2.8.1805: “In no case, perhaps, does habit attach our choice or judgement more than in climate. The Canadian glows with delight in his sleigh and snow; the very idea of which gives me the shivers.” —to Constantin François de Chassebœuf, comte de Volney
Read the full letter beneath the page break:
In 1791 Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson was in charge of American patents. In that official capacity Jefferson approved [George] Parkinson’s patent application and helped arrange the migration of Parkinson’s family to the United States. He thus sanctioned an overt violation of British restrictions on the diffusion of industrial technology. But Jefferson, staunch foe of Great Britain that he was, held conflicting views about technology piracy. He lent a hand to Parkinson’s family but not to Parkinson himself: as Julian P. Boyd writes, he “took no part in aiding the immigration of British artisans because it was forbidden by law.” A year earlier Jefferson had been reluctant to support William Pollard’s application for a patent monopoly of another version of [Richard] Arkwright’s [flax-spinning] machine.
Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, on the other hand, wholeheartedly supported technology piracy. Parkinson was a partner of Tench Coxe, Hamilton’s trusted assistant, who had contracted with Parkinson to build a mill based on his claim of detailed knowledge of the secret Arkwright machine. Hamilton though the experiment merited a $48 Treasury subsidy to cover Parkinson’s living expenses in the spring of 1791. This episode was one of many instances in which Hamilton’s Treasury Department organized and supported raids on Britain’s industrial preeminence. Such projects strained Anglo-American relations because, as Anthony F.C. Wallace and David J. Jeremy explain, for “some of the highest officials of the American government to reward the violation of British law by issuing a patent for stolen invention - and thus to encourage similar adventures buy other industrial spies - would hardly be considered a friendly act.”"
Doron Ben-Atar, Alexander Hamilton’s Alternative: Technology Piracy and the Report on Manufactures
Talking to your emigrants, violating your copyrights.
Not surprisingly, the purveyors of the plot [of Federalist support of Thomas Pinckney in the Election of 1796] included Jefferson himself. On December 28 he penned an ingratiating letter to Adams, averring his wish that the vice president be elected to the top position. Yet it was “possible that you may be cheated of your succession by a trick worthy of the subtlety of your arch-friend of New York.” Jefferson sent the letter first to Madison, asking him to decide whether delivering it would be politic under the circumstances. In the event, Madison decided that it would not be. One reason, he explained to Jefferson, was that Adams presumably knew of “the trick aimed at by his pseudo-friends of N.Y.” and might suspect Jefferson of wanting to use him (Adams) to avenge himself against Hamilton. Moreover, Madison presciently pointed out, the Republicans might have to oppose Adams’s policies, in which case it would be embarrassing if the president had written evidence of Jefferson’s initial friendliness and confidence. An Adams-Jefferson entente was not in the cards. It may have been the obvious utility of the plot tumors to the Republicans that raised Adams’s own doubts. On February 13, 1797, he tried to reassure Gerry:
“I believe they honestly meant to bring in me; but they were frightened into a belief that I should fail, and they, in their agony, thought it better to bring in Pinckey than Jefferson, and some, I believe, preferred to bring in Pinckney president rather than Jefferson should be Vice-President. I believe there were no very dishonest intrigues in this business.”
This was exactly what Hamilton and his friends were saying. It must have been clear to Adams, moreover, that the humiliating closeness of his victory over Jefferson (seventy-one to sixty-eight) was the result of the outcomes in Pennsylvania and the South rather than anything Hamilton could have engineered. But prone as he might have been to rationalize things, Adams’s suspicions of Hamilton continued to eat at his mind while the rumors did not fade away. As Stephen Kurtz aptly reminds us, the Republicans “would not let Adams forget.”"
1.22.1797: “It seems probable that I shall be called on to preside in a legislative chamber. It is now so long since I have acted in the legislative line that I am entirely rusty in the Parliamentary rules of procedure.” With these words I began a request to my teacher, colleague, and friend George Wythe, as I set forth on researching and preparing a manual for parliamentary procedure to be used in the United States Senate, over which I was soon to preside as Vice President. My little book amended an absence, providing rules for order —if not always order itself— in our young legislature, and seems to have endured quite a bit longer than I had expected.
Read the full letter below the page break:
There’s still people who see Alexander Hamilton as a Slytherin, and because this is obviously serious business, I felt the need to explain why Hamilton is historically Gryffindor.
