Sunday, March 01, 2009

Alexander Hamilton: Our Greatest Forefather

George Washington was obviously the Father of The Country and in my mind, greater even than Abraham Lincoln. It is a travesty that until recently, historians had rated the charming impostor and chameleon-on-plaid fourflusher FDR as above Washington on the greatest presidents' list.

I am reading at the moment the incredible biography Ron Chernow has penned on Hamilton, and am now convinced that he exceeded John Adams and certainly Thomas Jefferson, that skulker [during the early Revolution when he fled Richmond and hid at Monticello] and lifelong slaver who sold his slaves, unlike Washington who gave them manumission in his will. His second term is worse than GWB's second term, and his embargo was aptly described as "a man cutting his own throat to stop his nosebleed." But the relentless dilettante Jefferson lucked out with the Louisiana Purchase and so resembles most moral lepers like liberal Democrats that he got his own monument on the mall [from fellow horrific second-term POTUS FDR no less]. Madison managed to get the White House and DC incinerated with his feckless policies and Andrew Jackson shredded the Constitution and committed genocide, only to become a hero to the Dems along with slaver Jefferson. This article is about The Grange, now taken over by The National Park Service, which Magnet ends thusly:
As a result, his villa—the only house he ever owned—got moved not once but twice. In 1889, as his country landscape became urban, a developer bought part of his 35 acres to build row houses, and offered Hamilton Grange, as the house was called, to anyone who would move it. An Episcopal church rolled it two blocks from its original site at 143rd Street and Convent Avenue down to 141st Street, to use as a rectory, wedging the house in sideways to fit the space, moving the front door to the side, and shearing off the verandas. And now, moved again to a site where its porches can be restored, its front door put back, it still stands on Hamilton’s land, next to City College, where another generation of ambitious immigrants prepares itself to plunge into Hamilton’s opportunity America.

The National Parks Service, the house’s owner, is gradually restoring it. Already the architects have scraped away dozens of layers of paint to discover the original pale yellow of the drawing-room walls, and they’ve discovered, by taking down plaster, that early descriptions of the room, with three mirrored doors echoing the tall bow window at the room’s other end and reflecting its view, are correct. They’ve even found the doors.

I’m hoping they’ll find the original furniture: the piano that Angelica Hamilton used to play, I know, is stored in a warehouse somewhere. But most of all, I hope Hamilton’s silver ice bucket turns up.

It arrived at his door when the scandal over the Maria Reynolds affair was at its height and he badly needed some support. In the box, he found this note: “Not for any intrinsic value the thing possesses, but as a token of my sincere regards and friendship for you and as a rememberance of me; I pray you to accept a Wine cooler for four bottles. . . . It is one of four I imported in the early part of my late administration of the Government; two only of which were ever used. I pray you to present my best wishes, in which Mrs. Washington joins me, to Mrs. Hamilton & the family; and that you would be persuaded, that with every sentiment of the highest regard, I remain your sincere friend and affectionate Hble. Servant. Go: Washington.”

The sad story of Hamilton's untimely demise at the hands of a cur named Aaron Burr, hero-worshipped by another cur named Vidal, is sad beyond retelling. But Hamilton's numerous acts of outstanding heroism are matched only in reverse by the cowardly cur Burr, who skulked off to save his mangy hide during the War of Independence.

Every time I visit New York City, I walk by his grave close to the sidewalk next to Trinity Church. I pull out a $10 bill and say a prayer for brave little Alex, who built the modern America we are still fighting to save from the modern Jeffersons and Burrs who afflict it at the moment.


Anonymous said...

I was just reading about the silver wine cooler... and my search of this item lead me to your blog. I enjoyed reading it. Did you see that in 1902 the cooler was passed from George Sullivan Bowdoin to his son, Temple. I am Hamilton's 6th great granddaughter, I would love to see this piece back at the Grange... I haven't been there since they moved it from Harlem.

dave in boca said...

I'd love to see that cooler made part of the public domain or accessible to admirers of your illustrious ancestor.