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Jefferson vs. Hamilton

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The disagreements that occurred between Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton are very important to this country; they helped shaped the United States into what it is today. From the beginning of their political careers, Jefferson and Hamilton were on the opposite sides of the spectrum, always disagreeing on key issues. They had drastically different views on the new nation. Many disagreements between these men and others eventually led to the two political parties: the Republicans and the Federalists. When George Washington was declared the first president of the United States, he appointed the two men to be among those that the president would work the closest with. He appointed Thomas Jefferson as the Secretary of State, and he appointed Alexander Hamilton to be the Secretary of the Treasury. Hamilton’s first matter of business was to come up with a solution to the nations finances. His proposed legislation to establish the National Bank of the United States was the match that ignited the fire between these two very opinionated men. Alexander Hamilton saw the new nation as one that needed many new changes.

He was an avid Federalist, who helped write the Federalist Papers, in favor of creating the new constitution. Hamilton distrusted the will of the people and thought that man was naturally selfish, so he believed that a strong central government was necessary to keep order. He thought that the states rights needed to succumb to the power of a central government. To “make the United States economically strong and independent of Europe,” the federal government had to solve “its two most pressing financial problems: revenue and credit” (Davidson, p. 221). So as the Secretary of the Treasury, he began his duty to the country by drawing up his Report on the Further Provision Necessary for Establishing Public Credit and a second report soon after that announced his idea to establish a national bank. Hamilton believed that there were many advantages to establishing a National Bank in the United States and wanted the United States to be a wealthy nation. He believed that a national bank was a necessary step in establishing credit in our new and growing country. In his plan, he proposed that the debt accumulated from the war be paid off in full, and the federal government would assume all of the debt that the individual states owed (Davidson, p. 221).

Hamilton believed a “national debt is beneficial if it is properly funded, because it encourages loyalty to the central government” (Thomas Jefferson vs. Alexander Hamilton: The American Dialectic, lecture video, 10/18/12). He also established several excise taxes to help fun the government’s expenses (Davidson, p. 221). Hamilton’s bank resembled the Bank of England; he wanted the national bank to be powerful, which is the reason why many feared his plan, as it gave too much power to the federal government. Hamilton believed that “banks permit the amassing of money, capitol that is need to stimulate industry” (Thomas Jefferson vs. Alexander Hamilton: The American Dialectic, lecture video, 10/18/12). Alexander Hamilton is considered the father of the capitalistic system (Confusions about Jefferson and Hamilton, Stoler lecture/video, 9/25/12.) Hamilton’s goal was to establish a country that encouraged commerce and manufacturing. These principles would lead to a very powerful nation. Thomas Jefferson was against everything that Hamilton believed in, and he was very vocal about it. Jefferson was a Democratic-Republican, so he was against a strong national government.

He thought that a strong central government would threaten mans individual liberties. Jefferson was an advocate of states’ rights, opposing Hamilton’s ideals of a powerful central government. Jefferson didn’t believe the national bank was necessary and was anti-bank. He feared the national bank would result in too much centralized power in the government. He wanted the country to remain in the hands of farmers; he wanted an agrarian country. In Jefferson’s eyes, agriculture was “considered a “virtuous” occupation”, and business and manufacturing would lead to large cities, which would result in the corruption of man “and cause crime, disease, and pollution” (Thomas Jefferson vs. Alexander Hamilton: The American Dialectic, lecture video, 10/18/12). Thomas Jefferson believed in the establishment of state banks, instead of the powerful national bank in which Hamilton proposed. In his opinion, the “national debt should be reduced or eliminated by strict economy in government spending” (Thomas Jefferson vs. Alexander Hamilton: The American Dialectic, lecture video, 10/18/12).

The democratic system is considered to have resulted from Jefferson’s insistence on preserving the rights of man. Among these men’s many disagreements were their differing opinions of the constitutionality of the creation of a national bank. Alexander Hamilton was for a “loose construction” of the Constitution, while Thomas Jefferson wanted a “strict construction” of the Constitution (Cunningham, p. 51). The idea of a strict construction is that the federal government should be restricted to express its powers only in issues that are expressly delegated to it (Davidson, p. 223). In Jefferson’s opinion, the national bank was unconstitutional, because the charter of a bank was not specifically listed as a power of the Congress in the Constitution (Davidson, p. 222). A national bank wasn’t a necessity. In Hamilton’s opinion, the national bank was absolutely constitutional, citing the “Necessary and Proper” clause. The Constitution gave Congress implied powers, as well as the expressed powers (Cunningham, p. 56).

The implied powers allows Congress to do whatever it feels may be necessary in governing the country. Hamilton felt that the establishment of the bank was necessary for the United States to succeed. The establishment of the National Bank, and the establishment of factories for manufacturing were only a couple among the many issues that Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson disagreed upon. With opinions and political views that differed tremendously, these two men were constantly pit against each other to battle their opinions of governing our nation. Eventually, Jefferson supported Hamilton’s concept of manufacturing and believed it was for the better of our nation. Although their disagreements stirred up many conflicts, they were essential to forming the nation. Their conflicts helped shape the United States into what it is today.

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