Would Alexander Hamilton approve of Trump's July 4 speech?

President TrumpDonald TrumpKinzinger welcomes baby boy Tennessee lawmaker presents self-defense bill in 'honor' of Kyle Rittenhouse Five things to know about the New York AG's pursuit of Trump MORE is set to deliver a speech complete with military fly-overs called "Salute to America" on July 4, 2019, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. The public venue is a break with recent presidents, who have celebrated at an invite-only White House lawn party.  

Unsurprisingly, party politics are trying to rain on the president's public sky parade. "President Trump’s efforts to insert politics into a celebration of our nation’s history is extremely alarming,” House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerJoining Pelosi, Hoyer says lawmakers should be free to trade stocks Hoyer calls for 'clear and prudent firearms guidelines' from Capitol Police Board Desperate Dems signal support for cutting Biden bill down in size MORE (D-Md.) responded.

Speaking of our nation's history, what would our founders think of the president's public venue for celebrating the red, white and blue? Alexander Hamilton, the nation's first treasury secretary, would likely say party on, Mr. President. Why? Hamilton was the first to suggest that the president of the United States take a leading role in celebrating America's independence. 


Hamilton knew how to party patriot-style. Though soon-to-be Washington's right hand man, Captain Hamilton was among General Washington's troops in New York on July 4, 1776, when the Continental Congress issued the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia.

A few days later on July 9, Hamilton and Washington's troops learned about Congress's common sense declaration. Led by a friend of Hamilton's, they were so excited that they pulled down the gilded sculpture of King George III at the tip of Manhattan. They also melted His Metal Highness into musket balls. 

Years later in 1789 when Washington became the first president, he asked the popular Hamilton for etiquette and entertaining suggestions for the presidency. Independence Day topped Hamilton's list. 

"The President . . . to give formal entertainments only twice or four times a year on the anniversaries of important events in the revolution," Hamilton replied on May 5, 1789, in New York, which was the nation's first capital city. 

"If twice, the day of the Declaration of Independence, and that of the inauguration of the President, which completed the organization of the Constitution," Hamilton prioritized.


President Washington was too ill to attend the capital's Independence Day festivities in 1789, when Hamilton gave a eulogy to veteran general. 

The next year's festivities began with a bang through a review of a military brigade "whose firings did them great honor," the Gazette of the United States reported on July 7, 1790. Likewise an artillery regiment "fired a federal salute" from Manhattan's battery. 

Just as Hamilton envisioned, a military unit escorted Washington and a throng to St. Paul's Church for a service hosted by the veterans' association, the Society of the Cincinnati. Hamilton was the society's vice chairman. Though Washington didn't give the oration like Hamilton had the year before, he was the leader among the honored veterans, and the first to be toasted. 

The president praised the orator, Brockholst Levingston, a future member of the Supreme Court, who showed the public "the different situation we are now in, under an excellent government of our own choice, to what it would have been," Washington summarized. Indeed, if American had lost, the British might have tried and hung Washington, Hamilton and others for treason. 

Because Hamilton prioritized the sacrifices made on the battlefield that turned independence from a declaration into a reality for Independence Day festivities, he would applaud the military focus of Trump's July 4 celebration. 


President Trump's “Salute to America” is billed as a “celebration of America’s military with music, military demonstrations and flyovers" of military planes. This public event will take place before the annual televised concert at the other end of the National Mall. Fireworks will follow. 

The president is excited. “By the way, on July 4th in Washington D.C., come on down! We’re going to have a big day!” Trump recently told campaign rally-goers in Miami. 

Trump's desire to showcase the U.S. military led to this year's public party. While the guest of honor, Trump was awed at the review of troops at France's 2017 Bastille Day ceremony. “It was one of the greatest parades I’ve ever seen,” Trump told reporters. “We’re going to have to try to top it.”

The president's initial plan to host a grand military parade was scrapped because of exorbitant costs — and possibly significant push back from many who opposed it. 

Still, several House Democrats are worried that his public party will “create the appearance of a televised, partisan campaign rally on the Mall at public expense.” 

Though President Trump is known for punching back at his political opponents no matter the venue, he recently showed his ability to champion veterans' stories at the recent 75th anniversary of D-Day in France that earned him praise from his fiercest media critics. 

Yet if he does what he says he's going to do — honor the military and celebrate America — he will fulfill what Hamilton and Washington experienced at Independence Day festivities in 1790. As Washington recorded in his diary, they were reminded of "how much we ought to cherish the blessings which are within our reach and to cultivate the seeds of harmony and unanimity in all our public councils."

This Independence Day, let us all do the same.

Jane Hampton Cook is the author of “America’s Star-Spangled Story” and “The Burning of the White House: James and Dolley Madison and the War of 1812.” She is a former White House webmaster for President George W. Bush.