What are the two major issues and obstacles described in Chapter Two of Joseph J. Ellis's Founding Brothers?
Chapter Two of Founding Brothers is entitled "The Dinner," and it traces the fierce political debates that accompanied the passage of Alexander Hamilton's financial plan for the United States in 1790. The author, Joseph Ellis, traces the complex political machinations and backroom deals that sealed passage of a bill that allowed the federal government to "assume," or take on and pay off, debts owed by the states. One major issue dealt with in the chapter is the fact that Virginia politicians, including Congressman James Madison, vehemently opposed the measure on the grounds that it would require states that had already serviced their debts (like Virginia) to pay taxes to finance the debts owed by states that had not. More importantly, Madison believed that the act would make the states beholden to the federal government in a way that he had not intended at the Constitutional Convention. The determination of Hamilton to pass his package of economic measures, which included an excise tax and a national bank, without compromise was another issue. As Ellis observes, Hamilton believed in "consolidation" and thought Madison's opposition (coming from a man who had collaborated with him on the Federalist essays) to be "illogical and blatantly sinister" (62-63). So these issues, as well as the personalities of the men involved, led the nation to the brink of dissolution, or so at least many of the politicians involved believed at the time. Another issue that was extremely divisive was the location of the permanent capital of the United States. There were several different candidates, with "some location in Pennsylvania" having the most support. All of these issues represented serious obstacles to the development of the new nation, which was experiencing what we would today call political "gridlock." These issues were resolved by a compromise, allegedly reached over dinner at Thomas Jefferson's house, between Hamilton and Madison. Under the terms of this compromise, the Virginians would acquiesce in the passage of assumption in return for an agreement by Congress to place the permanent capital on the banks of the Potomac River, bordering Virginia and Maryland. Ellis shows that these agreements were far more complex than a simple handshake over dinner and wine at Jefferson's house.