Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton are credited with shaping America’s future. Their insights and self-driven efforts to have a democratic community and a developed nation are singled out as core values that reveal a very vast wealth of ideas and impartial patriotism to America. Many emerging and past works provide quite a several standpoints on these two men’s ambitions. Selected writings provide a broader perspective of Hamilton and Jefferson. In context, the literature presents the two as key development channels and key players to have managed to channel significant and sustainable development of the United States in its initial years of existence as a free republic.
According to Cunningham, during the early years of the American Republic following the winning of independence, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton were among the most influential men active in the politics and government of the United States (Cunningham, 2000, 1). However, both men came from very different backgrounds with Jefferson from a wealthy background and Hamilton from a shaky West Indies background. Though this book by Cunningham is not a comparative study of Jefferson and Hamilton, excerpts from the book provide great insight into how both men played a key role in shaping the future of the American nation (Carney, 2001, 351-353). Both men served in George Washington’s cabinet where they had their longest and closest association (Cunningham, 2000, 1). Their differences in opinion per-se were well documented then, though these differences in opinion did not spoil their mutual relations. This paper provides an overview of their very crucial roles in shaping the American social-political future and history.
Biography of the two principals
Thomas was born in Virginia. He was born on 13th April 1743 at Shadwell Virginia. He was later to become a statesman, diplomat, author, architect, scientist, and apostle of freedom (Malone, 1933, 11). He married Martha Wayles Skelton in 1772 and had six children. Four of these children died. Thomas Jefferson was the primary author of the ‘declaration of independence.’ He was instrumental in the constitution-making since he had a very good law background after studying at the College of William and Mary and law with George Wythe in1760-2. Jefferson began his service as a representative of the Virginia House of Burgess.
His reputation is traced to a political pamphlet he wrote. In this political pamphlet, Jefferson summarized his views on American rights under the ‘rights of British America. He argued that God gave humans life and liberty at the same time, and conversely, hands can destroy everything.
He was elected at the second Continental Congress caucus in Philly and got appointed to head a committee spearheading the preparation of the ‘Declaration of Independence on June 11, 1776. Jefferson had authored it but his draft was revised substantively by Congress. He was also known for his anti-slavery viewpoint and a clause in his draft about the monarchy imposing slavery was deleted. He served as a Virginia governor, US Secretary of State, US Minister o France, Vice president of the United States, and then became the president of the United States.
Alexander Hamilton Biography
Hamilton was a delegate from New York. He was born in British West Indies in 1757. He immigrated to the US IN 1772 and went to school. He studied in Elizabethtown New Jersey and Kings College and later joined the army. He rose through the ranks to become Gorge Washington’s Cap-de aide in 1777. He became a member of the continental congress and the Annapolis Convention. The Annapolis Convection is credited for its role in the adoption of the US constitution. Hamilton studied law and began practicing law in New York. He was appointed a secretary of the treasury in George Washington’s cabinet. He was a friend of Jefferson and served in the government for quite a formidable length of time.
The Debate between Hamilton and Jefferson
Cunningham argues that Hamilton was a powerful force in the government and was instrumental in shaping the president’s decisions. George Washington based his economic policies on Hamilton’s economic initiatives. Hamilton was a federalist and Jefferson was an anti-federalist. The conflict between the two in 1790 had a significant impact on American history. Jefferson spoke for the rural poor and marginalized south. The debate was centered on the power of the central government against the power of the state. Hamilton favored central government authority (federalism) while Jefferson was inclined towards state rights.
Hamilton wanted the central government to be stronger. He proposed a federal system that provided an enabling environment for commerce and industry. Here, order and efficiency were his key points. He advised that the state should have adequate support of domestic borrowing and proposed that domestic credit would be great for the economy and that it could provide effective governance. Industrial development and fiscal robustness would propel the economy to higher levels and keep the government more effective and responsible. He came up with the Bank of the United States and laid out a framework for its expansion. The bank was a great boon to the business community and the local industries.
Jefferson wanted a decentralized system. He was aware of the value of a central government but was emphatic about the need for a decentralized form of government but did not want it to have powerful tentacles since it would result in tyranny. He advocated for a foreign policy that would put the United States in good stead in the global economic and political front.
Hamilton wanted an efficient government thus efficient organizations but not a powerful political outfit. Jefferson was pro a decentralized system that was not powerful and tyrannical. It is this aspect of Jefferson’s policies that Hamilton saw a window of anarchy and lack of order. However, Jefferson insisted that a decentralized agrarian system provided robust social-economic freedom while a centralized system created room for absolute tyranny.
When Hamilton introduced a bill seeking to establish the National Bank, Jefferson who had just taken offices as a secretary of state blocked the motion citing the constitution as stipulating clearly that such powers rest with the states. These differences were godsend since they were very important though in disguise. Hamilton contended Jefferson’s rejection. He argued that the National Bank would be instrumental in performing the tasks accorded the National Government to levy and collect taxes more effectively and efficiently than the government, a view the government found sound hence Congress bought the idea.
As secretary of state, Jefferson was more concerned about America’s place in the world. He gave firm direction to American foreign policies. Hamilton was consistently interfering with these decisions. However, both men played a vital role in directing the course of America under the new laws. Jefferson, after losing the ‘Bank of America’ duel to Hamilton sought support from the Southerners he supported. They were very much against the centralized government and institutions hence rejected the proposals. He insisted the law should be interpreted as it was and not misinterpreted.
Thomas Jefferson later became the president of the United States, an achievement his friend and political nemesis Alexander Hamilton failed to achieve and would never, for he died a painful and shameful death after picking a fight with vice president Burr. Their constitutional, foreign policy, banking, and governance duels were very important for they shaped the American politics and economic progress programs. Jefferson went ahead to implement key economic and political reforms during his presidency. He was more of a people’s leader than Hamilton who was representing the views of the upper class. Though a great friend and advisor of President George Washington, Hamilton seemed to be twisting Jefferson in the arm to the advantage of the American’s future.
Carney, Thomas. “Reviewed work(s): Jefferson vs. Hamilton: Confrontations That Shaped a Nation by Noble E. Cunningham Jr.Journal of the Early Republic 21. 2 (2001), 351-352, Web.
Chernow, Ron. Alexander Hamilton. New York: Penguin Press, 2004; Hamilton, Alexander. Writings. New York: Library of America, 2001.
Cunningham, Noble. Jefferson vs. Hamilton: confrontations that shaped a nation. 1 ed. Katherine Kuzman. Boston: Bedford/St Martin, 2000.
Malone, Dumas. Thomas Jefferson: A Brief Biography. 1 ed. Monticello Monograph Series. Volume X. Merrill Peterson. Maryland: The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Inc, 1933.
McGranahan, Ronald. “Thomas Jefferson.” 2004. Web.