Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Burkean political principles of Alexander Hamilton

That's the topic of this detailed post over at The Imaginative Conservative: Hamilton's Legacy. As Michael Federici, author of the newly published Political Philosophy of Alexander Hamilton, writes, Hamilton's political ideas were synthesized from a variety of sources, but chief among them was the great English statesman, Whig politician and grandfather of modern conservatism, Edmund Burke. Federici provides a balanced portrait of Hamilton's approach to politics and the Constitution, noting both its strengths and its weaknesses. As Federici's post helps to demonstrate, Hamilton was a conservative statesman, a man with an imperfect but thoroughly grounded political and constitutional worldview, and a tireless proponent of government strong enough to preserve and protect the Union. He was no creature of abstract ideology like Jefferson, but, as Russell Kirk once pointed out, he was a prudential and principled worker in the vineyard of politics. Federici's post, and his new book, do much to dispel the distortions on both the Right and the Left about Hamilton.


Anonymous said...

I dispute this claim about Burke's influence on Hamilton. I've looked up Burke in the index of Hamilton's collected papers (27 volumes) and only found one reference to Burke. Burke was born in 1729, Hamilton in 17755/7. I would propose that the biggest intellectual influence on Hamilton was David Hume.

Furthermore, was Hamilton so conservative? He opposed slavery, supported a larger House of Representatives, chose to live in NYC & be a "city man," etc. If you want a traditional, small-government, states rights Founder, your man is Jefferson.

Previous generations of conservatives chose John Adams as their man.

Mark D. said...

Someone can be influenced by someone else and not cite to them, particularly if one is an American patriot who may not want to overtly reference a sitting member of the British Parliament. Simply because Hamilton may not have footnoted his work with references to Burke doesn't mean that Burke didn't influence him, or that his policies were not "Burkean."

As for who gets to be a conservative, I tend to follow the sage categorization of the late Russell Kirk. If one looks at Kirk's compilation of conservative primary source writings -- The Portable Conservative -- one will find essays by Hamilton included. One will find precisely no essays by Jefferson. Jefferson was a radical, not a conservative. Adams was a conservative, Hamilton was as well, although by modern standards less orthodox. Clinton Rossiter wrote on this as well, and demonstrated the significant strands of conservative thought in Hamilton's writings.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Burke's defences of the colonists were printed in the American newspapers. I appreciate all that diligence, Anonymous, but you missed the forest for the trees.

[For example, see the last entry here, the Massachusetts Spy newspaper, 1775, containing one of Burke's speeches.

American newspapers would routinely get ahold of British ones and reprint (steal) what they found interesting or helpful.]