Phillip W. Magness

Historian – 19th century United States

A Phony ‘Phocion’: Alexander Hamilton and the election of 1796

| August 20, 2016

On October 14, 1796 the Philadelphia-based Gazette of the United States newspaper ran the first of 25 “letters” that would forever change the nature of presidential campaigns. Bearing the pseudonym of the ancient Athenian orator ‘Phocion,’ the letters presented a systematic and, at times, bitterly personal argument against Thomas Jefferson’s candidacy for President of the United States. Over […]

Alexander Hamilton’s Xenophobia

| August 2, 2016

We are presently in the midst of a Hamiltonian revival. After sitting dormant for much of the 20th century, the first Secretary of the Treasury’s political program recently sprang to life in a vulgarized form through the Donald Trump campaign. While the Trump association has yet to taint Alexander Hamilton’s reputation despite their nearly identical […]

Donald Trump, Hamiltonian

| July 25, 2016

One of the many unsettling features of the Donald Trump’s strange political ascendance is found in his deep seated antipathy to the time-honored doctrine of free trade. Trump devoted a substantial portion of his Republican Convention speech calling for the adoption of protectionist tariffs and other trade restrictions against “any country that cheats.” He proceeded to blame […]

Hamilton & Slavery, Part II

| July 10, 2015

In a previous post I criticized a number of Alexander Hamilton’s modern biographers for attempting to reinvent him as an “abolitionist,” or at least a staunch and principled antislavery man. The evidence for this claim is exceedingly weak, although Hamilton, who handled numerous financial transactions involving the sale and purchase of slaves for his wife’s extended […]

Alexander Hamilton’s exaggerated abolitionism

| June 23, 2015

Dr Sir Mrs. Renselaaer has requested me to write to you concerning a negro, Ben, formerly belonging to Mrs. Carter who was sold for a term of years to Major Jackson. Mrs. Church has written to her sister that she is very desirous of having him back again; and you are requested if Major Jackson will part with […]