DBQ Unit 2
Leelanarasimha (Lucky) Konatham
Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson were two of the most influential leaders of our country, but beyond leading the country they had virtually no similarities at all. Both Hamilton and Jefferson had contrasting viewpoints on almost everything as Hamilton was a federalist and Jefferson was a Republican. Jefferson had opposed all of the viewpoints of Hamilton and they each believed the other’s plans would destroy America, but together each man’s views would shape America for the future.
Jefferson and Hamilton had very different views of human nature. Hamilton’s view of human nature was shaped by his experiences in war. He saw people put their own interests and profits in front of the needs for the country. He noticed that people were selfish and greedy and wanted everything for themselves rather than trying to provide for the country and help the people of their nation. Most federalists share the view that Hamilton saw of people, that they were out for themselves only. Due to this, Hamilton and the Federalists did not trust any form of government which gave too much power to the people as they believed they would ruin the country trying to get what they wanted. On the other hand, Thomas Jefferson view of human nature was much nicer than Hamilton’s. He believed that the citizens who knew about the topic and were informed could make good decisions for themselves and for the betterment of the country. Jefferson held a high amount of confidence for the country and trusted his people. He had faith in the goodness and cleverness of even the people who worked in farms and planters, so much that he would even take the decision of a farmer over a professor.
Furthermore, Hamilton’s and Jefferson’s view of the best form of government was polar opposites of each other. The Federalists, Hamilton’s group of people, believed that the country should be ruled by the people who were educated, wealthy, and public-spirited like them or the “best people”. They trusted that these people had the qualifications and background to run the country the right way. Hamilton wanted to impose extreme punishments to the people who retaliated against the government in any way possible by finding them “guilty of high misdemeanor” and punishing them by a “fine,,,and imprisonment” (Document F). The Federalists also favored a strong national government, believing in a more flexible interpretation of the Constitution. They hoped to unite the quarrelling states and keep order among the people by using the new government’s powers under the constitution. To the Federalists, the rights of the states were not nearly as important as national power and unity. Contrastingly, the Democratic-Republicans, Jefferson’s party, believed that the view of the Federalists came close to the rule by a king.
Opposing the view of the Federalists, Jefferson’s party strongly believed that the best government was the one where the people had the most power and they would be able to enjoy their rights. Unlike the loosely connected Constitution like what the Federalists wanted, the Democratic-Republicans insisted on a very strict constitution and any addition to the powers that the Constitution stated was illegal. Thomas Jefferson wrote that any power that is used, not stated in the Constitution, should not be accepted and “and whensoever the general government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force” (Document H). Moreover, he also stated that the government which took unconstitutional rights and powers was not made the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself” (Document H). The Jeffersonians believed that the Federalists “support and hasten the adoption of the proposed Constitution merely because they think it is a stepping stone to their favorite object” (Document D). In short, there were “two methods of removing the causes of the faction”, the Federalist’s method which is “the one by destroying the liberty which is essential to its existence” and the Democratic-Republicans’ method which is “giving to every citizen the same options, the same passions, and the same interests” (Document E).
Perhaps the most major contrasting viewpoint that Hamilton and Jefferson had was their idea of a perfect economy. To Hamilton, a strong economy was essential to build a great country. Hamilton wanted to expand the economy from just agriculture and increase the wealth gained by the nation by promoting business, manufacturing, and trade. He planned to pay of all the war debts America had as soon as possible to keep the respect of the country. Unlike Hamilton, Jefferson believed that the country would grow not from merchants and bankers, but from the farmers and agriculturists. The instituting of a bank was unconstitutional to Thomas Jefferson and that the US did not have the power to incorporate a bank. The Democratic-Republicans strongly favored an economy based on agriculture and farming rather than business and manufacturing.
The most famous disagreement between Hamilton and Jefferson was the institution of a national bank. Hamilton believed that a national bank was required the keep the financial part of the nation in place. In Hamilton’s mind the bank would be the major power to borrow and coin money and collect taxes. Jefferson had a much contrasting idea than Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson believed that the bank was a way for Hamilton to take an immense amount of power unconstitutionally since it did not state anywhere in the Constitution that the Congress had the authority to charter a bank. To Thomas Jefferson the “incorporation of a bank, and the powers assumed by this bill” have not “been delegated to the United States by the Constitution” (Document A), while Hamilton believed “that implied powers are to be considered as delegated equally with express ones.” (Document B). Another major contrasting viewpoint regarding the economy was the tariffs that both leaders believed in. Hamilton advocated for a tariff which was higher than what was needed to fund the government, the protective tariff. This would increase the price of goods made outside the US so more people would be encourage to buy products made inside the country. This would ultimately help the growth of domestic manufacturing. Jefferson strongly opposed this tax for multiple different reasons. For example, farmers had to pay a lot more for the goods that they brought from Europe than they actually had to so Jefferson proposed a laissez-faire approach. Jefferson believed that the protective tariffs were unconstitutional and only revenue tariffs should be imposed.
Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson disagreed on a great deal of matters even though they were the two most influential and renowned leaders of America. In the end, both of the decisions made by each of the men affected the generations to come. A Democratic-Republican government is in place and America manufactures goods and has an industry. The US also imports and exports goods to keep the economy in balance and the people of America have the power now, not just small farmers, but everyone. Even though both the leaders had extremely contrasting viewpoints, both Hamilton and Jefferson shaped the America that everyone knows and sees today.