A Comparitive analyis: Jefferson vs Hammilton
Though both Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson served as members of President Washington’s cabinet, the two held very different views on the newly founded U. S. government, interpretation of its constitution, and the role of the “masses” in that government. These conflicting views would develop in two political parties, the Federalists led by Hamilton and the Democratic-Republicans led by Jefferson. Although both political parties presented enticing aspects, Hamilton’s views were much more reasonable and fruitful when compared Jefferson’s views; idealistic and too strict in reference to the constitution.
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Republicans, led by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, strongly opposed America becoming a land of cities, mines, mills, factories, and other industrial plantations. To support their ideas for a country of farmers, they adopted the theory of strict constructionism. This theory put forth the thought that the government did not have the power to do anything, unless it was expressly given the consent by the Constitution. Federalists, on the other hand, promoted the growth of industry in America. This party, lead by Alexander Hamilton, used the idea of broad constructionism.
It said that unless the Constitution said it could not be done, it was fine to go ahead and do it. They often referred to the Necessary and Proper Clause, also known as the Elastic Clause; this stated that the government had the power to pass any law deemed “necessary and proper. ” These two ideas obviously clashed frequently, and still do today. However Jefferson’s idea of an agrarian republic free of industry is absolutely absurd. Without the development of cities and industries there would not be a trade industry which would allow the farmers to trade and prosper.
With no trade, farmers would not be able to market their surplus and the surplus in the American economy would cause prices to fall. This situation would produce little profit for farmers and eventually a severe recession economy. One of Jefferson’s and Hamilton’s first disagreements began with the idea of a National Bank. Hamilton suggested that the government should create the Bank of the United States Jefferson protested because this was not allowed by the Constitution. Hamilton opposed the view of Jefferson and stated that the Constitution’s writers could not have predicted the need of a bank for the United States.
Hamilton said that the right to create the Bank of the United States was stated in the “elastic” or the “necessary and proper” clause in which the Constitution gave the government the power to pass laws that were necessary for the welfare of the nation. “This dilemma revisits the ever lasting dispute between the “strict constructionists” (Jefferson) who believed in the strict interpretation of the Constitution by not going an inch beyond its clearly expressed provisions, and the “loose constructionists” (Hamilton) who wished to reason out all sorts of implications from what it said”.
Just a few years later, under President Jefferson, the federal government of the United States enforced the Embargo Act, forbidding trade with Europe, and made the Louisiana Purchase. Neither of these powers was explicitly granted to the federal government in the text of the Constitution. This act of hypocrisy proves the need for a broadly interpreted Constitution. Another disagreement occurring between the two politicians was the participation of the common man in the government. Hamilton believed that the common man was ignorant and uneducated and for these reasons he did not support the common man’s participation in government.
According to Hamilton the common man was easily influenced and confused by well-spoken manipulative politicians. The mass of the people are “turbulent and changing” while “The Rich and well-born” seek order he stated. Jefferson on the other hand wanted the United States to remain a republic of the small, property-holding farmers who, he believed, were its most trustworthy citizens and he put his faith in these men. Jefferson believed that the common man should be actively participating in the government. Jefferson’s belief that the decisions in government should be made by the people is very unrealistic and naive.
It is human nature to change one’s views and beliefs in a cringe and citizens might follow the views of an irrational and incompetent person which would lead the country to ruin. In Hamilton’s own words “some of the power should be kept out of the hand of the people in order to protect the people from making a change in government that would cause possible disasters”. Jefferson’s view could only work in an unrealistic utopia. Jefferson’s “strict constructionism” would have led to the downfall of the government because the Constitution does not have the denotative solution for every problem that the government would have encountered.
Hamilton’s view that the Constitution could not have anticipated the details to deal with different crises, and that a wide interpretation of the Constitution was necessary in order to carry out the government’s duties. The Hamiltonian broad interpretation ensured that the Constitution in today’s world, is not considered as a 200 year old body of rigid and inflexible laws that make no room for development in an ever changing American society.