Monday, October 30, 2006

Alexander Hamilton...



Thomas Jefferson's long time rival Alexander Hamilton in my opinion, is one of America's more underrated 'founding fathers'. Only those that truly study history have any idea what he did for the United States. But perhaps we can start with the genius of George Washington to set the stage. There is a new book out by Dorris Kearns Goodwin, called "Team of Rivals", which talks about Abraham Lincoln's political genius of choosing his political opponents for his cabinet. Washington did something very similar. He chose the smartest men with opposing viewpoints so that both sides would be presented in the cabinet.





Hamilton and Jefferson varied in many different ways. Hamilton was a Federalist who wanted a a strong central government, a large national bank and thought that commerce and industry was the way for the US to generate revenue. For this, Hamilton was well received in the more industrialized northern colonies. Jefferson was an anti-federalist/republican who thought a large national bank would not be good for the farming/working man of the time. Jefferson distrusted central government and the rich. (did i mention that Jefferson died in debt?!)

Hamilton's financial system was put in place to get the country out of debt quickly. About 2/3 of the debt was owned by the national government, the other 1/3 by the states. The government and the states owed money to foreign nations and private citizens. Hamilton proposed that the national government would take over all of the states' debts, and then pay the foreign debts with bonds to be payed later. Because a lot of the southerners (who supported Jefferson's ideals) already started to pay off their debt, they became angry with Hamilton because had they known the national government was paying their debt they would not have made attempts to do so. This didn't bode well for Hamilton's reputation in the south.

more on Hamilton later...

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2 comments:

Rob Scot said...

Glad to find someone else who acknowledges Hamilton's critical role in the nation's founding. I also think Washington's trust in Hamilton speaks volumes, especially to those (past and present) who accuse Hamilton of being nothing more than self-serving and dangerously ambitious.

R. Clark said...

You're right, Washington did trust Hamilton and he recognized his genius. Their close association went back to Washington's choice of Hamilton to be his adjutant in the field during the Revolution. Hamilton had his faults...don't we all? However, many of the recorded criticisms of Hamilton for being "self-serving and dangerously ambitious" actually originated behind the scenes with Jefferson, who was wildly jealous of him and diametrically opposed to him politically. I like to think that Jefferson was merely projecting! That is, Jefferson's involvement in "deconstructing" Hamilton's reputation was just another case of "the pot calling the kettle black."

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