Images of Hamilton: Update- Trumbull Portrait Now on Display in NYC

I had blogged earlier about John Trumbull’s iconic portrait of Hamilton, and about plans to house the painting for public display at Crystal Bridges Art Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.  This week, the portrait was formally unveiled at the Met, so all the NYC Hamiltonians can go take a look at the full-length portrait in person!

John Trumbull, "Portrait of Alexander Hamilton," 1792, gift from Credit Suisse to Crystal Bridges and Metropolitan Museum

According to the Met’s press release:

An iconic life-size portrait by the celebrated Revolutionary-era painter John Trumbull of Alexander Hamilton, then Secretary of the Treasury under President George Washington, is now on view in The American Wing of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  This is the painting’s first showing at the Metropolitan since it was donated, earlier this year, by the global wealth manager and investment bank Credit Suisse to both the Metropolitan Museum in New York and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. At the Metropolitan, the work—which is considered the greatest known portrait of Hamilton and one of the finest civic portraits from the Federal period—is on display in Gallery 755, “Faces of the Young Republic,” of the New Galleries for American Paintings, Sculpture, and Decorative Arts among portraits of other great heroes of the post-Revolutionary period.

Images of Hamilton: William Rimmer Statue in Boston

Visitors to Boston may have noticed a unique Hamilton statute on Commonwealth Avenue, between Arlington Street and Berkeley Street.  The statue, erected in 1865 was the first to appear on Commonwealth Avenue.  According to the iWalked Boston audio tour guide, the it is also the only stone structure on the Commonwealth Avenue Mall.  The statue was funded by Thomas Lee and designed by Dr. William Rimmer, who had a fascinating background as a physician and a sculptor.

Public Art Boston offers this description of the statue:

This sculpture by William Rimmer shows Hamilton with cloth draped over his Colonial-era outfit. The heavy folds of drapery bring to mind depictions of Greek and Roman leaders in ancient statuary. Through this anachronistic touch, Rimmer evoked the first democratic-style governments in ancient Greece, thereby emphasizing Hamilton’s formative role in the newly emerging American democracy. Interestingly, Rimmer was a physician before devoting himself to art. He did not use a model to create the statue, but instead employed his unique knowledge of human anatomy to chisel Hamilton’s body from a block of granite. Due to Rimmer’s unusual technique, this sculpture is particularly fragile and difficult to maintain.

 

Rimmer’s design was extremely controversial during his time, and

Massachusetts: A Guide to Its Places and People states:

“Rimmer had a theory, ahead of his time, of working impressionistically without models.  Though contemporary criticism was violently averse, the statue was admired by Hamilton’s own family for its graceful and somewhat aloof pose, characteristic of its subject.”

An 1895 issue of the New England Magazine describing Boston’s statues states:

“A curious work is the granite statue of Alexander Hamilton by Dr. William Rimmer, in Commonwealth Avenue.  It stands on a high and massive granite pedestal; and it was given to the city in 1865 by Thomas Lee, who also gave the Esther Monument.  There is little or no modeling, except about the head, and the appearance of the figure suggests a snow image which is partially melted.”

Take a look for yourself the next time you’re in Boston!

Images of Hamilton: Hamilton Statue in Central Park

If you’ve visited Central Park, you may have come across a very handsome statue of Alexander Hamilton.  The statue is located between 82nd and 83rd streets on the East Side of the park.  The statue was donated by Hamilton’s son, John C. Hamilton to the park in 1880.  The Hamilton statue was sculpted by Carl H. Conrads, an American sculptor best known for his work commemorating the Civil War.  Conrads served in the Union Army during the Civil War and designed statues that you can find in West Point and San Francisco.

hampark

The 1880 statue actually replaces an earlier Hamilton statue that was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1835 and had stood on the floor of the original New York Stock Exchange building.  According to Inside the Apple: A Streetwise History of New York City:

“A valiant attempt was made to rescue a 15-foot statue of Alexander Hamilton from the floor of the exchange, but just as the statute reached the doorway, the roof collapsed, destroying it.  The statue, by Robert Ball Hughes, was the first marble statue created in the United States and had been installed only eight months earlier.  Though it took 45 years, the statue was ultimately replaced by Hamilton’s youngest son, John C. Hamilton, and it stands in Central Park behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  This statue in the park is remarkable in that it is made entirely of granite– not the easiest stone to carve–and it has long been thought that John C. Hamilton commissioned the work out of this durable stone so that no matter what calamities might befall Central Park his father’s statute would endure.”