Let’s look at the dominant traits of the two houses:
Gryffindor: bravery, chivalry, courage, daring.
Slytherin: cunning, ambition, self-preservation, power
Lots of people stick Hamilton into Slytherin because he was ambitious. I’ll readily grant he was that, but if that trait were the single qualifying factor, then all the Founders would be sorted into Slytherin, since they were all ambitious little shits. People also give him more credit for cunning than he deserves. Certainly he tried to be the mastermind behind his party, to get things done behind the scenes to help things run more smoothly. But he wasn’t particularly good at it. Everyone knew which political pamphlets were his, despite using pseudonyms. No matter what Adams thought, Hamilton was never successful in maneuvering elections to his desired outcome. Rather than seek compromise and appeal across the board, Hamilton preferred to talk his enemies to death about why he was right and they were wrong. So while he may have wanted to be a good politician, he really wasn’t one.
People sometimes forget that the Sorting Hat also takes into account what house you prefer based on what personal traits you hold most dear. And, Hamilton, above all (above his family, his job, &c.) valued honor. And linked to this, I cannot imagine a Founder who lacked self-preservation more than he did, both in what was good for his career and what was good for his very life.
Take, for instance, his relationship with Washington. Hamilton almost severed probably the most crucial partnership of his career over a minor rebuke. A Slytherin would have gravitated to and above all court someone as powerful and influential as Washington (or at least someone his equal), but through Hamilton’s own admission, he was always something of an ice queen to the general, keeping him at arm’s length and refusing to satisfy the role of son that Washington seemed to expect of him, at least until shortly before Washington’s death.
This was also the guy who wrote not one, but two career-ruining pamphlets, something I cannot imagine a Slytherin doing. In the first, he had allowed his chivalric weakness of helping beautiful women in distress to get him caught in a honeytrap with Maria Reynolds. When it was revealed in the papers, along with accusations that it was a cover-up for insider trading, Hamilton, rather than just ignoring it as would have been better for his reputation, countered the charge of speculation with a 95-page pamphlet detailing his adultery, so his public honor could be saved. In the second instance, Hamilton was willing to blow up his political party, that which gave him a stepping stone into power, because Adams was mean to him, had pricked his honor by accusing him of being a British sympathizer among other things, and he felt everyone should know that.
There was also, you know, the eleven affairs of honor, including one instance where he challenged an entire political party.
But as far as power, Hamilton’s ambition drove him to where he believed he could do the most good, not to where he could get the most dominance. He certainly liked having influence on people (which is what caused the rift between him and Adams when the latter didn’t appreciate that), but Hamilton by-and-large wanted fame. And not fame in the sense that he’s popular and everyone loves him, but the lasting fame that comes with doing good deeds for one’s country. Hamilton had turned down multiple opportunities for lasting power, declining positions in the Senate and as a Supreme Court justice, on top of never running for president. He never used his position as Treasury Secretary to make a single penny of personal profit, and refused to give his friends insider tips when they asked. Because he thought it was wrong. And Hamilton wanted to be a hero so bad, it’s what drove him to make and expand his army during the Quasi-War, because he would be seen as the general at the lead of an American empire.
So while Hamilton certainly had ambition in spades, he held the Gryffindor traits of bravery and chivalry in much higher regard than self-preservation and power for the sake of power. He distrusted people who adapted themselves to whatever political purposes suited their interests - it’s what caused his riff with Aaron Burr (an actual Slytherin for those who want a comparison). Like Adams (another Gryffindor imo), Hamilton was so fixed to his principles he was willing to argue in favor of unpopular legislation at the expense of his own popularity multiple times. So while Slytherin might be his secondary house, Hamilton was such a Gryffindor, it hurts.
Putting Hamilton in Slytherin has more to do with a stereotype of the man than anything else. We have this idea of Hamilton as someone who was conniving and ambitious and coldly practical…but it has nothing to do with reality.
As I like to say sometimes, Hamilton couldn’t connive his way out of a paper bag. I mean, he published two career ruining pamphlets. Not one. Two. Then he died in a duel where he did not fire at his adversary.
Seriously, the guy was Gryffindor to the point of obnoxiousness.
…Franklin was totally a Slytherin, though. Don’t trust that guy.