Thomas DiLorenzo’s book “Hamilton’s Curse: How Jefferson’s Archenemy Betrayed the American Revolution-and What It Means for America Today” might also be called “The Real Hamilton.” DiLorenzo, who is best know for his revisionist books “Lincoln Unmasked” and “The Real Lincoln,” takes aim at another influential figure in American politics and sets the record straight. Alexander Hamilton was never a U.S. President, but DiLorenzo argues that he has had as much influence, if not more, on the last 200 years of American politics than anyone else.
The basis of “Hamilton’s Curse” is simple. That, although the Jeffersonian philosophy of federalism initially triumphed when the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights were adopted, it is Hamilton’s vision of a strong, imperialist central government that has ultimately come to pass, and that we live under today. DiLorenzo provides us with a laundry list which gives us an overview of Hamilton’s political legacy:
“an out-of-control, unaccountable, monopolistic bureaucracy in Washington, D.C.; the demise of the Constitution as a restraint on the federal government’s powers; the end of the idea that the citizens of the states should be the masters, rather than the servants, of their government; generations of activist federal judges who have eviscerated the constitutional protections of individual liberty in America; national debt; harmful protectionist international trade policies; corporate welfare (that is, the use of tax dollars to subsidize various politically connected businesses); and central economic planning and political control of the money supply, which have instigated boom-and-bust cycles in the economy.”
That’s quite a legacy. Alexander Hamilton was this nation’s first Treasury Secretary, and a defender of the central bank, high taxes, protectionist tariffs, and public debt. Each of these, according to Hamilton, would bring with them untold blessings to the American people if instituted. It was Alexander Hamilton who sought to establish the first central bank. It was Hamilton who instituted the very first “bailouts.” It was Hamilton who unapologetically doled out favors and taxpayer funds to his personal friends and business associates. It was Hamilton’s belief in the “implied powers” of the Constitution that gave us the Judicial Review, the “living” Constitution, and justices legislating from the Supreme Court bench. It was Hamilton who espoused deficit spending by the federal government. Anytime you hear a politician talking about all of the wonderful things that the federal government can do for the “public good,” chances are you are listening to a Hamiltonian.
One of the most interesting facts in the book was that Hamilton was so enamored with the British monarchical system that he suggested electing a President for life, who had the power to veto all state legislation. He was no fan of state sovereignty. As DiLorenzo puts it, Hamilton wanted “an American king.” Ultimately, Hamilton himself never got the opportunity to take the throne himself, but through his Whig party disciples, his vision of an American dictator would ultimately be realized in the Presidency of Abraham Lincoln.
“Hamilton’s Curse” doesn’t just document the actions and policies that Hamilton helped to implement during his lifetime, but details how the last 200 years of American history is literally the story of how the disciples of Jefferson and the disciples of Hamilton have been at war with each other over the role and scope of the federal government ever since the founding of the nation. DiLorenzo documents how 1913 was really the year the final nail was put in the coffin of our Constitutional Republic, and how it was through legislation that had it’s roots deep in Hamiltonian political philosophy. The 16th Amendment (income tax), the 17th Amendment (popular election of U.S. Senators) and the Federal Reserve Act, all passed in 1913, essentially created an environment where the federal government would never again be short on cash, and severed the last vestiges of accountability that U.S. Senators, originally appointed by the General Assemblies of every state, would have to their constituents. Instead, because of popular election, they would be easily influenced by special intreats groups across the nation and the globe to carry out legislation that would be contrary to the wishes of their constituents.
The final chapter of the book is called “Ending the Curse.” Here, Thomas DiLorenzo proposes three solutions that we must employ if we want to restore individual liberty and Jeffersonian federalism in America. First, we need to continue to grow the State Sovereignty movement in the United States, and restore the rights of the states regarding nullification and interposition, and secession. These were the last refuge of the states from federal tyranny, and they must be reclaimed. Second, the federal judiciary needs to be stripped of its power and returned to the people. The Supreme Court was never intended to be the black-robed gang of dictators it has become, with ultimate power over the “constitutionality” of state legislation. Finally, the rigged, two-party, monopoly system that dominates American politics must be transformed to allow for third parties and genuine choices.
In just over 180 pages, “Hamilton’s Curse” is an engaging read for anyone who has looked at the current political climate asked the question “How did we get here?” The next time you think that the federal government is too big, too intrusive, too costly, and too corrupt, congratulations, you are experiencing Hamilton’s curse.