Alexander Hamilton in the American Tradition

Alexander Hamilton in the American Tradition

Alexander Hamilton in the American Tradition

Alexander Hamilton in the American Tradition

Excerpt

There is a general agreement that the acceptance of a common tradition is one of the truly significant binding forces that creates a nation. The distinctive quality of nationality is worth examining constantly: not only do all of us require the security of belonging --of having a home where understanding and affection can be found--but we want certainty about our commitments. We live in time, we have links with the past, and we plan for the future, as much to assure ourselves that our own strivings, however modest, have been meaningful as to provide lines of direction for those who follow us. There is continuity in a national life; and the recognition of this makes it possible for us to postpone immediate benefits for ultimate gains and to compromise extreme positions. We survive by agreement and by making sacrifices, even the extreme one, in our common defense.

A tradition is complex, it has negative and positive aspects, some based on rejection and some on reception. Men live as much in the world as in their country: Americans are aware of Aristotle, Galileo, Descartes, Spinoza, for example, as part of their heritage; on the other hand, because they are Americans, the whole precapitalist system of feudal Europe is outside their ken. Here, if we are to seek uniqueness, if we are to try to set off the American from the rest of western culture, and, indeed, from that of the East as well, is a significant point of departure.

One of the fundamental aspects of the American tradition is that all Americans, from the seventeenth century until today, have been brought up in a capitalist world of private striving and individual ownership. The European emigrants who departed for America in the seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries . . .

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