Recently I have been reading one of those free kindle books called “The History of the United States” by a gentleman called Cecil Chesterton.
It was published near the beginning of the 20th Century, so it is written in an old fashion way and occasionally you pick up on some views that were popular at the time (His views on the 15th Amendment particularly made me laugh as he would probably be called a misogynist nowadays).
It is quite a long detailed read (I have only read 25% and am only on Andrew Jackson). But the lead up to Thomas Jefferson being elected as the third president really caught me and it was all to do with his rivalry with Alexander Hamilton – who in the book was described as Jefferson’s enemy.
A Quick Background to the scope of early 19th Century American Politics:
During the early days of the American political system two parties of thought were emerging – The Federalists, who wanted a government system similar to the British system with a strong central government of which Alexander Hamilton was part of.
Then there was the Democrat Republican party, which wanted the country to keep with the principals it was founded on as a Republic.
At this time when it came for electing a new president they went through the electoral college. There was a tie between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr – who from Chesteron’s book is spoken of unfavourably.
Hamilton himself could not be President because he was not born in the States, but had much influence in the house (as it was mostly dominated by Federalists).
Although Thomas Jefferson was a fierce opponent to Hamilton’s beliefs. Hamilton recognised that Burr was the wrong choice – he was dedicate to the rise of his own career and he felt he would not serve the best interests of the country. So he used his influence among the Federalists to back Jefferson, who won and became the third president – and the rest as they say is history.
What’s the lessons learned?
In a world where everyone seems to be out for themselves this account seems to be a lesson in humility, ego and recognising someones abilities (even if their principal beliefs differ).
And this really hit home for me. Could I do the same as Alexander Hamilton? Would I endorse someone who, although maybe talented, had views I disagreed with that I would champion them into a position of power?
Would today’s politicians make the same sacrifice and back someone in an opposing party because their leader is the wrong choice to be in charge of the country they proclaim to love?
What happened to Alexander Hamilton?
Aaron Burr ran for New York State Governor in 1804 and again Hamilton used his influence to stop him being elected. As a result Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel and killed him.
This caused outrage and Burr was tried for treason as it was felt to be an abuse of the dueling privileged. He was acquitted – but Burr faded into obscurity.
In death, Hamilton made the ultimate sacrifice with his life based on his principals and as a result is usually thought of in a positive manner in the history books.
He’s left behind a legacy that still remains highly influential to the US constituion today and the visionary architect behind the modern liberal capitalist economy (Reference: Wikipedia).
Want to Read “The History of the United States” for Free? Click here
Read a more detailed background on Alexander Hamilton here