Blogs > HNN > The People: A Great Beast?

Sep 23, 2006 1:29 pm


The People: A Great Beast?



Historians often have quibbles with the way Noam Chomsky uses history.

Here's another reason why.

In the (new) Amazon bestseller, Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance, which the NYT excerpts today, Chomsky says:

Those who want to face their responsibilities with a genuine commitment to democracy and freedom — even to decent survival — should recognize the barriers that stand in the way. In violent states these are not concealed. In more democratic societies barriers are more subtle. While methods differ sharply from more brutal to more free societies, the goals are in many ways similar: to ensure that the “great beast,” as Alexander Hamilton called the people, does not stray from its proper confines.

Hamilton did not hold The People in high regard. But did he refer to them as a"great beast"?

I well remember my Vassar College history professor, Jerry Frost, promising us a prize if we could find where Hamilton made this remark. He could safely offer an award. No one has ever found any evidence that Hamilton made the statement.



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Javier Ramirez - 12/3/2008

I know this posting by Mr.Shenkman was two years ago ,Im just coming across it. The origin of the quote comes in an 1859 memoir by Theophilus Parsons a Massachusetts Federalist who was a descendant of a political enemy of Hamilton. Theophilus was not even at the dinner he says Hamilton supposedly made this statement. I think its safe to say that the sourceis bad. However I will say whether he said it or not it does reflect his attitude of popular sovereignty.