By Thomas DiLorenzo
In his essay, “Anatomy of the State,” Murray Rothbard wrote of how states preserve their power with a number of tools, most notably an alliance with “intellectuals.” In return for power, positions, and pelf, the “intellectuals” work diligently to persuade “the majority” that “their government is good, wise and, at least, inevitable.” This is the “the vital stock task of the intellectuals.” The “molding of opinion” is what “the State most desperately needs” if it is to maintain is powers, wrote Rothbard. The citizens themselves do not invent theories of the benevolent state; that is the job of the “intellectuals.”
In his outstanding new book, How Alexander Hamilton Screwed Up America (foreword by Ron Paul), historian Brion McClanahan explains with sterling scholarship how one “intellectual” in particular, Alexander Hamilton, invented out of whole cloth a mythical founding of the American state that bears no resemblance at all to the actual, historical founding. His intellectual successors, most notably Supreme Court justices John Marshall, Joseph Story, and Hugo Black, cemented this myth of the benevolent, consolidated, monopolistic state through decades of legal opinions based on a mountain of lies.
This of course is exactly what John C. Calhoun observed during his time when he wrote in his 1850 Disquisition on Government that a written constitution would inevitably be “rewritten” by “the party of government” in a way that would neuter it as a source of limitations on governmental powers.
Hamilton has become “the new hero of the Left,” writes McClanahan, for the Left has finally realized that he was “the architect of modern big government in America,” something that many conservatives have long failed to realize. Hamilton’s voluminous writings formed the bedrock for generations of legalistic arguments that perverted the Constitution and created the “insane modern leftist legal world.” It was Hamilton and his ideological heirs who invented the “loose construction” and “implied powers” theories of the constitution, which has so “screwed up” America.
McClanahan shows what a duplicitous liar Hamilton was, speaking out of both sides of his mouth, saying one thing in his Federalist Papers essays, and then spending the rest of his life doing exactly the opposite. He defended states’ rights and federalism in these essays but when pressed by Jefferson and Madison, he “would often backtrack and advance positions he favored during the Philadelphia Convention, namely for a supreme central authority with virtually unlimited power, particularly for the executive branch.” This was “the real Hamilton,” who “made a habit of lying when the need arose.”
It was Hamilton who first spread the outrageous, ahistorical lie that the states were never sovereign and that the Constitution was somehow ratified by “the whole people” and not by state conventions, as required by Article 7 of the Constitution itself. It was Hamilton who Calhoun must have been thinking about when he warned of “intellectuals” reinterpreting the constitution in a way that would essentially destroy it. Hamilton’s lifelong goal, as McClanahan demonstrates, was to subjugate the citizens of the states to the central government and render the states irrelevant and powerless. The most Hamiltonian of all presidents, Abraham Lincoln, finally achieved this goal.
The Machiavellian Hamilton as Treasury Secretary assumed the state war debts as a means of creating a giant system of political patronage. He put unemployed war veterans on the dole, thereby initiating the American welfare state. He led an invasion of Pennsylvania with 15,000 conscripts to attempt to put down the Whiskey Rebellion. Nothing came of his invasion since all the whiskey tax “rebels” were pardoned by George Washington. Nevertheless, the invasion served Hamilton’s purpose of allowing him to denounce all resisters of state power as somehow being clones of the violent French Jacobins.
The subject of a national bank run by politicians out of the national capital was discussed at the constitutional convention and decisively rejected. Hamilton rewrote that history, too, to make the case for the constitutionality of central banking. His worshipful disciple, Chief Justice John Marshall, would cement this idea into place in his McCullock v. Maryland decision.
Hamilton’s bogus arguments in favor of a central bank were “a turning point in American constitutional history” because that is where he invented the fantasy of “implied powers” of the Constitution. Once this path was taken, the constitution had the potential of becoming nothing more than a rubber stamp of approval of anything the state ever wished to do, limited only by the imaginations of Hamiltonian members of the judiciary.
John Marshall was a virtual intellectual clone of Hamilton who spoke favorably of federalism, but codified federal supremacy and “implied powers” in his Supreme Court decisions, described in clear-as-a-bell writing by McClanahan.
Even more destructive of constitutional liberty were the writings of that great Bostonian blowhard, Justice Joseph Story (“Marshall’s right-hand man”), whose Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, written while he was both a Supreme Court justice and a Harvard law professor, have exerted enormous influence on the American legal and political systems. Like Marshall and Hamilton, Story “suffered from historical amnesia” and “manufactured an image of the American founding and American government that did not match the historical record.” He lied through his teeth, in other words, to advance the idea that the founding fathers created a consolidated, monopolistic, centralized state even more powerful and monopolistic than the British empire against which they had fought a war of secession. His lies that the states were never sovereign, that the central government is “sovereign” in all matters, implied powers, and all the rest, were repeated by Abraham Lincoln, beginning with his first inaugural address, as he “justified” committing treason by levying war upon the Southern states (the exact definition of treason in Article 3, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution). Hence, it is the Hamiltonian, nationalist myth, not Jeffersonian states’ rights and federalism, that made the “Civil War” inevitable. All of this, McClanahan points out, was always thought to be necessary by generations of Hamiltonians if they were to ever implement their economic policy program that Hamilton himself labeled “the American System.” This “system” of protectionist tariffs, central banking, corporate welfare, and a large public debt was anything but “American.” It was the rotten, corrupt, British system known as “mercantilism” brought to America.
Then there is the twentieth-century Hamiltonian Justice Hugo Black, FDR’s favorite Ku Kluk Klansmen. Nominated to the Supreme Court in 1937, Black had been a member of the KKK ever since the early 1920s. He used his association with the KKK, and its “nationalist agenda” of ridding America of “immigrants, blacks, and Jews,” and its “anti-Catholic agenda,” to become prominent in Alabama politics. His rabid support for FDR’s presidential bids won him a seat on the Supreme Court.
Hugo Black’s main demolition of constitutional liberty came in the form of his opinions regarding the “incorporation” of the Bill of Rights to include the states. This was never intended by the founders, who said nothing in opposition to the state-sanctioned “official” religions that existed at the time, among other things.
Thanks to Hamiltonian Hugo, virtually every issue facing Americans today is a federal issue. His “incorporation doctrine” was the final nail in the coffin of American federalism, as McClanahan explains. This is why the federal judiciary claims “sovereignty” over almost everything, from same-sex marriage to “transgendger bathrooms,” all aspects of the welfare state – everything and anything. This is Hamilton’s America – a leftist lawyereaucracy hell bent on imposing totalitarian rule on the rest of us.
Don’t waste your money on that stupid New York City play about “Hamilton.” Spend a tiny fraction of that theater ticket money on How Alexander Hamilton Screwed Up America instead, and educate yourself and all of those around you about their real American history.