Saturday, January 9, 2016


Weeeeeell, we're doin' it. We're reading Ron Chernow's massive Alexander Hamilton biography. Thanks, Alice, for hosting and giving us the motivation we need to become more intelligent people and better denizens of society.

My favorite thing about this book so far (aside from the fact that I can now feel very smug while reading in public) . . .

Psh. Lolita. *struggles to lift Hamilton upright*

. . . is that it puts more meat on the bones of what they teach in most American history classes.

Horatio Gates, for instance. I always encountered him as a bullet point. 
  • Horatio Gates: General at the Battle of Saratoga, turning point of the Revolutionary War
He sounds so heroic. HORATIO. Like someone who should be blowing horns and taking names.

Now I've had to reorient my whole mental image of him to accommodate the fact that he was a vain, cowardly, inept, heavyset, gray-haired, bespectacled RAT FINK.

Accusing Hamilton of being a sneaky-breeches letter-copier just because you got caught shit-talking Washington?

What's also kind of crazy is how little things have changed.

On a small scale, it's weird to think that some of today's collegians, writing opinion pieces for their school papers and staging campus protests, could be modern-day Hamiltons.

On a larger scale, political change is strongly tied to the questions: "Does this affect me directly? Then why should I care?" And it was then, too. The Boston Tea Party happened because Parliament had created a monopoly for the East India Company, and the rich merchants, who'd been getting along just fine with their smuggling, were finally motivated by personal interest to join the radicals in protest. 

And one member of Parliament's solution to the uprising in Boston was to DESTROY Boston. That rhetoric might also sounds a little familiar to modern ears, along with Myles Cooper's description of "the people of Boston" as "a crooked and perverse generation."

When people yell and scream about what our Founding Fathers had in mind for this country and how far we've strayed from their vision, and this amendment and that amendment, I want us to remember this excerpt from Hamilton's writing:
The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records. They are written as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature by the hand of the divinity itself and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.
Some bullet points:

  • Is there a biography for Hercules Mulligan? Hercules Mulligan for president.
  • I wonder how many times we'll hear about Madison's "shapely legs."
  • Samuel von Pufendorf is a ridiculous name.
  • "Hamilton wrote to Laurens with such unbridled affection that one Hamilton biographer, James T. Flexner, has detected homoerotic overtones in their relationship. . . . There was such an unabashed ardor in Hamilton's relationship with the marquis that James T. Flexner has wondered whether it progressed beyond mere friendship."

James T. Flexner: MAKE EVERYONE GAY.

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