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ALEXANDER HAMILTON'S LEGACY

September 10, 2004

One of the most significant and eagerly awaited museum exhibitions in recent years opens today at the venerable New-York Historical Society on Central Park West at W. 77th St.

"Alexander Hamilton: The Man Who Made Modern America," which will run through next February, pays tribute to perhaps the most unappreciated of America's Founding Fathers on the 200th anniversary of his death in a duel at the hands of Vice President Aaron Burr.

(The building is now hard to miss: It has a giant $10 bill — with Hamilton's picture — emblazoned across its front.)

Hamilton's astonishing life story — he was born poor and illegitimate in the Caribbean — and extraordinary list of accomplishments read almost like fiction: from Revolutionary War hero to father of the nation's economy and one of the prime shapers of the Constitution.

Hamilton also was very much a New Yorker. Several of the institutions he founded remain vital to the city's ongoing fortunes — chief among them the New York Post, which is one of the exhibition's financial sponsors.

In fact, the official guide to the exhibition is done up as a copy of the modern-day Post — complete with Page Six and opinion pages, all in the vivid style of New York's favorite paper, but covering Hamilton's life and career.

The exhibition is co-produced by the innovative Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, whose impressive collection of Americana is on deposit at the Historical Society. (Richard Brookhiser, whose tribute to Hamilton appears on the opposite page, serves as historian curator.)

In recent weeks, Gilder Lehrman — and the Hamilton exhibit — have come under fire from leftist academics muttering about a supposed "conservative" takeover of history and an unworthy tribute to Hamilton as a conservative icon.

Suffice it to say that Gilder Lehrman has been winning praise for years across the political spectrum for its work in revitalizing the importance of American history in the nation's classrooms.

As for Hamilton, it is no exaggeration to say, as this exhibition does, that his important and distinguished career is, frankly, worthy of enshrinement on Mount Rushmore. To get an online taste, go to AlexanderHamiltonExhibition.com.

We congratulate Gilder Lehrman and the NYHS on this marvelous exhibition, and hope all Post readers pay it a visit.

Copyright 2004 New York Post

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