“Daddy” Schuyler, Hamilton, and the Dakota Access Pipeline

State St. in front of the NYS Capital building, Albany, NY N 42 39.11 W 73 45.31 Text: <---- 1 1/2 Miles Schuyler Mansion Home of General Philip Schuyler. Residence of Alexander Hamilton in 1781 and 1795. State Education Department 1940

Three things happened in the last couple weeks to put Hamilton back on my mind: 1) the Victoria Palace Theatre in London announced that tickets for the show would finally (finally!) go on sale in January, 2) I started re-reading some of my research notes for this round of book edits, and 3) police arrested and pepper-sprayed peaceful Native Americans—Standing Rock Sioux, along with 90 additional nations and tribes—who were protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.[1] I find that being a historian is a job of intellectual mood swings. I read my sources telling me about the horrible things some of the people I study did in the past, and then I have to pull back and contextualize their actions within an eighteenth-century milieu in which many people were terrible people most of the time by 2016’s standards (and people, our standards these days are low). All this is a longish way of saying that I, like many historians, love Hamilton while recognizing that its treatment of Early Republic history misrepresents and sometimes leaves out some of the topics that matter most to me as a historian. And so today I want to talk about Hamilton, settler colonialism, and Native American history—in particular, about land battles and the relationship between Indians, federal governments, and state entities. Continue reading

Empire/State

In 1967, Alfred F. Young transformed his Northwestern doctoral dissertation into a dense saga of New York’s Revolutionary power players and their roiling class wars, entitled The Democratic Republicans of New York: The Origins, 1763-1797 (Chapel Hill: Published for the Institute of Early American History and Culture at Williamsburg, Va., by the University of North Carolina Press). Young’s work, in many ways, spoke both to the colonial past that he studied and to the America of President Lyndon Johnson, a nation beset by party strife over civil rights, the Vietnam War, and a range of social issues. And, tucked away near the volume’s end, Young shared a few bright-lines of inquiry for any student of political history—no matter that his focus here is firmly fixed on New York State. “I have been interested in politics as it is organized by the leaders,” Young writes, “how it appears up front to the voters, how it all turns out in the elections, and what the elected do with political power” (596). Continue reading