tv Alexander Hamiltons Legacy CSPAN October 25, 2016 10:35pm-11:23pm EDT
>> that happened at 1804 at the young age. for short, the ha ha society. we've had many discoveries and we just revealed three new ones this past thursday liberty hall, check on that -- online for that needs to give special thanks of number of organizations that made this program possible today. especially trinity church, who hosts this partners with great
spirit and great support con -- c -- and the members of the haha society and the board of directors all worked hard to bring this together. we had 32 events and 20 locations over 10 days. and it took everyone's support and encouragement. the haha society joins two honor hamilton's life and his legacy. in that light to the awareness society will be presenting the first hamilton legacy award to ri richard for his two decades of his work to educate the public. the revival of history can be traced to mr. brookheiser's
work, i'll give you four examples. after reading about and writing a studying a book, he saw that, wow, there's someone, a right hand aid and man in his life, alexander hamilton became intrigued and wrote a tremendous book in 1999. the book is only 220 pages long, that deserves an award. if you can tell alexander hamilton's life and all the dimensions of it and 220 pages, it's magnificent. the other thing that we really impersonate and really gets the true hamilton and going to the primary sources, it's been really helpful to the cause of looking for people and about the accurate characterization where many of us didn't hear about him because of the mischaracterization, so we thank him for that book and really was
quite accomplishment. number two, he was historian cure rater the man who made modern -- -- how many were able to see that. how many were able to see that, good. he worked with the institute with jim and nicole, and then there were these alexander exhibit panels that were produced, and it was so excited, we went down where alexander hamilton was born and there were those panels. we were at the patterson museum, yesterday, sorry, sunday and there were those panels, so articulately tell the story of all the dimensions of his life, number three. mr. -- called rediscovering alexander hamilton and that came out in 2011.
now, all of these resources created a foundation from years ago that resulted in great scholarship and content of much renown. they have become the core resource material this year, you may have heard the support of the institute, along with the rockefeller foundation and the hamilton musical, all came together to serve 20,000 students to see that over 18 months. and that rich content was because of the work of him over many years, and quite a hamilton legacy. because it was original continued efforts to share alexander's story, richard is very deserving as the first recipient of the hamilton legacy award, which reads "richard is here by presented with legacy
award, for decades of outstanding service and dedication, to educating the public about the contributions of alexander hamilton to the united states of america. the alexander awareness society, 2016. let's thank richard brookheiser. >> you have to have them, but they're not enough. they have to be made real in the world, you have to work for them. and the same is true of memory.
we have to remember what we've done right. we have to remember what we've done wrong, but memory is not automatic. it has to be informed and it has to be cherished and encouraged, and the alexander awareness society does splended work in that regard and it's a great honor to be recognized by them. thank you. in the hamilton musical, it ends with a profound perspective and a set of questions. who lives, who dies, who tells your story. i like to answer those three parts, who lives, we all live in hamiltons america. as it was alexander hamilton that created the vision and shaped the foundations upon which the united states of
america achieve greatness. who dies, on this day july 12th, 2012 years ago, alexander hamilton died defending his honor, such that as he would say, to be in the future useful. in 18 minutes will be mark the 2:00 passing of alexander passing after 30 years from his injury. he often chose the nations well being over his physical, financial, and family's well being. who tells your story, we're most privileged to have richard brookheiser tell the story. alexander hamilton, ladies and gentlemen, richard brookheiser.