The original statue is pictured here, in an image from the New York Public Library.

On November 22, 1880 Chauncey Mitchell Depew made a public address to commemorate the unveiling of the statue at Central Park.  Some excerpts are below:

“Precocious intellects in all ages of the world have flashed with meteoric splendor; and for a brief space amazed mankind; but he only whose full equipped mind knew no youth and never failed in the full maturity of its powers was Alexander Hamilton. ”

….

“…Hamilton, at eighteen, was hailed by the whole country as the peer of the Adamses and of Jay.  But when the multitude, smarting under wrongs and fired by the eloquence of their champion, sought riotous vengeance upon their enemies, he stayed the angry mob while the President of his College escaped, and offered to lead in defence of property and the majesty of the law.  Popular passion never swayed his judgment; personal ambition, or the applause of the hour, never moved or deterred him.”

“Hamilton forged the links and welded the chain which binds the Union.  He saw the dangers of Secession, and pointed out the remedy against it in the implied powers of the Constitution.”

“Upon the boundless sea of experiment without chart of compass, he invented both.  He smote the sources of revenue with such skill and power, that from the barren rocks flowed the streams which filled the Treasury and the Sinking Fund, and the exhausted land was fertilized by its own productiveness.  Out of chaos he developed perfected schemes which have stood every strain and met every emergency in our national life.”

For the full text of Depew’s remarks, see here.

Hamilton’s Legacy

 

 

 

Today, July 12, 2013 marks the 209th anniversary of Alexander Hamilton’s death at age 47.  Hamilton died at a significantly younger age than his fellow political luminaries: Jefferson survived until age 83, Madison lived to 85, Adams to 90, and Burr to 80.  However, in his 47 years, he fundamentally shaped America’s political and financial foundations.  Hamilton rose from obscurity in Nevis and, without a formal education or financial backing, became an influential revolutionary thinker, a military hero, Washington’s most influential aide, the driving force of the Federalist Papers and the push for the Constitution, the architect of America’s financial future as the first Secretary of Treasury, and so much more.

The inscription at Hamilton’s grave site says it well:

The patriot of incorruptible integrity.

The soldier of approved valour.

The statesman of consummate wisdom.

Whose talents and virtues will be admired by grateful posterity long after this marble shall have mouldered into dust.

I also love this excerpt from the Eulogy on General Alexander Hamilton by the citizens of Boston written by Harrison G. Otis:

But in the man whose loss we deplore, the interval between manhood and death was so uniformly filled by a display of the energies of his mighty mind, that this world has scarcely paused to enquire into the story of his infant or puerile years.  He was a planet, the dawn of which was not perceived; which rose with full splendor, and emitted a constant stream of glorious light, until the hour of its sudden and portentous eclipse.

If you’re in New York, come join the series of exciting events throughout NYC today to commemorate Hamilton’s passing.  If you’re not in the city, check out the live stream of Thomas Fleming’s author talk at Trinity Church here.

The Bank of New York and the Museum of American Finance

The Bank of New York was the first bank in New York City, founded by Alexander Hamilton and opened on June 9, 1784.  Hamilton was the chief architect of the new bank.  Hamilton wrote the constitution of the bank and was one of the original 13 directors.  He also made the decision that the bank should be based on specie (gold and silver) rather than land.  Hamilton’s constitution was used as the “model upon which all the bank charters granted in New York were framed prior to 1825.”  Hamilton’s voting structure restricted the power of larger shareholders, rather than a one share-one vote scheme.

http://www.nps.gov/ner/hagr/parknews/images/Bank-of-New-York7.gif

In Alexander Hamilton and the Growth of the New Nation, John Chester Miller described Hamilton’s attachment to the Bank he founded:

Hamilton’s concern for the welfare of the Bank of New York cannot be left out of account.  He might have said of the institution that although it was a small bank, there were those who loved it.

By the time Hamilton became Treasury Secretary, he instructed the bank cashier to sell his stocks, despite losing significant profits as the Bank’s stock rose dramatically.  Hamilton felt that the political consequences of having a stake in a bank would compromise his position and eschewed the profitable stocks in favor of maintaining his political reputation.

