III. Alexander Hamilton and the Crisis of Republican Government

The newly elected president, George Washington, picked his old to fill the position of secretary of the treasury, and it was here that he left his most lasting stamp on the republic. The measures he pursued as treasury secretary all aimed at the construction of national unity, and the construction of the instruments of national power sufficient to the needs of a world of nation-states. Thus, in his Report on Credit (1790), he wanted domestic securities paid at face value, despite the fact that most had been obtained at steep discounts. He also proposed that the debts of the states be assumed by the Treasury. In the former case, he aimed at winning moneyed and mercantile wealth to the cause of the new government, to ensure a reliable source of government credit for future exigencies. In both cases the tax requirements of debt service would justify a panoply of federal taxes for a long period of time, thus solidifying the essential powers of the new government. Rather than conceiving of the federal government as a tool to enrich the moneyed men, Hamilton was convinced that their favor, and the nation’s credit, were essential “as long as nations in general continue to use it as a resource in war. It is impossible for a country to contend, on equal terms, or to be secure against the enterprises of other nations, without being able equally with them to avail itself of this important resource.”

Alexander Hamilton, “Federalist Papers,” quoted in Cooke, 57.

I forgive all that happened.” Hamilton’sdeath was very generally deplored as a national calamity.

Alexander Hamilton - Government Official, Military …

The omnipotency and all-sufficiency of Great Britain may be pretty good topics for her passionate admirers to exercise their declamatory powers upon, for amusement and trial of skill; but they ought not to be proposed to the world as matters of truth and reality. In the calm, unprejudiced eye of reason, they are altogether visionary. As to her wealth, it is notorious that she is oppressed with a heavy national debt, which it requires the utmost policy and economy ever to discharge. Luxury has arrived to a great pitch; and it is a universal maxim, that luxury indicates the declension of a state. Her subjects are loaded with the most enormous taxes. All circumstances agree in declaring their distress. The continual emigrations from Great Britain and Ireland to the continent are a glaring symptom that those kingdoms are a good deal impoverished.

remained in Scotland during Hamilton's childhood due to a debt, ..

The outbreak of fighting between colonials and the British army led to Hamilton’s quick progression from New York militia artillery officer to General Washington’s staff in March of 1777. In that capacity, Hamilton made a favorable impression on the future president, as well as on his future father-in-law, Phillip Schuyler, a wealthy New York landowner and major political figure. His marriage to Elizabeth Schuyler in 1780 provided an entree into the highest levels of New York legal and political circles. More importantly, however, his military career shaped his emergence as a proponent of strong national union under a radically reconfigured government with all of the appurtenances of European nation-states. Despite a crushing burden of official duties, Hamilton in this period undertook a self-directed course of wide reading in political economy, public finance, history, and European politics. He came to view the Continental Congress as fundamentally defective in its ability to fund and administer an army, as well as to guarantee the union of states and the direction of America’s place on the world stage. The essays published after he left service are merely ruminations on subjects which he treated at length during this period in an extensive private correspondence.

Grolier Online, The American Presidency: Aaron Burr biography, Great Quotes by Alexander Hamilton, (containing only three quotes).

Alexander Hamilton - US History

Given to neither the studiousness of Madison nor the wide-ranging intellectual curiosity of Jefferson, Hamilton gravitated to the technical issues of governance. His moment came when Washington organized the first presidential administration under the new Constitution and chose him as secretary of the treasury. No man in the United States was as prepared as Hamilton to use the new federal powers to craft a series of mutually enhancing statutes dealing with taxes, trade, and the revolutionary debt. He possessed a strong political philosophy, congenial to the Federalists who gravitated around Washington but at odds with the increasingly popular democratic sentiments that triumphed with Jefferson’s election in 1801 and the subsequent sweep of successive Congressional elections.

SparkNotes: Alexander Hamilton: Context

Hamilton epitomized what Jefferson feared in Federalist politics. When Hamilton had the chance to draft the economic policy for the nation, he relied on what he called the “durable and permanent existence of rich and poor, debtor and creditor.” The wealthy few would develop new enterprises for the poor, whose lives would be regulated through their economic dependence and, if necessary, the master-servant provisions of the Common Law. Convinced of the need for leadership from disinterested and educated gentlemen, Hamilton rejected the notion that ordinary farmers, storekeepers, and tinkerers might just as effectively use their resources for new, unsupervised ventures as wealthy entrepreneurs would. Yet it was the pool of capital and financial stability that Hamilton created that enabled those petty entrepreneurs to prosper when Jefferson became president.

SparkNotes: Alexander Hamilton: Secretary of the …

He proposed to add to the debt owed by the Federal government, by assuming the debts of the states—and then to turn that debt, in the form of bonds, into a pool of capital for a National Bank, which would provide the basis for beginning to build up the physical economy of the nation!