Hamilton is no hero to ordinary working people

Alexander Hamilton
A statue of Alexander Hamilton outside Hamilton Hall, overlooking Hamilton Lawn at Columbia University in New York City Billy Hathorn/English Wikipedia

How very disappointing to read Neel Kashkari, president of our local Federal Reserve branch, praising Alexander Hamilton in a recent Star Tribune commentary (“There’s more to the Hamilton story than the musical”). He goes so far as to portray Hamilton as a national hero. Many of us find the man (the actual historical Hamilton, not the musical character) to be the very antithesis of any hero of ours.

Kashkari neglected to mention how this “hero” financed his move to the U.S. colonies and his King’s College (now Columbia University) education on the backs of West Indian slaves, among the most cruelly abused people in history. Clearly, a charming man, and certainly intelligent, Hamilton set about ingratiating himself to the colonial aristocracy of planters and merchants and did so very successfully, marrying into one of the wealthiest landed-estate families in New York.

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Hamilton’s loyalty was ever and always to wealthy landowners and rich merchants with never a thought to the ordinary working people he regarded as beasts of burden.

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His alleged anti-slavery sentiments did not extend to his slave-owning in-laws (his wife managed the household slaves) nor keep him from procuring slaves for a filthy rich brother-in-law (who made his fortune on the Revolutionary War) in return for political support.

Hamilton’s bank schemes were all about enriching himself and his wealthy friends and family. They used tax revenues as a source of capital for their own speculative ventures. He had no sympathy for democracy, argued for a U.S. monarchy with a king and queen, and spoke contemptuously of the common man, the “mob.”

He lobbied hard to transfer the notorious British industrial revolution with its satanic mills and child workers to the U.S. where it would richly reward his investor friends and drive down the cost of labor — his idea of developing an “economic powerhouse.”

We can certainly thank Hamilton’s “bold economic ideas” for our ever-widening income and wealth gaps, banks that are too big to fail and must be propped up with tax revenue, and what appears to be no end of self-serving financial corruption at all levels.

Can it be that Kashkari thinks us all ignorant of the real Alexander Hamilton and not insulted to have such a man paraded before us as a “remarkable American hero”? What makes him think we would want to take a tour of his banking temple to “celebrate Hamilton together,” as he has invited us to do, when Hamilton would never have stooped to associate in any way with most of us rabble?

If this is Kashkari’s idea of an American hero, I find it hard to take seriously his claim that the Federal Reserve is working diligently “on your behalf…literally to represent you.” Hamilton’s loyalty was ever and always to wealthy landowners and rich merchants with never a thought to the ordinary working people he regarded as beasts of burden.

Many of us suspect today’s Federal Reserve to be as beholden to the nation’s bondholders as was Hamilton to the investor class of his day — with at best an afterthought for the fate of ordinary working people. Kashkari’s devotion to such a role model does not inspire confidence in his professed concerns about the ever-widening chasm in incomes and wealth.