVER go away.

I am beginning to see that the way the American people feel now about so many issues are the same emotions our founders felt. Fear, bigotry and the knee jerk reaction are not new things. We are smart if we take heed and take a look at history and decide if we want out place in history to be remembered one way or the other.

It is all about words and books and learning. I liked that blog post a lot. I wish I could remember where I saw it.

What do you think? Is that a good idea?

It is just a thought.


Note: I am beginning to understand now how the cast of Hamilton felt so emotionally attached to this issue that they addressed Mike Pence during a performance back in November. The past has become very real for that cast in ways we cannot even fathom. I thank them for that!


  1. Hopefully we won't be remembered as the generation(s) that ended the American Experiment

    1. No, we won't. It will sort itself out and in the meantime we will speak our minds and put forth a reasoned argument against all that is wrong. I am always optimistic because I have seen a lot of history by just living.

      Be well Pia.

  2. Great post Barb! Thanks for sharing you new found knowledge. I guess I need to learn more about this important American hero.

    1. Oh, I have no doubt that you know a lot more than I ever will RJ. But learning while history is unfolding in front of our eyes is very interesting.

      Thank you for stopping by.

    2. I might add here that all of this is not new to me. But finding such a great resource brings it all into focus.


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