Hamilton & Subtleties

by Richard Brookhiser

Peter, don’t give up the ship. Alexander Hamilton was a lawyer, who argued before New York City juries. What is he going to say in the Federalist, a polemic addressed to the New York City public? Yup, juries are pretty stupid, the law is way over their heads.

To follow Hamilton through a great case, like Rutgers v. Waddington or The People v. Croswell, is to watch a performance at a very high level, like riding on Blondin’s back when he walked over Niagara Falls on a tightrope.

Hamilton was a democratic elitist. He made his ideas available to everyone, and hoped he could persuade everyone. But he was an elitist–he never pulled punches, or pretended you wouldn’t have to buckle down.