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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Jeffrey Polet
Jeffrey Polet grew up in an immigrant household in the immigrant town of Holland MI. After twenty years of academic wandering he returned to Holland and now teaches political science at Hope College, where he also grudgingly serves as chair of the department, having unsuccessfully evaded all requests. In the interim, he continues to nurture quirky beliefs: Division III basketball is both athletically and morally superior to Division I; the Hope/Calvin rivalry is the greatest in sports; the lecture is still the best form of classroom instruction; never buy a car with less than 100,000 miles on it; putts will still lip out in heaven; bears are the incarnation of evil; Athens actually has something to do with Jerusalem; and Tombstone is a cinematic classic. His academic work has mirrored his peripatetic career. Originally trained at the Catholic University of America in German philosophy and hermeneutical theory, he has since gravitated to American Political Thought. He still occasionally writes about European thinkers such as Michel Foucault or the great Max Weber, but mostly is interested in the relationship between theological reflection and political formation in the American context. In the process of working on a book on John Marshall for The Johns Hopkins University Press, he became more sensitive to the ways in which centralized decision-making undid local communities and autonomy. He has also written on figures such as William James and the unjustly neglected Swedish novelist Paer Lagerkvist. A knee injury and arthritis eliminated daily basketball playing, and he now spends his excess energy annoying his saintly wife and their three children, two of whom are off to college. Expressions of sympathy for the one who remains can be posted in the comments section. He doesn’t care too much for movies, but thinks opera is indeed the Gesamtkuntswerk, that the music of Gustav Mahler is as close as human beings get to expressing the ineffable, that God listens to Mozart in his spare time, and that Bach is history’s greatest genius.

1 COMMENT

  1. 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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