so how did hamilton make america prospero prosperous. we have to look at three things, we have to look at the arc of his life, where he came from and where he went. and then we have to review what he did at the height of his life. and then we have to consider what inspired him, what most moved him. hamilton, as you know, was an immigrant and there were several other immigrants among the founding fathers, ratio gates, robert morris, james wilson. but these other men all came from the british aisles. hamilton was the unique immigrant from the west indys, raised on the island of saint croix, which was on the ver gir
islands. and it was like the middle east today. it was the place where the thing that everyone wanted came from. today that's oil and the 18th century. the wealth that was generated by west indian sugar was fantastic. when hamilton was six years old, 1763, the french and indian war ended, also called seven years from war. and at the end of this world war between britain and france, britain had conquered so many of the colonies that they had to give some back. they couldn't possibly hold all that they had won. so there was a serious debate british government should we keep canada or the island of gaud -- they decided to give
back and they were fiercely criticized by the british business community, how could they have done this, canada is only snow -- that was a sign of how valuable these islands were. hamilton saw the commerce that was generated from the ground up, this first job in christian stead in saint kroi was for merchant house, it was headquartered in new york city. it had branches in the west indys and another branch in bristol england. the cougar who ran the branch ended up becoming a member of
parliament he also saw, enormous despairties in the holding of this wealth, most of this money went to plan terns. james mansfield novel, or thomas bertrum is a plantation owner and he appears in the novel halfway through, he comes back to england from antigua. many of them never left from france and home countries. they were run by overseers. and merchants, a few professions. this was the class in which hamilton's parents belong, james hamilton, rachel, he was merchant's agent, she owned a
small store and christian stay. but the vast bulk of the population of slaves, the population with hamilton lived there was 10,000 10,000 slaves, 500 white people. population of st. croix was 22,000 slaves, 2,000 white people. the average life span of a field hand who was brought to the west indies from south africa was seven years before he was worked to death or died of diseases. the plantars were not so concerned with that, there was always another slave ship coming in. beak man and kruger sometimes dealt in slaves. the slaves fresh from africa were held before they were sorted out, put on smaller ships and sent west of the british west indies.
>> this was the social system hamilton grew up in. heavily skewed, no opportunity to rise. >> he managed to get out because of his own brilliance and luck. he was a smart boy and a smart young man his blowers recognized that. so did the local minister. he had connections with the north american mainland. when hamilton was a teenager. he was isn't to north america to be educated the plan was to get him trained as a doctor and he would come back to the islands to practice. the first plan was to send him to the college of new jersey which is now prince upon. he went to kings college which is now colombia. just up broadway from this building p.m. this is the second important location in hamilton's
life, the fact that he came here to new york rather than to philadelphia or boston, which were the other significant cities in british north america. philadelphia the largest, new york had passed boston to become second. they were all commercial cities. but boston and philadelphia had been founded as holy cities. they were religious experiments. boston was the city on the hill. philadelphia was the city of brotherly love. and some of that atmosphere still clung to them, new york was always and only about getting and spending. the dutch founded it as new amsterdam as a trading post to take first from the iroquios
indians. the english acquired the city, but it kept its character. i'm sure you all know the founding myth of new york that is that it was bought in the indians for $24 of beads, trinkets and tools in 1624 the way the myth is usually told the poor indians were treated. i have heard some tellings of the myth in which the indians who sold manhattan didn't actually live here, they're just passing through. there may be double dealing on both sides. myths always tell a truth. and the trujth of that myth is that the soul of new york is commerce. that's why people live here, to make it, to get ahead.
hamilton was coming from one commercial place to another innately commercial place. it was by no means a paradise. new york was a slave city in a slave colony. the population of the city was about 1/6 slave. and they worked as house servants, worked on the small farms in what is now brooklyn and queens. the city was doubly bound to slavery. what was grown and produced on those farms, the food, timber, fabric, it was shipped down to the west indies to be used by the slaves and the owners of the slaves there there was still slavery here in new york, there were a lot of other things going on. there was some commerce. there was some manufacturing. it wasn't supposed to happen under the british mercantile
system. the people got around the rules and the laws as i hear they still do in new york there was informing here then. hamilton came from a place that marked him and he moved to a place that continued to mark him. he never graduated from colombia, the revolution happened and he left his college to fight. he became a captain of an artillery company. he was noticed by george washington put on his staff as a colonel where he served for four years and finally at the end of the fighting, he was given a field command at the botal of yorkto yorktown. he came back to new york, made his money as a lawyer. he also served in the new york assembly and the continental congress he was sent as a
