In an unbelievable, Hamiltonian-like feat of reading I got through the next section in a day and am now only 2 days behind again! Okay, not really, Hamilton would have finished this whole book weeks ago, but still, I’m very pleased and hoping not to lose momentum completely.
So what happens? Hamilton is ‘retired’ from public life and lawyering like nobody’s business. It’s all going quite well, he’s making money and has plenty of time to get into trouble. He writes pamphlets by the score. He harangues people on the street who throw rocks at him (and we think it’s bad how he actually died. Think of the waste if they’d had better aim!) It is apparently now when he writes his most unfortunate pamphlet How I Cheated on My Wife in Excruciating Detail. The chronology is a bit confusing in this book — to me anyway. I thought he’d already done that, but no, it’s now which is 1797. He has meetings with the three men who interviewed him previously and made them state publicly how they believed him, except Monroe doesn’t want to cooperate so they almost have a duel. Hamilton never learning that you can’t control what people believe. If they don’t like you they’ll believe anything. And no facts will convince them. As everyone’s been saying on this readalong — it’s dismaying how little has changed. Human nature doesn’t change. Publishing then was a lot like the internet is now. Don’t feed the trolls and don’t read the comments. We also have people blaming immigrants for their problems, even apparently Hamilton. Freedom of speech gets kicked to the curb and the President can kick out any immigrants he doesn’t like (although he didn’t.)
So, France starts acting like a jerk, capturing our ships and saying our mother was a hamster and our father smelt of elderberries! Then Talleyrand wouldn’t talk to us unless we forked over a pile of money and this means war! Quasi-war! Hamilton suits up after some back and forth (Adams hated him, too, though with reason. The Ham kept trying to manipulate the elections to make Adams less successful. Bad Ham! The whole electoral system was a bad idea from the get go, I learn. I’ve never liked it, but in the beginning people like AH could encourage everyone in the North to vote for both Adams and Pinckney knowing few people in the South would vote for Adams, thus while pretending to campaign for Adams, he was really trying to get Pinckney, he very nearly got Jefferson. See, Hamilton wasn’t the only one who could figure this out, so some Northerners didn’t vote for Pinckney, which seems to me, fairly predictable. Hamilton was a genius many times, but not this time. I also tend to think that Hamilton and Adams were too much alike in certain ways to get along. Though they both should have manned up and gotten over it, cuz they were on the same side, dammit.) Poor Washington is dragged out of retirement like an old flag and pseudo-consulted about who should be his underlings and then ignored, or at least Adams attempted to ignore him. I don’t know what Adams did during the Revolution — need to read more about him, too — but it wasn’t fighting and he seems oblivious to Hamilton’s wide range of experience in the field. This is where we end this section.
I do find myself agreeing with the Jeffersonians against the Alien and Sedition Acts although I think they would probably have liked them fine if they’d been used against Federalists. Maybe that’s unfair. Maybe if the shoe were on the other foot they would still have objected. Freedom of Speech is a tricky thing, and I do think people should not be allowed to libel or slander each other, but banning all criticism puts you pretty squarely in tyrant-land.
Also, how is it not treason for Jefferson to be secretly talking to the French against the President and telling them it’s okay to put America off etc. He did not have Adams okay on this. He was acting off his own bat and to the detriment of the country. I think the French would have been just the same without that, but we don’t judge whether something is treasonous based on its success, do we? Jefferson’s actions were highly questionable throughout this section and elsewhere.
I’ve often wondered what would things have been like if we’d just split in two from the get go. Or instead of having a civil war, when the confederate states seceded we’d just said, Buh-bye! Don’t let the door hit your ass… We probably would’ve ended up fighting anyway, over land or escaped slaves or some damn thing.