Hamil-Swag: More T-Shirts

Can you ever have too many Hamilton t-shirts?  Happy Monday!

1) Hipster Hamilton from Zazzle

Hipster Hamilton Tshirt

2) Olde School (featuring Henry, Franklin, Jefferson, and Hamilton) from Zazzle

Olde School T-shirt

3) Capitalism Rocks! from Cafe Press

Women's Fitted T-Shirt (dark)

4) AH Quote shirt from Zazzle: Featuring the quote: “A sacred respect for the constitutional law is the vital principle, the sustaining energy of a free government. ”

Alexander Hamilton Quote Shirts

High-Tech Authorship Detection and the Federalist Papers

Researchers at the University of Adelaide in Southern Australia recently published an article in PLOS ONE (an awesome open access, peer-reviewed science journal)  entitled Automated Authorship Attribution Using Advanced Signal Classification Techniques.  The research team worked for over 10 years on developing an automatic authorship detection system that would determine authorship based on commonly used words.

Here’s the abstract from the fascinating article:

In this paper, we develop two automated authorship attribution schemes, one based on Multiple Discriminant Analysis (MDA) and the other based on a Support Vector Machine (SVM). The classification features we exploit are based on word frequencies in the text. We adopt an approach of preprocessing each text by stripping it of all characters except a-z and space. This is in order to increase the portability of the software to different types of texts. We test the methodology on a corpus of undisputed English texts, and use leave-one-out cross validation to demonstrate classification accuracies in excess of 90%. We further test our methods on theFederalist Papers, which have a partly disputed authorship and a fair degree of scholarly consensus. And finally, we apply our methodology to the question of the authorship of theLetter to the Hebrews by comparing it against a number of original Greek texts of known authorship. These tests identify where some of the limitations lie, motivating a number of open questions for future work. An open source implementation of our methodology is freely available for use at https://github.com/matthewberryman/autho​r-detection.

In order to test their research, the team first applied it to English texts with known authors, and found an accuracy rate of over 90%.  Then, they applied it to the twelve disputed essays in the Federalist Papers:

The Federalist Papers are a series of 85 political essays published under the name ‘Publius’ in 1788. At first, the real author(s) were a guarded secret, but scholars now accept that Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay are the authors. After a while Hamilton and then Madison provided their own lists declaring the authorship [31][32]. The difference between these two lists is that there are 12 essays that both Madison and Hamilton claimed individually for themselves. So 73 texts might be considered to have known author(s) while 12 are of disputed authorship. These 12 disputed authorship texts are essay numbers 49–58, 62 and 63. An early study carried out by Mosteller and Wallace (1964) concluded that all of the disputed essays were written by Madison, with the possible exception that essay number 55 might be written by Hamilton [10][33]. Not all researchers agree with this conclusion. Some scholars also suggest that essay number 64, which is normally attributed to Jay, is written by Madison[31], so we also consider essay number 64 as a disputed text. In total, this gives us 13 disputed essays and 72 undisputed essays. Amongst the undisputed texts, 51 essays are written by Hamilton, 14 essays are written by Madison, and 4 essays are written by Jay. Three essays (numbers 18, 19, and 20) are products of collaboration between Hamilton and Madison[34][35].

The texts are obtained from the Project Gutenberg Archives [28]. We put aside the three essays with collaborative authorship and take the remaining 69 essays as the training dataset. The same function word list (see Table 4) is used for our MDA and SVM classifiers. Because there are three authors, MDA produces two discriminant functions, that are shown in Figure 4. For the Federalist Papers of undisputed authorship, the LOO-CV accuracy is 97.1%, close to the LOO-CV accuracy for the SVM, 95.6%. In both methods the number of function words required to achieve the highest accuracy is 75 words.

Figure 4 Canonical discriminant functions for the Federalist Papers.

The program found that “there is a relatively high likelihood that Essay 62 was written by Madison.”  However, it was not certain about the authorship of several of the other disputed essays.  A possible reason for this is that these essays were “the products of a greater degree of collaboration between the authors, and this remains an open question for future investigation.”

Read the complete article here, and a summary here.

