Ethics Quote Of The Day: Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804)


“For my individual part my mind is made up. I will never more be responsible for him by my direct support—even though the consequence should be the election of Jefferson. If we must have an enemy at the head of the Government, let it be one whom we can oppose & for whom we are not responsible, who will not involve our party in the disgrace of his foolish and bad measures. Under Adams as under Jefferson the government will sink. The party in the hands of whose chief it shall sink will sink with it and the advantage will all be on the side of his adversaries.”

—–Federalist Alexander Hamilton, in a letter written during the political machinations surrounding the contested Presidential election of 1800, explaining why he would support Thomas Jefferson, his personal and political foe, over his own party’s candidate, John Adams.

It is depressing to reflect upon the fact that the choice that Hamilton found so revolting was between two geniuses who both came to represent among the grandest flowering of American intellect and public service dedication in American history. In just 216 years, the quality of character and ability in that Presidential contest has has given way to one in which Charles Addams or George Jefferson would be considered attractive alternatives.

(Oh—the Broadway musical “Hamilton” today received the 16 Tony nominations, the most in the award’s history.)


Source: “The Papers of Alexander Hamilton,” edited by Harold Coffin Syrett (1976)

89 thoughts on “Ethics Quote Of The Day: Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804)

  1. Somehow I think there is an agenda behind this post. Are you implying that Republicans that dislike Trump should vote for (gag!) Hillary? There’s absolutely no way I could vote for that unethical women. Maybe it’s time for a bull moose party.

    • Disliking has absolutely nothing to do with anything. Wow. Why do I bother writing this stuff, if that’s the kind of blunt perception it engenders? Liking is irrelevant. Trump is unqualified. He is unstable. He is a narcissist. He is a bully. He is a liar. He is not very bright. He has endorsed Putin, torture, bribery, and mass deportations, probably in boxcars. He is uncivil, vulgar and mean-spirited. He is incapable of dignity, has no impulse control, and denigrates women. Nobody who supports him can articulate a single coherent reason why, just emotional outbursts.

      And you take from this that people who oppose Trump do so because they “don’t like him”?
      You appear to be a perfect Trump supporter.

      • The election has been reduced to a cheap popularity contest, American Idol with our lives and future at stake. Vote for the cool candidate or the one all your friends support, policy be damned.

        • Very succinct explanation of Obama’s election.Can’t wait for liberal commentators to begin to bemoan the Trump cult-of-personality, and wonder when our electorate decided to respond to people with narcissistic personality disorder by voting for them.
          I knew our goose was cooked when in 2008 one of my neighbors displayed an 8′ x 6′, lighted version of that fucking idealized Warhol-esque Obama poster in their yard. They didn’t get it when I asked them if they intended to display any other Soviet “Heroic Realism” style art.
          So we got our first Popular Culture President. And I’m pretty sure we’re about to get our second. Most of the media helped Obama become a popular culture figure. Trump has been one for 20 years or more, and, as such, is irresistible to the media, and very good at it. A lot more people care about which member of the clan Kardashian just had her ass lifted, than politics on any level, and they’re all about to vote for Donald.
          They don’t give a shit about what any of the pundits, or political class does or says. In fact, if they pay attention for even a moment, they’re told that the problem is people like themselves. But not by Trump. Nope, he embraces and understands them, and doesn’t explain to them how wrong, stupid and insignificant they are, like those other assholes seem to do all the time. And they’re going to give him the Presidency.

          • Donald Trump never ran as, nor is running, as a conservative. Ted Cruz was running as the conservative choice.

            Trump in fact, supports single-payer health care, increasing taxes, and raising the minimum wage- policy positions traditionally associated with liberal Democrats.

      • You know I’m not, but you didn’t answer the question counselor. Whether I think Trump is the worst, most unethical, most unqualified jerk the Republicans have ever fielded, does that justify voting for (puke!!) Hillary?

        • it does not. “The party in the hands of whose chief it shall sink will sink with it and the advantage will all be on the side of his adversaries” assumes an impartial media, and Jack has posted on how impartial the media is.

        • I’ll answer this way, which explicates the flaw in your thinking.

