You are on page 1of 5

Madison Gilbert

Ms. Forner

AP U.S. History

7 November 2016

Hamilton vs. Jefferson

Alexander Hamilton was a founding father whose ideas closely aligned with those of the

Federalist Party, while Thomas Jefferson was a proud Democratic-Republican. The two men

disagreed on social and economic issues that stemmed from their different interpretations of the

Constitution. Hamilton’s and Jefferson’s views regarding the constitutional amount of

governmental power also differed due to their political allegiances.​ In addition to their varying

views on the power given to the federal government by the Constitution, the men also argued

about America’s involvement in foreign affairs, specifically with the French. Domestically, their

argumentation centered around the economy and the prominent tensions between their two

parties.

Politically, the external conflict between Hamilton and Jefferson began after the

Constitution was proposed; during this time, Americans publicized their opinions about the

document. Collectively, there were two main arguments: for the Constitution or against it. This

disagreement over the interpretation of the Constitution lead to America’s first two political

parties: the Federalists, led by Alexander Hamilton, and the Democratic-Republicans, led by

Thomas Jefferson. Hamilton, along with other Federalists, believed that giving every single

citizen a voice would cause an unorganized and inefficient government. Rather, a strong federal

government would create a stable system where all citizens would have access to equal
opportunities and advancements (Doc. E). This statement within the Federalist Papers was aimed

towards small-scale farmers, mostly Democratic-Republicans, in an effort to persuade them of

federalistic views. Jefferson, and other anti-federalists, believed that the Constitution was just a

stepping stone for the Federalists to grant more power to the central government. Instead, they

sought to strengthen local governments that would give more power to the people, and establish

justice within individual communities (Doc. D). With this argument, Jefferson was attempting to

gain the support of small-scale farmers who preferred a government that allowed its citizens to

practice self-reliance.

After the ratification of the Constitution in the year 1787, there was much discussion over

the enumerated powers of the document, and whether or not the “necessary and proper clause”

permitted the legality of implied powers. Federalists strongly supported implied powers, while

Democratic-Republicans opposed them and agreed solely with expressed powers.Due to these

varying views, the two parties, as well as their leaders, disagreed over the constitutionality of a

federal bank. Hamilton argued that a federal bank was necessary and proper in order to better

the economic stance of the nation (Doc. B). As Secretary of State, he believed that a federal bank

would help decrease the amount of American debt caused by the Revolutionary War, as well as

enforce a single national currency which would boost the economy of the nation as a whole. Of

course, Hamilton’s views also positively correlated with the location of his political allegiance -

the Federalist Party. So, it’s no surprise that Jefferson’s views followed along the same lines as

an average Democratic-Republican. He believed that the federal bank was not supported by the

Constitution because it was not an expressed power given to the central government (Doc. A).

This idea was spurred by the Democratic-Republican concept of “self-reliance”, and their belief
that the federal government should have limited economic and financial control. Both

Hamilton’s and Jefferson’s point of views regarding the federal bank were heavily influenced by

their party affiliation, and the purpose of their standings was simply to further the agenda of their

respective party.

Beginning in 1789, the French Revolution was a divisive aspect within the American

borders. Continuing along with the political flow of the time, both parties yet again disagreed

upon the correct course of action regarding America’s involvement. Jefferson and other

anti-federalists applauded the French people for revolting against their oppressive leaders;

through their eyes, the French Revolution was a respectable one similar to their own in purpose

and reason. Jefferson defended the idea that all people should have a voice in government,

something that the Constitution protected in America, yet the monarchy did not in France (Doc.

C). This view was important because Jefferson used it as a tool to convince other

Democratic-Republicans that the French deserved help regaining their voice, since they had

helped Americans do the same during the American Revolution. So, anti-federalists began

viewing the French revolution as a justifiable act by the French people, not to mention a great

opportunity for America to uphold its treaty with France. The treaty in particular was very dear

to Jefferson’s heart due to the years he had spent in France negotiating France’s militarial help

during the American Revolution. Hamilton and the Federalists did not share this comparison.

From an economic point of view, Hamilton deduced that America simply did not have the funds

to offer substantial help to the French, so assisting in their revolution would harm, not help, the

American economy. Hamilton also determined that the French Revolution could be described as

unstable; he believed that the revolution lacked the reason and organization that spurred the
American Revolution. So, Hamilton predicted that without a strong federal government, the

country of France would be unstable for many years, therefore, America’s involvement would be

lengthy and costly - requiring time and funds that the newly freed nation lacked.

The Sedition Acts, passed in 1798, were also a debated topic among the two prominent

political parties in America. The Federalist majority in Congress ratified the Acts in an attempt to

lessen the scrutiny that John Adams, their Federalist president, was currently undergoing, and

stunt the growth of the steadily increasing Democratic-Republicans (Doc. F). As shown in the

aforementioned actions of Hamilton and Jefferson, they both agreed with their respective party’s

opinion regarding the Alien and Sedition Acts. Jefferson opposed the Acts because they directly

affected immigrants which just so happened to account for the drastic growth of his party. Also,

many Democratic-Republicans were speaking out about their dislike of Adams, and the Acts

took away that element of their freedom of speech granted to them by the Constitution.

Hamilton, on the other hand, agreed that the Alien and Sedition Acts were constitutional because

they reflected no ill will against Federalists.

The conflicting views of Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson can be explained

through their affiliation with two different political parties. There are also two prominent

political parties within our modern governmental system: the Republicans and the Democrats.

The ideas of the modern day Republican Party associate closely with those of the anti-federalists

(founded in the late 1700s). Our modern day Democratic Party follows the same basic views as

those of the federalists. Currently there are two main presidential candidates: Hillary Clinton and

Donald Trump. The platforms and planks of both Hillary’s and Trump’s campaigns align

closely, if not perfectly, with those of their affiliated party. This concept of political affiliations
can be traced back to Hamilton and Jefferson. Due to their affiliations, Hillary’s and Trump’s

stances on key issues in the 2016 election are reflections of their parties’ positions. This can also

be seen periodically every four years as a new presidential election takes place.