Federalists and Democratic Republicans

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What were the differences between Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton's visions of the future of America?

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Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton were both members of the cabinet of George Washington, the first president of the United States. Thomas Jefferson served as Secretary of State, and Alexander Hamilton was Treasury Secretary. However, their viewpoints on government were radically different. The only major things they agreed upon during...

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Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton were both members of the cabinet of George Washington, the first president of the United States. Thomas Jefferson served as Secretary of State, and Alexander Hamilton was Treasury Secretary. However, their viewpoints on government were radically different. The only major things they agreed upon during their terms in Washington's cabinet was that it was necessary to persuade George Washington to run for a second term as president instead of retire, and it was important for the fledgling nation's security that it remained neutral during the European war that followed the French Revolution.

Thomas Jefferson led the Republican Party, also known as the Democratic-Republicans, whose base was mainly agrarian. Concerned that the new nation should not devolve into a European-style tyranny, he distrusted centralized government and saw the ideal nation as a rural society comprised mostly of farmers. He was a strong advocate of states' rights.

Hamilton established an opposing party, the Federalists, to counter Jefferson's influence. The Federalists mainly represented the interests of urban commerce. Hamilton believed that a strong central government would expedite national growth. He thought that a strong economy founded on trade and manufacturing would lead to a stable currency and sound public credit, both of which he considered essential for the prosperity of the new country.

One issue on which they clashed was Hamilton's vision for a national bank. Jefferson argued that the Constitution made no mention of the establishment of a federal bank, while Hamilton said that the Constitution implied permission to do this in giving the federal government power to collect taxes, borrow money, and pay debts. President Washington ultimately sided with Hamilton on this issue.

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There are two main differences between the visions of these two men. One is economic and the other is political.

Economically speaking, Jefferson envisioned a society that was based mainly on the presence of many small farmers.  He particularly did not want a great deal of manufacturing to be done in the US.  He argued that manufactured goods could be imported from Europe while the US could remain agrarian.  Hamilton disagreed and wanted a US economy that would have a great deal of manufacturing.

This was related to their political points of view.  Jefferson wanted an egalitarian country.  He felt that all small farmers would be equal to one another and true democracy could result.  Hamilton, by contrast, felt that a more stratified society would be acceptable.  He did not mind if the owners of factories were politically more powerful than the people that worked for them.

Jefferson wanted farms and more egalitarianism.  Hamilton wanted a manufacturing society and was willing to accept more inequality in order to get it.

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