We know that prescient quotes from deceased leaders and icons can be vaguely annoying, and also false. Somewhere on the Internet, there is probably a quote from Abraham Lincoln that actually mentions the name Barack Obama, and it is currently being credulously shared by thousands of people. Even if they’re real, oftentimes they’re so vague and broad that tying them to current circumstances is laughable. “Tyranny is bad!” said Thomas Jefferson, and suddenly everyone with any kind of political opinion is using him to support their weird positions, including the guy who thinks he should be allowed to drive army-grade tanks armed with nuclear warheads around his neighborhood.
We hate to add to this—really, we do. But then we saw this tweet, and, well…
That’s Alexander Hamilton, star of the musical Hamilton and also, apparently, a deceased statesman and founding father who had an enormous impact on America’s financial system as George Washington’s Secretary of the Treasury. As Joanne Freeman notes, that quote comes from a letter in which he was lashing out at the demagogues and defending himself against charges that he was working to reinstitute a monarchy, and while we hate to do this…wow. His words go beyond prescient. They make us think that Hamilton is a time traveler who had actually just seen the world in 2017 and was writing about it.
Here’s the full excerpt from the letter, which was written in August 1792. Contrary to the monarchy conspiracy, Hamilton says, there is only one way to really screw up America. Emphasis is mine:
The truth unquestionably is, that the only path to a subversion of the republican system of the Country is, by flattering the prejudices of the people, and exciting their jealousies and apprehensions, to throw affairs into confusion, and bring on civil commotion. Tired at length of anarchy, or want of government, they may take shelter in the arms of monarchy for repose and security.
Those then, who resist a confirmation of public order, are the true Artificers of monarchy—not that this is the intention of the generality of them. Yet it would not be difficult to lay the finger upon some of their party who may justly be suspected. When a man unprincipled in private life desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper, possessed of considerable talents, having the advantage of military habits—despotic in his ordinary demeanour—known to have scoffed in private at the principles of liberty—when such a man is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity—to join in the cry of danger to liberty—to take every opportunity of embarrassing the General Government & bringing it under suspicion—to flatter and fall in with all the non sense of the zealots of the day—It may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion that he may “ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.”
And sure, it will only be like ten minutes before the right-wingers swoop in to say this quote is actually about Obama or Hillary or whatever, but my goodness, that description actually gave us pause. It’s worth sharing, even if we’re only preaching to the choir.