Hamilton, our first Secretary of the Treasury, was a nationalist who had an expansive view of the powers granted to the nascent federal government under the newly-ratified Constitution. ... [H]e promoted federal involvement in manufacturing enterprises and other economic activities (something that had to wait for 20th century presidents for implementation).The entire article is well worth a read, as is most of the material on that period. [Side note on that link: this ain't the dry stuff you were taught in school. This is high drama!]
In these endeavors, Hamilton faced the bitter opposition of Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson.
Jefferson warned that raising taxes to finance a growing national debt would spark resistance. But he went well beyond merely counseling the President and wrestling with Hamilton inside the cabinet.
In combination with James Madison, Hamilton's erstwhile collaborator in the ratification struggle who had broken with his ally over the Bank of the United States, Jefferson took the lead in organizing a "republican" opposition to Hamilton's "royalists" or "monocrats." He corresponded with activists in several states, toured the back country with Madison in search of supporters, and gave a hack writer a job at the State Department, helping him found a newspaper with which to savage Hamilton (who relied on his own allied newspaper to punch back).
The conflict took a dangerous turn with the outbreak of the Whiskey Rebellion, an uprising against an excise tax on spirits that Hamilton had recommended. Public protests erupted first in Pennsylvania and were mostly peaceful, but not entirely; there were several mob attacks on tax collectors.
Federalist forces struck back, painting the protesters as "a rabble" and "an ignorant herd" wedded to "worn out ideas." President Washington temporized, hoping that reducing the tax and emitting conciliatory messages would dissipate public anger. But official reports kept reaching him that characterized the protests, with more than a little exaggeration, "as a vast conspiracy of Anti-Federalist sympathizers bent on destroying the new national government."
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Jefferson vs. Hamilton Redux
A very interesting article at TCS Daily brings history to life by comparing the current debate over health care 'reform' to those that took place in the early republic: