To Leave or to Take? How Thomas Jefferson’s and Alexander Hamilton’s Influences Still Resonate in the World Today



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Over the course of his political career Jefferson would show time and time again that his allegiance was not to a certain government or country, but to the ideals of liberty, and the virtues of republicanism. My conclusion is that while not using the terms Leaver and Taker, Jefferson was determined to fight for the lifestyle of the Leaver, as he saw the harvest often reaped from Taker ways of life. Jefferson supported the French in their conflict with Britain in the 1790’s, which was in contrast to Hamilton’s and the Federalist pro-British stance. Jefferson expressed sentiments that the cause of liberty was the most important, and in opposing the French in favor of the British was to condemn the idea of republican governance in favor of European styled aristocracy.

As Vice President in the cabinet of John Adams, Jefferson teamed up with Madison to pen a declaration of states rights over that of the federal government, the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, which expressed the ideas of interposition and nullification. They were written to undermine the Alien & Sedition Acts imposed by the Adams Administration. Jefferson saw these acts as an attempt to establish tyranny in the new republic. The Alien Act sought to restrict immigration of peoples who would bring dangerous, revolutionary ideas that would endanger religion and order in America; The Sedition Act was modeled after the British law “Seditious Libel”, and enabled the government to lower punishment on anyone who criticized the government, or government officials (Bernstein, Thomas Jefferson, 124). These resolutions were written anonymously, and criticized the Adams Administration for violating the rights of man, set forth in the Constitution, while at the same time urging state governments and giving them permission to nullify any law from the federal government that they saw as unfair, unreasonable, or not beneficial to the way of life in that state.

While Jefferson has received great praise and acclaim for his sentiments of revolution, liberty, and republican values, he has also came under fire for promoting violence through his encouragement of people taking matters into their own hands and pursuing freedom and establishing governmental institutions that serve to benefit the people, as opposed to governments that are beneficial to the higher ups at expense of the people. Jefferson has been painted as a radical thinker who has sought to undermine the power of the federal government of the United States. The opinion of some historians is that Jefferson’s radical thinking has tip toed the line of treason, and that he sought to and succeeded in undermining the Constitution, and called for outright action and revolution against the same government in which he served as Secretary of State, Vice President, and eventually President (Chernow, Alexander Hamilton, 587). In these critiques is where I see Jefferson’s logic and wisdom.

Jefferson, while extremely paradoxical at times in his life, remained consistent in his line of thought about politics and society, economics, and religion. Jefferson was a liberal thinker. He was distrustful of strong governments, with established churches and strong economies aligned with the government. Throughout his life Jefferson would remain distrustful of banks, bankers, financiers, crowded cities. He idealized the yeomen farmer as the building blocks of a virtuous republican society. He saw the virtue of spreading out, and living off of the land through agriculture as being much superior to a money based, wage labor way of life. He thought that financing was an evil practice, as the banks that loan money would be a mechanism to control people, and build monopolies (Swanson). Jefferson sees each person as having a natural entitlement to certain rights; which we today refer to as human rights. Jefferson could sum up the definition of human rights into one word, liberty. Much like the ideas set forth in Ishmael, that govern Leaver culture, Jefferson defines his idea of liberty like this; “Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’, because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual” (Jefferson, Political Writings, 224). So what Jefferson is basically saying is that an ideal societal structure is one that prohibits individuals from violating the liberty of others, but more importantly, the structure itself does violate the liberty of the citizens of the society.

In much of the same way that Jefferson opposed established economic and governmental institutions, did he oppose the organized religion of his day. And although he has been called an atheist and an enemy of God and religion, Jefferson was far from that. The general consensus is that Jefferson was deist. It is apparent from just skimming through the Declaration of Independence that at the very least he believes in a creator.

Through much of his career Jefferson showed an interest in the studying of religious theology, and an interest in morality in general. But remained critical of the Christian church, even though according to a letter in which he wrote to Dr. Benjamin Rush, he proclaimed that he was a “Christian”. Jefferson told Dr. Rush that “to the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed, opposed; but not to the general precepts of Jesus Himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense in which he wished anyone to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence..” (Jefferson, “Letter to Benjamin Rush”). So it is clear that Jefferson, if anything saw Christianity as being a sound in morals and ethics, but that it had been corrupted by established religion. In an excerpt from Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia we see him give his opinion of Christianity as an established religion. “Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burned, tortured, fined and imprisoned. What has been the effect of this coercion? To make one half the world fools and the other half hypocrites; to support roguery and error all over the earth...” (Jefferson, “Notes on the State of Virginia”).

