If drawing a consensus between two parties was difficult enough, it had to be done between thirteen states, all with different ideas and interests in the United States Constitution. The first attempt at bringing thirteen separate entities into a single body was first attempted before the America Revolution in the Continental Congress, but the Continental Congress was hardly a valid governing body and was more a place where the colonies could go over ideas of how to deal with problems at hand. The first idea of an actual government came with the Articles of Confederation, a constitution that would give the state governments precedent over the federal government, which would make it impossible for anything to get done, let alone the collection of taxes from states that had a horrible taste in their mouths from the direct taxes of Great Britain.
The United States Constitution was the strongest form of government that was written up. The decentralization of government in the Articles of Confederate made the government all but useless. In the Constitution, the government was strongly centralized, but this centralization was met with opposition by many states and politicians deemed Anti-Federalists. In order to satisfy this criticism, the Constitution had to address a number of issues. The Constitution had to be “hands-off” in terms of state affairs. The government also needed to respect its people, and the Constitution delivered that respect in the form of religious freedom with a state-sanctioned religion. The government did not attempt to control freedom of speech, which would give rise to newspapers and media opinions.
The first president, George Washington, created four departments for his Cabinet, because the Constitution itself did not denote them. Washington appointed secretaries of War, Treasury, State, and the Attorney General. Alexander Hamilton, the Secretary of Treasury under Washington, was faced with a mountain of work. America inherited debts required to fight the American Revolution, and Hamilton would have to face this problem as well as creating an internal, financial infrastructure for the new country. Hamilton confronted these problems through a number of solutions.
Hamilton issued a “Report on Public Credit”, a report of Hamilton’s economic policies to Congress. Hamilton proposed that the Federal government, in its new position of power, should assume all of the debts collectively, taking all of the state debt and lumping it into one. Hamilton proposed that the government paid for this by issuing bonds to the American citizens, who would help to pay off the debt. Secondly, Hamilton suggested the creation of a National Bank. He believed that combined public and private finances into a National Bank would help to pay off the debt, a suggestion that was opposed strongly by Thomas Jefferson. Thirdly, Hamilton presented the “Report on Manufactures”, which was a stimulation plan to set the new economy in motion. Hamilton’s plan promoted manufacturers and businesses with subsidies, and he proposed tariffs to protect American industry while it was young.
Thomas Jefferson’s opposition forced Hamilton to seek the support of many other members in Congress to support his proposals. Hamilton sought members that had become invested in the debt of the government during and after the American Revolution. During one of the most heated debates between Jefferson and Hamilton, the issue concerning the establishment of a national bank, Hamilton had the backing of President and war-hero George Washington. Frustrated by this lack of support, Jefferson resigned from his position as Secretary of State in President Washington’s cabinet. Hamilton would resign from his position two years later despite his enormous success.
Hamilton’s proposals helped to turn America’s economy into a functioning one. New corporations were established and flourished under Hamilton’s economic plan, and after the establishment of a National Bank state banks were chartered with similar success. With an economy functioning, European investors were attracted to America and investments helped to stimulate America further economically. Hamilton’s plan was only seriously threatened when Thomas Jefferson ran for president in 1796, while the plan was still young and not yet at fruition. Thomas Jefferson almost won the election but was beat out by the second president of the United States, John Adams.
“Alexander Hamilton” by Forrest McDonald
College level lectures