Lecture Notes From Summer Institutes

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Dr. Lance Banning—Univ. of Kentucky

Ph D – Washington University of St. Louis

Session I
First Session—“Visions

A. Within three years after the inauguration of the new Constitution/government the major supporters of it divided over the meaning of the document.

1. Philosophical differences

2. Debate over what a republic was and is.

3. Note the founders and government officials were very serious about the debate, they believed the existence of the republic was a stake.

B. There were radically different visions of what the Constitution meant, and what course the new nation and republic should follow.

1. All of the individuals were well intentioned, but there was division over what was best for the republic.

2. There was conflict over what form and powers the executive branch should take and possess.

C. The first major argument over the Constitution began nine months after Washington’s inauguration, and it began with Hamilton’s financial plan.

1. The federal government owed holders $80,000,000 in bonds purchased during the War for Independence.

2. Hamilton issued the First Report on the Public Credit.

3. The plan called first to pay off the bonds at face value to the current holders of the bonds.

4. He proposed to assume each states’ debts because they were incurred to wage the war—a national responsibility.

5. Implementation became a major issue concerning the plan.

D. Hamilton was brilliant and arrogant.

1. He faced across the Atlantic Ocean and desired the U.S. play a vital role in the Atlantic economic theater, and avoid conflict with Great Britain.

2. Hamilton believed the public credit was the key to obtaining and maintaining power for the national government, and he desired greater power for it.

3. He used the British national bank as a model for the national bank he proposed for America.

4. Hamilton’s financial plan would establish a strong national government and economy.

5. His desire was to reestablish the public credit of the government and nation, and it would have the following effects:

a. It would tie the states to the national government, and in turn create greater support for the central government and insure its success.

b. It would erect a framework for the U.S. for entry into the Atlantic economy.

c. It would create a strong, dominating national bank and national currency.

d. It would help establish a strong political and economic power.

E. As Hamilton’s plan unfolded, it became clear it favored some individuals and regions of the country more than others.

1. It assisted wealthy financial speculators of the North and East, who purchased bonds from veterans of the Continental Army desperate for money—most veterans came from the South and West.

2. James Madison—a representative from Virginia—became the chief critic and opponent of Hamilton’s plan to pay the current bondholders at face value.

a. It seemed unfair the veterans received their bonds for service in the war, and sold them to wealthy speculators, and in turn be taxed to pay the bonds’ values to speculators.

b. Madison proposed some type of discrimination between the primary and secondary bondholders, and argued for it using “the sanctity of contracts.”

c. He lost the legislative fight and current bondholders received the full face value of their bonds.

F. The issue of assumption of state debts.

1. Secretary of the Treasury Hamilton recruited Jefferson (Secretary of State) to assist passage of the Assumption Bill.

2. Jefferson invited Hamilton and Madison to dinner where the two men agreed to the “Compromise of 1790.”

a. Madison would ease up on his opposition to the Assumption Bill, and in turn,

b. Hamilton would gather support for permanently placing the federal capitol district along the Potomac River, which Virginia desired.

G. In 1791 Jefferson and Madison were unified in opposition to the national bank.

1. They feared the national bank would transfer wealth from the working people to wealthy speculators and introduce into America the corruption they believed occurred in England.

2. They feared it would establish greater disparity between the wealthy and middle class.

3. It would break constitutional restraint.

4. The more opponents of the national bank thought about the issue, the more they believed it was a subversion of the Revolutionary vision.

H. In 1792 Jefferson and Madison convinced Phillip Freneau to establish a national newspaper to oppose Hamilton and his supporters, and warn the citizens of the dangers.

1. The issue pitted the New England states against Virginia.

I. By the elections of 1792 political parties coalesced around Hamilton and Jefferson

1. Hamilton’s supporter—Federalists—tended to fear the ideas of the Revolution went too far and must be controlled for the welfare of the nation.

2. Jefferson and Madison feared the Federalists were secretly monarchists and desired to overthrow Revolutionary ideology.

3. Colliding visions of America’s meaning and course.

4. “Liberty is most threatened by its own success,” was the view of Federalists.

J. Hamilton’s vision rested on the foundation of a strong central government and the good will/support of America’s wealthy towards the national government, and as a consequence the people as a whole would benefit. Jefferson’s vision rested on a nation built on the foundation of independent, yeoman farmers, who would practice republican virtue.

K. Hamilton’s financial plan was patterned after that of Robert Morris’ during the Confederation, and held many of the same desires:

1. Hoped to build the nation and economy in part on the national debt.

2. It is clear he sincerely believed his vision of America would do more people more good than any other options—he was not conspiratorial.

3. To Jefferson and Madison, his plan would lead to political and economic corruption—such as England experienced—and in turn led the colonists to rebel. There was danger in perpetual public office holding, pensioners, rotten boroughs, and living off of the public treasury—unearned wealth.

