Quoting the founding fathers in support of your own political goals is always a risky game. Sometimes the quotes are inaccurate. Sometimes the original context is completely misconstrued.
The latter is the case when it comes to the #NeverTrump movement and an old Alexander Hamilton quote they’ve dug up as the war cry for their cause.
The quotation in question comes from a letter Hamilton sent to his friend and fellow Federalist Party member Theodore Sedgwick as the presidential election of 1800 between John Adams (the Federalist) and Thomas Jefferson (the Democratic-Republican) was heating 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.
Hamilton here is referring to President John Adams, who he despised, even though the two men were in the same Federalist Party. Further, Hamilton realizes that his opposition to Adams may result in his handing the election to Thomas Jefferson, their Democratic-Republican rival, but it’s all vindicated in the name of principle. The #NeverTrump movement is appropriating this quote to draw a favorable historical comparison to the own virtue of their cause, refusing to support Trump even if it means handing Clinton the presidency.
But the full story paints quite a different picture. Though Hamilton despised Adams, Hamilton hardly advocated for his own party’s loss like the #NeverTrump crowd currently is. Moreover, Hamilton’s vindictive attitude towards Adams was instrumental in both his party’s and his career’s destruction.
Here’s the historical comparison the #NeverTrump crowd is drawing upon. It’s not a good one…..