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

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To further prove this point, and to further prove that Jefferson versus Hamilton ideology battles have raged throughout American political history, United States Presidents of differing political philosophy have paid homage to both of these men. In a speech commemorating the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said that, "Thomas Jefferson believed, as we believe, in Man. He believed, as we believe, that men are capable of their own government, and that no king, no tyrant, no dictator can govern for them as well as they can govern themselves"; President John F. Kennedy also similarly praised Jefferson, whilst a much more conservative President Ronald Reagan had Jefferson paintings removed in favor of paintings of President Calvin Coolidge around the White House (Wagoner, Jr. “In Pursuit of Freedom”, 123-124).

Hamilton’s legacy in the light of Taker and Leaver culture is differing. While Kennedy praised Jefferson for being an intellectual titan, and multi-talented Renaissance man, Hamilton is primarily known as the “Father of American Capitalism” (Curott and Watts, “Hamilton and State Capitalism”). This school of thought proposes that Hamiltonian advocates of state capitalism “argue that the institutions of capitalism should be forcefully imposed even if they are unwanted; the theory is that this will make the nation wealthier and so it should be done regardless of any objections” (Curott and Watts, “Hamilton and State Capitalism”). So it is easy to see how both Jefferson and Hamilton slide into their seats on either side of the Taker and Leaver aisle.

While I have already stated that in the eyes of Quinn, or other Anthropologists, and scholars who prescribe to this school of thought, that both Jefferson and Hamilton are technically members of Taker society. However there are numerous differences between Hamilton and Jefferson, and the influence that they have which makes them representatives of Taker and Leaver philosophy in American History.

The ironic part is that even though Jefferson embodies Leaver thought, and Hamilton, Taker thought, their respective upbringings were the opposite of their viewpoints. Jefferson is a paradoxical “man of the people”, who fought for the rights of all men, or white men, even though he was born into and died a member of Virginia’s wealthy planter elite. While Hamilton was born and raised a member of lower class society in the West Indies before making his way to the United States to pursue a career and education. But once Hamilton had risen through the ranks to become an influential founder of the new country was distrustful of the mass of people, and felt that power should be concentrated amongst a small group of ruling elite, that would rule for a long time.

I believe the proof of which man represents which philosophy, and the proof of how their influence set America down the path it has gone in relation to the world’s problems lies in the differences of these two men; their differing philosophical viewpoints in society, government, economics, and religion. Also in the legacies of each man’s intellectual brainchild; Jefferson, the Declaration of Independence, and Hamilton, the Constitution of the United States.

Hamilton the Taker”

Along with James Madison, Alexander Hamilton’s legacy will be forever intertwined with that of the United States Constitution. But what does that mean for Hamilton, and why? Well first off it is important to note that while Madison and Hamilton both share collaborator status with the Constitution, their ideals about what the Constitution should be, as well as their influence on the document differ. Madison is known for having a close political partnership, and personal friendship with Thomas Jefferson, in addition to this friendship, Madison shared Jefferson’s views of a new nation based on libertarian principles (Wilkins, “Jefferson and Madison”, 596). What Madison brought to the Constitution is one of its most famous features, The Bill of Rights, which championed the rights of the people over the central government, and was believed to be fought for by Madison at the urging of Jefferson, who was in France at the time (Wilkins, “Jefferson and Madison”, 603).

This Libertarian purpose of what the Constitution should be was not shared by Madison’s colleague Hamilton. While you could make the argument that the Madisonian and Jeffersonian view of the Constitution was more Leaveresque in nature, Hamilton’s definitely favored Taker society. Hamilton was known for being sympathetic to the British monarchy, which very much embodied Taker society, and sought to shape the founding of the new nation to make it more like Rome, with the President and Senators being elected for life, which would keep power concentrated at the top. There is a school of thought amongst historians that asserts that the purpose of the Constitution was to protect the economic interests of the rich elites, while insuring that governmental control would remain in their hands as well (Zinn, A People’s History of the United States, 90).

It is inherently apparent that Hamilton did not want to see power and control in the hands of citizens, he felt as though there should be a strong presence of a central government, with strong leaders involved. In a lot of ways you could say that Hamilton’s view of what the United States President should be is not all to different from European monarchs of that day and age. The only difference is that the powers vested into a king or monarch come from a religious function, where as the power of Hamilton’s would be American monarch would come from the Constitution, and the charisma of that would be leader (Scheuerman, “American Kingship?”, 24). The credit for the inclusion of European monarchical theory into the powers of the Constitution is given to Hamilton. Howard Zinn refers to Hamilton as “one of the most forceful and leaders of the new aristocracy” (Zinn, A People’s History of the United States, 95). This quote, which was made by Hamilton himself, sums up his views of the sovereignty of the people compared to the sovereignty of elitist rulers.

