The United States began its existence as an independent nation during a pitched battle over what direction the federal government should take and which party – the Hamiltonian Federalist or the Jeffersonian Republican – would rightly carry the banner of the American Revolution. This first ideological fight took place in President Washington’s Cabinet, which found itself torn between Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson. The philosophical clash that began in 1789 continues today.
Hamilton’s arguments prevailed during both the Washington and Adams administrations, but Jefferson struck back with a great victory in 1800 and stopped the Federalist onslaught. The nation was governed, for the most part, by Jeffersonian principles for the next sixty years, and, despite some historians’ beliefs to the contrary, Hamilton’s entire big government program was eventually repealed.
However with Lincoln’s election in 1860 – Old Abe being from the school of Hamiltonian thought – and the secession of the Jeffersonian South, the Republican Party re-instituted all of Hamilton’s ideas – a strong central government, a national banking system, fiat currency, high tariffs and internal taxes, direct aid to corporations, loose construction of the Constitution, and suppression of civil liberties, with little opposition. Continue reading