Currently, the Bank of New York building is home to the Museum of American Finance.  Summer is a great time for museum hopping in NYC and the museum is offering a Groupon deal for 50% off admission!  The museum is located at 48 Wall Street and is open to the public on Tuesday – Saturday, from 10 am – 4 pm..  If you go, make sure to check out the Hamilton Room, focusing specifically on Hamilton’s legacy.

Alexander Hamilton Room
Picture from http://www.moaf.org/exhibits/hamilton/index

Also note, MOAF is hosting a Hamilton vs. Jefferson Debate next Thursday, July 11th from 5:30-7 pm, as part of the Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society’s Celebrate Hamilton 2013 events.  The description of the event from the event flyer is below:

National Hamilton Scholar Dr. William G. Chrystal will become Alexander Hamilton for the evening to both entertain and educate attendees in a “debate” with Thomas Jefferson. After the presentation, a Q&A session will be held, followed by a reception.
Register to attend the debate here.  I’ll be there!

Prescience on National Security

In the Federalist No. 8, Hamilton stated:

Safety from external danger is the most powerful director of national conduct. Even the ardent love of liberty will, after a time, give way to its dictates. The violent destruction of life and property incident to war, the continual effort and alarm attendant on a state of continual danger, will compel nations the most attached to liberty to resort for repose and security to institutions which have a tendency to destroy their civil and political rights. To be more safe, they at length become willing to run the risk of being less free.

Federalist No. 8 was written in the context of warning against hostilities between the states, but Hamilton makes a compelling, highly relevant point about what people in society are willing to give up in order to protect our security in times of danger.  I have been thinking about Hamilton’s statement a lot in the context of the Edward Snowden/NSA domestic spying story.  The Electronic Frontier Foundation published a detailed guide to how the NSA Domestic Spying programs works.  Under the program, the Government can monitor every American’s call history and internet activity without a warrant.  Different aspects of the program are continuing to come to light, but Hamilton’s observations on the effect of a state of alarm on the value of liberty remain extremely prescient.

The Founders Online Project from the National Archives

The National Archives has released the beta version of The Founders Online.  This site provides the public with open access to the correspondence and other writings of six major Founders: Hamilton, Wasington, Franklin, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison.  The collection includes over 6,000 Alexander Hamilton documents and will be an important resource for anyone interested in the Founding period.  Although some of the material has already been digitized, this is the first time that they are all available in one place and accessible to the public at no charge.

The Founders Online project was originally proposed to Congress in April 2008 by Allen Weinstein, the Archivist of the United States, as a response to Public Law 110-161- Division D- Financial Services and General Government and Appropriations Acts, 2008, Title V, which stated:

The Appropriations Committees are concerned about the lengthy amount of time currently required to complete the publication of the Founding Fathers historical papers projects.  These projects began in the 1960s and are expected to continue two or more decades until completion. Mindful of the technologies and tools currently available, the Committees believe the Archivist should accelerate the process for delivering the papers of the Founding Fathers to the American people. Therefore, the Archivist is directed, as Chairman of the NHPRC, to develop a comprehensive plan for the online electronic publication, within a reasonable timeframe, of the papers of the Founding Fathers and to submit this plan to the Committees on Appropriations no later than 90 days after the enactment of this Act.

Weinstein’s report to the Appropriations Committee laid out the initial plan to provide open, free access to the fully annotated Founding Era papers.  In the report, Weinstein stated:

The plan discussed here would, over several years, help accelerate digitization and online access to 1) copies of all the available original source documents, 2) transcriptions of those documents as they become available, and 3) the existing print volumes that contain annotated and edited transcripts of the documents. In addition, as further volumes are completed, these authoritative editions would then replace the raw transcriptions. This collection would be a kind of work-in-progress that students, scholars, and the general public could use through the Internet.

The Hamilton papers included in the Founders Online are the Papers of Alexander Hamilton published by Harold C. Styrett as part of a Columbia University project that lasted from 1955-1987.

The Founders Online has plans to keep expanding the papers available to the public.  The website states:

In its initial phase, Founders Online contains nearly 120,000 fully searchable documents. Soon we will be adding more documents drawn from the print editions and additional transcriptions of documents. As work continues on each of the ongoing publishing projects, newly annotated and edited records will be added. When it is complete, Founders Online will include approximately 175,000 documents in this living monument to America’s Founding Era.