Alexander Hamilton

Author of The Federalist Papers

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info_outline  Full Explanation

The image above is a spiritual portrait, or Groja.[1] It depicts the personality of Alexander Hamilton, one of America's Founding Fathers.

Alexander Hamilton was born illegitimately on January 11 of either 1755 or 1757, in Charlestown, the capital of the island of Nevis in the Caribbean Sea. He was the youngest of the seven key Founding Fathers and the only one of that group who was born outside of the Thirteen Colonies.

Hamilton, the Decision Maker

The vast amount of Green in Alexander Hamilton's spiritual portrait represents his strong preference for being rational and decisive. He demonstrated courage and conviction during the Revolutionary War, and his strong will and keen reasoning ability led him to pursue a career in law.

As a youth, Hamilton was unable to attend school at the Church of England because his parents were unmarried. However, he received some tutoring at a private school which he was able to supplement with reading his family's books.

Hamilton came to America in 1772 — while he was still a teenager — and after a year or so began studying at King's College, now Columbia University. While there he learned about and joined the patriots' revolutionary cause, and during the Revolutionary War he served as one of General George Washington's aides de camp for four years.

Hamilton, the Realist

The Yellow in Alexander Hamilton's spiritual portrait represents his realism.

Hamilton's desire for a strong federal government backed by a standing army is an excellent example of his pragmatism. As Washington's aide during the Revolutionary War, Hamilton had seen first hand how the lack of essential supplies — food, weapons, uniforms, and even pay for the soldiers — dangerously hampered the war effort. America won the war in 1783, but wound up deeply in debt.

Years later, Shay's Rebellion threatened the lives of Americans in 1786 and 1787, but by that time the country's standing army was miniscule. There was not even a plan to repay the debt for the Revolutionary War, much less pay for new men and munitions, and Hamilton the realist saw it would be very difficult to find new recruits.

Let us recollect that peace or war will not always be left to our option; that however moderate or unambitious we may be, we cannot count upon the moderation, or hope to extinguish the ambition of others.
 — Alexander Hamilton, as Publius in Federalist No. 34, The Same Subject Continued: Concerning the General Power of Taxation, January 4, 1788.

As a realist, Hamilton found himself at odds with the idealistic Thomas Jefferson, who believed America had no enemies and hence did not need an army.

At Odds With Jefferson

The image of Alexander Hamilton's decisive, pragmatic personality stands in stark constrast to the image of Thomas Jefferson's open and idealistic persona. Although both had high hopes for their new nation, their backgrounds were as different as their personalities, and they disagreed about many things.

Alexander Hamilton
Thomas Jefferson
  • Where Hamilton, who lived on the island of Manhattan in New York City, foresaw large, bustling cities, Jefferson, who lived in the Virginia countryside, envisioned a rural, agrarian society
  • While the pragmatic Hamilton saw an immediate need for the new nation to pay off the debt from the war and establish an army, the idealistic Jefferson thought the United States could remain neutral and hence did not need a standing military
  • Hamilton admired the structure of the British government, but Jefferson thought France — Britain's enemy in so many wars throughout history — had found the right course

Some people claim that Hamilton and Jefferson hated each other.[2] These spiritual portraits show that these two Founding Fathers were better than that.

Hate is an emotion, and if Hamilton and Jefferson harbored contempt for each other, their portraits would have more Red.

America's First Political Parties

Having won the Revolutionary War, the stoic George Washington was immensely popular. He was elected unanimously to two terms as the 1st President of the United States, and Washington remains the only president who was not a member of a political party.

In 1797, when Washington's second term came to an end and he refused to serve for a third, the politicians in the new country gradually began wanting to play a greater role in the new nation. Political rivalry and a touch of ambition — which the Founding Fathers were careful to keep under wraps, because humilty was very in  back then — soon enhanced Hamilton's and Jefferson's personal differences, bringing them to the fore.

In the Federalist Papers, Hamilton succinctly observes how differences in background and opinion can ultimately lead to a stubbornness that can preclude rational decisionmaking:

Men often oppose a thing, merely because they have had no agency in planning it, or because it may have been planned by those whom they dislike.
 — Alexander Hamilton, as Publius in Federalist No. 70, The Executive Department Further Considered, March 18, 1788.

Some of the differences between Hamilton and Jefferson are visible only in the spiritual portraits of them here and on SeeOurMinds.com. Eventually these previously invisible differences combined with the more superficial, demographic differences of background, occupation, age, place of residence, etc. and led to the formation of America's first political parties.

Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, and other Founding Fathers may have been political rivals, but they were also predominantly logical people.[3] Significantly, they may have disagreed over many things but they were all strongly united in their disdain for the sort of uncontrolled emotions that could fuel mob violence.

Having taken the time to analyze and draw their personalities, I am convinced the idea that any of the Founding Fathers hated each other[2] is hyperbole — fake news meant to sell rather than inform.

See More at SeeOurMinds.com

This story is adapted from the original posting of Hamilton's spiritual portrait on SeeOurMinds.com.

In addition to the image of Thomas Jefferson on this site, SeeOurMinds.com has the original posting of Jefferson's image and spiritual portraits of the following other Founding Fathers in the American Presidents – 1789–1899 and the Founding Fathers galleries:

  • Benjamin Franklin — America's oldest Founding Father
  • George Washington — America's 1st president, and the only president who did not belong to a political party
  • John Adams — America's 1st vice president and 2nd president
  • Patrick Henry — Virginia's 1st governor who rallied the patriots with his Liberty or Death speech

At some point I plan to post an article on this site about how the Founding Fathers formed a psychologically diverse team. The only way to learn when that article goes live is to subscribe to the Artsy Visions Monthly Newsletter!

Resources and Recommendations

This portrait is based on the biography of Alexander Hamilton  by Ron Chernow, 2004.[4] There is also an American Experience video entitled Alexander Hamilton, but Chernow's book — which is over 720 pages long — is far more comprehensive.

If the length of the book is off-putting, definitely check out the video!

For a longer, more personal review of Chernow's biography of Hamilton and other contemporary books and videos about America's Founding Fathers see the article Hamilton and Jefferson Were Both Awesome on tomhartung.com.

I highly recommend Ron Chernow's book and the American Experience video about Alexander Hamilton to everyone!

Tom W. Hartung

Notes

  • 1  A spiritual portrait or Groja — for Graphical Representation of Jungian Archetypes — is an image representing the personality of a person. These images are based on the work of painters such as Wassily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian. Find essential information about these images on the About page at Groja.com.

  • 2  A recent search for Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson hated each other yielded over 4,000,000 results.

  • 3  One exception to this statement is Patrick Henry — whose spiritual portrait interestingly looks a lot like Donald Trump's.

  • 4  This book inspired the musical, which is understandably highly successful.

    Admirably, Chernow addresses common prejudices readers might bring to his subject by starting his book with this observation:

    For many years after the duel, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and other political enemies had taken full advantage of their eloquence and longevity to spread defamatory anectdotes about Hamilton, who had been condemned to everlasting silence.
     — From the Prologue to Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, 2004, p. 2.

    As someone who grew up in Virginia, is named Tom, and happens to have a temperment similar to Jefferson's, I found this sentence to be extremely compelling!

    I am happy to report Ron Chernow's book amply rewared the minimal effort it took me to set aside the biases I had unconsciously inherited against Alexander Hamilton, and today I am a total fan of both Founding Fathers!