Heroes of the Founding Era: An Odd Choice by Bill Kristol

Bill Kristol's hero of the Revolutionary Era is Alexander Hamilton. Who is yours?

On today’s Fox News Sunday, the panel was asked to choose their hero from the revolutionary era.  Bill Kristol picked Alexander Hamilton.  Now, there is a lot to admire about Hamilton, as he was a pivotal figure in the US founding.

However, it strikes me as odd that the archconversative Kristol would select Hamilton, as he was the biggest proponent of the day of increased central authority as well as the biggest proponent of governmental involvement in the economy.

Although I will note that Hamilton was also a major proponent of executive power .  This is certainly something that Kristol could support.

Of course, direct comparisons of political today with politics then is far more complicated than the typical Tea Party Patriot (or, really, a lot of the commentariat) would make it out to be…

So, which figure from the Founding Era is your “hero”?

I will go with James Madison, whom I consider to be the most profound political thinker of the age, which is saying something.

FILED UNDER: US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Phineas says:

    That is an odd choice, even though I, too, am a proponent of Executive power. As I recall, Hamilton even proposed at one point during the convention eliminating the states and creating a centralized national government, on the model of Britain. At the same time, I admire him greatly: his financial genius was crucial to getting the US off to a good start.

    If I had to pick one as a hero, for now at least it would be Washington. His example of renouncing power, both at the end of his service as a general and after his second term, set crucial precedents that have served us well to this day.

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    It was an odd choice by Kristol. Odd as it was it wasn’t nearly as bizarre as the observations of the young woman (I didn’t catch her name) who followed him. In remarking on her choice, George Washington, she said “Not much charisma there”.

    Clearly, she has never read any contemporaneous descriptions of Washington.

    I might well have picked George Mason, IMO as great a model for legislators as Washington was for executives.

  3. John says:

    Madison. The guy was simply “the glue” between such boulders of men as Jefferson, Washington, Hamilton, Franklin, Morris, Mason, Randolph, etc.

  4. Michael says:

    Does Thomas Paine count? Each generation has a political figure who was right on the majority of things and I think that Paine, having been fairly radical on the slavery question, stands ahead of Jefferson.

  5. c.red says:

    Not particularly original, but John Adams and Ben Franklin both deserve mentions. Adams because of his sheer stubborness in holding to his principles and willingness to keep contributing despite being overshadowed by nearly everyone else. Franklin for sheer brilliance (despite his character or, in that era, maybe because of it.)

    There currently seems to be a general effort to downplay Jefferson (because of his slave holding or his being a fairly outspoken deist, your pick) recently that I hope passes sometime soon.

  6. Brummagem Joe says:

    Why surprising he chose Hamilton. Conservatives alway choose Hamilton apparently unaware that much of what he stood for is at odds with their worldview. You were expecting consistency? The most admired? Jefferson or Franklin surely. These men would have been giants with or without independance and you can’t really say that any of the others.

  7. sam says:

    I’d be hard pressed to pick out one above all the rest. It’s always been a source of wonder to me that we were blessed with so many of their caliber at the beginning. BTW, it went unremarked in all the comments here at OTB yesterday that Adams and Jefferson died on the same day, July 4, 1826. I’m always moved when I think about that. It might be of interest to some to read the final paragraph of the final letter between the two, Adams to Jefferson, April 16, 1826:

    Public affairs go on pretty much as usual: perpetual chicanery and rather more personal abuse than there used to be. Messrs. Randolph and McDuffie have out-Heroded Herod. [Randolph and McDuffie were bitter opponents of President John Q. Adams.] Mr. McDuffie seems to be swallowed up in chivalry. Such institutions out not to be suffered in a Republican Government. Our American Chivalry is the worst in the World. It has no Laws, no bounds, no definitions; it seems to be all a Caprice. My love to all your family, and best wishes for your health.

  8. G.A.Phillips says:

    Me think a few here need some real history lessons, but I’m sure it will not change their beliefs one wit.

    ***I’d be hard pressed to pick out one above all the rest. It’s always been a source of wonder to me that we were blessed with so many of their caliber at the beginning.***

    This is why I will choose the Hand of Providence.followed by it’s sermons, followed my it’s greatest American servant George Washington, without him there would have been no revolution, no presidency, no standard in office and no measure of a man.

  9. PD Shaw says:

    George Washington, the one most-arguably indispensible man to winning the Revolution and forming the new government.

  10. legion says:

    One thing to remember about Kristol – he’s one of the most colossal, unrepentant tools on Fox News (and yes, that says a lot right there)… There is literally _nothing_ he won’t say, no lie so transparent and ridiculous, as long as it’s got a paycheck attached to it. So the more relevant question is: why does Rupert Murdoch think Hamilton’s the coolest FF?

  11. PD Shaw says:

    Kristol probably likes Hamilton’s views on a strong, activist executive (Federalist 70), as well as Hamilton’s economic views, which are essentially the policy of National Greatness of it’s time.

    Kristol is not Hamiltonian on foreign policy, but Hamilton could be quite supportive of war against non-state actors like the Barbary Pirates if they damaged commerce.

  12. Brummagem Joe says:

    “George Washington, the one most-arguably indispensible man to winning the Revolution and forming the new government.”

    I’m not sure. Suppose Washington had been killed in battle, would the War of Independence have come to an end? Not really, he would just have been replaced with another general who could well have been more competent. Washington’s record on the baltlefield wasn’t that stellar although he did achieve the paramount military objective of keeping his army in being. As long as the American army remained in existence they were winning. The British were defeated by space, a less than wholehearted committment to the war at home, a 3000 mile long supply line that was always vulnerable to interdiction by the world’s second naval power, the need to keep their guard up against action in Europe by the French, and ultimately the loss of local naval supremacy. If the British wanted to snuff out the US they should have done it after the end of the Napoleonic wars when they had total naval supremacy and a battle hardened army with experienced commanders.

