How Bitter Political Disputes Made America Great

Here is a review of what looks like an interesting new book about our country’s history involving one bitter dispute between former friends. Kyle Sammin at The Federalist is the reviewer — here is the lede:

In Jay Cost’s latest book, The Price of Greatness, the scholar and journalist lays out a compelling analysis of the feud between Alexander Hamilton and James Madison showing that their disagreements resulted in a synthesis of differing opinions that allowed our early republic to thrive.

Here is how Sammin concludes his review:

It’s a good lesson for people driven to distraction in our own times. As angry as partisans get in the twenty-first century over immigration, health care, and trade, they were every bit as angry in the nineteenth century over the national bank, our relationship with Britain, and, yes, trade. Some things never change, but others seem like distant memories, and even students of the period cannot conjure the fury about them that the people they studied did.

That is heartening, in a way. We want to believe that our cause is a cause for all time, but most of the things we argue about will be forgotten by our grandchildren. One side will win, but probably not as completely as they want. There are exceptions—the fight against slavery was decisive—but most policy arguments end in compromise and are forgotten.

That is not to say that the fight itself is unimportant. The fight is politics, and politics is how a free people governs itself. While we would all love to skip to the end and adopt the right position—which always happens to be the one that we personally espouse—that’s not the way it works. As they did in Hamilton and Madison’s time, we will pound our heads together for a while and, in time, the proper course will emerge. It can be ugly, but our politics is also the price of our greatness.

Cost rehabilitates Madison a bit, and explains his choices and how he changed to meet the times. Hamilton’s reputation is similarly deflated slightly, taking account of his misjudgments. This book reminds us neither of the two was all one thing or all the other. It also reinforces the truth that division and dissent and passion are nothing new to the American scene, or indeed to the human race, but also that compromise and eventual agreement have also always been with us.

Read the entire article at The Federalist.