The Romantic Hamilton

In honor of Valentine’s Day, here are some of my favorite snippets of Hamilton’s writing to/about his wife Elizabeth.  Of course, Hamilton wasn’t always the perfect husband- he was away from his family often at the peak of his political career, and he had a much-publicized affair with Maria Reynolds, but :

From a July 2, 1780 letter:

“I love you more and more every hour.  The sweet softness and delicacy of your mind and manners, the elevation of your sentiments, the real goodness of your heart- it’s tenderness to me- the beauties of your face and person- your unpretending good sense and that innocent symplicity and frankness which pervade your actions, all these appear to me with increasing amiableness, and place you in my estimation above all the rest of your sex.”

From an October 1780 letter

“I have told you, and I told you truly that I love you too much. You engross my thoughts too intirely to allow me to think of any thing else. You not only employ my mind all day; but you intrude upon my sleep. I meet you in every dream—and when I wake I cannot close my eyes again for ruminating on your sweetnesses. ‘Tis a pretty story indeed that I am to be thus monopolized, by a little nut-brown maid like you—and from a statesman and a soldier metamorphosed into a puny lover. I believe in my soul you are an inchantress; but I have tried in vain, if not to break, at least, to weaken the charms—you maintain your empire in spite of all my efforts—and after every new one, I make to withdraw myself from my allegiance my partial heart still returns and clings to you with increased attachment.

Among other causes of uneasiness, I dread lest you should imagine, I yield too easily to the barrs, that keep us asunder; but if you have such an idea you ought to banish it and reproach yourself with injustice. A spirit entering into bliss, heaven opening upon all its faculties, cannot long more ardently for the enjoyment, than I do my darling Betsey, to taste the heaven that awaits me in your bosom. Is my language too strong? it is a feeble picture of my feeling:?no words can tell you how much I love and how much I long—you will only know it when wrapt in each others arms we give and take those delicious caresses which love inspires and marriage sanctifies….”

Excerpts from a November 1798 letter:

Indeed, my Betsey, you need never fear a want of anxious attention to you, for you are now dearer than ever to me.  Your happiness is the first and sweetest object of my wishes and cares.  How can it be otherwise?  You are all that is charming in my estimation and the more I see of your sex the more I become convinced of the judiciousness of my choice.

Hamil-Swag: Pop Culture Meets Art Meets Awesome- “American Iconomics”

Check out these super creative renditions of currency with inspiration drawn from the worlds of film, art, and popular culture.  These images were created by artists Akira Beard and James Charles as part of a 2011 show at the Shooting Gallery in San Francisco entitled: American Iconomics.   Some of these awesome pieces are still on sale, for $600 a piece.  You should check out the full collection of images here– you’ll find Andrew Jackson as Ronald McDonald, Ulysses S. Grant as Mr. T, and other awesome iconic images.

Here are my favorite Hamilton images from the show.

Willy Wonka (coincidentally one of my favorite movies)- Hamilton as Wonka and a very distinguished Oompa Loompa

Star Wars– Yoda and Princess Leia

Akira Beard and James Charles : James Charles

Akira Beard and James Charles : James Charles

Van Gogh

Johnny Cash

Akira Beard and James Charles : James Charles

Note: all images were taken from the Shooting Gallery American Iconomics site.

Hamil-Swag: Hamil-Stamps (with a side of Italian art drama)!

Happy Monday! Following up on my previous post about Hamilton’s role in the history of the USPS, here are some stamps featuring Alexander Hamilton.

1) Alexander Hamilton Bicentennial Stamp (Issued January 11, 1957)

From the National Postal Museum:

Designed by William K Schrage, the stamp has for its central design a portrait of Alexander Hamilton on the left, with the front view of the original Federal Hall in New York comprising its right portion. Across the top of the stamp is the wording “United States Postage” and the denomination “3c” in whiteface modified Roman. To the left of the portrait are the numerals “1757” and “1957,” arranged in two lines, also in whiteface modified Roman. The name “Federal Hall, N.Y.C., in whiteface Gothic, is located directly beneath the building. An ornamental ribbon dominates the bottom of the stamp and frames the lettering “Alexander Hamilton Bicentennial,” which is in dark modified Roman.

