Alexander Hamilton on Danger and Disgrace

John ArmstrongHistory

I admit the statement struck me immediately with a sense that I needed to reflect on it further. I thought about it for some time today and then took down my dictionary to think about it more deeply.

The words I refer to are those of founding American father Alexander Hamilton, who created our central treasury, and in some ways gave to us the concept of a central federal government that developed after the Civil War. Hamilton is not, by any stretch of imagination, my favorite founder. But here is his quote that stopped me in my tracks today: "A nation which can prefer disgrace to danger is prepared for a master, and deserves one."

Disgrace? The word means a loss of favor or a downfall from a position of respect. It also refers to a cause of reproach or a thing or person involving dishonor. So, if I read Alexander Hamilton correctly, he is saying a nation that prefers to become a reproach, or to be deliberately deceived, or to willfully dishonor itself rather than face a serious or real danger, is likely to be mastered by a tyrant or a despot. Have we reached that point? Only God knows. I do wonder. I can’t think that our civilization can stand for many decades given the moral vacuum we have created and generally now accept. The church is not guiltless in this turn toward disgrace since it has lost its saltiness and deep and true love for both the good and the just.