A message from Founding Fathers Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson to the current generations of Americans on this Fourth of July has fortuitously made its way to the editors of Conservative Review. Herewith published in its entirety:
To our fellow Americans,
Greetings to you on July Fourth.
Two hundred and forty years from that fateful Fourth Day of July in 1776 (Mr. Jefferson was present, I was not) we would respectfully suggest to our descendent countrymen that, as I have said on another occasion, “the sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records. They are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the Divinity itself, and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.”
Certainly Mr. Jefferson and I—once steadfast opponents if occasional allies—still agree with this assessment. Observing the ongoing presidential campaign of 2016, we would simply remind that in times of such commotion as the present, while the passions of men are worked up to an uncommon pitch there is great danger of fatal extremes. (Followers of Mr. Sanders, please note.) The same state of the passions which fits the multitude, who have not a sufficient stock of reason and knowledge to guide them, for opposition to tyranny and oppression, very naturally leads them to a contempt and disregard of all authority. The due medium is hardly to be found among the more intelligent, it is almost impossible among the unthinking populace.
When the minds of these are loosened from their attachment to ancient establishments and courses, they seem to grow giddy and are apt more or less to run into anarchy. These principles, too true in themselves, and confirmed to me both by reading and my own experience, deserve extremely the attention of those, who have the direction of public affairs. In such tempestuous times, it requires the greatest skill in the political pilots to keep men steady and within proper bounds, on which account I am always more or less alarmed at every thing which is done of mere will and pleasure, without any proper authority. Irregularities I know are to be expected, but they are nevertheless dangerous and ought to be checked, by every prudent and moderate mean. From these general maxims, I disapprove of the irruptions of violence in question in 2016, as serving to cherish a spirit of disorder at a season when men are too prone to it of themselves.
Moreover, what is now genteelly called “the Left”—Mr. Jefferson’s one-time friends who much enthused themselves over the French Revolution and its guillotine—is again very populous and powerful. Mr. Jefferson nods now as I note for us both that it is not safe to trust the virtue of any people. Such proceedings will serve to produce and encourage a spirit of encroachment and arrogance in them. We like not to see potent neighbours indulged in the practice of making inroads at pleasure into this or any other province.
You well know too, our descendant citizens of 2016 America, that antipathies and prejudices have long subsisted between Left and Right. To this may be attributed a principal part of the disaffection now prevalent among you. Measures of the present nature, however they may serve to intimidate, will secretly revive and increase those ancient animosities, which though smothered for a while will break out when there is a favorable opportunity.
Besides this, men coming illegally from the neighboring province of Mexico, combined with their notorious friends in the various ministries of American government here, will hold up an idea to our enemies not very advantageous to our affairs. Mr. Jefferson was the very first of our presidents to confront the evil of radical Islamists, compelled by necessity to send the United States Navy to the shores of Tripoli. Let us be plain. The very first interaction between America and the scourge of radical Islam came in 1784, a full three years before the Constitution was written and adopted. On October 11th of that year, the brigantine Betsey was seized by Moroccan scoundrels—pirates, if we may be plain. Mr. Jefferson, than the US Minister to France, sought the assistance and advice of the Spanish government, a government that ill-advised Mr. Jefferson to send American envoys to Morocco and Algeria for the purpose of buying freedom of the said captured American sailors, approaching as well with the idea of purchasing a treaty. Eventually, this policy collapsed, with more ships and crews taken, and treaties harder and harder to finance and sustain. Mr. Jefferson correctly tired of this insolence, and on assuming the presidency, was confronted yet again by new demands from one Yusuf Karamanli, the Pasha of Tripoli. Sensibly, he refused to comply.
We will not take too much of your time and attention. But suffice to say, with the direct approval of Congress, the United States Navy and the United States Marines were sent to the shores of Tripoli, where the Pasha yielded. The First Barbary War was won.
We recount this history because America today is still dealing with a descendant of this Islamic enemy. They must not be allowed to imagine that this or that group of Americans are totally, or a majority of them, disaffected to the American cause. Any more than illegal immigration can be imagined to be without offense to any country that understands the concept of borders – while cherishing the value of legal immigration. In the latter case, I am compelled to remind that I too was once an immigrant to these shores, a bastard child of promise from the West Indies. Then and now, America was and remains populated entirely by immigrants and their descendants – yet legality and order is all to any just and good society.
Mr. Jefferson and I have had our vigorous disagreements—disagreements with which you still struggle today. His devout wishes for an agrarian nation and mine for a more commercial and urban country have in many ways both been answered, neither without problems. Mr. Jefferson did not anticipate a federal Department of Agriculture brimming with bureaucrats, subsidies and rules for what a farmer may or may not grow, nor with an “Environmental Protection Agency” that uses rain puddles on farm land as an excuse to instruct owners of private property as to what they may or may not do with their land. I, on the other hand, could never have believed possible that a president of the United States (this means you, Mr. William Jefferson Clinton) would or could successfully launch a policy that forces banks to give mortgages to those amongst our population who could neither afford—much less repay—said mortgages, thereby causing a national financial collapse. As the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury who saw my own father go bankrupt because of fiscal irresponsibility I am still astonished at the behavior and wanton financial recklessness of your modern government officials.
Allow me to end as Mr. Jefferson and I have begun this greeting to you on this 240th anniversary of the decidedly hard-won freedom of the United States of America.
“The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records. They are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the Divinity itself, and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.”
It is human nature at work in your current problems with illegal immigration, dealing with the descendants of the Barbary pirates, with an over-weaning bureaucracy and, yes, carefully but not wretchedly regulating the commercial private economy I have long envisioned—correctly if I may say so—as the economic engine that must lie at the heart of a successful nation.
Take a moment to re-read that momentous document signed over two earthly centuries ago, which a then-young Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Adams so carefully constructed. We both hope devoutly that as this Fourth of July approaches you will take the time to reflect on the later work of myself, Mr. Madison and the venerated Washington in the crafting of the Constitution.
Thus refreshed in the Founding, know that we wish you Godspeed as you move through your current challenges.
Your obedient servants,
Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson
Jeffrey Lord is a former White House political director under Reagan. He writes from Pennsylvania and is the author of “What America Needs: The Case for Trump.” Email him at [email protected].