delegate to philadelphia in 1787. he wasn't regular in his attendance. after the constitution was written, he took up the job of campaigning for it in the newspapers. he organized a series of essays we would now call them op ed pieces in the new york newspapers. new york was crucial because it had an anti-constitution governor but central location. if new york stayed out of the country, new england would be split off from the rest of the country new york was a must win state. hamilton found two collaborators james madison, and john jay, an older man, former diplomat and spy master. the three of them wrote 85 essays for the new york newspapers. jay got sick early on, so he only wrote 5, madison wrote 29
hamilton wrote 51. these essays came out at a rate of four a week. they were each 2,000 words long. some weeks there were five, one week there were six. columnists in the new york types today they write 750 words twice a week. they're also immortal. after the constitution was ratified george washington had to pick a first treasury secreta secretary. he first asked robert morris who had run the finances of the country during the second half of the revolution. morris was the richest man in america he didn't want to do public service again, he wanted to make money. he recommendedle hamilton saying he was sharp. washington knew that already. he becomes the first treasury
secretary of the united states september 1789 when he's 32 years old. now we come to what he did at the climax of his life. the problem he faced was debt. wars cost money and the united states had no money. we had gone through the war -- 8 1/2 year war, the longest war we ever fought until vietnam. it was longer than the civil war and our portion of world war ii put together. we couldn't pay for it. the government and congress could not tax the states, they could ask the states for money. and if the states wouldn't pay or couldn't pay. they didn't have to pay. robert morris said at one point asking the states for money, was
like preaching to the dead. they minted paper money. and as unbacked paper money always does, it inflated away until it was worthless. they called in all the old dollars, they issued new money, that began to inflate in turn. they kighted their bills, they did funny stuff with their cred ders. they got loans from dutch bankers who were willing to run a risk. they got loans from france. and they scraped through at the very end of the war, the soldiers marching to yorktown would not have got there, because they had not been paid. but a french ship filled with silver was part of the french armada that came to participate in the yorktown campaign. and so that campaign was funded.
and america won its final victory. after the war 1783, the hearter was truly bare. our debt was trading in europe and amsterdam and antwerp at a quarter to a third of its value. it was essentially junk. what did hamilton do? he had going for him the fact that the new constitution did allow the federal government to raise taxes. that was a plus. how would the money be spent? he made two early decisions of great consequence. one was called assumption, the other was called nondiscrimination. assumption had to do with the fact that there was not one american debt, but 14 there were the debts owed by the united states and there were the debts owed by each of the 13 states
the 13 states had raised their own troops. made their own expenses in the war. and some of them were badly in arrears. massachusetts in particular, and also south carolina. and there was ill feeling among the states, some of the states had paid off their debts, and they thought, why should we take on obligations by the deadbeat states. not all the states who paid their debts had done it honestly. rhode island paid its debts by printing paper money. so there was a lot of suffering and sharp dealing on all sides. hamilton's argument was that the war had been a common struggle. all the states were fighting together for the liberty of all for the whole country. he assumed the debts of the 13
states along with the federal debt. they would all be treated as one debt. they would be paid off at the same time. this was the decision for assumption. nondiscrimination had to do with the creditors, the holders of the debt most of them were soldiers who had not been paid during the war. this was simply chronic, soldiers were not paid. they were given ious, at the end of the war they were sent home with their ious, promises of future payment. but over the years, some of these ious had been sold. if a soldier needed money immediately, he might sell his iou at a discount to a merchant. or maybe he would sell it to a speculator, to someone with resources who thought, maybe one day these things will be paid off. let me buy them up from soldiers. the ious had been traded.
everyone agreed soldiers should be paid off at their full value, these men had suffered for the country, they had fought, they bled. many americans thought, why should we pay off speculators, they haven't fought, they haven't bled, they were simply looking for a profit. >> hamilton knew the way the world of money works. he knew that if debtors pick and choose among their creditors, they can do it once. they won't be able to get a loan again, or if they can it will be at punishing rates of interest. so he said there should be nondiscrimination that all the creditors will be paid off at a common rate he was able to get congress to agree to this too. he had to do some bargaining to make this happen.