3) 1870 Ceracchi Stamp: Based on a bust of Hamilton created by Italian sculptor Giuseppe Ceracchi.    Ceracchi was a bit of a fame worshipper, and wanted to integrate himself with the Founding Fathers in the hopes of being commissioned to erect monuments to the leaders of the new nation.  He said of James Madison that he would “honor my chisel with cutting his bust.”   Ceracchi visited Hamilton, Franklin, Washington, Jefferson, Jay, and many other prominent contemporaries, claiming that he wanted to sculpt their image for his personal use or to display in public areas as part of a “Liberty Project” that would memorialize the Revolution and be funded by Congress.   However, the Liberty Project never got off the ground.  In an attempt to recover money, Ceracchi presented the prominent men he had sculpted with the bust he created and a huge bill for his services.

Hamilton complained about Ceracchi’s strategy  in his “Cash Book” of expenses in 1796, noting next to the $622 amount that he paid for the bust: “For this sum through delicacy paid upon Ceracchi’s draft for making my bust on his own importunity ‘& as a favour to me.”

For comparison, here’s the original bust:

3) $5 Hamilton Stamp (March 19, 1956): This one is closely connected to the city of Paterson, which Hamilton founded as America’s first industrial city.  Paterson’s charter was created on March 19, 1792.  Today, you can visit Paterson Great Falls National Park and find out more about Paterson and Hamilton’s role in its creation!

If you’re interested in the history of American stamps, or have any interest in stamp collecting, check out Arago.  For more on Ceracchi’s sculpting scheme, see Founding Fatherfest on Tumblr.

Hamilton and the US Postal Service

On February 6, 2013, the US Post Office announced that it plans to halt its Saturday mail delivery service in a move to cut costs.   In the face of an $11.5 billion loss in 2012, many sources have been pointing to this development as a the beginning of the end of the USPS.  I think they’re being a little hasty to dismiss an enduring institution, but time will tell.  [Disclaimer: I LOVE the post office.  Stamps, getting mail, postcards, checking the mailbox- I love it all!  Also, Miracle on 34th Street.]

The history of the USPS is tied closely to the history of America.  It was first signed into law by the Second Continental Congress on July 26, 1775, almost a year before the Declaration of Independence!  Benjamin Franklin was selected as the first Postmaster General.  (This was really a continuation of work that Franklin had done under the British regime in Philadelphia.  He had begun the modernization of the system in some areas, but was removed from the position by the British in 1774 because of his revolutionary activities).  When he became President, Washington appointed New Yorker Samuel Osgood (who would go on to form the bank that evolved into Citibank) to be the first Postmaster General under the Constitution.  The Founders recognized the post office as an important tool of innovation, and one that would help modernize the economy and unite the country.

The post office was also part of a political struggle between Hamilton and Jefferson.  Hamilton wanted the agency to be placed within the Treasury Department, while Jefferson wanted it to be placed within the State Department.  The deadlock led to the post office being separated from other executive agencies, and considered a hybrid until 1836.

Hamilton recognized the potential of the post office to bring in revenue for the country.  In his January 16, 1795 Report on the Public Credit, Hamilton proposed that the funds from the post office should be placed into a “sinking fund.”  Hamilton stated:

“It will hardly have been unnoticed that the Secretary has been, thus far, silent on the subject of the Post Office.  The reason is, that he has had in view the application of the revenue, arising from that source, to the purpose of a sinking fund….[Hamilton described the revenue that the Postmaster General estimated could be derived from the Post Office.]…Under this impression, the Secretary proposes that the net product of the Post Office…be applied…to the discharge of the existing public debt, either by purchases of stock in the market, or by payments on account of the principal, as shall appear to them most advisable, in conformity to public engagements; to continue so vested, until the whole of the debt shall be discharged.”