All communities divide themselves between the few and the many. The first are the rich and well-born, the other the mass of people. The voice of the people has been said to be the voice of God; and however generally this maxim has been quoted and believed, it is not true in fact. The people are turbulent and changing; they seldom judge and determine right. Give therefore to the first class a distinct permanent share in the government....Can a democratic assembly who annually revolve in the mass of the people be supposed steadily to pursue public good? Nothing but a permanent body can check the imprudence of democracy....”

(Zinn, A People’s History of the United States, 96).
This shows what kind of direction he envisioned the new country to go in. Hamilton wanted a President and Senate chosen for life (Zinn, A People’s History of the United States, 96). This differs from Jefferson’s and Madison’s views of what the Constitution should be, as Madison wrote in Federalist #10 that our nation should be governed by a representative democracy so that peace would be maintained and wealth would be equally distributed, and not concentrated in the hands of the few and powerful (Madison “Federalist #10). This is in stark contrast to Hamilton’s views.

In examining Hamilton’s legacy of the Constitution we begin to understand his economic and political philosophy. Politically, Hamilton hoped for a revival of monarchist type leadership, as he saw the Articles of Confederation as being weak, and that the new nation needed strong leadership (Sheuerman, “American Kingship?”, 29). So in some ways we have Hamilton to thank for the way the office of the President is today; as Hamilton thought the office of President should a very prestigious, powerful, and lifelong occupation. Despite his influence on American political philosophy, Hamilton’s lasting legacy is as an economist, and his influence on American economics is still very much prevalent today; especially the legacy of Hamilton’s famous document “Report on Manufactures”, which he wrote in 1791. Many of his tariff recommendations were adopted by Congress in 1792, and have remained influential economic doctrines. Hamilton helped to encourage and push the United States to be major player in world economics, as it was his idea to heavily tax imports as a way to fund the national debt (Irwin, “Aftermath of Hamilton”, 800). In Hamilton’s report that he delivered to Congress he begins by attacking the belief that an agrarian society is the key to obtaining societal wealth. He then proceeded to make a strong case for the government to become actively involved in manufacturing, through promotion and shifting policy for the advantage of it (Irwin, “Aftermath of Hamilton”, 802). His attempt to implement his economic philosophy in the new republic did not go unopposed however, Hamilton’s proposals were fought by Madison and Jefferson, whom championed the ideals of less government involvement in economics (Irwin, “Aftermath of Hamilton”, 804).

This way of policy was detrimental to many citizens of the United States, as his idea of protecting imports for taxation purposes benefited American commerce and the economy more so than the actual people of the United States. Not to mention it made the United States a world presence, which would mean that the early nation took a large step in the direction of Taker culture, as success on the world economic stage often involves “taking” from somewhere else in the world, or “taking” from those at home. It is unfortunate that Hamilton would be a catalyst in pushing our nation in that direction, as earlier in his career he criticized protecting imports for taxation as a means accumulating money to the central government in Federalist #35. He claimed that this act “tend to render other classes of the community tributary in an improper degree to manufacturing classes to whom they give a premature monopoly of the market” (Hamilton, “Federalist #35”). So basically he admits the fault and wrongdoing for this school of economic thought, as a violation against the right of man by means of an overstepping of governmental power.

Economically, Hamilton pushed the United States to accommodate and engage in free trade with Britain, who at that time was most prevalent on the world’s economic stage, and was the world’s foremost Taker society (Irwin, “Aftermath of Hamilton”, 816). This led political advocacy groups who primary aim was to protect the American market, which was the life-blood of American citizens at the time, to take allegiance with Madison and Jefferson in their opposition to Hamilton’s pro-British economic policies (Irwin, “Aftermath of Hamilton” 817).

It is apparent how influential Hamilton’s views are on the path that the United States has taken since its founding. But how influential are the religious views of a man who was described by his college roommate as being “in the habit of praying on his knees night and morning” (Hamilton, The Life of Alexander Hamilton, 10).

It appears that throughout his life, Hamilton has remained religious, though at times it has seemed more sincere, and at times more convenient. Some experts contend that his religious beliefs, much like his belief in liberty, are rooted in classical Christian theological theory of nobility and philanthropy; which conflicts with his Machiavellian approach to government and economics (Rosano, “Liberty, Nobility, Philanthropy, and Power”, 61).

