Hamilton vs. Jefferson: The Rivalry that Shaped America
Louis Masur / Rutgers University
Hamilton is experiencing a well-deserved revival. Often forced to take a back seat to other Founding Fathers, his vision of America as an economic powerhouse with a dynamic and aggressive government as its engine has found many followers. Hamilton helped get the Constitution ratified, helped found the Federalist Party, and served as the first Secretary of the Treasury. An orphan born in the West Indies, he was like a son to George Washington and perhaps should have been like a brother to Thomas Jefferson.
But Jefferson fought bitterly against the Federalists and his election as president ushered in the “revolution of 1800.” Ironically, it would be Hamilton who helped assure Jefferson’s triumph over Aaron Burr. Jefferson articulated a different vision from Hamilton’s, promoting an agrarian democracy built upon geographic expansion—an “empire of liberty,” he called it. In 1793, he would resign as Secretary of State to protest Hamilton’s policies. In retirement, Jefferson would reflect on the differences between Federalists and Democratic-Republicans and express fear for the future of the new nation.