Book Spotlight: Alexander Hamilton: From Obscurity to Greatness

John Kaminski, founder and director of The Center for the Study of the American Constitution at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and director and co-editor of The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution series, has a new book out on Alexander Hamilton.

In “Alexander Hamilton: From Obscurity to Greatness,” Kaminski brings Hamilton to life by publishing the words of not only Alexander Hamilton but also his contemporaries. The quotations in this volume were taken from the letters of the Founder, journals, diaries, newspaper essays, and speeches.

A few quotes I’d like to spotlight from the book –

(1) President George Washington to Alexander Hamilton, 2 February 1795 – “In every relation, which you have borne to me, I have found that my confidence in your talents, exertions and integrity, has been well placed. I the more freely render this testimony of my approbation, because I speak from opportunities of information which cannot deceive me, and which furnish satisfactory proof of your title to public regard.”

(2) John Adams to Abigail Adams, 9 January 1797 – “Hamilton I know to be a proud Spirited, conceited, aspiring Mortal always pretending to Morality, with as debauched Morals as old Franklin who is more his Model than any one I know. As great an Hypocrite as nay in the U.S. His Intrigues in the Election I despise. That he has Talents I admit. But I dread none of them. I shall take no notice of his Puppyhood but retain the same Opinion of him I always had and maintain the Same Conduct towards him I always did, that is keep him at a distance.”

(3) The Federalist No. 34, 5 January 1788 – “We must bear in mind, that we are not to confine our view to the present period, but to look forward to remote futurity. Constitutions of civil Government are not to be framed upon a calculation of exigencies; but upon a combination of these, with the probable exigencies of ages, according to the natural and tried course of human affairs. Nothing therefore can be more fallacious, than to infer the extent of any power, property to be lodged in the National Government, from an estimate of its immediate necessities. There ought to be a capacity to provide for future contingencies, as they may happen; and, as these are illimitable in their nature, it is impossible safely to limit that capacity.”

(4) Caesar No. II, 17 October 1787 – “There are always men in society of some talents, but more ambition, in quest of that which it would be impossible for them to obtain in any other way than by working on the passions and prejudices of the less discerning classes of citizens and yeomanry. — It is the plan of men of this stamp to frighten the people with ideal bugbears, in order to mould them to their own purposes. The unceasing cry of these designing croakers is, my friends, your liberty is invaded! Have you thrown off the yoke of one tyrant, to invest yourselves with that of another! Have you fought, bled, and conquered, for such a change! If you have – go – retire into silent obscurity, and kiss the rod that scourges you.”

(5) The Federalist No. 15, 1 December 1787 – “The best oracle of wisdom, experience.”

(6) The Federalist No. 30, 1 January 1788 – “In disquisition of every kind there are certain primary truths or first principles upon which all subsequent reasonings must depend. These contain an internal evidence, which antecedent to all reflection or combination commands the assent of the mind.”

I highly recommend that any fans of Hamilton, his eponymous Broadway show, or the Founders generally pick up this book! It’s available for purchase via Amazon.com here.

 

 

 

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