A Comparison of the Presidencies of Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson
The United States of America was founded by thirteen colonies which had seceded from the British Empire. These colonies were led by two different men who would later come to be known as the Founding Fathers of the United States: Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson. Both men had different views on how the newly formed country should be run, and these views would shape the policies of their respective presidencies. This paper will compare and contrast Hamilton’s and Jefferson’s presidencies in the context of particular issues and how they responded to them at the time of their leadership.
2. Hamilton’s and Jefferson’s Background
Alexander Hamilton was born in 1757 on the island of Nevis in the West Indies. He was orphaned at a young age and had to make his own way in the world. He worked hard to get himself an education, eventually moving to New York City where he studied law. During the American Revolution, he served as an aide-de-camp to General George Washington. After the war, he became one of the leading figures in politics in New York State. In 1787, he attended the Constitutional Convention as a delegate from New York. He was a strong supporter of ratifying the Constitution and spoke out against giving too much power to the states.
Thomas Jefferson was born in 1743 in Virginia. He came from a wealthy family and had a good education. He attended college at William & Mary and then studied law. He served in the Virginia House of Burgesses before being elected to the Continental Congress in 1775. He was chosen to draft the Declaration of Independence and he is considered one of the main authors of that document. After serving as governor of Virginia, he retired from public life for a while but reentered it when he was chosen to be America’s Minister to France in 1784. He returned to America in 1789 and was elected as one of Virginia’s first senators under the new Constitution. In 1796, he ran for president but lost to John Adams.
3. Hamilton’s and Jefferson’s Views on the Presidency
As can be seen from their backgrounds, Hamilton and Jefferson had very different upbringings which shaped their views on many issues, including the role of government. Hamilton believed that centralization of power was necessary in order for America to succeed economically and politically. He thought that a strong national government was necessary to unify the states, promote economic growth, and protect America from foreign threats. His view of government was influenced by his experience growing up in the British West Indies where he saw firsthand how weak state governments could be.
Jefferson, on the other hand, believed in decentralization of power and more state sovereignty. He thought that too much power concentrated in one place would lead to tyranny. His view on government was shaped by his experience living in Virginia where he saw how powerful the Virginia state government was.
4. Hamilton’s and Jefferson’s Presidencies
When they became president, Hamilton (1789-1797) and Jefferson (1801-1809) put their differing views into practice through their policies. One issue where this is most evident is their differing responses to European affairs, specifically Great Britain and France.
4. 1 Hamilton’s Response to the Jay Treaty
In 1794, Great Britain and the Jay Treaty was signed in an attempt to ease tensions between the two countries. The treaty allowed for American shipping to be free from seizure by British ships and gave American citizens the right to trade with British colonies. It also made some concessions to the British, such as allowing them to keep their troops in American ports until America paid off its debt to them from the Revolutionary War.
Hamilton was generally supportive of the treaty while Jefferson was opposed to it. Hamilton thought that the treaty would help America economically by allowing it to trade with Britain and its colonies without fear of seizure. He also thought that the treaty would help keep America neutral in the conflict between Britain and France. Jefferson, on the other hand, thought that the treaty was too favorable to Britain and would only serve to further anger France.
4. 2 Jefferson’s Response to the XYZ Affair
In 1798, France and America were on the brink of war due to what was known as the XYZ Affair. American diplomats had been sent to France in an attempt to negotiate a peace settlement between France and Britain. However, when they arrived, they were met with demands for bribes by French officials, which came to be known as the XYZ Affair. Jefferson was outraged by this and he began preparing for war with France.
Hamilton, on the other hand, did not think that going to war with France was a good idea. He thought that America should continue to try and negotiate a peace settlement. He also thought that America should remain neutral in the conflict between Britain and France. However, Jefferson’s view prevailed and America went to war with France in 1798.
As can be seen from their responses to European affairs, Hamilton and Jefferson had very different views on how America should conduct its foreign policy. Hamilton thought that America should remain neutral in conflicts between European powers while Jefferson thought that America should take sides in these conflicts. This difference in opinion led to different policies during their respective presidencies. Hamilton’s policy of neutrality led to America staying out of wars while Jefferson’s policy led to America getting involved in wars.