Channeling Hamilton Right Now, Today, As An Advocate for Equal Justice
Since his recent cultural ascent, I have wondered what it is about Alexander Hamilton that an advocate for equal justice and the rule of law embrace during the Trump era despite Hamilton’s own flaws?
For one, Alexander Hamilton was an immigrant, a man born on the island of Nevus in the West Indies, who convinces George Washington of the importance of a federal bank and financial policy controlled mostly by the federal government and not individual states acting outside of the federal government. This view, of Hamilton, that the federal government was ultimately the supreme power in the U.S. over certain affairs, was endorsed in 1819 in the case of McCullough v. Maryland long after his death.
That was when the U.S. Supreme Court held that the federal government ultimately had supreme authority over the nation’s national bank rather than the state of Maryland. Maryland, the state, had been trying to impose its own laws upon the national bank; the U.S. Supreme Court nixed it.
This ruling is one of the most important rulings in U.S. judicial history. For me, it says, there is a unspoken pact between the people and the federal government, their government. It might be a metaphorical pact that has to be acted upon but ultimately, the governed, the people should have the last word on how the affairs of the nation will be conducted. If the Court does not make it clear who has the power for the people, there will be fifty separate nations in the U.S. and none of this will matter anymore. And in this era, Trump’s election has led to the rise of more talk of splitting the nation apart.
Lately, we haven’t had anything close to clarity. Everything from interpretations of the Affordable Care Act to privacy rights, this subtle battle most of us take for granted goes on and on. Texas tries to squeeze abortion rights. States threaten to secede over immigration. Individuals are killed in encounters with police and some of us scream for the Department of Justice to act boldly, to get more involved.
Hamilton’s concepts for an advocate for justice are important. Equal justice for all must guide the future; otherwise, there is nothing about America worth saving. Those democratic principles and those egalitarian ideals make the conceived notions of the country something to strive for.
Hamilton provides possibilities. It hardly matters if I agree with him in whole; what does matter is he believed in the whole rather than the individual pieces freelancing for their own selfish gain; that to me, is Trump’s world despite his “make American great nonsense.” It is also the world of the Republicans who preach unity but try to impose “social Darwinism” on the public every time they get in office.
Everything from the Flint Water crisis to the current debate over infrastructure across the nation tells me, it is that unspoken pact which shall make our society great not selfish ideals.
Now, if only I can see that show somewhere.