He at times used religion to oppose his political rival Jefferson, and many of his pro-French viewpoints. But at other times has seemed quite devout about his religious belief, so it is tough to really say in which way has the religious belief has served as an influence on the shaping of the United States. Although it seems that there is a correlation in his religious beliefs and his political ones, I am not sure as to which serves the purpose of the other, although I am of the opinion that Hamilton’s beliefs were sincere as his most famous biographer Ron Chernow noted that he wrote several hymns of praise for God that were published in newspapers (Chernow, Alexander Hamilton, 38). Although it seems that his belief system was rooted in, and served the purpose and ideals of the Taker culture that Hamilton promoted throughout his career.
Jefferson the Leaver”

Unlike his political rival Hamilton, Jefferson grew up in a very privileged background, and was born a member and died a member of the elites in his society. Jefferson grew up, and became educated according to the traditions of being a member of Virginia’s planter elite class. But just as Hamilton would be born of lower class, rise through the ranks and seek to make sure power be concentrated at the top, Jefferson would do the opposite. Jefferson was a paradoxical man of the people. A man who spoke of the equality of all men, yet remained a lifelong slave owner, he was a man who fought for the empowerment of all people instead of a concentration of power at the top, despite the fact that he was always at the top of the power chain.

While Thomas Jefferson was many things, and will be remembered for a plethora of reasons, one of the foundations of his legacy will most likely be in his authorship of the Declaration of Independence, which to this day remains the world’s most famous break up letter. Jefferson aired grievances felt by the colonies towards the mother country, and criticized the king and the British monarch. In this document we get some timeless quotes that will always be associated with the legacy and character of Thomas Jefferson, especially the preamble, which states...

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.

WE hold these Truths to be self evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

(The Declaration of American Independence)

Jefferson’s preamble to this day remains one of this world’s most famous and lasting quotes on human rights, and has been an inspiration for people all over the world, and in the U.S. alike. It has been used by abolitionists, and those who fought for civil rights. Within this document many of Jefferson’s views and beliefs come forth. In many ways you could point to the Declaration of Independence as a Leaver manifesto.

This opening of the Declaration especially is chock full of Leaver rhetoric. Jefferson speaks of what Quinn would call “living in the hands of the gods” (Quinn, Ishmael, 229). Living according to natural laws of the laws and seeing a spiritual significance in this. Jefferson seems to believe that people have a right to pursue life in the manner of their choosing, and that if they are being forced to live in a manner that is against their will, or are victims of equality then those people have a right and responsibility to revolution.

In this document Jefferson professes that power should be in the hands of the people, not in a ruler, for all men are equal, not just those born with money or power. Jefferson also asserts that people have a right to revolt if their needs are not being met by a governing body. That slavery is an abomination, and for the most part that people should be left to live their own way. Jefferson feels that people are meant to be free, free to pursue happiness and secure their basic needs with no interference from oppressive leadership.

Jefferson strikes out against the cultural mythology of having an almost religious responsibility of forced loyalty and obedience to a monarch. It is clear within this document that Jefferson detests tyranny of any kind, and sees the way of life that he promotes within this text as a somewhat spiritual calling. In many ways this document can be seen as an indictment against Taker culture.

To say that the Declaration is a statement of human rights and that it make Jefferson seem like a liberal thinker sets the tone for Jefferson’s political and economic philosophy.

Economically, I would say that Jefferson is extremely liberal; which may surprise some since his quotes have been used to justify the TEA party’s very conservative fiscal demands. Jefferson opposed government spending, but on a liberal premise; praised individual liberty as a forerunner to prosperous commerce. However Jefferson saw liberty as a means to promote equal wealth, and economic freedom (Katz, “Jefferson’s Anticapitalism”, 1). Jefferson can be described as being an anti-capitalist, because he opposed the idea of acquiring personal property, and thought that Native American cultures that had no concept of personal wealth, was superior to any European or the new American system (Katz, “Jefferson’s Anticapitalism”,7). Jefferson felt that Native Americans did the best job of exemplifying what it means to live in the laws of nature. As in Jefferson’s words, “having never submitted themselves to any laws, any coercive power, any shadow of government” (Jefferson, “Notes on the State of Virginia”). What higher praise could Jefferson give to Leaver culture? In Jefferson’s views, those who are the least political, are more political. That in allowing others their personal freedom, not to attain property, but to pursue happiness, and working together for a common good that benefits free men equally (Katz, “Jefferson’s Anticapitalism”, 9).

Jefferson theorized an economic condition that he termed the “harm principle”, which in Jefferson’s words, taking for some one’s own good must happen “without violating the similar rights of other sensible beings” (Katz, “Jefferson’s Anticapitalism”, 10). This is remarkably similar to the “Law of Limited Competition” in Quinn’s Ishmael (Quinn, Ishmael, 129).

Another reason that Jefferson opposed the kind of capitalism that Hamilton is known as the father of is because of what he saw of England’s similar supply and demand type economic system. Jefferson saw how the poor suffered, he saw the have’s attain more and the have not’s have less (Katz, “Jefferson’s Anticapitalism”, 14).

