Hamilton helped elect his rival to keep an ‘unruly Tyrant’ from the presidency. If only . . .

tags: election 2016, Hamilton, Trump

Dana Milbank writes about political theater in the nation’s capital. He joined the Post as a political reporter in 2000. 

I came here during the holidays to visit an old friend who’s fallen on hard times.

Amid the cultural sensation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton” on Broadway, the protagonist’s arch-rival, Thomas Jefferson, has momentarily lost his place of honor in the founding narrative. If Alexander Hamilton is the hero, the Sage of Monticello, though not the villain (that’s Aaron Burr) is an impediment.

In truth, Jefferson and Hamilton were indispensable, the yin and yang of American democracy: Jefferson’s love of liberty and Hamilton’s taste for centralized power created the balance that built the world’s economic and military superpower. And they had common cause in defending their creation.

Their system was under threat in 1800, when a quirk in the electoral college left the federalist-controlled House of Representatives to award the presidency to one of two republicans, Jefferson and Burr. Miranda portrayed Hamilton as reluctantly drawn out of retirement to endorse Jefferson, but Hamilton’s letters show he was zealous in persuading fellow federalists to choose Jefferson — a man with whom he had more ideological differences than with Burr.

The danger to the new country, Hamilton argued, wasn’t ideological disputes, but the possibility that an unprincipled man would exploit public passions. He called Burr a latter-day Catiline, the ancient Roman senator who attempted a populist uprising against the Republic. ...

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