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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

“Alexander Hamilton” by John Trumbull

"Alexander Hamilton" by John Trumbull
“Alexander Hamilton” by John Trumbull

“Alexander Hamilton” by John Trumbull is a 1792 full-length portrait, and it is one of the many paintings Trumbull made of Hamilton. This work is considered one of the best pictures of Hamilton from the Federalist Era. This portrait was painted while Alexander Hamilton was the first Treasury Secretary for the USA. Hamilton was the driving force behind the economic policies of the new nation of the United States that fostered a stable central government.

Hamilton’s policies divided the United States along factional lines, creating voter-based political parties for the first time. Hamilton mobilised urban leaders who supported his financial and economic policies. His opponents coalesced around Thomas Jefferson and James Madison who feared that Hamilton’s policies would lead to an aristocratic society that clashed with their vision of a republic built on independent farmers.

Hamilton’s followers organised into the Federalist Party while the Jeffersonians organised into the Democratic-Republican Party. The Federalist Party and the Democratic-Republican Party contested the 1796 presidential election, with the Federalist Adams emerging as President. Although the Federalists retained strength in New England and other parts of the Northeast, the Democratic-Republicans dominated the South and West and became the more successful party in much of the Northeast. In the 1800 elections, Jefferson defeated Adams for the presidency, and the Democratic-Republicans took control of Congress. The Federalists eventually collapsed following Hamilton’s death and without effective leadership. Despite the Federalist Party’s demise, many of the institutions and structures established by the party endured and Hamilton’s economic policies influenced generations of American political leaders.

Federalist Era

The Federalist Era in American history ran from roughly 1788-1800, a time when the Federalist Party and its predecessors were dominant in American politics. During this period, Federalists generally controlled Congress and enjoyed the support of President George Washington and President John Adams. The era saw the creation of a new, stronger federal government under the United States Constitution. The period began with the ratification of the United States Constitution and ended with the Democratic-Republican Party’s victory in the 1800 elections.

Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton (1755 – 1804) was an American statesman and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. He was an influential promoter of the U.S. Constitution, as well as the founder of the nation’s financial system, the Federalist Party, the United States Coast Guard, and the New York Post newspaper. As the first Secretary of the Treasury, he took the lead in the Federal government’s funding of the states’ debts, as well as establishing a national bank and a system of tariffs. His vision included a stable central government led by a vigorous executive branch, a strong commercial economy, a national bank and support for manufacturing, and an active military. Thomas Jefferson was his leading opponent, arguing for agrarianism and smaller government.

After the Federalist party lost the election of 1800, Hamilton continued his legal and business activities in New York City and was active in ending the legality of the international slave trade. Vice President Burr ran for governor of New York State in 1804, and Hamilton campaigned against him as unworthy. Taking offence, Burr challenged him to a duel on July 11, 1804, in which Burr shot and mortally wounded Hamilton, who died the following day.

John Trumbull

John Trumbull was an American artist during the period of the American Revolutionary War and was notable for his historical paintings. His “Declaration of Independence” was used on the reverse of the commemorative bicentennial two-dollar bill. Trumbull incorporated the likeness of his portraits into his depiction of the signing of the “Declaration of Independence” that is on display in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.

Hamilton: An American Musical

Hamilton: An American Musical is a musical about the life of Alexander Hamilton, with music, lyrics and book by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Incorporating hip hop, R&B, pop, soul, traditional-style show tunes, and the casting of non-white actors as the Founding Fathers and other historical figures, the musical achieved both critical acclaim and box office success. The musical made its Off-Broadway debut in 2015 and transferred to Broadway soon after. It has since received unprecedented advance box office sales and awards.

Alexander Hamilton

  • Title:             Alexander Hamilton
  • Artist:           John Trumbull
  • Year:             1792
  • Medium:      Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions: Height: 219.1 cm (86.2 ″); Width: 146.1 cm (57.5 ″)
  • Museum:     Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET

John Trumbull

Reflections

  • How much has the Hamilton Musical contributed to our understanding of the US’s foundation story?

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“Happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected.”
– George Washington

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Photo Credit: 1) John Trumbull [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons  References Credit:: Wikipedia 

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