Alexander Hamilton on War and Free Government
The republics of Greece and Rome proved incapable of waging war effectively and remaining free at the same time. The record of modern republics is not much more encouraging. How, then, did the United States manage to emerge victorious from the world wars of this century, including the Cold War, and still retain its fundamental liberties?
For Karl-Friedrich Walling, this unprecedented accomplishment was the work of many hands and many generations, but of Alexander Hamilton especially. No Founder thought more about the theory and practice of modern war and free government. None supplied advice of more enduring relevance to statesmen faced with the responsibility of providing for the common defense while securing the blessings of liberty to their posterity.
“In this remarkable book, Walling contradicts the conventional wisdom. He contends that the unprecendented ability of the United States to wage war while still preserving liberty is primarily the legacy of Alexander Hamilton. . . . . This is a book that Hamilton deserves. It is unthinkable that the United States could have triumphed in this century without having become Hamilton’s republican empire.”
“A very detailed and subtle explication of Hamilton’s thinking that takes careful account of concrete historical events and circumstances.Gordon S. Wood in the ”
—New York Review of BooksSee all reviews...
“Walling’s greatest contribution is to show how Hamilton was not the militarist he is often accused of being. . . . An important contribution to the literature of the American founding. . . . Gary McDowell in the ”
—Times Literary Supplement
“Absolutely brilliant. Walling convincingly challenges the conventional understanding of Hamilton as a Machiavellian statesman with little or no concern for public virtue in citizens and statesmen. His development of the vigilance vs. responsibility theme is perceptive, subtle, and balanced, and his handling of the classics is far more learned and accurate than anybody else's except Paul Rahe’s. A superb work and a major contribution to scholarship.”
—Forrest McDonald, author of Alexander Hamilton: A Biography and Novus Ordo Seclorum: The Intellectual Origins of the ConstitutionSee fewer reviews...
Hamilton's strategic sobriety led many of his contemporaries to view him as an American Caesar, but this revisionist account calls the conventional "militarist" interpretation of Hamilton into question. Hamilton sought to unite the strength necessary for war with the restraint required by the rule of law, popular consent, and individual rights. In the process, he helped found something new, the world's most durable republican empire.
Walling constructs a conversation about war and freedom between Hamilton and the Loyalists, the Anti-Federalists, the Jeffersonians, and other Federalists. Instead of pitting Hamilton's virtues against his opponents' vices (or vice versa), Walling pits Hamilton's virtue of responsibility against the revolutionary virtue of vigilance, a quarrel he believes is inherent to American party government. By reexamining that quarrel in light of the necessities of war and the requirements of liberty, Walling has written the most balanced and moving account of Hamilton so far.