The dramatic and picturesque aspects of the birth of the United States are presented in Claude G. Bowers’ book about the political struggle of the last quarter of the eighteenth century. The surrender at Yorktown ended one phase of the Revolution, only to begin another, a battle of fundamentals of government. Should the new republic develop along aristocratic or democratic lines? Leaders in the conflict were Thomas Jefferson, who believed in the political sense of the common people, and Alexander Hamilton, who did not trust an illiterate people to develop government.
Professor Bowers shows how much more logical Hamilton’s distrust was than Jefferson’s faith in the common man. Yet because Jefferson was willing to try to organize and discipline not only the independent and individualistic towns but the remote farms and the vast open spaces of the West into a unity, he was able, in spite of the weaknesses and lack of ability of his helpers, to achieve success against a powerful opposition. Hamilton, despite his genius and the unquestioned ability of many in the Federalist Party, failed because he did not understand his countrymen and the spirit of the times.
Though Jefferson’s name heads the title, Bowers begins his study with a look at Alexander Hamilton after setting the stage in the capital of New York City, on September 12, 1789, as the Congress was about to meet. As he points out, Hamilton looked the born leader. Though he was not of...
(The entire section is 1135 words.)
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