4. Hamilton’s opponents believed the American working class would be demoralized by the example of those who got wealth without work.

5. Opponents believed America meant virtue not corruption. As a country it would be comprised of citizens who live on their own resources. The proposed “modern economy” and administration modeled after that of England would lead to corruption in the U.S.

L. Another level of the argument Banning developed:

1. During the War for Independence, the U.S. threw open its doors to free trade, which seemed boundless, because there were no Navigation Acts.

2. In contrast to the opportunities of the war, during the Confederation Period the economy fell into depression, and caused some to call for Congress to have greater control over the economy.

3. Adam Smith’s book, The Wealth of Nations (1776), had significant influence on Hamilton and many Americans.

4. The depression of the 1780s a call for manufacturing to provide jobs for unemployed sailors and farmers.

a. It is important to remember neither Jefferson nor Madison opposed commerce or manufacturing, but they did oppose Hamilton’s demands for rapid transition to manufacturing and government support and nurturing of it.

b. Both Jefferson and Madison believed England could and should be forced to accept America’s position of free trade by refusing trade with British and European merchants until they accepted U.S. goods without high tariff fees.

c. Both men believed America produced the true necessities of life and was self-sustaining, and that Europe/England produced luxuries.

M. Hamilton believed a developed American economy would allow the U.S. to fairly compete in the Atlantic economy, and high import duties were unnecessary.

1. He did not want to start a trade war with England—which America would loose—and threaten the revenues to be collected that unpinned the economy.

2. Initially American craftsmen, mechanics, and small merchants supported Hamilton’s plan until 1795 when the war in Europe harmed them and they came to generally support the Democratic-Republicans.

N. Dr. Banning concluded that during the period from 1793 through the War of 1812 taught the Democratic-Republicans they could not force Europe to accept America’s free trade ideals, consequently, Jefferson and Madison’s political party appropriated some of the ideas and policies of Hamilton—a protective tariff and the 2nd Bank of the U.S.

O. Emphasis was made that originally the conflict was between Hamilton and Madison not until 1795 did Jefferson become the figurehead of the Democratic-Republican Party. Banning stated, “Jefferson sailed in the wake of Madison until 1795.”

Session II

“Federalism, Constitutionalism, and Republican Liberty.”

A. The nature of the federal union and the Constitution.

1. The concept of federalism was as significant to the revolutionary leaders as was republicanism. Both a federal and republican system must exist together.

B. The debate over federalism began in the 1760s when the conflict arose between the powers of Parliament in contrast to the powers of colonial legislatures.

C. The Articles of Confederation did little to solve the issue of a federal system bridging national, state, and local governments.

D. The Constitutional Convention did make some steps towards clarifying the federal system.

E. Liberty, prosperity, and happiness were dependent on an effective central government, but a consolidated government—it was feared—would destroy those three qualities of American life.

1. The Constitution could not answer most questions—the implications and connotations of the new government’s relationship and balance of powers with the states.

F. The first major issue concerning the federal system was the creation of the president’s cabinet—it was clear the president had appointive powers, but it was uncertain whether he could dismiss a cabinet member.

G. Another issue of federalism was Hamilton’s proposal for a national bank.

H. In Federalist #39 and as Madison framed the Bill of Rights; he argued for the protection of the states from national powers as well as individuals.

1. “To Madison the Constitution was the peoples’ law; not to be remolded by Congress to meet its proposals and programs,” and according to Dr. Banning, this led to Madison’s opposition to the national bank—it consolidated powers in the national government.

2. “Take Madison at this word,” he consistently opposed acts and policies that would establish initial precedents that would lead to a unitary system or consolidation. He feared consolidation of national powers; he did not necessarily fear the national government.

3. Madison feared expansion of the executive branch because it may lead to office seekers and appointees that led to corruption in English government and may lead to a form of monarchy in America.

4. Madison believed the Constitution was a grant of particular powers to the national government, and the national bank was beyond the powers granted by the states.

a. The “necessary and proper clause” did not grant Congress “discretionary powers.”

I. Washington as president looked to Madison as his constitutional adviser during the years 1789 through 1791.

1. When the bank issue arose, Washington asked for cabinet members to write papers stating and defining their positions on it.

a. Jefferson’s was so much a “strict constructionist” in nature and tone, it made Hamilton’s look moderate in contrast.

b. Hamilton tied his thoughts to the concept of “enumerated powers,” and Jefferson appeared an easy target.

c. In short, according to Dr. Banning, Hamilton’s paper concerning the national bank was much more clear, precise, and made observations the courts could uphold; whereas, Madison and Jefferson’s ideas were fuzzy and unlikely for a court to uphold.