          Let’s say I am on a desert island and my child needs surgery to survive. Her prognosis under thebest of circumstances may only be a couple of years, and in periodic pain at that. I can’t stand the sight of blood, so its up to one of two others on the island, both of whom are willing to do the surgery. One is Dr. Kevorkian. I hate him, I don’t trust him; I think he’s pathological, and a criminal. Still, he’s a doctor

          The other potential doctor is a talking cocker spaniel with delusions that he’s a doctor. He knows nothing, drools constantly, can’t handle the instruments, and while bright for a dog, in human terms is a cretin. And he knows nothing about medicine.

          Those are my choices. I’ll pick Kevorkian. You will say, “WHAT? He’s horrible! He’s a criminal! How could you let him go near your daughter?”

          Well, the alternative is a cocker spaniel. That’s how.

          Hillary is Dr. Kevorkian.

          • I view it more like this…

            I’m on a desert island and there are only two things to eat and both of them are known to be very poisonous and quite deadly; one food supply will kill you in short order maybe a few short minutes of excruciating pain and the other food source will kill you after about a week of grueling pain.

            Which one do you choose to eat?

            I would choose to starve to death, at least that way there is some hope of rescue if by some slim chance you’re still alive when/if they arrive.

            • But there is always a chance, however small, that Dr. Kevorkian will surprise you. Life is about calculating the odds and accepting the risks. And it isn’t just you who’s life is involved.

              • Jack Marshall said, “… it isn’t just you who’s life is involved.”

                So I should sacrifice my character for the good of the many? Once you start down that road to there may be no turning back. I’d rather sacrifice my life for the many.

                I choose to maintain my character.

                    • How is saying that it is irresponsible to vote for a dangerous, unqualified fool the same as arguing that you should vote for him? This isn’t tactics. An idiotic argument is not the same as a rational one.

                    • You argued against voting for third party because Trump might become President. Other people argue against voting for third party because Clinton might become President.

                      Why would you vote Democratic? From your earlier blog post?


                      “The party has spent almost eight years not merely opposing but denigrating and vilifying men, gun rights supporters, whites, law enforcement, the military, opponents of President Obama’s policies, college students, religious objection to abortion and gay marriage, the wealthy and successful, believers in American exceptionalism, and opponents of open borders and benefits for the children of illegal immigrants. ”

                      If what you wrote was true, why should any white person or man vote Democratic, vote for a party that is against them and hates them and considers them the enemy?

                      Of course, I have yet to see evidence that the Democratic Party as a whole is anti-male or anti-white. If there was someone in the Democratic leadership that defamed or vilified whites in general or men in general, or openly advocated or defended policies that discriminated against men or against whites, I have yet to see or hear such a quote. Hell, if there was a way to plausibly paint the Republican Party as anti-male or anti-white, Debbie Wasserman-Schulz, as inept as she is, would be ordering attack ads the next morning.

                    • Saying a party has been doing what I described, and it has, doesn’t mean it IS those things. Parties evolve, change and improve or not based on the membership and leadership. People, sadly are who they are, and except in rare cases, forever.

      • Jack said, “Liking is irrelevant. Trump is unqualified. He is unstable. He is a narcissist. He is a bully. He is a liar. He is not very bright. He has endorsed Putin, torture, bribery, and mass deportations, probably in boxcars. He is uncivil, vulgar and mean-spirited. He is incapable of dignity, has no impulse control, and denigrates women. Nobody who supports him can articulate a single coherent reason why, just emotional outbursts.”

        I agree.

        • I agree too. Hillary is worse. She (along with her forces) is the menace, the real threat to the Constitution and the rightful liberties of The People. Trump would be inert, for as long as he held the office, which would not be for long (thank God). Having only Hillary and Donald to choose between is teaching me much about Jack’s conservatism – and its shortcomings.

          But that’s all arguing moot points. Hillary is going to be elected President. Because she’s entitled, because misogynist sexist bigot.

