American Cicero

by Jeffrey Polet on June 18, 2012 · 1 comment <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Short

Michael Federici of Mercyhurst College has posted on this site before, and is certainly a fellow-traveler. Some of you may be wondering why he hasn’t posted in a while, and one explanation is that he has been working on a first-rate study of Alexander Hamilton, recently published by Johns Hopkins University Press.

Most of us would operate under the assumption that Hamilton is singularly responsible for despoiling everything the Porch affirms, but Federici’s book presents a more complex portrait than the man who is usually held up merely as a foil to Jefferson agrarianism and localism. Federici’s Hamilton is one who thinks about politics in the cauldron of circumstances, problems, and opportunities, and so avoids, prudentially, the abstractions that beset many modern thinkers. Indeed, Federici carefully places Hamilton closer to Burke than Hobbes or Locke. Hamilton’s genius, Federici believed, was to see the perilous nature of order and to recognize in the Jacobin impulses of others the tendency to establish politics on an even more tenuous ground, one not faithful to a full and honest assessment of human nature or to the idea of a natural order to things political, that which forms the basis of Federici’s reading. The strength of Federici’s interpretation is to relate Hamilton’s reasoning to his imagination, and the latter’s attraction to Greece and Rome and not Jacobin France. Porchers are encouraged to read this volume in order to give them a more nuanced reading of one of our key figures.

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avatar Brad Birzer June 21, 2012 at 7:23 am

Jeff, thanks for the notice of what’s obviously an excellent book. I’m curious about the title of your post: “American Cicero.” Who is the American Cicero in your review: Hamilton or Federici? And, why? Thanks, Brad

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