J. Hamilton won the battle for a national bank, but he never did successfully answer Madison’s distrust of “implied powers” and “constitutional and governmental precedent.” Could a truly national government really be a republic? Major issues and landmarks in the early republic:

1. Consolidation was begun with Hamilton’s report on the public credit.

2. Employment of the “general welfare” clause.

3. Congress could term almost any measure it desired as being for the “general welfare.”

4. Jefferson and Madison feared consolidation because it expanded the executive branch that was too similar to the British System the result would be corruption, sloth, luxury, and monarchy introduced into the U.S. just years after escaping it with the American Revolution.

5. The mammoth war between Great Britain and France increased fears of further consolidation of the national government.

a. John Adams’ administration dealt with the Quasi War and passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts. Federalists distrusted French and Irish immigrants, and the majority were Jeffersonian Republicans.

b. With the passage of those acts by the Federalists, Jefferson and Madison perceived conspiracy against the Constitution came more fully into view.

K. What could friends to the Constitution do when the Federalists controlled the three branches of government?

1. The opponents of the Federalists or in their own views defenders of the Constitution turned to their only vehicle of opposition—state governments.

2. Madison wrote the Virginia Resolutions (based on Federalist #39) and Jefferson the Kentucky Resolutions and the respective state legislatures passed them. Basic ideas:

a. Each state delegated some of its powers to the national government.

b. Each state reserved to itself the right to judge national actions or legislation and oppose and even nullify them within the state if it deemed them unconstitutional.

c. Jefferson’s was more radical than Madison’s (as usual). Madison never did state an individual state could nullify a federal law within its borders, but it could appeal the law to the Congress. Jefferson did claim the right of state nullification.

d. Madison did call for states to join Virginia in declaring the Alien and Sedition Acts to be usurpations and unconstitutional. Seven states did respond to his call, but they opposed Virginia and Kentucky. New Hampshire condemned their resolutions.

e. Madison came to regret where the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions led by the 1820s, but Jefferson never did express regret. In the 1830s Madison argued the “nullifiers” got it all wrong.

3. Banning argues Madison was historically correct in his interpretation of the federal system, and furthermore, the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions were successful in protesting the Alien and Sedition Acts, as their authors desired.

L. The major issue was how to keep the national government within the bounds of the Constitution, correctly limit “implied powers,” and maintain a healthy balance between federal and states’ rights.

1. Even if the people are theoretically sovereign, the government in practice may trample upon the peoples’ sovereignty.

2. America has never fully solved the issues of states versus federal rights.

3. The great debate about the Constitution was and is at its roots about the relationship between the people and their government.

M. Dr. Banning commented on the issue of “original intent” in the courts and others attempting to interprete the Constitution.

1. Individuals who argue original intent must clarify whether it was the delegates to the convention who matter most or the state conventions that debated and ratified the Constitution.

2. Should the nation be bound to the original intent of dead men of two centuries past?

N. Dr. Banning reminded the group the Constitutional Convention attempted to create a national government of limited powers, but it did so with a great sense of urgency during the four months of their meeting. There was a definite sense “the union was in crisis.”

O. Concluded that America’s conception of a constitution is the belief and commitment that there is a fundamental law higher than the powers of any national or state legislature to change or adapt at leisure.

Session III

A. There was a worry among many of the founding generation that over time the national government would consolidate (the great fear that consolidation would lead to tyranny, oppression, diminishment of liberties, and eventually monarchy) and overpower the peoples’ liberties—distance itself from the people—not be a republic.

B. Dr. Banning pointed out that a number of prominent historians—Gordon Wood among them—hold the view: The Constitution was essentially an aristocratic document and most of the founders attempted to control or rein in the tendencies of democracy and Revolutionary ideology—take government back from the middling folks.

1. Banning disagrees with that perspective because it neglects:

a. The fact that very few political responsibilities were actually transferred to national control by ratification of the Constitution. States maintained the greatest powers and power was not consolidated in the national government.

b. The Constitution’s proponents were not unified in how they believed the national government would or should work and function.

c. There was diversity in thought and principle concerning the Constitution.

  • Hamilton had little faith in the people.

  • State legislatures debated and distorted the issue of private rights versus the public good.

  • Madison in Federalist #10 defended the Constitution as establishing a republic.

  • Madison argued federal representatives cold not be intimately familiar with all the people—that was the state legislature’s role—but the Congress could adequately represent the people in enacting national laws that seemed unlikely to directly affect the people.

C. Ways the federal government could be corrupted:

1. If the majority of the people pursued a tyrannical policy.

2. If the representatives were distorted from the values of the people as a whole.

D. Contrary to Wood’s interpretation, ratification of the Constitution did not reverse the Revolution’s trend towards democracy and expansion of the peoples’ rights, which his view states was the goal of many of the founders.

