T.S. Eliot, in his essay on Kipling, said that the outsider, if he happens to be “alarmingly intelligent,” has a “peculiar detachment and remoteness” that enables him to see the places through which he passes more clearly than the natives do. The subject of Richard Brookhiser and Michael Pack’s documentary film Rediscovering Alexander Hamilton was such an outsider. Born on the tropical fringes of the Anglo society of the West Indies, Hamilton was a teenager when he sailed to North America to realize his vocation as a man of destiny. He made his way into the highest councils of his adopted country, yet he remained an exotic figure, one who excited in ample measure the gossip and uneasiness that so often wait upon the mysterious alien.
The same foreignness that made Hamilton suspect in the eyes of his detractors gave him a keen insight into America’s needs. Talleyrand said that Hamilton “divined” Europe — grasped its essence intuitively. In studying America, Hamilton had the advantage not only of this intuitive genius but also of direct observation, an observation unhindered by personal attachment or regional bias. More perhaps than any other founder, Hamilton saw America steadily and saw it whole.