Essay Question 1
"When this government was first established, it was possible to have kept it going on true principles but…the ideas of Hamilton destroyed that hope in the bud. We can pay off his debts in fifteen years: but we can never get rid of his financial system."
"I am as little fitted to be a farmer as Jefferson to guide the helm of the United States" Alexander Hamilton
Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton had two very different visions for America. For Jefferson, “the natural rights of man”, for which he so favored, were enjoyed by Jefferson’s ancient tribal ancestors of Europe during Jefferson’s life by some of the tribal peoples of North America, and were written about sixty years before Jefferson’s birth by John Locke, whose writings were widely known and often referenced in pre-revolutionary America. Locke wrote that “All men by nature are equal…in that equal right that every man hath to his natural freedom, without being subjected to the will or authority of any other man;…being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions.” and, as for man’s role in government, Locke wrote that “Men being…by nature all free, equal and independent, no one can be put out of his estate and subjected to the political power of another without his own consent which is done by agreeing with other men, to join and unite into a community for their comfortable, safe, and peaceable living…in a secure enjoyment of their properties…”
This shared belief by Jefferson was asserted by him first in his Summary View of the Rights of British America, in which he wrote “The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time: the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them.” His first draft of the Declaration of Independence similarly sharing Locke’s view, stated that “We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable; that all men are created equal and independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent and unalienable, among which are the preservation of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Jefferson saw three agencies as being threats to human’s natural rights. These were governments, organized religions, and commercial monopolies. All institutions, Jefferson believed, must subordinate to the humans that had created them, including these three agencies.
Hamilton strongly objected to Jefferson’s notion that a government should be entirely elected and controlled by the people, with minimal taxation and military powers. They were worried that if there wasn’t a strong federal government, with a perpetual army, taxation powers, and at least half of the legislature (being the Senate) made up of those appointed by professional politicians from the states, the newly-born United States might be too weak to fend off external rivals such as the French and the Spanish, or to put down internal rebellions that may arise sometime in the future. So, he and supporters suggested that Jefferson and his own supporter, Madison, were idealists and dreamers, who were trying to recreate a utopian society in a dangerous world. Hamilton wrote about the risks of such idealism, saying that “Reflections of this kind may have trifling weight with men [like you] who hope to see realized in America the halcyon scenes of the poetic or fabulous age; but to those [among us Federalists] who believe we are likely to experience a common portion of the vicissitudes and calamities which have fallen to the lot of other nations, they must appear entitled to serious attention. Such men [as those of us who would lead this nation] must behold the actual situation of their country with painful solicitude, and depreciate the evils which ambition or revenge might, with to much facility, inflict upon it.”
Over strong objections by Federalists, James Madison nevertheless pressed through Congress the Bill of Rights, which he had worked out in correspondence with Thomas Jefferson. Having made up the first ten amendments to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights in its entirety was designed by Jefferson and Madison to prevent the government from ever taking itself the rights that they believed to be natural and God-given.
Jefferson wrote to Madison of the areas of the Constitution that he thought to be lacking. “First, the omission of a bill of rights, providing clearly, and without the aid of sophism, for freedom of religion, freedom of the press, protection against standing armies, restriction of monopolies, the eternal and unremitting force of the habeas corpus laws, and trials by jury in all matters of fact triable by the laws of the land, and not by the laws of the nations.”
So, after the Revolutionary War was over, Jefferson and Madison went on to correct what they believed to be inadequacies in the Constitution.
To Jefferson, the very significance of the American Revolution was the opportunity that it gave Americans to create a republican form of government.
- Quote paper
- Amanda Guay (Author), 2006, Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson's Different Visions for America, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/65183