Franke: Alexander Hamilton and the American Dream

July 20, 2018

by Mark Franke

I am conflicted. I love history. One of my historical heroes is Alexander Hamilton. I wrote what was the equivalent of my senior thesis as an undergraduate major in economics on Hamilton’s plan to put the new nation on a sound financial footing. Needless to say, I have looked up to Alexander Hamilton my entire adult life.

But I hate musicals. Especially musicals that purport to be on historical topics but turn it all to the dark side by convoluting history to meet the demands of current political correctness. Let alone the fact that I think this kind of music is the stuff of nightmarish thought control that won’t leave your mind when you are lying awake at 2 a.m. cursing the day you ever set foot in a theatre.

Where am I going with this? My wife of 46 years decided to buy two tickets to the musical Hamilton when it came to Chicago. Fortunately, since she is my wife of 46 years, she had no delusions about my going with her so she asked a close friend instead. I may be out $400 but I avoided spending the night subject to the tender mercies of the Cook County Sheriff’s department after theatre management dialed 911 to report me for public disruption and general mopery.

My wife liked the musical so much that now she is reading Ron Chernow’s biography of the great man — not because I recommended it, not because he is near the top of the Founding Father pantheon, but because the diabolical author of the play said he based the musical on it.

As I am led to understand, the musical “celebrates” Hamilton’s status as an immigrant who made good against daunting odds and helped make the country great. Liberals have to love that storyline, and they are not wrong in doing so.

What needs to be emphasized, however, is that Hamilton did this by working hard, getting an education, taking advantage of opportunities that arose and having the good fortune of living in a new nation that awarded effort. He did this in spite of his immigrant status, unstable home life, growing up in poverty and lack of social status.

This could not have happened in any other nation back then. Today, the reality is not much improved given the few nations with high economic freedom scores.

Alexander Hamilton, more than any other of our Founding Fathers, epitomizes the concept we used to call the American Dream. He saw opportunity, and through his own indefatigable drive and God-given abilities put himself into a position to benefit from it. That gives conservatives something to love about this success story.

Perhaps this is where serious Americans who hold dear what our nation is and what it stands for can come together on the immigration debate. We can and must recover the bully pulpit from the extremists on both sides of the issue. It is our duty to take us back to the ideal of the American Dream that Alexander Hamilton and millions of others made real in their lives, such as my ancestors who settled as German immigrant farmers in Allen County in the 1830’s and 1840’s. I, we all, owe this to our children and grandchildren.

But back to musicals. A friend from church, when giving the father of the bride speech at his daughter’s wedding reception, said he likes music and he likes movies, but they don’t belong together. I feel the same way about the theatre — enough with the singing, already.

I also feel it incumbent to protect the reputation of one of my heroes. I’m so anal about this that one of my favorite local pubs is called the Hamilton Public House. To my chagrin, I learned it’s not named for the iconic first Secretary of the Treasury but for the park in Fort Wayne where the city’s professional baseball team, the Kekiongas, played as part to the National Association of Professional Baseball Players, predecessor to today’s National League.

According to local baseball wags, the Kekiongas claim to have played the first professional baseball game in America. But that is a story for another day.

Mark Franke, an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review, is formerly an associate vice chancellor at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.


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