the most consequential deal was to move the capitol from new york first to philadelphia for ten years and then to a site in the potomac which was as yet undeveloped, is now washington, d.c.. we incurred a future of murderous washington summers but we got america's debts paid off in a timely fashion and that was due to hamilton's foresight and clever deal making. he also had an insight about how to handle the debt. his intention was not to pay it off and make it go away. he wanted to manage the dead. he wanted a debt where regular payments would be made on the interest. and his insight was, if you did that with debt it turns from being a liability into being a resource. people see you're not struggling
under a burden. you're maintaining it. so they're willing to extend you credit. debt becomes credit. debt can become money. if you have a credit card, you know how this works. if you have 20 credit cards, you know how this doesn't work. debt has to be managed carefully. that was hamilton's intention. his way of managing the debt was a new thing in world finance. only two countries had gone this route. holland was first, england followed with the bank of england. early in the 18th century, france tried to join the new financial world. the man in charge of their debt was not cautious. he was a man named john law. a scottsman, brilliant but literally a gambler. he gambled himself. the smashup was so terrible, the
french had been suspicious of banks to this day. this is why most french banks are not called banks. that's how dean the suspicion in france of banks and banking goes. alexander hamilton was going to take this small country on the edge of nowhere and make it the third country in the world, in the new world of modern finance. there are going to be many bumps on the road after his death. people did not maintain his policies. we would have panics and depressions. he got us off to a solid start. when he came in as treasury secretary as i said, our debt was trading at a quarter to a third of its value. when he left, it was trading at 110% of his value. he had made it worth as good as gold. so the money men of europe were willing to pay a small premium
to hold it. the phrase we use for poor troubled new nations is banana republic. most of them are in countries where bananas grow. america was on the way of being one of those countries. the phrase for a troubled new nation would be maple republic. he helped us to avoid that fate. he wasn't doing it oath to balance the books. he wasn't even doing it to expand the economy. he had a further vision in mind. and that's what i want to end with. we can see it in his report on manufacturers. the alexander hamilton awareness society had an event that the great falls of patterson -- where the passaic river drops 50
feet on its way to the atlantic. hamilton saw during the war, he had a picnic there with george washington and lafayette. this is a source for power. this can be used for factories. there were some problems with hamilton's plan the first director turned out to be a crook he embezzled the funds. factories did come to patterson and they did come to america. in a report that hamilton issued to congress, he talked about the benefits of a diverse economy to the united states. we have agriculture, we have commerce and trade. we also need manufacturing. we need all we can get. he went to great detail about the kinds of things that could be made in america one of the people he found was samuel colt, who built a factory in patterson, and moved it to hartford and the colt pistol and
weapons were produced by colt and his decendents. he was one of hamilton's talent picks for the patterson great falls project. but in his report on manufacturers, hamilton talks about what manufacturing and economic diversity can do for people. he wrote what i consider to be the most eloquent, most moving words he ever wrote. he said that minds of the strongest and most active nature can fall below mediocrity. and labor without effect if confined to uncongenial pursuits. but were all the different kinds of industry obtained in if a community? each individual can find his proper element and call into activity the full vigor of his
natu nature. each individual can find his proper element and call into activity the whole vigor of his nature. hamilton is going beyond dollars and cents. he's even going beyond diversity. he's looking at an economy's effect on people. i find this moving because he's writing about himself he could so easily have fallen below mediocrity and labored without effect. if he had stayed the rest of his life on the islands, that would have been his life story. from brilliance and luck, he got out, he had a career. unlike some people who rise from nowhere and make it, he thought of other alexander hamiltons, he wanted to make a world that would be easier and better for them that's what he wanted the american economy to be. that's what he was trying to create.
now we are here to celebrate his life but we're also commemora commemorating -- we've been calling it his passing. but let's be honest, his death, his death in a dual which i believe was needless, i believe was tragic. makes me angry with him whenever i consider it. i remember the first time i went to wehok, the dualing site is long gone. it was a ledge over the hudson about 20 feet up from the water, dynamited in the 19th century to put in a railroad. now at the top of the cliff they have a tiny little park, not much bigger than this lectern. they have a rock against which hamilton is said to have leaned after he was shot and there's a flag pole and a fence and there really isn't much to see there. but what there is to see is
across the water. because it's right on the hudson. and when you look to the east you see all of manhattan. from the battery all the way up through midtown all the way up to riverside church. the manhattan mountain range of skyscrapers and apartment buildings. i knew that if hamilton could see that now he would say, this is why i came here. this is what i worked to build, use it. thanks very much. [ applause ]
>> mr. brookheiser has been gracious to take some questions and answer them. if you can keep your questions short and make them questions and not statements, it will make for a very special time. you'll see in the middle at the front there's a microphone. if you want to come up with a short and tearse question that would be helpful. this isn't the constitutional convention. hamilton gave one speech that was six hours, we're not going to emulate that. >> did hamilton have any economic interest in any of the enterprises built at the great falls? >> well, you know, i can't say that he didn't have a dime in it, but he was probably the
poorest treasury secretary we ever had. his money came from being a lawyer. and he was a very good one and a very well paid one. and when he -- after he retired from the treasury and was back in legal practice, and his finances had taken a hit because of all the years he spent as treasury secretary. he hoped to recoup, and expected to be able to leave his wife and children in a nice estate. his death cut that short. and his widow and his family was in very straightened circumstances afterwards. >> the reason i ask the question, there's an attack on hamilton currently that is an echo of attacks on hamilton during and after his life. his wife spent 50 years defending him after his death. >> oh, they've been attacking
him for a long time. >> the current attack i hear from my people who maybe once were jeffersonians. i don't know what they are today. they're saying hamilton had only built the great falls dam because he owned the land or had a financial interest in manufacturing. i didn't believe it, i'm glad to hear you agree that it's a lie. >> right. you can always ask them, do you want to live in a poor country. would that be better? >> any other questions? >> yes, here's one. >> you mention something i think is sophisticated, talking about the fact that everyone is a specialist maybe you can talk about a specialization of labor.