  2. Here’s what I don’t understand, why is it better to support someone’s opposition that you don’t believe in than to vote for someone you do believe in? Is there really no other candidate people would prefer to vote for? I think people hate having to vote against someone they hate than voting for someone they like, but that’s still a decision they make. It’s a toxic decision with negative connotations. If we all would get out of the two-party mindset and genuinely vote FOR the person we best believe is equipped to lead the country forward, then we’d be a happier people overall.

      • I’ve always found that sort of mind set to be a self-fulfilling prophesy. Furthermore, in this particular election, I’m not sure that’s actually true. Given that Clinton, however unappealing she may be to the average voter, enjoys the full support of the Democrat establishment. Trump, on the other hand is likely to have at least some of his party’s leadership actively campaigning against him. Add to that the way the Trump has already alienated pretty much everyone outside the Republican base, and for someone right-leaning whose #1 priority is preventing a Trump presidency (and loathsome as I find him, I’m still not convinced he’d be any worse than Her Majesty) a vote for a third party candidate is essentially a vote against Trump, without the need to feel dirty for the next four years.

        • You can’t disagree. It’s true. Unless you view the only real candidates as exactly as unfit and unqualified, which is impossible, a vote for neither just abdicates your citizen’s duty to try to make the best of a bad situation in a crisis.

          It’s an empty protest vote, aka, cursing in your closet.

            • Absolutely not. Ethics that is divorced from reality isn’t ethics. The old philosophers lived in the wilderness, seeking perfection. Ethics begins with facing facts. Nobody, and I mean nobody, has documented how corrupting Hillary Clinton is on the culture. There is no question in my mind that Donald Trump will be infinitely worse. It’s an easy choice. Just an unpleasant one.

              • As an aside, it is so obvious that Trump is an indefensible choice, AND that all citizens have a duty to ensure that he does not get his hands on the Presidency. Fighting that fact speaks of Hillary Derangement Syndrome, which I have been accused of in the recent past. I withdraw none of my criticism of her, and will have more.

                The fact that she is horrible doesn’t make Trump any more acceptable.

                • I’m not disputing that; not voting for Trump is how voters “ensure that he does not get his hands on the Presidency” and that is accomplished by one vote at a time not adding to his total.

                  I’m disputing these things…

                  “Voting for third party candidates is the equivalent of doing nothing, or cursing in your closet.”

                  “You can’t disagree. It’s true.”

                  First of all “voting for third party candidates is” NOT “the equivalent of doing nothing” it is without a doubt doing something, it is voicing the voters opinion that they want a different candidate – period; respect the vote, don’t diminish the vote! There is a BIG difference between doing nothing vs the results of doing something which might end up to putting someone into office who is “unqualified”. What you wrote is literally false but you’re welcome to your opinion. The way I read what you’ve written about third party candidates, your opinion on this IS a rationalization and has been used over and over again buy others and it is just as false today as it’s been in the past; using that kind of logic there is no possibility of having a viable third party candidate regardless of who the candidate is – never – ever!

                  As for your statements that I “can’t disagree” and “cursing in your closet”; I call BS!

                  We disagree.

                  • How isn’t a completely random, pointless “protest” that makes no material difference except to toss away the opportunity to have some effect to the good, or at least better, nothing?

                    The fact that some third party candidate, sometime, someplace, might be worth voting for is irrelevant to the issue at hand. Gary Johnson is not such a third party candidate. You are going to vote for a third party candidate in a setting where it is meaningless to show that some day it might make sense? How is this different from voting for Donald Duck or my dog? It isn’t.

                    I’ve gone down both paths. I refused to vote for Nixon or McGovern, believing both would be disasters and not wanting to be accountable for either. But I’m a citizen: I am accountable. Then I cast a protest vote for Ross Perot, believing that that 1) Bush I did not deserve re-election 2) Perot had performed a national service and deserved my vote, and 3) Clinton was going to win, but I didn’t trust him, and I wanted to be able to say I didn’t vote for him. Perot put Clinton in the White House, and I was accountable. (We would have a better, more civil nation and a more respectable Presidency in Bush 1 had been re-elected, and Hillary would be a commentator on MSNBC or practicing law.

                    • Jack said, “You are going to vote for a third party candidate in a setting where it is meaningless to show that some day it might make sense?”

