November 29, 2012
Jefferson Vs. Hamilton
During the years after the Revolutionary War, the founding fathers introduced a very weak form of government through the Articles of Confederation. These articles were created to give more power to the states than the federal government. Eventually, the Constitutional Convention was called to edit the Articles of Confederation, but the members of this convention completely gutted the documents. This led to the development of a very important document of United States history. Thus, the Constitution was born. This new document sparked mass controversy amongst the states and led to a huge debacle. The federalist states supported the Constitution; whereas, the anti-federalists did not approve of the ratification of the Constitution. Soon after the 9 to 13 ratification of the Constitution, the leaders of the federalists and anti-federalists emerged. The federalists were headed by Alexander Hamilton, the county’s treasurer; and, the anti-federalists were led by Thomas Jefferson. Due to their contrasting backgrounds, stern differences in political ideals, and different economic priorities, Hamilton and Jefferson quickly formed a huge two-partied rivalry in the United States that eventually led to a gigantic schism in American politics.
Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton came from two very different backgrounds, which helped shape who they would become in the future. Alexander Hamilton was born on January 11, 1755, and died on July 2, 1804. Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743, and lived to July 4, 1826. Gordon S. Wood wrote, in his novel Revolutionary Characters, “Because he was raised in the West Indies and came to the North American continent as a teenager, Hamilton had little of the emotional attachment to a particular colony or state that the other founders had (when Jefferson talked about ‘my country,’ he meant Virginia). Hamilton was primed to think nationally…” (Doc. 1). Hamilton moved from a British colony in South America to a British colony in North America, which made it difficult for him to develop any kind of nationalism because of the British colonialism; but in turn, it made it easier for him to develop nationalism for America and the federal government as a whole. Thomas Jefferson, on the other hand, was born on a plantation in Charlottesville, Virginia, in continental America. He was born into a very rich family in Virginia, automatically making him a type of royalty in colony. As a result of growing up in Virginia, Jefferson's devotion to the United Stated led to his innate sense of nationalism. Both Hamilton and Jefferson developed a pride for America in some sense, but the varying nationalistic beliefs amongst the two would lead to deviating political ideas.
Both Jefferson and Hamilton experienced very diverse backgrounds, which led to their contrasting political ideals. Hamilton, a spokesperson for Federalists, favored a strong, federal government and also supported a loose interpretation of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Gordon S. Wood, again, writes, “Hamilton was primed to think nationally and from the [beginning] of the [American] Revolution he focused his attention on the government of the United States.” (Doc. 1). From the beginning of America’s freedom movement, Hamilton had a strong, central government on his mind, which is what he aimed to accomplish while serving as treasurer of the state for George Washington. In one of Hamilton’s speeches to New York, as an attempt to yield Constitution ratification, he said, “The local interest of a State ought [should] in every case to give way to the interests of the Union… The smaller good ought never to oppose the greater good.” (Doc. 1). Hamilton, in this speech, addressed his main federalist beliefs, which consisted of a strong, central government, and tried to accomplish unity and compliance in order to succeed a greater glory. Jefferson supported states’ rights and strong state governments rather than a strong, central government. Jefferson also favored a very strict interpretation of the Constitution. In a dialogue between James Madison, the author of the Bill of Rights, and Thomas Jefferson, Jefferson states, “I own I am not a friend to a very energetic [active] government. It is always oppressive. It places the governors [leaders] indeed more at their ease, at the expense of the people.” (Doc. 4). Jefferson clearly states his anti-federalist beliefs to James Madison. He claims that a strong, central government would result in an oppressive and inefficient ruling system. Many anti-federalists, including Jefferson, were worried about the ominous and unclear path lying ahead of a strong, revamped, federal government. They believed the strong, federal government would result in a similar ruling system of that which England ruled over them. These stark political ideals and beliefs shaped both Jefferson’s and Hamilton’s economic priorities. Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson had different economic ideals, but because of Hamilton’s high-ranking economic position he won the battle. Hamilton, as the country’s treasurer, he perfected his own four-step economic resurgence program. His four-step process included accumulating all state and personal debt and filtering it into one national debt that included a small tax on all imports, a tax on whiskey, and the creation of a national bank. The whiskey tax and national bank caused mass chaos between the federalists and anti-federalists. Hamilton, however, skillfully avoided a mass rebellion over the whiskey tax by claiming that whiskey isn’t a necessity, so it was eligible to be taxed. But, Hamilton did not avoid all of the turbulence; in western Pennsylvania, a couple hundred whiskey makers sparked a resistance. George Washington’s crew of 15,000 soldiers, which demonstrated America’s new strength as a result of a united army, rather than individual state militias, quickly shut down the resistance. In Hamilton’s Federalist Papers, he writes, “The prosperity [wealth] of commerce [industry] is now perceived… to be the most useful as well as the most productive source of national wealth…” (Doc 6). Here, Hamilton expresses the importance of a national bank and wealth. If a national bank were to be formed, the country would experience a flourishing economy. Hamilton also approved of a renewed trading relationship with Britain, as he saw this as an opportunity to regain the prosperity they experienced before they separated from England. Jefferson, on the other hand, was in favor of a less industrial and national economy. Jefferson was a stark supporter of agriculture in America because it was what had made them so successful in the past. In a letter to John Jay, Thomas Jefferson expressed his appreciation for agriculture in America by saying, “Cultivators of the earth [farmers] are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous [strong], the most independent, the most virtuous [have high moral standards], and they are tied to their country and wedded to its liberty and interests by the most lasting bands.”(Doc. 3). Jefferson clearly states his strong opinion on the farmers in America. He believed that the farmers are what made America great in the first place. Jefferson felt that America should continue an alliance with France because they helped us during a time of turmoil in America. Also, Jefferson was strongly against the idea of a national bank. Jefferson felt the national bank was unconstitutional by the tenth amendment, which states “the Constitution's principle of federalism by providing that powers not granted to the federal government by the Constitution, nor prohibited to the States, are reserved to the States or the people” (Wikipedia). So seeing as there was no national bank included in the Constitution, Jefferson’s strict interpretation of the Constitution caused him to believe that the national bank was, in fact, unconstitutional. Jefferson and Hamilton had different political ideals and economic priorities, which drew a definite line between the Federalist Party and the Anti-Federalist Party. Hamilton and Jefferson led two very different lives. Hamilton was a federalist and Jefferson was an Anti-Federalist. Hamilton’s early childhood in the British West Indies directly affected who he would become in life, the political ideals he would support, and the economic priorities that he advocated. Jefferson, on the other hand, grew up in Charlottesville, Virginia, which allowed him to identify with one state rather than one nation as a whole. Jefferson’s life in Virginia shaped the anti-federalist life he would lead, the controversial political ideals he would support, and the economic priorities he would promote. Both Hamilton and Jefferson shaped what America is today; even now we still see the serious affects caused by their rivalry, as today we still support a predominantly two-partied system. These two founding fathers were vital to the formation and continuation of the United States.