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Back to Hamilton: After the Revolution he worked hard to unify the 13 states in order to create one country with a strong central government (which would protect the rights of its citizens). He also believed that the USA had to modernize and so he encouraged industrialization (the building of factories), but he believed that it was important for businesses to create wealth for the entire society and not just for a few people. He was also very much anti-slavery (against slavery).
He was born poor (he was an orphan - he did not know who his parents were) and worked hard to be of service to his society. Unfortunately, he had a terrible death - as you'll read.
So on this 4th of July I want to remember Hamilton and all the unknown heroes who have made the USA (despite its faults and problems) the country that most people want to come to in the world.
Vocabulary in boldface is defined after the reading passage. Actually, go to the definitions first and look at the words and then try to read the passage. My book is so useful!!!!! :) And inexpensive!
One day I stumbled across history. I was just wandering around lower Manhattan and came to one of the most beautiful churches in New York City: Trinity Church.
The tomb of Alexander Hamilton is located in the cemetery of Trinity Church in lower Manhattan. In order to experience the full effect of this historical monument, you need to think of the tomb in its larger urban and neighborhood context. It is not so much the tomb itself that can make you pause in wonder, but the combination of such a humble structure, for such a great American, located in a relatively ancient cemetery in bustling Lower Manhattan, near the World Trade Center site, Wall Street and next to Trinity Church. The combination of these factors makes this a monument that can stimulate immense reflection on history, economics, politics, New York City, fate and, of course, one’s own human mortality.
Basically Hamilton was the guy who came up with the idea of The United States of America. I’m serious. Yes, this guy was huge. Really huge. Hey, they don't just put anyone on the $10 bill over here. After The Revolutionary War, in which the original 13 American colonies/states forced England to grant them independence, not many people felt that forming one country was that important. Hamilton, however, worked hard to convince all 13 states that they needed to form one nation, with a capitol in Washington D.C., and he established a banking system that would help business and industry to flourish. Basically, this was the guy who gave the USA its economic blueprint - he was the visionary behind the United States. Without his efforts, who knows what would have happened after the revolution. So this guy was huge. He was right up there with Washington, Jefferson, Franklin...maybe he was more important than all of them. Some historians think he was more important than all these guys. He never became president only because he was born outside of the United States – in Jamaica.
Why, then, is he so obscure? Because of the way he died. It's like the USA has to cover up its greatest visionary because of the huge scandal in which he was involved. Essentially, in 1804, the Vice President of the United States, Aaron Burr, shot Hamilton in a duel. That's right, Hamilton was shot (with a gun) by the Vice President of the USA. Burr was the Vice President to President Thomas Jefferson and Jefferson and Hamilton HATED each other. Basically Jefferson believed the USA should stay agricultural - a farming nation - and that each state should be stronger than the central (or federal) government. Jefferson liked ancient history and believed the USA should try to become like ancient Rome. Hamilton looked to the future and Hamilton believed in one strong central government, big, exciting cities and the development of industry and commerce. The controversy between Hamilton and Jefferson led to this duel.
So one fine morning, in New Jersey, Hamilton and Burr stood a certain number of feet away from each other, each man had a gun, and each man was to shoot at the other because of the hatred that had been generated between them because of their differing ideologies. There was one problem. Before the duel Hamilton decided that he was too moral to shoot at Burr. So when it came time for shots to be fired, Hamilton deliberately fired his bullet (from his gun) over Burr's head. Burr misinterpreted this gesture and fired directly at Hamilton, killing him. Hamilton was killed and Burr's life was ruined. He had to leave the world of politics and, believe it or not, he moved to the western part of the continent (the continent of North America – there are seven continents) and tried to set up (establish) his own state. (Burr wasn't such a bad guy - you might find him to be interesting.)
Hamilton is buried in the cemetery at Trinity Church. Trinity is located at the intersection of Broadway and Wall Street and is one of the most historic and beautiful churches in the city. Indeed, until 1908, the spire of Trinity Church was the tallest structure in the entire city.
I can still remember the first time I came across the cemetery next to the church. It was unbelievable to me that a cemetery with graves from the 1600s would be located in the middle of the Wall Street area. The cemetery is, however, beautiful! Each spring flowers blossom and the grass is immaculately mowed. In winter the cemetery looks dignified, stark, magnificent. It is a significant presence, drawing one’s attention as one races toward his/her job or to a nearby store. I have always loved seeing the lunch-time crowd sitting and eating their lunches on benches in the cemetery among the power-brokers of the 1600s and 1700s!
The gravestones (these include the name, date-of-birth and date-of-death of the person buried) are clearly ancient, some are tipped over, some are cracked. Some have strange, eerie skulls with angel wings on them. I am always hit (affected) by the reality of their lives. You begin to realize that this is history but that this is also personal: these were vital, living, compassionate, proud and successful New Yorkers. I often calculate how long each person lived and feel sad for those who died young. As one follows a winding path, one sees a progression of such gravestones from the 1600s to the early 1800s.
Among these graves one suddenly comes to an odd white structure, somewhat pyramidal, somewhat square. If you look closely, you might see flowers or coins or other knickknacks that people have placed on the structure. I suppose that many people are surprised to see the name Alexander Hamilton. Some might even realize he is on the $10 bill. Some really good observers might even notice that his wife’s grave and his son’s grave are also close by.
What is absolutely striking to me is that Hamilton was huge in American history, and his tomb is not even in the center of the cemetery. In fact, there are nicer tombs, grander (larger, more magnificent) tombs in the cemetery. Dominating the cemetery, in fact, is a giant green statue of some type of judge who simply could not have done anything near what Hamilton did in the formation of the United States.
The location of Hamilton’s tomb, to me, however, has always been highly symbolic. In fact, burying Hamilton at the intersection of Broadway (the main artery of Manhattan) and Wall Street (the hub of the financial world) always seemed especially fitting to me because Hamilton was one of the key figures involved in the economic and social development of both New York City and the United States. New York City has literally grown and developed around his nearly anonymous tomb. But the relative anonymity of his tomb, it’s location in the cemetery, it’s shape, all this seems fitting.
Why? Hamilton was an American who loved his country more than anything and he lies at the center of the world’s economy: secure, not ostentatious. Hamilton lies here in humility - clearly, his tomb attracts attention, but it is not gaudy like that of the green judge – almost as if declaring that the experiment he helped to launch was destined to succeed, and that he was just one of the many now obscure heroes who acted from pure love and who requires no great thanks or praise.
a tombstone or gravestone – this is the stone that is placed above a grave to give the dead person’s name and birth date and date of death.