An exhibit on display now at the Thomas F. Eagleton U.S. Courthouse in downtown St. Louis features the life and work of Alexander Hamilton.
Hamilton was one of the Founding Fathers, the first Secretary of the Treasury and a fervent advocate of a strong national government.
Hamilton’s prominence in popular culture is seemingly at an all-time high due the popularity of the eponymous musical created by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Indeed, after going on sale this Monday, single tickets for Hamilton’s three-week stay at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis in April sold out within five hours.
The exhibit at the federal courthouse, “Alexander Hamilton: The Man Who Made Modern America,” is comprised of seven panels.
“It basically tells Alexander's story from his time coming to this country as an immigrant through his time as a soldier, as an attorney, as a person who helped to get the Constitution ratified, through his time then working different cases, and his time spent in other pursuits like education for Native Americans and African-Americans, and then through his death at the duel with Aaron Burr,” said Stephanie Snow, a staff attorney with the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals who works in the building.
Snow is not a historian but she is an ardent student of Hamilton’s life and a fan of the musical.
“He came from nothing. He was poor. He was considered a bastard. I think John Adams wrote that about him,” she said.
Although most of the Founding Fathers came from prominent families, Hamilton was an immigrant from Nevis, an island in the British West Indies in the Caribbean.
“I love history but I don't remember learning about Hamilton much in grammar school except for that he was killed by Burr and he's on the $10 bill,” Snow said.
The exhibit aims to promote education and has already for dozens of students.
“Teachers can bring students in and students come in of all ages and get to mine the panels for information about Hamilton that they may not have known,” Snow said.
Hamilton’s legal contributions
Hamilton’s contributions to the young nation’s economy are often more heralded than his contributions to the legal system.
“Hamilton was one who believed we needed a strong national government and that rubbed some people the wrong way,” Snow said.
“What he did was he started to write to encourage the ratification of the Constitution. He along with John Jay and James Madison published these essays anonymously as Publius,” she said.
The papers came to be known as the Federalist Papers and they continue to influence today’s legal system.
“The Supreme Court justices have quoted the Federalist Papers very very often and one in particular, No. 78, has been quoted more often by the justices, more than many of the others,” Snow said. “It was one that was focused on judicial review.”
Judicial review is the concept that the actions of the legislative and executive branches are subject to review by the judiciary. It’s a bedrock principle of the legal system that was established in the famous U.S. Supreme Court case Marbury v. Madison.
The exhibit at the U.S. Courthouse is on display through November 9. It is free and open to the public weekdays from 8:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
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