Hamilton’s Curse by Thomas J. DiLorenzo
May 20, 2010 by Bob Livingston
History can be a funny thing. Sometimes the sands of time obscure facts from those with only a passing knowledge of the truth.
So it is with some of the Founding Fathers. As a group they are revered by many for their knowledge, wisdom and forethought. They are seen as selfless defenders of liberty.
But that view is not completely accurate. Take the case of Alexander Hamilton, described by Thomas J. DiLorenzo in Hamilton’s Curse as essentially the anti-Thomas Jefferson—a man who would be pleased with America’s economic system today.
Hamilton’s Curse is not a biography of Hamilton. Rather it describes “his core political and economic ideas; the intellectual, legal, and political battles over those ideas; and the consequences America has suffered since his ideas were implemented,” DiLorenzo writes.
Although he was a principal author of The Federalist Papers and championed the adoption of the United States Constitution to replace the Articles of Confederation, he began to work immediately to undermine its tenants as President George Washington’s first Treasury Secretary.
What Hamilton really favored was a strong central government. In fact, as DiLorenzo writes, Hamilton opposed the Articles of Confederation because it did not empower a centralized government. He wanted America to be ruled by a king that would have supreme power over all the people. He favored making the states provinces with governors appointed by—and therefore loyal to—the king.
Under such a regime, all political power in the nation would be exercised by the king and his circle of advisors, which undoubtedly would include Hamilton. Essentially, Hamilton wanted to turn the United States into Britain.
But what Hamilton wrote in The Federalist Papers sounded quite Jeffersonian, leading many to believe later that he was being less than sincere in the writings, DiLorenzo writes.
“More likely, his writings were intended to goad the public into acquiescing in the adoption of a document that he hoped would become a ‘living constitution,’” according to DiLorenzo. Hamilton later described the Constitution as “a frail and worthless fabric.”
Among the legacies of Hamilton and his acolytes is the idea that the Constitution granted the Federal government “implied powers”—powers that were not actually in the Constitution but that statists like Hamilton wish were there.
He favored a central bank, activist judges and mercantilist system modeled after the British system.
DiLorenzo writes that Hamilton was likely the first to twist the meaning of the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, claiming the clause was an all-inclusive term for all commercial activities in society, and therefore that the government had a “right” to regulate and control all commerce—not just trade but intrastate commerce as well.
Hamilton believed “public” debt was a blessing, and he favored high taxes and paying subsidies (corporate welfare) to certain businesses.
While small government advocates in the Jeffersonian tradition won out over the Hamiltonians in the beginning, the Hamiltonians—or nationalists, as DiLorenzo calls them—never relented in their efforts.
Finally, in 1913 with the establishment of the Federal Reserve and the passage of the 16th Amendment (granting the power to lay and collect taxes) and 17th Amendment (changing the way Senators are selected), the Hamiltonian philosophy prevailed.
Hamilton’s economic philosophy is in play today, and is the source of our country’s economic ills. DiLorenzo lays this all out in excellent fashion and peels back the layers of historical revisionism that have lionized Hamilton and others who believed as he did.
DiLorenzo makes an excellent case that if we are to return to the republic the Founding Fathers like Jefferson and James Madison envisioned we must end the Federal Reserve and repeal the 16th and 17th Amendments.
Freedom-loving Americans who are interested in devolving themselves of the glossed-over public school history they learned—and the false history being perpetuated today—must read this book.