Hamilton was also involved in helping the postal service with legal challenges it faced as it tried to modernize.  In August of 1786,  Postmaster General Ebenezer Hazard asked Hamilton to provide an opinion on how the Post Office should proceed with enforcing contracts with private stagecoaches without the Postal Service losing money or being forced to accept inadequate service.  These companies had contracted with the government to provide stagecoach service, but had been flaunting the legal requirements of the Post Office Ordinance of 1782.  Hamilton brilliantly answered Hazard’s questions and provided a legal opinion for the Post Office to use to inform the private stagecoach companies of the requirements they needed to meet to uphold the contract.

To wrap up- the Post Office is awesome.  It’s one of the oldest institutions in America, and it played an important role in our economic history and in our national infrastructure.  And you may only be able to send letters on Saturday for a limited time- so send those Saturday packages, cards, and letters while you still can!

A smiling mailman holds a Flat Rate Box.

[Image from https://cns.usps.com/go]

Hamilton’s Views on Race and Slavery: The New York Manumission Society

Following the American Revolution, the issue of slavery came into focus for many Northerners.  The rhetoric of slavery and liberty had been used frequently during the Revolution, but in its aftermath, the protection property rights and the maintenance of existing state economies, particularly in the South, prevented any full-scale national movements towards abolition.  In this landscape, the state of slavery in the Northern states became more contentious.  Robin Blackburn describes the importance of New York in the slave landscape:

New York and New Jersey “together accounted for three quarters or all slaves outside of the South,” and slavery in both states “survived constitutional and legislative challenges in the revolutionary and immediate post-revolutionary period.”

On February 4, 1785, the New York Manumission Society was formed.  Historian Catherine O’Donnell Kaplan characterized the Society as “the site of concerted efforts to unite dreams of human perfectibility to the practical labor of effecting change.”  Hamilton was the first vice president and his friend and fellow Federalist John Jay was the first president, staying in that office for five years.  Hamilton served as president for one year in 1788 before moving to Philadelphia to take up his position as Secretary of the Treasury.

The Quaker Friends Society newsletter recounted a 1786 petition that Jay, Hamilton, and other members of the society sent to New York that began:

“Your memorialists being deeply affected by the situation of those, who, although free by the laws of God, are held in slavery by the laws of the state…”

The stated goals of the Society were noble, but they were also decidedly moderate- limited to the state of New York and reflecting the fact that many of the founders of the organization were slaveholders:

“1st to effect, if possible, the abolition of slavery in this state, by procuring gradual legislative enactments; 2dly to protect from a second slavery such persons as had been liberated in the state of New York, or elsewhere, and who were liable to be kidnapped, and sold to slave dealers in other places; and 3dly to provide means for educating children of color of all classes.”

While Hamilton consistently supported the Society and was an active member whenever he was living in New York, he also pushed its members to points of discomfort by proposing more radical plans for abolition than many of his fellow members were comfortable with.  For example, Ron Chernow describes the 1785 proposal of the Society’s ways-and-means committee headed by Hamilton to require members to commit to freeing some of their own slaves immediately, and younger slaves within 5 years.  Hamilton’s proposal would have caused financial harm to members, and was quickly rejected as being too sudden.

The 2004 Senate Concurrent Resolution 123– Recognizing and Honoring the Life and Legacy of Alexander Hamilton on the Bicentennial of His Death Because of His Standing as One of the Most Influential Founding Fathers of the United States notes:

“…as a private citizen Alexander Hamilton served many philanthropic causes and was a co-founder of the New York Manumission Society, the first abolitionist organization in New York and a major influence on the abolition of slavery from the State…Alexander Hamilton was a strong and consistent advocate against slavery and believed that Blacks and Whites were equal citizens and equal in their mental and physical faculties.”

Hamilton lived to see New York embark on a path of very slow, gradual abolition, as Pennsylvania had done earlier.  In 1788, the slave trade was abolished and aspects of the slave code were softened.  In 1799, the legislature passed An Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery,  which “allowed masters to keep their younger slaves in bondage for their most productive years, to recoup their investment. The law freed all children born to slave women after July 4, 1799, but only after they had reached their mid-twenties.  Hamilton’s bolder vision of emancipation was never reached, but the efforts of the New York Manumission Society were instrumental in building acceptance of a free, multicultural society to New York.