Thursday, August 24, 2023

Quote of the Day (Alexander Hamilton, on a Leader ‘Despotic in His Ordinary Demeanour’)

“When a man unprincipled in private life, desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper, possessed of considerable talents, having the advantage of military habits—despotic in his ordinary demeanour—known to have scoffed in private at the principles of liberty—when such a man is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity—to join in the cry of danger to liberty—to take every opportunity of embarrassing the General Government & bringing it under suspicion—to flatter and fall in with all the nonsense of the zealots of the day—It may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion that he may ‘ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.’”—Founding Father Alexander Hamilton (1757-1804), “Objections and Answers Respecting the Administration of the Government,” Aug. 18, 1792

This week 231 years ago, Alexander Hamilton pondered seriously what it would take to introduce a monarchy or aristocracy into the nation he had joined with others, at grave risk to themselves, to bring into being.

For the most part, he dismissed the notion of a threat to liberty coming from a government that continually changed hands in the normal process of a transfer of power. “A people so enlightened and so diversified as the people of this Country” could never allow it, he believed—unless after a “long series of time,” and brought about by “convulsions and disorders, in consequence of the acts of popular demagogues.”

This week, in Fulton County, GA, conspirators who had acted at the behest of such a “popular demagogue,” will begin the slow process of being held to account for what Hamilton called “flattering the prejudices of the people, and exciting their jealousies and apprehensions, to throw affairs into confusion, and bring on civil commotion.”

For the past seven years, many politicians felt that this “popular demagogue” would inevitably wear out his welcome with voters. That has proven to be wishful thinking. It is now up to ordinary jurors, working within the criminal justice system, to hasten the departure from the public scene of the man I called six years ago “a petulant libertine terrifyingly possessed of unmatched economic, political and military power.”

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