Nor is judicial review so easily categorized. From the left, judicial review is bad when left-leaning legislation is ruled unconstitutional. But judicial review can also restrain reactionary legislation and executive action. For example, 80 percent of the Trump administration’s attempted deregulation was blocked by judicial review.3According to Institute for Policy Integrity, the Trump administration attempted 199 major regulatory changes but 161 were defeated in court, that is ruled against or forced to be withdrawn. See:

Regardless of internal state politics, by the mid 1780s all the states functioned as centrifugal forces pulling the larger national project apart. The minimalist Articles of Confederation provided no mechanisms for national-level economic planning. As a result, the (bourgeois) revolutionary experiment was falling apart.

The review did get 1 thing correct: Radical Hamilton goes beyond the typical focus on how government works, to explore what government does. But then Ovetz incorrectly accuses me of completely ignoring how government works and thus missing the Constitution’s undemocratic features; chiding “this analytical flaw is both complex and simple.” Whoa!

Actually, chapter 9 in Radical Hamilton, “The Constitution as Reaction to Crisis,” covers the document’s anti-democratic features as a tool of class control that works via divide et impera meaning divide and rule.

Here is a taste of Radical Hamilton’s chapter 9:

This preservation of “peace” was an elite-class project to thwart the leveling impulses of the common people. A conservative scholar of Madison correctly summed up the Constitution’s class nature by noting that the “whole scheme essentially comes down to this. The struggle of classes is to be replaced by a struggle of interests. The class struggle is domestic convulsion; the struggle of interests is a safe, even energizing, struggle, which is compatible with, or even promotes, the safety and stability of society…. The mass will not unite as a mass to make extreme demands upon the few, the struggle over which will destroy society; the mass will fragment into relatively small groups, seeking small immediate advantages for their narrow and particular interests.”

But I do not end with this critique. I also look at how the Constitution, as a brokered document, contains contradictions; it “is not merely an instrument of class control. It also includes significant democratic concessions and puts real limits on the power of the moneyed classes.”

The review skips over my chapters on the Critical Period of the 1780s, and casts the rising interstate conflict, spiraling violence, and catastrophic post-war economic slump as a romantic and increasingly successful class struggle that was unfairly thwarted by the new U.S. Constitution.

The real story is not so simple. Class struggles were part of the Critical Period – for example Shays’ Rebellion, which gets a whole chapter in Radical Hamilton. But there was also violent intra-settler conflict on the frontier in what is now eastern Tennessee, in Pennsylvania, and in Vermont. These little wars involved rival cross-class formations. And there were destructive intra-elite struggles, for example the trade wars between states that started raising tariffs against each other. There was British meddling in assisting Native Americans in their resistance against white settlers in Georgia and what is now Kentucky. Western elites wanted Indian land, while eastern elites often opposed action by western militias for fear these marauders might trigger all-out war that could draw in Britain, France, or Spain, and possibly sink the whole Republic.

Contrary to the review’s assertion that state governments responded to the rising chaos by making progressive concessions to protest movements, many state governments became increasingly repressive, racist, and militaristic; for example, when Georgia and South Carolina launched their joint war against maroon communities living on the Savannah River.

The many interlocked crises of the Critical Period cannot be understood without a class analysis, but neither can they be reduced to class struggle. Marxists should be able to center historical analysis on class without being blinkered by it.

The review even tries to blame Hamilton for the Newburg Conspiracy, in which, at the end of the war, officers encamped on the Hudson River demanded their backpay and threaten to march off to the Ohio Territory if they did not get it. Never mind that the conspiracy threatened Hamilton’s patron, George Washington, and was led by Hamilton’s great military rival General Horatio Gates. Because Hamilton, who by then had left the army, lobbied political elites to placate the officers by paying them what they were owed, he is cast as a would-be golpista.

I knew Radical Hamilton would trigger a certain kind of moralizing leftist, but I expected a more substantive and informed response than that published in Spectre.