Jefferson’s economic beliefs are very Leaver leaning, and from them does his overall liberal approach to almost everything in his philosophy. As a political idealist, Jefferson wished to form a Utopian nation of pacifist, yeomen farmers. He hoped that Americans could spread out, with very little governmental interference, and pursue their own way of living, or as Jefferson would probably say, happiness. This is in direct contrast with the vision his political rival Hamilton had for the new nation. Jefferson opposed the idea of mercantilism, manufacturing, heavy government influence in economics, and taxation for the purpose of governmental accumulation of capital. He opposed the idea of wage work as he felt that it reinforced a form of economic class slavery (Katz, “Jefferson’s Anticapitalism”, 14).

Moving away from economic based political theory, Jefferson remained consistent on his views of the role of government in relation to the personal liberties he felt each person should have. Jefferson never saw a certain regime, or a certain flag, or certain ideals as the number one symbol of loyalty. But sovereignty of the people, which is why he consistently asserted that people had every right to rise up in revolution, fight for their rights, and to overthrow an existing government to establish their own, that serves their needs.

Throughout his political career Jefferson expressed anarchist sentiments. But Jefferson’s anarchist thoughts seemed to come from a belief in the sovereignty of people, and a devout faith in the ideals of liberty, and moral reasoning. As war-time governor of Virginia, Jefferson attempted to make sweeping reforms to make Virginia a democratic state, these reforms show that Jefferson’s vision of society is aligned with that of a liberal, Leaver type premise. As governor, Jefferson sought to implement a system of free public education, reform Virginia’s capital penalty policies, abolish the international slave trade in Virginia, establish a wall of separation of church & state by limiting the influence of clergymen on government and rule and dissolving the Anglican Church’s status as the official state religion (Peterson, Jefferson and the New Nation, 106).

As our nation’s first Secretary of State, and a member of George Washington’s cabinet, Jefferson opposed the vision of how the nation should be run by the nation’s first Secretary of Treasury, Alexander Hamilton. Jefferson teamed up with his friend James Madison to oppose Hamilton’s Federalist party. Jefferson referred to this schism of political philosophy when he termed the two camps “the parties styled Federalist and Republican” (Bernstein, Thomas Jefferson, 81). Jefferson and Hamilton, although bitter rivals maintained a cordial working relationship and saw eye to eye the need to establish and legitimize a new nation, and that the first step in that was to deal with the nation’s debt problem. They differed what actions should be taken however, as Jefferson stood in direct opposition to Hamilton’s idea of the establishment of a central bank, and the idea of taxation to fund the debt (Bernstein, Thomas Jefferson, 86). Interestingly enough though, after encountering a frazzled and worried Hamilton on the streets Philadelphia, which at the time was the nation’s capital. Hamilton who expressed to Jefferson his fear that without a tangible plan to rid the new nation of its debt, that the nation would crumble. Sympathetic to Hamilton’s concerns, Jefferson arranged a dinner, between himself, Hamilton, and Madison so that they could compromise their differing philosophical opinions to end the partisan gridlock and come up with a plan to eliminate the nation’s post-war debt. The result was that Madison and Jefferson would end their opposition to Hamilton’s national bank, and that Hamilton would endorse Jefferson’s and Madison’s wish that the new capital would be built along the Potomac River (Bernstein, Thomas Jefferson, 86). The latter two believed that in placing a capital between the southern states and the northeastern states would ensure a governmental balance of favor between the agrarian south and the manufacturing north-east. Later on down the road, Jefferson would obtain the Presidency over Aaron Burr by the hand of Hamilton, and once President he would use Hamilton’s bank to execute the Louisiana Purchase. Which Jefferson saw as a very step in developing America into a virtuous, democratic republic where people were allowed to spread out and live in liberty without government influence.

Despite their cordiality and moments of compromise, the two different thinkers would always remain bitter political rivals. Jefferson described Hamilton’s vision as chasing after the royalty, power, and monarchy that defined the British monarchy. It seems as though Jefferson’s experience of travel through Europe led him to appreciate the differences between the old world and the new one, to appreciate what Daniel Quinn would describe as the differences between Taker and Leaver culture. Jefferson was horrified by the levels of inequality that existed in Europe, as well as the gap between the rich and the poor. Jefferson referred to Europe as a “vaunted scene” because of the ills in their society, and the results that it has yielded (Bernstein, Thomas Jefferson, 82).

As a member of Washington’s cabinet Jefferson almost relentlessly sought to undermine Hamilton’s influence on the nation, as by this time Hamilton was Washington’s most favored confidant. The French Minister once made a remark that basically expressed that Washington was under the thumb of Hamilton, and that Jefferson was fighting tooth and nail to counterbalance their pro-Federalist administration (Elkins and McKitrick, The Age of Federalism, 344).

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