                      With all due respect; where did I say or imply that I was going to vote for a third party candidate? I was challenging what you wrote, not defining what I am going to do.

                      Can you define the setting when voting for a third party candidate would not be “meaningless”?

                      Jack, I share your passion for not wanting Trump in office but I think passion has clouded some things. Maybe some of that space debris would help us both clear our minds. 😉

                    • Jack Marshall said, “If the mainstream Republicans and moderates ran Jim Webb, I might vote for him.”

                      Doesn’t that somewhat contradict what you’ve been saying about third party candidates in relation to this particular election?

                      Being in Wisconsin Jim Webb hasn’t been on my radar but the more I hear about him the more I like him.

                    • I would vote for him if he had a chance of winning. As a pro-gun, pro-military, anti-Iraq, lawyer who has been in both parties, against two candidates who nobody likes, he’d have a shot.

    • “Here’s what I don’t understand, why is it better to support someone’s opposition that you don’t believe in than to vote for someone you do believe in?”

      But that wasn’t the situation Hamilton was dealing with. He didn’t believe in Adams—nobody ever liked Adams, and his first term was disastrous. He was an incompetent executive, temperamentally unsuited to be an executive. Hamilton detested everything Jefferson stood for, but had every reason to think he wouldn’t be quite as bad for the nation or the party as 4 more years of Adams.

      • Yes, but Hillary isn’t Jefferson. Trump is a buffoon, but so was another radical populist named Huey Long. But then, I think Long was actually competent. While Trump is a buffoon and most of what you describe, Hillary’s corruption and inability to secure State secrets actually makes her worse in the long term. Hamilton chose a competent and qualified person he had philosophical disagreements with vs the fool in his own party. Those aren’t the shoes I’m wearing. I’m not a member of either party and I am faced with the choice between a Republican Huey Long or Boss Tweed on steroids.

  3. The ones equipped to lead the country aren’t running. The GOP should draft Condalizza Rice; the Dems should draft just about anybody else.

  4. It makes sense in context, BUT, Hillary is no Jefferson, that’s for damn sure, nor is the alternative a proven failure in office the way Adams was.

  5. The United States has been happily skipping down the ignorant path of utter indifference regarding the blatantly unethical behavior of a vast number of United States politicians. The lack of the people’s ability to force a change in the ethics of our politicians is what has gotten us to where we are today. We’re at the point where the lack of ethics in our government is a serious cancer on the soul of the United States and it will continue to erode away the good that has historically made the United States a great and positive world leader and leave nothing in its wake except the abyss of open corruption.

    It’s not the overall system that’s broken; it’s the people within the system that are broken! When open lack of ethics seems to reign supreme in campaigns, it’s obvious that something is terribly wrong! We the people, in an effort to grasp for positive change, have completely lost sight of what the end result of our change goal should be and are just focused on something different, anything different. Watch out people; we might get something different and find out that it’s not what we really wanted.

    Now we’ve arrived at a point in our political future (soon to be history) where we have a swath of blatantly unethical candidates and no matter who we choose they won’t fix what’s wrong and will further wreck the soul of the United States. Now here we are on a website devoted to ethics talking about intentionally voting for the evil on the other side in an effort to put the opposing side into office so we can lay blame of the further destruction of the United States on the other guys. My character will not allow me to be a part of this immoral behavior; I will never use my vote in this way, I’d rather not vote.

    I’m going to share the opinion that I picked up from a friend; for years, the Democratic Party has not been campaigning to get the voters to vote for their ideology they just want us to vote against the other guys so they can win by default; I think that opinion is true. In this Presidential election, I believe that Trump has set the table for this concept to either work fabulously for the Democratic Party on a huge scale or it will backfire in a devastating way – remember Trump has been using Democratic Party campaigning tactics boosted with the personality disorder of a narcissist.

    When are we going to find a candidate to actually vote FOR because we firmly believe that the candidate is the best candidate for the future of the United States?

    • “Now here we are on a website devoted to ethics talking about intentionally voting for the evil on the other side in an effort to put the opposing side into office so we can lay blame of the further destruction of the United States on the other guys.”

