Monday, January 11, 2010

A Sawbuck

The fellow above is on Alexander Hamilton born this day 1755 in Charlestown, British West Indies. He is our 141st hero of the day, and one of the few ones I can say has had a huge influence on my actual thinking. That is, of course, back in the day went I did some actual thinking. He was born a bastard son of a Scot peddler to a gad about mother. If you want to know as much as I did about Hamilton I suggest two books both biographies, one my Forrest McDonald, and the other by Ron Chernow. I could go on and on about Hamilton's pulling himself up by the bootstraps to make it to the colonies, and his attending Columbia. His become George Washington's Chief of Staff during the Revolution, and his heroic military career. His becoming a lawyer in New York City, and how he studied for and passed the bar at warp speed. How he is considered the patron saint of the American school of economics. How, his report on Public Credit, and his founding of the U.S. Mint are the backbone of the financial system under which we operate today. In my earlier years, I was much more of a fan of Hamilton, and I still detest his main political rival, Thomas Jefferson. I still share Hamilton's dislike of the common man, which is confusing since you do not get much more common that myself, but some of his theories I have outgrown as I have aged. Which is, in some respects, a shame. Maybe the heroes of our youth are not meant to be the heroes of our middle age. One thing I do still like about him is the ability he possessed to make enemies. A lot of people have a lot of opinions on Hamilton, and not all of them are nice, but to make that many enemies he had to live by his own motto. Which was "you have to stand for something, or you will fall for anything." And here I am sure that we all thought that was just the title of some bullshit country song. A man like Hamilton, who divided opinion on him so greatly, had to be a man of great talent and ability to achieve everything that he did. If you are lucky, or have been to the bank lately, you are probably carrying around a portrait of him right now. His is the mug that graces the ten dollar (sawbuck) bill. It was his term as the first Secretary of the Treasury that put into place many of the economic policies that we still follow today. Did I mention he was also a fucking genius, his First Report on Public Credit was written in a little over three months, and was 140,000 words long, and is a document of breathtaking brilliance. Perhaps the greatest tragedy of his life is the fact that the system he created was destined to be run by a bunch of bumbling idiots. The bankers of today are just not up to the Hamiltonian standard, which is probably why the U.S. is in such a shithole financially. He was killed in a duel by the Vice-President at the time, Aaron Burr, on the same dueling ground that his son Philip was killed three years earlier. Not a good choice of locations, but I guess destiny, that fickle bitch, had it in for the Hamilton family. I studied him a lot in graduate school, and I need to refresh my memory as to a lot of his ideas, and policies, but I can say that I was able to write this post pretty much from memory, and for that he might be proud. So, for building that economic system that keep a struggling, newly minted United States from going completely bankrupt, and for being an lawyer of considerable skill, Alexander Hamilton (January 11th, 1757- July 12,1804, at the age of 49), you are my hero of the day.

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