Hamilton vs. Jefferson
The Fourth of July celebrates America’s freedom from England. The delegates from the thirteen colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, the document written by Thomas Jefferson that gave America its moral pulse. After the Continental Congress approved the final wording of the Declaration of Independence, the United States of America was born.
Americans need to be grateful to Jefferson for giving us the language and values of liberty and freedom. Yet, by watching and listening to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s play “Hamilton” people will get the wrong impression of Hamilton and Jefferson. As Hamilton’s star has risen, Jefferson’s has fallen. In looking at the political views and policies of each man there should be a recognition of who is the elitist and who is the one supporting the common individual.
Jefferson strove to make the American government everything that the British government was not. As historian Ron Chernow said in his book Alexander Hamilton, Hamilton’s Federalist Party was “elitist in its politics and tended to doubt the wisdom of the common people.” No one ever mentions that Hamilton believed that the President should have power for life, similar to the King of England.
Hamilton went so far as to call for a new Constitutional Convention to revise the Articles of Confederation. His plan was to have a permanent president who would appoint all the governors and who would have veto power over all state legislation. Under such a plan, state sovereignty would have been destroyed, and there would have been no escape from the central government's high taxes.
Murray Rothbard, who wrote The Mystery of Banking, said Hamilton wished to “reimpose in the new United States a system of mercantilism and big government similar to that in Great Britain, against which the colonists had rebelled. The object was to have a strong central government, particularly a strong president or king as chief executive, built up by high taxes and heavy public debt.”
Chernow goes on to say, “Jeffersonians called themselves Republicans, believing in limited federal power, a dominant Congress, and states’ rights who credited the wisdom of the common people.” In other words, he was an anti-Monarchist. Historian John Boles, who wrote Jefferson: Architect of Liberty, noted to American Thinker, “Jefferson was not opposed to strong government as long as it stayed within it Constitutional bounds. He believed in political power from the people.”
Hamilton’s autocratic notions versus Jefferson’s beliefs can be viewed with their attitude toward a central bank. Granted, Hamilton was correct in recognizing that the U.S. economy was a total mess. The Revolutionary War had left a huge debt with no plans on how it would be paid off. Some states simply repudiated the debt, making it more difficult for other states to borrow money and rebuild their economies. Yet, Jefferson complained that the bank created a national banking elite and gave them extraordinary power and wealth at the expense of ordinary citizens of the country.
Rothbard stated, the “Bank of North America was deliberately modeled after the Bank of England. The Bank was given a monopoly privilege of its notes being receivable in all tax payments to state and federal government, and no other banks were permitted to operate in the country. It graciously agreed to lend most of its newly created money to the federal government, while the hapless taxpayers would have to pay the Bank principal and interest."
Because the bank would have unprecedented control over the economy it would also have leverage over the government. Jefferson believed this would render U.S. commercial policy hostage to Britain. He warned that this policy concentrated powers in the hands of a small number of wealthy men in only one section of the country. This British domination of American trade harmed this nation’s economy and crippled small local industries. Boles noted that even a fellow Federalist, President John Adams, became more and more convinced that Hamilton was the largest threat to the constitutional form of government, someone with Napoleonic ambitions.
Those who enjoyed the Hamilton play should remember that it has a fictional element to it. In reality Hamilton wanted an Aristocratic America, and that is was Jefferson who was protective of individual rights. This July Fourth people should refer back to history, not revisionist history, to understand the beliefs of Alexander Hamilton versus Thomas Jefferson.
The author writes for American Thinker. She has done book reviews, author interviews, and has written a number of national security, political, and foreign policy articles.