each individual his own personal talents and professions being specialized in. >> the report on manufacturers is very long and there's a lot in it. and it's easy to miss this paragraph. it leaped out at me as a biographer, i did have this sense that hamilton was writing about himself, which he rarely does. he's not a self-analytical person. he's not very self-reflective. he never kept a diary. some of his letters talk about himself. this is true of most of the founding fathers they weren't generally an inward looking lot. john adams was, he has some of that purt an self-examination and he keeps a detailed diary but -- i thought here for a
surprising moment, it's like the mask slips and we're seeing something about the inner man. he's probably perhaps not even aware of it. this is his own life, how it could have gone, this alternate life he's describing. it could so easily have happened he worked for a merchant that was headquartered here he had a men sister who had been educate at princeton, that was a second break. when he was a teenager, he wrote a letter about a hurricane that flattened st. croix, it was published in the local newspaper. and so people read this thing and thought, this is a bright kid, let's give him a boost. you could so easily see none of those things happening or just short circuiting somehow. that's what he could have been,
i just see him wanting to change the deck for future players. very inspiring. any other questions? >>. >> i know you've seen the play hamilton. if your books had been the source of material is there anything you would have changed or added. >> i love the play. i saw it at the public theater. i reviewed it, they made me pay for the reviewer's ticket. that's how hot the show was even before it went to broadway. ron and i agree on everything except the year that hamilton was born. there's a controversy about that michael newton has finally put that to rest. he agrees with me, not -- i agree with hamilton. the question is, was he born in
1755 or 57. anyway no, i -- the one thing that the play does. and i see why they did it. they make aaron burr into basically a nice guy. he has no ideas and he does kill the hero, basically, he's a good sort. and this is done for dramatic reasons, you want an antagonist who's not just a villain. so they're trying to make a kind of a -- not a parody between him and hamilton, but nothing lopsided. burr had many admirable qualities, he was a brave man, an intelligent man well reedman. i see something cold and empty at the heart of him which is not the way miranda chose to go. it's not the way chirnow chooses
to go in his book. his idea is dark indeed. >> they were also able to speak to huge rooms in the 18th century. i don't -- they did it differently. it must have been like singing. >> i'd like to ask you a question that i asked an alexander hamilton actor at the grange. i asked the question in front of professor friedman, and neither her nor the actor -- they didn't give me an answer. but the actor in his portrayal of hamilton was offended by my question. was alexander hamilton romantically involved with his
wife's sister? >> you know, yes. but did they have an affair? i don't know. we never know. his wife's sister angelica. betsy skylar was one of a number of skylar daughters. her sister married john church and it was actually john church's dualing pistols that were use d in the fatal dual wih aaron burr i've seen them. and they're really good looking, which makes it terrible. i mean, these are fetishized artistic objects of gentlemenly death. it's chilling to see these things. dualing was also illegal in new jersey. it was illegal everywhere. deaths and duals were considered murders, but they were never prosecuted.
no jury would have convicted, because that's what gentlemen did. it was a parallel system. it was a wicked system. but we lived with it. there were these church sisters and clearly angelica is smitten with hamilton. she writes these letters to him and about him and she reminds me of a character in a jane austin novel. one of these characters who's amusing by how annoying they are. they're always in your face and putting their emotions before you i think hamilton was flattered by this attention. he had an eye for the ladies. he's not the only person you can think of who falls in love with a whole group of sisters simultaneously. mows art did that. charles dickens did that it's a common pattern