History

Washington, Madison and others Through Hamilton

I’m half way through Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton LINK and I’ve had a few thoughts. The biography is tremendously researched and entertaining. It’s a bit to flowery in it’s depiction of Hamilton for my taste and tends to give light treatment to some of the truly important criticism by his contemporaries. It’s easy to see how it’s the type of book that could inspire a Broadway musical.

In all though, I recommend it, if you’ve got the bandwidth for 800 plus pages of Hamilton.

Here are a few takeaways.

-I haven’t spent enough time on Madison. If we believe, and I do, that there is genius in our founding fathers, it’s not likely in their moral fiber or even their views on enlightenment. The genius is in the architecture. Hamilton’s genius may have been the genius of administration of government and the architecture of a modern financial system. But Madison’s genius was the architecture of the government itself. His original Virginia Plan for the Constitution is likely the most important document on government created in the last thousand years.

-Stoic, trusting leadership isn’t a desired quality of the executive. It’s a mandatory function designed into the fabric of the office. The founders had Washington, or a Washington like leader, in mind when they abdicated the Articles of Confederation. Not having that brand of leadership is foundationally problematic. In the executive, the design of the American government insists on character, or at least the appearance of it.

– As was the case with Hamilton, the people who make the most difference in the world are the truly productive. It is not enough to think big thoughts and possess great intellect. One must write them down and put them into action. Over and over and over, Hamilton simply out produced those that stood in his way and buried them in an avalanche of words and proposals. If you’re wondering why you have not impacted the world around you enough, take some time to think through what and who you’re writing to.