1. None of the founders envisioned the democratic state of today.

2. Democracy advanced as quickly as it did because there were enough individuals among America’s elite to support it and advance it—contrary to the previously cited view.

E. Madison feared establishment of a “modern economy” by Hamilton, and in turn necessarily establish an English type administration, in fact, Madison was wrong.

1. Banning pointed out the people as a whole ignored the great debates and issues of 1789-91.

2. America’s elite was much more interested in the French Revolution than the debates among members of Congress and the government about interpretation of the Constitution and loose versus strict construction.

F. John Adams’ Treatise on Davila was an attack on the French philosophes and a defense of republicanism, but Jefferson grossly misinterpreted Adams’ book. Adams wrote he opposed the French unicameral legislature, and would prefer the British Parliament to the French system. He attempted (poorly) to support the American Constitution, and explain and defend his views on “balanced government.” However, Jefferson mistakenly became more suspicious of Adams’ commitment to the republic.

1. Adams’ writing and Jefferson’s note amended to the American publication of Thomas Paine’s The Rights of Man caused a split between Adams and Jefferson, and also caused a great public outburst of fear a conspiracy existed between Hamilton and Adams to establish an American aristocracy and monarchy.

2. Madison wrote 19 essays for the National Gazette opposing ideas and principles contrary to his views—believing the survival of the republic was at stake.

a. Madison believed the people and public opinion must be a guardian against infringement on the peoples’ rights.

b. The people—primarily through newspapers—would become enlightened formation of public opinion in favor of Madison’s views, and as a result the people themselves would become the guardians of the Constitution.

3. Throughout the summer into the autumn of 1792 American newspapers informed the public about the cabinet dispute and the larger issues between Hamilton and Jefferson.

4. Newspaper accounts—from both Jeffersonian and Hamiltonian perspectives—began to divide citizens, who in turn held demonstrations, spoke out in public meetings. The arrival of Citizen Genêt added to the intensity of the divisions.

5. In the spring of 1793 some Americans formed or joined organizations to represent and protect Jefferson’s views of republicanism and a “true” interpretation of the Constitution.

a. Democratic-Republican Societies favored Jefferson/Madison’s views and sympathized with France in the European wars.

b. Jefferson believed the “natural aristocracy” should rule the nation—the best educated and individuals who merited leadership.

c. Washington criticized the “self-created societies,” and it along with the Whisky Rebellion ended the Democratic-Republican Societies by 1795.

G. As an aside, Banning stated “no doubt Jefferson meant all men—white and black men—in the Declaration of Independence” were not to rule each other by their position at the time of birth.


Summer History Institute

Dr. Michael F. Holt

Ph.D Johns Hopkins University

mfh6p @ Virginia.edu

Tuesday, August 1, 2000

I. The political roots of the Civil War (first morning session).

A. What caused the Civil War?

1. The traditional view was that an escalation of conflict led to the Civil War.

2. Holt believes there are flaws in the idea of the escalation of conflict. He asks why the war occurred when it did; the matter of time is very significant. Time and change over time.

3. Politics is at the center of the issue according to Holt. Both the people of the North and the South feared “political enslavement” by the other section.

a. Both the South and the North believed they were protecting and defending the ideals and legacy of the American Revolution; they were the patriots.

B. The Old South and Southern Sectionalism.

1. Northern sectionalism.

a. The North was much more united over stopping the expansion of slavery than in abolishing slavery.

2. Examination of sectionalism as an intrusion into the political arena, despite the desires and efforts of politicians to keep it out.

a. Southerners typically viewed themselves as different and superior to those who lived in the North.

b. There were efforts, although unsuccessful, among people of the South to keep their dollars, values, and college students out of the hands of crass, materialistic, and immoral “Yankee” hands.

c. It is incorrect to view Southern politicians as banding together in opposition to passage of the Missouri Compromise.

d. Party loyalty was more significant in congressional votes in the period 1830 to 1850.

3. What created “Southern Unity,” or did it really exist?

a. The slavery issue.

  • Between ⅔ and ¾ of all Southern whites did not own slaves or their livelihood did not depend upon the existence of slavery.

  • Why would the majority of the Southerners fight for the minority institution of the slaveholders?

  • See Peter Kolchin’s book, American Slavery, 1619-1877.

  • Bill Freely argues in his book, The Road to Disunion, the so-called “Solid South” was really disunited.

  • Distribution of white slaveholders by number of slaves owned in 1850:

Distribution of White Slaveholders by Number

Of Slaves Owned in the year 1850

Number of Slaves Owned

Number of Slaveholders

1 slave


2-4 slaves


5-19 slaves


20-99 slaves


100 or more slaves


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