      Bingo. And after this very site has laid bare that other person’s evil in great detail AND praised the very candidate it is now advocating against precisely for exposing the flaws of the candidate who is now considered the lesser of two evils. I am having a very difficult time wrapping my head and my principles around that. I have to say I also have my eye on the SCOTUS, and I refuse to allow Hillary to appoint probably three more justices. I believe that would put the First and Second Amendments at grave risk.

        • That’s absurd, given that his own sister was a Federal judge. Some of my friends are a little worried about the further expansion of abortion rights that would be likely even under him, but I consider that secondary to the possibility of muzzling and disarming anyone who disagrees with the upper echelon.

        • Beth said, “Well, we can all look forward to Trump appointing the judges from American Idol then. Good plan.”

          Trump has a huge swath of ridiculousness to make him look bad, we don’t need ignorant partisan concocted smears like that. That’s exactly the kind of nonsense smears that the Democrats have been using for years, congratulations for keep up the “good” work.

          • Zoltar — in what world could you interpret that as a partisan smear instead of a joke?

            Let me elaborate. Per Jack’s comment above, Trump is a complete narcissist, not very bright, and lacks morals of any kind. Do I think he will nominate the judges from American Idol? Of course not — but see, the joke is funny because they are “judges.” (Ha ha — or not ha ha, but still a joke.) Do I think any of us can count on him to nominate qualified Judges who haven’t agreed to give him a kick-back or help him with his private business dealings? Nope. He might — but he might not. Who knows?

            Plus I couldn’t make a partisan smear against Trump even if I wanted to. I remember when he was a Democrat. Now he is a Republican? I’m not so sure.

            • Beth said, “Zoltar — in what world could you interpret that as a partisan smear instead of a joke?”

              In this world!

              Using partisan humor to personally insult and smear has been a staple of left wing dominated media and/or comedians for years.

              It was a smear; own it.

                  • Um … no. You’re telling me to own my “smear.” I’ve told you repeatedly that it’s a joke. Everyone gets that. You are entitled to your opinion, but not your own set of facts.

                    • Beth said, ” I’ve told you repeatedly that it’s a joke.”

                      Soooooooooo, a joke can never be perceived as someone being serious or a smear of others; stated post mortem intent always overrules initial perceived intent and anyone that doesn’t “get it” in the manner that is inline with stated post mortem intent is unhinged and blind to facts; who knew? What the hell was I thinking?

                      As I said before; using partisan humor to personally insult and smear has been a staple of left wing dominated media and/or comedians for years. I actually heard Alan Colmes state once that he thinks he’s hilarious and no one should take his “jokes” serious; what do you think?

                      Beth said, “Everyone gets that.”

                      Does that “everyone” you speak of include Steve-O-in-NJ? I think his initial reply was “that’s absurd” and I didn’t see follow up LOL’s, ROFL’s, or LMFAO’s from this “everyone” you speak of; but you go ahead and keep on with that magical thinking – of course I’m unhinged and blind to facts.

                      Intent and perception are two entirely different things. You might consider that trying to pass off something as nothing but a “joke” in a comment thread without a custom “don’t take me serious” emoticon, is a bit more difficult than you originally thought. How a joke is delivered directly affects how it is perceived; the delivery of your (so called) “joke” to Steve-O-in-NJ sucked.

                      C’est fini?

      • Evil is not involved. Hillary Clinton is not “evil,” and demonizing politicians leads to bad government and divided societies. She’s greedy, corrupt, ruthless, dishonest and not especially competent, that’s all. That’s not evil. Trump’s not evil either. He is all of those things, and worse, but he’s not evil. Using absolutes like that warps the ethics decision-making process. We’ve never had an evil President, and I don’t expect either Trump or Hillary to be the first. I’ve hyperbolically called Ted Cruz evil in the past, and I shouldn’t have. He’s just a zealot, and zealots can do evil without seeing it as such.

        Are some of the followers of Cruz, Hillary and Trump evil? Pretty close, I’d say.

