The conflict that took place in the 1790’s between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists made a huge impact on American History. Alexander Hamilton led the Federalists and focused mainly on the city businesses as well as manufacturing interests of the seaports. On the other side, the Anti-Federalists whom were led by Thomas Jefferson represented the rural farmers and southern interests. With the Federalists favoring more federal involvement and the anti-federalists advocating states rights, this debate between the two concerned the central government versus that of the states.
Alexander Hamilton, one of the most important people of the time, was the first Secretary of the Treasury. Utilizing federal power to modernize the nation, he convinced Congress to use an elastic interpretation of the Constitution to pass laws that Jefferson deemed unconstitutional. These laws included federal assumption of the state debts, creation of a national bank, and a system of taxes through a tariff on imports and a tax on whiskey. Hamilton was also the creator of the Federalist Party. In contrast, Thomas Jefferson was born to a wealthy family but was nonetheless an anti-federalist.
He was sympathetic towards the poor people and advocated state’s rights. Although Jefferson often showed a strong dislike for the Federalist laws and programs, when he took office he left many of the Federalist programs intact, and except for revoking the excise tax, the Hamiltonian system was mostly left as it was. However, this act of Jefferson’s went against many of the political beliefs held by his party and himself. Jefferson and Hamilton’s philosophies differed greatly in that Jefferson adhered to a weak central government, with most of the power in the hands of the states.
He believed that the federal government’s power should be restrained and limited, so that it would not be able to become tyrannical or try and undermine the power of the states and the people. Also, Jefferson’s philosophy advocated a strict interpretation of the Constitution. They took the words of the Constitution at face value, and did not try to interpret any hidden connection to the Constitution. For instance, when it came to the National Bank of the United States of America, Hamilton believed that it was constitutional to authorize it because “what the Constitution did not orbid, it permitted. ” Yet Jefferson believed the opposite, since “there was not specific authorization in the Constitution” for the bank, the bank should not be authorized.
Hamilton’s view on this was based on the elastic clause, which stated that Congress would receive the power “to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof. The elastic clause allowed for Hamilton’s loose-constructionist views, which allowed the judiciary to determine the meaning of it not only in terms of law, but also in the intent. The opposing view was of Jefferson’s strict-constructionist stance which allowed only for a judicial interpretation according to the law. However, Hamilton’s philosophy advocated a strong central government that could put down excesses of democratic actions like Shay’s Rebellion. Hamilton’s philosophy also favored the rich and tried to protect the purses of the wealthy.
Thus, there were many supporters for Federalists amongst the wealthier classes, and especially amongst the merchants on the seaboard. On the other hand, Jefferson’s policies favored the farmers and the poor people, and thus Jefferson found his supporters in the poorer areas, such as the west. There was not only political tension between Jefferson and Hamilton, but also economical tension as the two men found their different political beliefs influencing their economical viewpoints.
Hamilton favored a very aggressive approach to taking care of the financial burdens of the US. He urged the central government to take upon itself all the debts of the various states and to fund the national debt at par, which meant that the federal government would pay the entire national debt at face value. This saddled the government with an enormous debt of 75 million dollars, which Hamilton believed would raise the public credit.
Then, to get the money to pay for this action, Hamilton got Congress to pass an excise tax on some domestic products, the most important being whiskey. However, this action on the part of Hamilton angered Jefferson, which he viewed an infringement of the Federal government. Since Hamilton was a supporter of a powerful central government, he had no real problem with his actions, yet it was very troubling to Jefferson who believed that Hamilton’s aggressive economic actions were draining away the power of the states.
Another problem was that Hamilton’s economic policy favored the rich, which Jefferson himself was a supporter of the poor people, especially the farmers. Jefferson believed that agriculture was a decent position as it kept people away from cities, in the sun, and close to God when they farmed. Also, Jefferson believed that agriculture would be able to support a nation at war and make sure that its supply lines would not be cut off and leave the US vulnerable.
Overall, although both Hamilton and Jefferson tried to give the nation what they thought was best, it was evident that their views came to clash. Because of their sharp differences in both political and economical beliefs, Hamilton and Jefferson more often than not found themselves in disagreement. Both Hamilton’s Federalism and Jefferson’s anti-federalism all served to create different movement that would affect the nation both economically and politically as the years after the Revolution played out.