By Nancy Spannaus
July 15, 2018—The second day of Celebrate Hamilton 2018 (July 12) featured two moving tributes to Alexander Hamilton in Lower Manhattan. Both were organized by the Alexander Hamilton Awareness (AHA) Society, as part of a four-day commemoration around the anniversary of Hamilton’s death on July 11, 1804 at the hands of Aaron Burr. AHA Society co-founder Rand Scholet presided over both events, as he had the commemoration at Weehawken the night before.
At the Gravesite
The first event was a graveside remembrance ceremony at Trinity Church, where Hamilton is honored with a special monument, which you see here. Its inscription reads: The PATRIOT of incorruptible INTEGRITY; The SOLDIER of approved VALOUR: The STATESMAN of consummate WISDOM; whose TALENTS and VIRTUES; will be admired by a Grateful Posterity; Long after this MARBLE shall have mouldered into DUST.
Since the monument had been newly refurbished, it was solemnly blessed and rededicated at this ceremony by the Rev. Elizabeth Blunt of Trinity Episcopal Church, where Hamilton and his family were members. Additional tributes were paid by a moment of silence, Taps, a color guard from the Coast Guard, and a performance by the Hearts of Oak reenactors, shown here marching into the graveyard. Hearts of Oak was the name of the original militia group which Hamilton helped form in 1775 (previously named The Corsicans). The reenactors performed William Boyce’s “Hearts of Oak” song with flutes and drum, among other numbers.
A Tribute in Video Form
The second tribute was the premiere showing of “Alexander Hamilton’s Legacy in Images and Music,” a video representation of Hamilton’s life, using art, music, and history. The video is the second part of a work of art by Marianne Als, and is still in the process of completion.
In a presentation of approximately an hour and fifteen minutes, Als reviewed Hamilton’s work in building the nation: from infrastructure, to urban growth, manufacturing, commerce, the Customs service, a uniform currency, law, and the markets (she cited Wall Street and the stock exchange). Short texts, including quotes from Hamilton himself, were accompanied by appropriate images and a variegated music background depending upon the subject. The overall message was that Modern America (in the sense of its positive economic wealth and development) is a “gift from Alexander Hamilton.”
Als’ selections were mostly to the point, in this author’s view, including Hamilton’s statements that “credit is the whole thing,” and that “by contributing to enlarge the mass of industrious and commercial enterprise, banks become nurseries of national wealth: a consequence, as satisfactorily verified by experience, as it is clearly deducible in theory.” She also included many positive quotations from prominents over the centuries characterizing Hamilton’s crucial role in building the nation.
Particularly moving was Als’ inclusion of Classical music in her mix, especially that of Hamilton contemporary (and pro-American) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The video featured a performance of the full Lacrimosa from Mozart’s Requiem, during her discussion of the duel which killed him, and its aftermath. Schumann made an appearance too, as well as contemporary musicians, including some excerpts from Miranda’s Hamilton show.
The “Hamilton Scheme”
For completeness, I must mention the third event of July 12, which was sponsored by the National Park Service and the Museum of American Finance (MOAF). Author William Hogeland addressed an audience at Federal Hall on “The Hamilton Scheme: Enemies & Allies in the Creation of an American Economy.” He was introduced by David Cowen, head of the MOAF, who was introduced by the AHA Society’s Rand Scholet.
At the outset, Hogeland made clear he was not in the business of celebrating anyone, including Hamilton, and he was true to his word. He began with what appeared to be a positive assessment, emphasizing Hamilton’s unique dynamism, and stating that “in a sense, Hamilton created the nation, the economic nation.” But the bulk of his address focused on what he called Hamilton’s “scheme,” which he characterized as a plan to use the nation’s war debt to bring the national government, the nation’s men of wealth, and the military together as a powerful alliance which would basically serve the wealthy.
As I totally disagree with Mr. Hogeland’s conclusions about Hamilton’s intent and actual accomplishments, I shall deal with them in another post in the near future. For a taste of my counterpoint to his argument, you can click here .
More to Come
Several more exciting and informative events were scheduled for July 13 and 14, which I unfortunately had to miss. A presentation by Hamilton scholar Michael Newton on Hamilton’s mother, provocatively titled “Alexander Hamilton: Son of a Whore?,” took place at Federal Hall. The material he discussed, including many new discoveries, can be found on Newton’s blog DiscoveringHamilton.com #CelebrateHamilton #sonofawhore.
A full afternoon of activities at the Hamilton Grange National Memorial took place July 14, including presentations on “The Goodness and Humanity of Alexander Hamilton” by Mariana & Tom Oller, Chair and Vice-Chair respectively of the AHA Society; a roundtable of experts on Hamilton; and a presentation by Elizabeth Kahn Kaplan on “Eliza: The Remarkable Wife of Alexander Hamilton.”
The whole series of events was videotaped, and they are available on the AHA Society’s Facebook page. More information can be found at #CelebrateHamilton on Twitter.
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