I have been branching out from my earlier study of economics with a study of the early history of the United States, although from a biographical perspective. I have been listening to, via audiobook, biographies of various Founding Fathers. I started with John Adams, then Sam Adams, Patrick Henry, and now James Monroe. The sequence has been perhaps a little bit quirky, partly because biographies of some of the individuals I wanted to learn more about were not available on Audible (RIchard Henry Lee for one). Mainly, it’s just been whoever struck my fancy at the time.
The biography of Monroe that I’ve been listening to on Audible is proving quite interesting. One of the things I’ve noticed, particularly after listening to one on Patrick Henry is that it would seem that one reason the anti-Federalists believed that without an explicit Bill of Rights the government would assume powers not granted to it by the Constitution is that’s what they not only would, but did do. Both Henry and Monroe assumed powers as Governor of Virginia that they explicitly did not have (the position being mostly ceremonial anyway).
I was also puzzled, in the Monroe biography, by John Adams’ response to Monroe about Monroe’s diplomatic mission to France. It didn’t seem to fit the impression of Adams’ character that I got from his biography. On reflection, this was when Adams was catching heat from all sides–backstabbing from the Federalists (damn you, Hamilton) and vicious attacks from the Democratic-Republicans. I suspect Monroe just caught the fallout from that. OTOH, maybe it’s my estimation of Adams’ character that’s incorrect. After all, each of these books I’ve been listening to has been taking a very “partisan” view in favor of their particular subject individual–which is perhaps better than a “muckrake” but still bias is bias. At this point, it’s hard to tell where the truth lies. Suffice to say that one could recognize them as good men of their time, even if flawed.
But let me put on my writer hat for a moment. Here’s an alternate History speculation: At one point, after a very heated exchange of words, James Monroe and Alexander Hamilton very nearly come to open violence, a duel. Aaron Burr, acting as Monroe’s second, manages to make sufficient peace between the two to head off the duel but what if…:
Aaron Burr fails to prevent the duel between Monroe and Hamilton. Hamilton killed years early. (Yay! You may come to the conclusion that I have little love for Alexander Hamilton. You may be right.)
Result: Adams easily wins a second term. Federalists remain a significant power in both the House and Senate. Does Jefferson get the Presidency after Adams, just delayed four years?
And then what?