Hamilton and Lincoln

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Alexander Hamilton was born on January 17, 1755 in the Caribbean. He attended Kings College, which is now Columbia University, in New York. Throughout his career(s), he was a military officer, lawyer, financier, and political theorist. Hamilton was elected to the Continental Congress from New York, but he resigned to study law. He served in the New York Legislature, and he was the only New Yorker who signed the U.S. Constitution. Many people considered Alexander Hamilton to be single person to be responsible for the superior economic procedures we hold today.

This brings us to our first question: Was Alexander Hamilton an economic genius? Historian John Steele Gordon said yes, Alexander Hamilton was indeed an economic genius. He claimed that Hamilton’s policies for funding and assuming the debts of the confederation and state governments and for establishing a privately controlled Bank of the United States laid the foundation for the rich and powerful national economy we enjoy today. “Hamilton, a deep student of economics, understood public finance thoroughly, a fact he would make dazzlingly clear in the next few years”, says John Steele Gordon. “He sought to establish a system that would both channel the individual pursuit of self-interest into developing the American economy and protect that economy from the follies that untrammeled self-interest always leads to.” (Taking Sides – pg. 143)

Professor Carey Roberts argued that in the 1790’s, Hamilton’s financial policies undermined popular faith in the Federalist Party, diminished confidence in the federal government. Roberts claimed that instead of being beneficial to the economy, Alexander Hamilton actually just led the American public in a downward spiral. “Another explanation for a business cycle emerging early in the 1790’s suggests that far from stabilizing the economy, Hamilton and the Federalist Congress destabilized financial markets causing entrepreneurs to misread the markets and make incorrect business decisions.” (Taking Sides – pg. 151) Carey boldly stated that the American public misunderstood Alexander Hamilton’s goals and effects on our economy. “Hamilton was neither a defender of an aristocracy or wealth nor was he the architect of America’s economic “take-off”, says Roberts. In Roberts’ conclusion, he lets his readers know that Hamilton cannot be blamed for everything, but a vast amount of it can be.

Robert C. Puth, the historian who wrote American Economic History, said no, Alexander Hamilton was not an economic genius. He claimed Hamilton’s proposals could not be deemed economically successful unless the aid or protection was then terminated. According to Robert C. Puth, “Hamilton’s views were more closely allied with those of European mercantilists.” Puth believes that Hamilton wanted American industrialization and proposed that the government serve as a development agency. Puth also believes that Alexander Hamilton’s view emphasized the interests of the state, as opposed to the individuals.

The author of the book Alexander Hamilton and the American Tradition was a man by the name of John C. Livingston. This devoted historian declared yes, Alexander Hamilton was absolutely an economic genius. He claimed that although his policies were not praised by all, “Hamilton turned his genius to constructing a political economy in which the “best men” would rule. The rich, wise, and well-born would constitute the elite whose judgment would decide between balance and unbalance.” Livingston states that it is false to say that Hamilton naively identified the public interest with the private interests of the economic aristocrats. Therefore, John C. Livingston is basically arguing that Robert C. Puth, the previous historian, was incorrect when he stated that Hamilton’s view emphasized the interest of the state, not the individuals. As opposed to Puth, Livingston says “the public interest, for him, lay always in national power and...
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