When Libertarians Do History…

When Libertarians do history, it is a mess most of the time. Typically what ends up happening in the work of some libertarian scholars is some kind of conspiracy theory of the mainstream trying to hide the truth, and usually these things turn out to be assertions. Nothing but statements without evidence and this is bad. Case in point is the lecture by Jack Chambless on Alexander Hamilton.

Starting at 0:13:10 Chambless says :

In the Federalist Papers, it appeared much of what Hamilton wrote was in support of a limited government, and warned the American people of a government that was given too much power, but before the ink on the parchment was dry, Alexander Hamilton took a completely different course to undermine everything what limited government was supposed to stand for…

Alexander Hamilton was a genius in that the only way he could ever achieve the objective of a monarchy… was to have a Constitution ratified filled with enough clauses that could be interpreted by future governments in their own way so as to slowly bring about the objective that he wanted to achieve. The five hour speech failed to established anything that he wanted done in the Constitutional Convention. So why not support the Constitution as its written and then bit by bit, whether it was in support of Supreme Court justices, or the support of the Bank of the United States. Why not go bit by bit if you can’t get it all done.

I am not really sure what Chambless means by ‘limited government’ so I can’t really go ahead and rebut this claim that The Federalist Papers supported such a position. What I can tell you though is how The Federalist Papers and how the Constitution came about. In short, the Constitution was written as a new form of government to improve the system that we had, which was in the Articles of Confederation. All three of the authors in The Federalist Papers agreed that the powers of the central government were too limited in the Articles of Confederation. So, at least given this, all three authors had the intention to have a greater sized government than in the Articles. And this is exactly the position they defended in their 85 articles in The Federalist Papers. The reason for the advocacy of the Constitution was so that the Union would be preserved, and if it meant to give more power to the central government, so be it. This was the purpose of the government in the Constitution and in The Federalist Papers. To have a united nation, and not some confederacy where each State can make their own rules ignoring the rules listed in the central government. If this is what is implied in Chambless’ “limited government” label, then yes, The Federalist Papers support such a position, but I have a feeling that this is not what he is talking about when he means “limited government”.

And of course The Federalist Papers contain passages criticizing the role of “too much government”. But this criticism can be made by people in multiple political positions. Is Chambless implying that the only people who talk of “too much government” comes from those who are active in praising themselves in support of “limited government”? To apply this in historical context though, Americans were bothered from the fact that Britain failed to give the American colonies some type of representation in Parliament. So when Britain enacted taxes on the colonies, Americans felt that this was unjust because we didn’t have a representative giving “our side of the story”, we were just ordered to pay the taxes or else… This is an example of government going beyond its limits and its the type of government that the Americans at the time rebelled against, hence The Revolutionary War.

And it is equally puzzling when he mentions Hamilton’s advocacy for a Bank of the United States or support for supreme court justices and implying that this was just some steps made by Hamilton to transform the United States into this “monarch” system. I could only assume that he thinks of Jefferson and Madison as people who opposed such measures and considered them unconstitutional. But I’ll just give one example, which shows why these claims are without merit.

Here is James Madison in one of his most popular anti-bank quotes:

History records that the money changers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments by controlling money and its issuance.

I am sure Chambless looks at this and goes, “Right on, the author of the Constitution was against central banking, see its unconstitutional!” Though, it was the same James Madison who signed into law the Second bank of the United States in 1816. It took the aftermath of a war, the War of 1812, to show to Madison that banks were needed for an economy. So maybe, it was Madison, not Hamilton, that envisioned the future state of the United States to be a monarchy for his signing of the 2nd Bank of the United States! Or (even better) Madison and Hamilton had this plan all along to blind people and make them believe that they were political rivals but in reality, they thought exactly the same! Of course the last two claims are absurd but that is exactly how Chambless views Hamilton when he states that Hamilton was a genius in making believe people he was anti-monarchy but in reality thought of monarchy as a supreme system and slowly implemented it by his support of the 1st Bank of the United States among other things. Like I said in the beginning of the post, many libertarians feel like they have to incorporate some type of conspiracy theory, for reasons that I can only speculate on. It is very horrible scholarship to do this and I really question FEE if they really believe that this guy is giving a true historical account of Hamilton, and not some libertarian fairy tale of Hamilton.

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2 responses to “When Libertarians Do History…

  1. Would you look at Hamilton to be part of the right or left wing? It seems like yuor last twoposts on Hamilton argue against viewing Hamilton as a right winger, one that has avery liberal view on the Constitution for example. isnt this a very radical view that youhave though because most people would view Hamilton as a modern Republican.

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