Tuesday, March 3, 2009

D'Amour Library To Host "Alexander Hamilton" Traveling Exhibition

D'Amour Library To Host "Alexander Hamilton" Traveling Exhibition

His face is on the ten-dollar bill, but most Americans know more about his death in a duel than his remarkable life as an influential figure in U.S. history. Alexander Hamilton (1757-1804), the first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury at age 32, is the focus of a traveling exhibition at Western New England College. The exhibition opens Wednesday, March 4 and runs through April 17 at the College's D'Amour Library, one of the final stops on its three-year tour of the country.

"We are delighted to have been selected as a site for this exhibition," said Mary Jane Sobinski-Smith, head of information literacy at the College's D'Amour Library. "Alexander Hamilton was a fascinating figure in the early history of the United States, but we know too little about his contributions."

"Alexander Hamilton: The Man Who Made Modern America" tells the story of Hamilton's astonishing rise in five short years from an orphaned, 15-year-old West Indies immigrant to George Washington's war time aide, and later, at age 32, Washington's Secretary of the Treasury. Hamilton was a complex and controversial figure -- a Revolutionary War patriot and soldier, financial and legal genius, and an ardent opponent of slavery. He was a chief contributor to many of the financial, political and legal institutions so familiar to Americans today.

Hamilton's journalistic campaign, through the Federalist Papers, to convince the American people to ratify the Constitution equals in importance his creation of the Bank of the United States and the New York Stock Exchange and his pioneering efforts in the area of constitutional law. The young Treasury Secretary's economic strategies helped the country deal with staggering Revolutionary war debts. By the time Hamilton retired in 1795, the United States was fiscally sound and poised to become a major world economic and political leader.

"Alexander Hamilton: The Man Who Made Modern America" was organized by the New-York Historical Society, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and the American Library Association, and has been made possible in part through a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. It is based on the New-York Historical Society's exhibition commemorating the 200th anniversary of Hamilton's death as well as the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Society in 1804.

The exhibition looks at Hamilton's life and death through the relationships he forged with important people in politics and government, and through his ideas -- ideas that often clashed with those of other prominent national figures. Hamilton and George Washington agreed on many issues, but Hamilton argued with Thomas Jefferson about the character of the young republic. Jefferson favored an agrarian society of small towns, prosperous farms, and state self-government, while Hamilton argued that manufacturing and commerce, a strong central government, and cities populated by people of diverse talents and backgrounds were the future.

Looking again at the debate that took place when this country was founded should help 21st century Americans better understand why the government, the courts, our banking system and our economy are organized the way they are. Hamilton's role in providing a foundation for the complex society we live in today will be discussed in a series of lectures by Western New England College faculty and invited guests. D'Amour Library is sponsoring the following free events for the public in connection with the exhibition. For more information contact Mary Jane Sobinski-Smith at 413-782-1535 or visit the D'Amour Library home page at http://libraries.wnec.edu.

Exhibit Opening and Reception
Wednesday, March 4
5:00 to 6:00 p.m.
Clarke Reading Room
D'Amour Library, Western New England College

Lecture Series
Hamilton's Role in the Constitution
Dr. William Mandel, Professor of Political Science, Western New England College
Wednesday, March 4
4:00 to 5:00 p.m.
D'Amour Library room 319
Alexander Hamilton is often described as a leading contributor to the drafting of our Constitution. This talk will review his participation at the 1787 convention to see how much of that is true. What is indisputable, though, is his contribution to our later understanding of that great document, especially through his co-authorship of the Federalist Papers, which we will discuss as well.

Hamilton's Economic Role
Dr. Schiller Casimir, Professor of Economics, Western New England College
Dr. Michael A. Meeropol, Professor of Economics, Western New England College
Tuesday, March 24
4:00 to 5:00 p.m.
D'Amour Library room 319
This lecture will explore Alexander Hamilton's role in the creation and structuring of the U.S. Treasury.

Alexander Hamilton: A Very Public Private Life
Professor Willard Sterne Randall, Champlain College
Wednesday, April 1
4:00 to 5:00 p.m.
The focus of this lecture will be on how Hamilton's private life affected his public career, and what it meant for the new United States and for the modern world he did so much to create.
Release: Immediate Contact: David Stawasz, Stephen Roulier or Barbara Campanella

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