What Hamilton Might Think of Hillary

We know she loves the play, but what if he were around today?

by Heather Hunter | Updated 11 Jul 2016 at 11:56 AM

Hillary Clinton has been embracing the cultural phenomenon of the award-winning musical “Hamilton.” For weeks, her campaign’s Facebook and Twitter accounts promoted a contest to win tickets to see a special performance of the musical.

Following her recent three-hour FBI interview, she and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, attended a performance — and Broadway buzzed about the date night.

“He would be concerned with Hillary Clinton’s embrace of elements of Bernie Sanders’ socialism.”

Rumors also spread that Clinton was trying to convince Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the Broadway show “Hamilton,” to appear at the upcoming Democratic National Convention.

Ironically, last year, Clinton was fundraising off of the treasury secretary’s proposal to kick Hamilton off the $10 bill and put a woman in his place.

“Women are too often erased from our nation’s history — putting a woman on a major piece of currency is a first step toward fixing that,” she said in an email to supporters last July. “Let’s celebrate this historic event by chipping in $10 to Hillary for America — because we’ve still got barriers left to break.”

Clinton has jumped on the “Hamilton” bandwagon — but what would Alexander Hamilton, the first secretary of the U.S. Treasury, have thought of her? Historians differ.

Richard Brookhiser, author of "Alexander Hamilton, American," told LifeZette Hamilton's political journey was far different from Hillary's.

"Hamilton became treasury secretary because he was brilliant and indefatigable, not because his wife had been president," Brookhiser said. "Hillary is more like Aaron Burr — ambitious, unprincipled and slippery — except that Burr was charming."

Historian Stephen Knott, author of "Washington and Hamilton: The Alliance That Forged America," said Clinton and Hamilton would have viewed the size of government differently.

"Hamilton wanted an 'energetic' central government primarily for purposes of national defense, negotiating treaties with foreign governments, and facilitating international trade and interstate commerce. That was it," Knott said. "He didn't envision, nor would he approve of, cabinet-level departments of labor, agriculture, energy, education, transportation, etc."

Political science professor Carson Holloway said Clinton and Hamilton may have some similarities in their view of government.

"In his own day, Hamilton was a proponent of energetic government in opposition to those who emphasized limited government more forcefully," said Holloway, who teaches at the University of Nebraska Omaha. "This obviously does not mean that Hamilton would endorse the modern Democratic domestic program, but it is a point of broad similarity."

Knott said Hamilton would have rejected Clinton's socialist leanings.

"[Hamilton was t]he father of American capitalism," Knott said. "And while he wasn't an absolutist when it came to laissez-faire capitalism, he would be concerned with Hillary Clinton's embrace of elements of Bernie Sanders' socialism."

He continued: "Hamilton believed the power over a man's subsistence was a power over a man's will, and thus he would share some of the concerns more closely identified with his rival Thomas Jefferson — that encroaching, overreaching government is a serious threat to liberty."

Jane Hampton Cook, author of "The Burning of the White House," said Hamilton would have differed with Clinton down party lines.

"He [Hamilton] would probably have a hard time fully embracing Secretary Clinton simply because she's a member of today's Democratic Party, which grew out of his rival Thomas Jefferson's party," Cook said.

Cook said Clinton's economic views would have concerned him.

"Her embrace of his commitment to pay the nation's debt would be music to Hamilton's ears, but his capitalist instincts might think her desire to raise the minimum wage or make college free is off-key for the economy," said Cook.

Clinton's background as a U.S. senator from New York probably would not have helped score points with Hamilton.

"Hamilton didn't have good luck with a former New York senator-turned­-cabinet-member: Aaron Burr," said Cook.

Related: Hillary's Hamilton Hooey

Hamilton and Clinton would have differed on trade, said Holloway, author of "Hamilton Versus Jefferson in the Washington Administration."

"Hamilton was in favor of government policies designed to build up American manufacturing — with a view to ensuring that America was not dependent on other nations for the things necessary to national flourishing," Holloway said.

"Clinton seems to like the idea of America as interdependent with other nations in a system of global trade. Hamilton wanted the country to engage in trade with other nations, of course, but he also wanted us to be able to supply our needs from our own resources."

Overall, it seems odd a globalist such as Clinton would embrace an ardent nationalist who is often referred to as the "father of American capitalism."

Perhaps their greatest common denominator is their love of Wall Street — his love of the system to provide prosperity and her love of the exorbitant speaking fees it pays out.

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