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Ron Chernow on Alexander Hamilton: Live from La Farine CXCIII: June 10, 2014

Ron Chernow: The Mail: Letters from Our Readers : The New Yorker: "MISTAKEN IDENTITY

Lizzie Widdicombe, in her piece about the Manhattan Institute’s Hamilton Awards, quotes a number of Republican politicians intent on promoting an image of Alexander Hamilton as representing an urban, Wall Street-friendly brand of conservatism (The Talk of the Town, May 26th). In researching my biography of Hamilton, I discovered that, in many battles with Jeffersonian foes, Hamilton proved himself to be a liberal champion. He advocated federal power against the doctrine of states’ rights and favored an expansive reading of the Constitution. He promoted abolitionism and lent his prestige to a school for Native Americans.

He was the foremost agent of economic modernity against the slavocracy of the South. When he founded Paterson, New Jersey, he espoused open immigration against the forces of nativism. Even as his Jeffersonian opponents agitated for limited government, Hamilton emerged as the chief architect of a robust executive branch. The patron saint of the Coast Guard and the Customs Service, he made the first federal investments in American infrastructure, showing the creative uses of government and paving the way for the Progressive Era and the New Deal. In his own day Hamilton was vilified for higher taxes and increased government spending—scarcely the forerunner of modern-day Republicanism, in either its Tea Party or establishment incarnations.