When Jefferson wrote his epitaph he had three accomplishments listed, one could almost say that they were spiritual accomplishments for Jefferson. In addition to listing his authorship of what Jefferson called the “Declaration of American Independence”, he listed two other accomplishments that have much to do with free thinking, and religious freedom; his authorship “of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom & Father of the University of Virginia” (Bernstein, Thomas Jefferson, 143). The significance of this for Jefferson was that in founding UVA he wanted to promote liberal education and not academic curriculum controlled by the church. In writing Virginia’s Statute for Religious Freedom he wanted to not only protect the state from religion, but he wanted to protect religion from being corrupted by the state.

While Jefferson was on the moral side of Christianity, he disagreed with many other parts of it. In addition to the anti-clerical beliefs of Jefferson, he was very much against the supernatural, and superstitious aspects of Christianity. In 1814, Jefferson wrote to Horatio Spafford and said “in every country and every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own. It is easier to acquire wealth and power in this way than by deserving them, and to effect this, they have perverted the purest religion ever preached to man into mystery and jargon, unintelligible to all mankind, and therefore the safer for their purposes” (Jefferson, “Quotations on the Separation of State and Church”). This sums up Jefferson’s view of Christianity in a nutshell. That the teachings of one of the finest moral teachers has been distorted by tyrants as a means to control people; holding people victim of cultural mythology.

Jefferson believed that enlightened, free, liberal thinking was the key to combating the evils that come along with tyranny. Jefferson felt that if people were educated then society as a whole would be much better. Much in this same train of thought did Jefferson attempt to combat the cultural mythology that he felt distorted the true moral teachings of Jesus Christ. Today, one of Jefferson’s most intriguing works is a compilation of Christ’s teachings which has to this day been often given the false title known as “The Jefferson Bible.” The intended title is The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, which omitted the supernatural aspects of the four Gospels of the New Testament. Jefferson laid out texts of the four gospels; The Gospels of Matthew, Mark Luke, and John in English, Greek, Latin and French. With a penknife and bottle of glue, he preceded to compile all the passages and scriptures that he felt represented the purest form of Christ’s moral teachings (Goodspeed, “Jefferson and the Bible”, 71). It is unclear whether or not Jefferson wished for his private handbook to ever be published, as the scrutiny that Jefferson faced throughout his life and career for being an alleged infidel, or enemy of religion, would have rose to a fever pitch if his work were made public in his lifetime. As Jefferson made sure there was no mention of the resurrection of Jesus after his death, and all passages that dealt with miracles or angel visitations were not included (Bernstein, Thomas Jefferson, 179). While it is confirmed that Jefferson consulted his handbook on a daily basis after its completion there is speculation about whether or not Jefferson ever wanted it to be published. Despite the backlash of criticism Jefferson would have received I believe that he would have taken great pride in educating others against superstitious dogmas and what he sometimes called “priestcraft”, and while helping to spread the morals of Jesus (Bernstein, Thomas Jefferson, 179). Because after all, Jefferson knew that morality was the basis of any good society.

Jefferson felt as though people could never be free as long as they were held captive to the mythology of what Quinn would call “Taker” culture. Which is why Jefferson disagreed with the idea that salvation comes from repentance of sin. Jefferson was a materialist who believed that a certain number of good works must be performed to counteract all bad done by a person. Jefferson felt that people were being made to feel guilty just for being alive, and in that guilt, which Jefferson felt like came from the Catholic Church, people began to believe that they were not able to do good on their own, but needed the presence of the church in their lives; and along with that came tithes that were paid back to the church (Hutson, “Controversy Revisited”, 783). Jefferson felt like people, once they became more and more enlightened would begin to follow the actual moral teachings that come with the religion of Christianity, and using Quinn’s terminology would form a new “story to enact”. A story in which man is capable of inherent good, and in which free, virtuous people would form the basis of society.


Section Four: Problems of the Modern World

Arriving at the last section of this paper is almost like approaching a crossroads. Intersecting at this point are Quinn’s battle of Leavers and Takers, the American role and it’s influences from Jefferson and Hamilton.

The role that America plays in the world, as an economic and military power is much more what Hamilton envisioned that what Jefferson did.