        • From Merriam-Webster online:

          eviler or eviller evilest or evillest

          1 a : morally reprehensible : sinful, wicked b : arising from actual or imputed bad character or conduct

          2 a archaic : inferiorb : causing discomfort or repulsion : offensive c : disagreeable

          3 a : causing harm : pernicious b : marked by misfortune : unlucky

          With respect, I dunno about that, Jack, because definition 1 – morally reprehensible – seems to fit Hillary pretty well, because she is all those things you set forth. For that matter it seems to fit Trump pretty well too. You also used the term “lesser of two evils” for this situation. As for never having had an evil President, I don’t know about that either, it depends on who you ask. If I had a nickel for every time I heard GWB described as evil or some version thereof, I’d be very rich indeed, and the people doing the describing were not just college students speaking protest talk. Then there were Adams, Nixon, LBJ, Wilson and FDR (all arguably tyrannical, especially FDR, who ruled as an elected king), Truman (a bully and some call him a war criminal), Carter (who only failed to become a tyrant because he was incompetent), Reagan (who a lot of folks call both a bigot and a war criminal), TR and Jackson (who both acted like sociopaths), and I’m sure there are others. To say we’ve never had an evil president is at least up for discussion.

          • She’s unethical. That’s not morally reprehensible. She lies, and that qualifies, but nobody regards mere liars evil, especially in politics.

            Then you jump to who has been CALLED evil. If “Truthers” were right and not stark raving bats, that would make W. evil. I think advocating torture advocates evil, but that doesn’t mean the advocator is evil, just terribly wrong.

            To be of evil character you have to be more than capable of evil, you have to 1) do it 2) want to do it 3) not regret doing it. No President qualifies as evil, but almost every one has done evil.

            • Not to dance around this, but if you tell a lie, that makes you a liar. If you steal something, it makes you a thief. So if you do evil, it makes you…?

                  • Not at all. One is not what one does. The word liar tells me that the person lies or has lied. Actions. The word thief tells me that the person steals or has stolen. Actions. Also, those are nouns, and imperfect ones at that, as there is no differentiation between past or present actions, nor a flawless predictor of future actions. They and other such words are convenient labels, but useless in human relations. Evil is an adjective, not a personification, unless you are speaking about Satan or the character played by David Warner in Time Bandits. Hate the sin, not the sinner.

        • Jack Marshall said, “Evil is not involved.”

          Isn’t that a matter of opinion? At what point does an individuals opinion that something is evil come into play?

          There were people that called Hitler evil well before the direct actions that the “world” condemned as evil?

          How does one define where that line is between not evil and evil?

    • Baker is governor of a very blue state which Trump wouldn’t carry in any case. Trump doesn’t benefit from his endorsement. Coming out in Trump’s support wouldn’t help Trump and would hurt Baker going forward with moderate voters in MA. Coming out in support of Clinton would doom Baker’s chances of going any farther with the party and might cost him party funding and support if he runs for a second term.

  6. I live in Colorado. Not only is Colorado a “swing state” but of Colorado’s registered voters, more than 1/3rd of the population is registered as “unaffiliated”. Even more so in my particular county where I live, Arapahoe County.

    If you want me to choose between Trump or Hillary and nothing else, I’ll do that when we get apportioned electoral votes or tiered / run-off elections. Until then, I’m voting for the person best fit for service.

  7. “How is this different from voting for Donald Duck or my dog?” I’m thinking; I’m thinking… Let’s see: DD’s webbed feet lets him tread water mid-stream indefinitely; his insulated plumage makes him appear cool in crisis though he can fly into a tizzy any time his feathers are ruffled; takes to the water when things get hairy; dabbles-and-dives in confrontations (known as “ducking”; consorts with quacks (and quacks at his consorts); and is known to supports the unpopular, antifeminist Broad bill );

    Rugby, on the other hand,has twice as many legs as the other candidates and keeps his feet on the ground at (almost) all times, obeys the will of the person except when his nose leads him to a more favorable outcome; answers to the calls of the country’s Nature; and is by his own nature, an excellent judge of individuals, while holding “all men to be created equal.” He can bark a bluff as well as any enemy, and once he gets his fur up, he can hold a bite until victory is achieved. What’s more, it’s rumored that he chases his own tail instead of others’.

    Rugby gets my vote: it’s a slam duck.

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