Alexander Hamilton, learned essayist, founding father, soldier and patriot, whose statue adorns the lofty pillars of the Treasury Building in Washington DC, wrote a revolutionary paper in December, 1774. It described a bureaucrat so much like President Donald Trump, that the eerie echoes of time reverberate over the centuries and reveal a stark reality that is unnerving!
A politician whose sole passion is to advance his agenda will often stiffen sociopathic blinders and back himself into a corner, leaving no avenue for escape. Such are the moral and character deficiencies that became so apparent in President Donald Trump’s eye-opening news conference this past Tuesday, August 15th, 2017. However, our history is riddled with demagogues who cast similar shadows; digging in heels and proclaiming an obdurate defense of the indefensible.
Alexander Hamilton’s subject of contention was the Prime Minister of Great Britain who ruled before and during the American Revolutionary War, Lord Fredrick North. Hamilton addressed the prime minister in an essay he wrote to counter Anglican rector and staunch Tory, Samuel Seabury. The clergyman’s vitriolic attack on the First Continental Congress, entitled “A Westchester Farmer,” outraged colonials from the New Hampshire Grants to Georgia. Hamilton soon published the patriot’s response, “A Full Vindication of the Measures of the Congress.” It received wide praise for Hamilton’s foresight and succinctness in dealing with Great Britain’s perceived pigheadedness towards the American colonies. The section on Lord North is revealing for present interest. Hamilton exposed the minister’s character shortcomings – thereby laying bare the core of American’s festering frustrations; so apparent in 1774… as it is today in an analogy to Trump.
These brief sentences by Hamilton on Lord North easily sum up President Trump:
“The Premier has advanced too far to recede with safety. He is deeply interested to execute his purpose… In common life, to retract an error, even in the beginning, is no easy task; perseverance confirms us in it, and rivets the difficulty. But in a public station, to have been in an error and to have persisted in it when it is detected, ruins both reputation and fortune. To this we may add, that disappointment and opposition inflame the minds of [such] men and attach them still more to their mistakes.”
Hamilton’s description is so brief – yet so amazingly pertinent to this past week’s events. President Trump’s insistence on equating right wing extremists and white supremacists, including domestic terrorism, with those who object and demonstrate against such racist and bigoted views, is too far advanced to recede with safety. For many Americans, it was the last straw. Trump has proven time and time again that he is deeply interested to execute his purpose – pushing personal agendas and self praise to the breaking point. Hamilton acknowledges that in common life, errors are made and it is no easy task to retract such mistakes. But when a public figure is in error, and persists in it, and when detected, Hamilton reminds us that it ruins both reputation and fortune. This is exactly what Trump did earlier this week. He stated “both sides” at Charlottesville were to blame and three days later, reaffirmed his insupportable view in a more strongly worded statement. A majority of the American public detected and acknowledged this moral corruption. Trump’s reputation is tarnished and to what effect he will remain in the hearts of his base supporters, which is beginning to show signs of wear, depends on how skillful his aides, some republican members of congress, and Fox News are in twisting reality. And of course disappointment and opposition only enflames President Trump even more so to go on the attack. As Hamilton states – it will attach such men still more to their mistakes.
History tells us much. Here Hamilton exposes a demagogue who he and so many of our founding fathers strongly believed would not bow to fact or reason, leading to grave consequences and ultimate war. His description of Lord North’s character is uncanny in similarity to President Trump. History allows us to see ourselves over and over through the pages of time. It shows us how humans have wrestled with the same flaws that seep into all men and women throughout the ages; some more so than others as is the case of our current president. We study history, examining how our forefathers coped with both distress and fortune. And by doing so we learn to step carefully and avoid the pitfalls of government and society. But if we purposely turn from our past and not take heed of our ancestor’s trials and tribulations, we lay ourselves bare – destined to reinvent the wheel and experience ignorance fully, in all its ugly manifestations.
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The Works of Alexander Hamilton in Twelve Volumes. Vol. I. Federal Edition. 1904: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, NY, NY. Article quote found on pages 10 & 11.
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