Saturday, March 07, 2020 2:15 pm - 6:00 pm
Louis Masur / Rutgers University
When Thomas Jefferson received an early copy of what the Constitution was going to look like, he did not like the omission of a Bill of Rights providing clearly for freedom of religion, freedom of the press, protection against standing armies, restrictions against monopolies, Habeas Corpus laws, trials by jury, etc.
A Bill of Rights was so important to him, that he felt people were entitled to one against every government on Earth. Jefferson felt if we were going to create a stronger government, people have to have assurances that individual rights and liberties are protected. So, if Hamilton was the engine behind the ratification of the Constitution, Jefferson was one of the strong voices behind the Bill of Rights to counteract some of the effects of the Constitution, some of the anxiety that it created.
Hamilton and Jefferson met for the first time in 1790, in New York, at Jefferson’s home at 57 Maiden Lane. He would later write about Hamilton; “Each of us perhaps thought well of the other man, but it was impossible for two men to be of more opposite principles” There’s a story that Jefferson will tell later in life. Looking back, there’s no reason to doubt it, although I’m sure he was telling it from his own point of view. He says that once Hamilton came to dinner, and Jefferson had portraits on the wall. He had a portrait of Bacon, Newton and Locke, three of his heroes, and he says to Hamilton, “These are three of the greatest men who’ve ever lived”, and Hamilton says, no, “Julius Caesar is the greatest man who ever lived.” Okay, this is just a story. Jefferson is telling it many years later, but it captures the anxiety that Hamilton created in men like Jefferson.
They said Hamilton was power-hungry. They thought that he wanted to take over and create a monarchy for the new nation. Well, he certainly was an anglophile. He loved the English. He loved the British way, especially The Bank of England. Our commerce industry and all the kinds of things that Hamilton is thinking about in his mind are actually modeled by Britain. And Jefferson? Well, he thinks of the British as a bunch of “rich, proud swearing, hectoring squabbling carnivorous animals!” Not surprising at all – because Jefferson loves the French. He loves the sense of ideas and liberty and the culture of what’s going on in France. This is another one of their most important differences. Hamilton is very early on, someone who understands the importance of a nation, but the concept of ” nation” is going to take a long time to develop. Democracy is still an epithet in the 18th century. This comes as news to a lot of you, right? None of America’s important founders even like the word democracy. What was the problem with democracy? They felt it put too much power in the hands of the people, who ultimately can’t be trusted.
Hamilton is experiencing a well-deserved revival. Often forced to take a back seat to other Founding Fathers, his vision of America as an economic powerhouse with a dynamic and aggressive government as its engine has found many followers. Hamilton helped get the Constitution ratified, helped found the Federalist Party, and served as the first Secretary of the Treasury. An orphan born in the West Indies, he was like a son to George Washington and perhaps should have been like a brother to Thomas Jefferson.
But Jefferson fought bitterly against the Federalists and his election as president ushered in the “revolution of 1800.” Ironically, it would be Hamilton who helped assure Jefferson’s triumph over Aaron Burr. Jefferson articulated a different vision from Hamilton’s, promoting an agrarian democracy built upon geographic expansion—an “empire of liberty,” he called it. In 1793, he would resign as Secretary of State to protest Hamilton’s policies. In retirement, Jefferson would reflect on the differences between Federalists and Democratic-Republicans and express fear for the future of the new nation.
Learn about the conflict that took shape in the 1790s between America’s first political parties—the Federalists, led by Alexander Hamilton, and the Republicans, led by Thomas Jefferson in Hamilton vs. Jefferson: The Rivalry that Shaped America.
Looking for more great lectures about Hamilton? Check out ‘A Jewish Founding Father? Alexander Hamilton’s Hidden Life‘ and ‘Broadway’s Hamilton: Separating Fact from Fiction‘.
Louis Masur is a Distinguished Professor of American Studies and History at Rutgers University. He received outstanding teaching awards from Rutgers, Trinity College, and the City College of New York, and won the Clive Prize for Excellence in Teaching from Harvard University. He is the author of many books including “Lincoln’s Last Speech,” which was inspired by a talk he presented at One Day University. His essays and articles have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, and Slate. He is an elected member of the American Antiquarian Society and serves on the Historians’ Council of the Gettysburg Foundation.
Joseph Luzzi / Bard College
What are the books that can change your life, the ones you would want to take to your proverbial "desert island?" This presentation will unveil the mysteries of Dante's Divine Comedy, Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, and Joseph Heller's Catch 22. We will explore the creative processes behind these epochal works and show how they can help us understand the world today, while also developing reading skills that can release their remarkable riches.
Joseph Luzzi (PhD, Yale) is Professor of Comparative Literature and Faculty Member in Italian Studies at Bard College, and he taught previously at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of five books including My Two Italies, a New York Times Editors’ Choice selection, and In a Dark Wood: What Dante Taught Me About Grief, Healing, and the Mysteries of Love, a Vanity Fair “Must-Read” selection that has been translated into multiple languages. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, TLS, The London Times, and Chronicle of Higher Education, among others, and his awards include a Yale College Teaching Prize, Dante Society of America Essay Prize, and Wallace Fellowship at Villa I Tatti, Harvard’s Center for Italian Renaissance Studies. In 2017 he was named Cittadino Onorario/Honorary Citizen in Acri, Calabria, his Italian parents’ birthplace. Luzzi’s work has been featured in media venues including the Guardian and National Public Radio, and his next book is Botticelli’s Secret: The Lost Drawings and the Rediscovery of the Renaissance, which will be published by W. W. Norton in 2022. Learn more at www.JosephLuzzi.com.
Professor Luzzi recently created The Virtual Book Club, an international community of readers dedicated to exploring major literary works past and present. The Virtual Book Club is open to new members, sign up is available at https://josephluzzi.com/virtual-book-club/
Alison Gash / University of Oregon
Few at the Founding could have ever imagined the Supreme Court becoming one of the most powerful policymaking institutions in the United States. Yet today, the Court has the power to sidestep public opinion, upend federal legislation, constrain state governance, and even bring down the President. Professor Alison Gash will take us back to the Court's humble beginnings, charting how the Court amassed its power. As we walk through the Court's history, meandering through landmark decisions, she will use her research on law and social policy to highlight the importance of understanding the Court not only as a legal actor but also as a significant source of policy innovation and paralysis. Through this lens, Professor Gash will demonstrate why the Court's makeup–its personalities and its relationships–can make or break American public policy.
Professor Gash will also discuss in some detail the recent hard fought confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and whether the politics of Kavanaugh's and other recent Court nominations may well end up eroding the "checking" capacity of the Court. Professor Gash will discuss the Kavanaugh nomination within the context of increasing partisan discord over Supreme Court nominations and the implications of this increased partisanship on the Court's ability to "put politics aside" when adjudicating over specific cases or upholding "the rule of law." As she will discuss, the founding fathers went to great lengths to insulate the federal judiciary from the passions of partisanship and majority will in order to preserve its power to hold politics accountable to a more durable set of principles and values. To what degree will this be damaged if Court nominations and nominees become vulnerable to the same partisan strife that characterizes the political world? If that happens, who will check politics?
Alison Gash is a political science professor and a member of the Provost’s Teaching Academy at the University of Oregon, where she has received several fellowships and grants for her teaching. She was recently awarded the Martin Luther King Jr. Award. Professor Gash has also taught at Berkeley, where she received the Commendation for Excellence in Teaching two years in a row. She is the author of “Below the Radar: How Silence Can Save Civil Rights.” Her work has appeared in Newsweek, Slate, Politico, and Washington Monthly.