  13. Phineas says:

    I’ll agree that Washington was not the best field commander the Continentals had (my nominee would be Greene). His campaign in New York in 1776 was a near-total disaster that, in later days, would have seen an American general fired in disgrace.

    But, Washington had something in spades that no other US general then had: a charismatic leadership that could inspire an army that, by all rights, should have melted away and fled for home. His greatest accomplishment as general (prior to his example of laying down his commission and submitting to civilian authority) was simply holding that army together and time and again imbuing it with the will to fight. I have my doubts that any other Continental general could have done that.

  14. floyd says:

    Which of the founding fathers would find heroes in today’s world, or even one public figure worthy of respect.?
    The founding principles are what matter, languishing unrecognized by today’s power brokers.

  15. John says:

    @Floyd…that is an all too convenient meme. I know I work hard to be a good Christian, father, husband, and employer but that I am not half the man of so many of those that serve in the political sector today. There are some real stinkers out there to be sure, but I can’t honestly believe that you’ve ever read the bio of someone like JIm Webb or John McCain and feel that our founding fathers would not find him to be a fine example of an American.

    To suggest otherwise is disrespectful to the time, effort, and sacrifice these men make on a daily basis while we sit around and tap-tap on a keyboard.

  16. Brummagem Joe says:

    Phineas says:

    “was simply holding that army together and time and again imbuing it with the will to fight.”

    Rather what I was saying, his big accomplishment was keeping his army in being largely because of his moral authority. Having said that the struggle for independance was bigger than him and had he fallen he would have been replaced and everything would have gone as before. I’m not sure this is entirely true of Lincoln. He really was the indispensible man. Had he been assassinated early in the war rather than before it was over it’s quite conceivable another president would have made some sort of compromise peace with the South or the Union coalition might have come apart (remember his vps were Hannibal Hamlin, who?, and Andrew Johnson). The founding fathers were never going to make a compromise peace with George III even assuming he’d have been open to a compromise. The same is essentially true of FDR, could you have seen Al Smith or John Nance Garner playing the same role in 1933 because one of them would probably have been the Dem candidate?; or Henry Wallace had FDR died before September 7, 1941?

  17. Brummagem Joe says:

    “had FDR died before September 7, 1941?”

    a senior moment, December 7, 1941!

  18. floyd says:

    John;
    So you think that some of the founding fathers would find a few worthy of respect?
    So do I, ….. near the top of my list would be Antonin Scalia and I tend to think the founding fathers would concur.

    , There may well be those who shine against the backdrop of their environment like a pewter dollar in a mud puddle. Generalities ARE always false;-)

    Still the question is valid and sparked your response.
    This question may actually be more revealing of today than the one posed to Bill Kristol.
    I also agree with your last sentence… It sure is!

  19. Brummagem Joe says:

    floyd says:

    ” near the top of my list would be Antonin Scalia and I tend to think the founding fathers would concur.’

    …..somehow I don’t see Scalia at the top of either Jefferson’s or Franklin’s list…..idealogues were not really their thing…….Adam’s maybe?

  20. tom p says:

    ***floyd says:

    ” near the top of my list would be Antonin Scalia and I tend to think the founding fathers would concur.’

    …..somehow I don’t see Scalia at the top of either Jefferson’s or Franklin’s list…..idealogues were not really their thing…….Adam’s maybe?***

    somehow or other, I think all 3 would have admired Thurgood Marshall, not necassarily agree with him, but definitely admire the sheer audacity of the man.

  21. An Interested Party says:

    Isn’t that heresy to suggest that any of the Founding Fathers would have admired an activist judge…

  22. tom p says:

    ***Isn’t that heresy to suggest that any of the Founding Fathers would have admired an activist judge…***

    IP: Somehow or other, I always got the impression they were a little “activist” themselves…

  23. floyd says:

    Aip;
    You never disappoint ! [lol]
    Answer ,
    I suppose it would be if that were the case.

    Fact is, Scalia is one of a few men left that both understands and admires the founding fathers work, and a little flattery usually goes a long ways.

  24. Brummagem Joe says:

    floyd says:
    Monday, July 5, 2010 at 22:02

    “Fact is, Scalia is one of a few men left that both understands and admires the founding fathers work,”

    Well he claims to be able to read their minds certainly.

  25. An Interested Party says:

    Actually, floyd, I was making a reference to Marshall and the recent trashing he recieved at the Kagan hearings…far be it from me to interupt your Scalia lovefest…

  26. G.A.Phillips says:

    ***Rather what I was saying, his big accomplishment was keeping his army in being largely because of his moral authority.*** yup, because he was an invincible Christian super hero!

    ***I’m not sure. Suppose Washington had been killed in battle, would the War of Independence have come to an end? Not really, he would just have been replaced with another general who could well have been more competent.***lol……. do you have any Idea how many time this man was shot, and shot at but never scratched?

    Man you just don’t replace men like this as we have seen over the last 200 some years…..

  27. floyd says:

    Aip;
    Upon a reread ,I see your point, pardon me.

  28. Liandro says:

    I still lean Jefferson, although I probably haven’t done nearly as thorough a reading of the FF’s as some others.

    Side-note: Bill Kristol is NOT a conservative in my book. A neoconservative, sure.