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Rift Between Jefferson and Hamilton Essay

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Updated: Nov 2nd, 2021

Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton were the most influential men during the early days of American Republic (Cunningham). The divide between the two men coming from varied backgrounds was mostly evident during their tenure as cabinet ministers to President George Washington – Jefferson as the Secretary of State and Hamilton as the Secretary of the Treasury. The difference that was observed between the two leaders was ideological rather than personal, as many historians believe (Foner; Harrell, Harrell Jr. and Gaustad; Brogan).

Christopher Hollis has described the conflict with intricate details over which the two disagreed, showing that the main differences lay in the field of tariff policy, foreign policy and in matters financial discretion (the question of making of a Bank of United States). However, most importantly, it was over the question of the nature of the government that they departed ways; one favored strong central government, while the other argued in favor of a strong state. Jefferson was in favor of a government of the people, alliances with France, and agrarian economy. He also emphasized upon decentralized power, which was refuted by Hamilton who believed in power in the hands of the aristocrats. Hamilton also stressed on alliances with Great Britain, manufacturing and banking system. He intended to have a strong central government with close relation with business (Foner). This made Jefferson to believe that Hamilton was aiming to make a monarchial system in the Unites States of America in the lines of the British system, which he eulogized (Ferling). Thus, according to D. W. Brogan the differences the two men demonstrated led the path to the creation of two different political parties in the Unites States of America – the Federalist Party following Hamilton and the Republican Party following Jefferson.

Election of 1800

John Adams followed Washington to the Presidency had in and around the 1790s. He diligently toed the dictions of Washington. Like a true Founding Father of the nation, he opposed “The notion of political parties” (Harrell, Harrell Jr. and Gaustad 234). The 1796 elections showed the divide between the two parties. The main issue that evolved for Adam’s presidency was the war between England and France and the US foreign policy. The election of 1800’s main issue and a concern for Jefferson was the Alien and Sedition Acts, which restricted the freedom of speech, assembly and press. The Electoral College voting ended with a tie between Jefferson and Aaron Burr, both representing Democratic-Republicans. The final decision was on the House of Representatives dominated by the Federalists and Hamilton supported Jefferson (Foner). The election of 1800 brought to power a Republican candidate, Thomas Jefferson. The event was so momentous that Jefferson himself described it as a “revolution” as it ended the oppressive policies of the Federalists (Maier).

Presidency of Jefferson

When Jefferson assumed power he first slashed military expenditures, cut budget, eliminated taxes on whiskey, yet he was able to reduce national debt by a third. During his tenure, Jefferson witnessed the successful expansion of the nation, with his momentous conclusion of the Louisiana Purchase, from Napoleon in 1803 (Foner). His pro-French foreign policy was indeed used by the opposition to tarnish his character and Presidency, but such was the aura of his character that rode past such attempts, smoothly. In his second term Jefferson was preoccupied to keep the increasing European intervention and his solution was an embargo of the American shipping, was widely unpopular, Jefferson’s end of term and the election of 1809 brought another Republican to power.

References

  1. Brogan, Denis William. An introduction to American politics. Michigan: H. Hamilton, 1954.
  2. Cunningham, Noble E. Jefferson vs. Hamilton: confrontations that shaped a nation. Boston: Palgrave Macmillan, 2000.
  3. Ferling, John E. Adams vs. Jefferson: the tumultous election of 1800. New York: Oxford University Press US, 2004.
  4. Foner, Eric. Give Me Liberty: An American History. New York: WW Norton, 2005.
  5. Harrell, David Edwin, et al. Unto a Good Land: A History of the American People Volume 1: To 1900. Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2005.
  6. Hollis, Christopher. The American Heresy. New York: Minton, Balch, 1930.
  7. Maier, Pauline. Inventing America: A History of the United States. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2003.
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