In David Maybury-Lewis’ article “On the Importance of Being Tribal” he asserts that we need a Quinn like Tribal movement, to restore indigenous peoples place in the world. In this restoration Maybury-Lewis sees a solution for the world’s problems. He feels as if the United States expanding power through military and economic expansion will result in dire consequences as the way of life of powerful Taker societies has obvious downsides such as leaving a trail of human rights abuse and environmental degradation. The author asserts that there is no single way of life that would be considered “tribal”, but he feels that in mimicking indigenous societies practices of community importance and reverence to the environment that many of the world’s problems can be solved (Maybury-Lewis, “On the Importance of Being Tribal”, 390).

The general idea among anthropologists is that the topic of global consumption should be the chief issue, as the world’s trend of mass consumption is causing the destruction of the environment, which in turn causes human rights abuse. This is especially proven in those who have been victims of the spread of capitalist economics, led by the United States. World financial institutions will encourage developing countries to use their land and resources to mass produce and export their products to established nations. Leaving local environments destroyed and local people starving and poor. This has been the primary tool of economic growth in established nations, especially since mass production has proven to be so efficient in economic growth post World War II (Gupta, “Peasants and Global Environmentalism”, 311).

It is apparent that both economics and politics go hand in hand, which is why it is important to realize that often times there is a correlation between the political liberty citizens are afforded, and the economic liberty. Thomas Jefferson was an enemy of a capitalist economic infrastructure because he felt that as long as people were employed under wage labor that they were enslaved (Katz, “Jefferson’s Anticapitalism, 1). While Alexander Hamilton fathered what is now a day known as American capitalism (Curott and Watts, “Perils of State Capitalism”). Hamilton always sought the strengthen the power of the U.S. federal government, as saw people’s rights as secondary to that the power of the U.S. government, which is why he saw a capitalist economic infrastructure as a key element to maintaining control and accumulating wealth to American elites. From this conflict perspective the future of democracy and true liberty look shaky at best. Because it is difficult for political and economic liberty, which are the cornerstones of a democratic society, to flourish in the midst of extreme social and economic inequality which is brought upon by globalization or the spreading of American capitalism throughout the world (Chomsky, “The Domestic Scene”, 59). Economic strains and enforcement of a class system enable representative democracies to keep power concentrated at the top, amongst wealthy elites (Chomsky, “The Domestic Scene”, 63).

Under this system of foreign policy that Hamilton revered and Jefferson feared, the importing and exporting of goods is regarded as a key component. But the exportation of United States goods to the world has resulted in dire consequences, although it was beneficial to the United States economy. Capitalism encourages the production, buying and selling of goods that will make the biggest profit to the player in the economic game. Between 1992 and 1994 the U.S. garnered over $50 Billion in exports of weapons to the world (Lumpe, “Arms Merchants to the World”, 184). While this helped the American economy, what has this done to the world around us? Today there are over 30 wars being fought, majority of weapons used were imports, and because of U.S. market dominance most of these weapons were U.S. manufactured (Lumpe, “Arms Merchants to the World”, 188).

Not only is the United States destroying life in other countries for benefit of the American economy, but it is happening in the United States as well. This violation of human rights and environmental degradation is summed up by Grace Thorpe, who much in tune with Leaver culture sees a spiritual responsibility to be a steward of the earth, and leave others alone, to pursue their own way of life in peace. Thorpe states that “The Great Spirit instructed us that, as Native people, we have a sacred obligation to our fellow creatures that live upon it. For this reason it is both painful and disturbing that the United States government and the nuclear power industry seem intent on forever ruining some of the little land we have remaining” (Thorpe, “Our Homes Are Not Dumps”, 236).

This is the role that the United States government plays in the world. I am afraid that Thomas Jefferson was right in his assumptions that unless people’s unalienable rights are the number one priority of a governing body that violations against people and the environment would occur. So far Taker culture is winning.

Conclusion:

The conclusion of this research is that there are dangerous trends in United States economic, and foreign policy. Not only are they dangerous in the human rights violations that occur because of them but they are dangerous in the sense that unless something is done to reverse the environmental degradation and mass consumption patterns that are the result of the spreading of Western capitalist economic doctrines that something catastrophic will happen.

How can this be done. Do we need a tribal movement like Quinn or Maybury-Lewis would call for, or do we continue on our path and take our chances?

I believe that the key to reversing these dangerous trends will have to come from a reformation of U.S. political policy. One that would incorporate the best of Jefferson’s and Hamilton’s views on what a government should be.



Through Hamiltonian means of an active and strong national government, that would enable positive change to take root. These means, which can often times be used to enforce Taker culture must be used to obtain an end result of Jeffersonian measures, which is liberty, freedom, and justice afforded to the great body of the world’s population, while seeking to restrain the power and wealth usually concentrated at the top, with the world’s elites.

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