The American Revolutionary War of 1775-1783 had an impact on every aspect of American life. The ties with Great Britain were cut and a new country – the United States – was established. With the end of the Revolution, the United States had to face with derivative problems of expansion, financial debts etc. George Washington had written accurately that the states were united only by a “rope of sand” that required a fundamental rethinking of the Confederation (Clack 71). American leaders came to the conclusion that a country needed a strong constitution, which could replace the Articles of Confederation.
Therefore, at the Annapolis Conference of 1786, a call for all the states was issued, which contained demand to appoint a representative to the Constitutional Convention that was planned in Philadelphia. At the Constitutional Convention, George Washington was the elected as a head, while other delegates became known as Founding Fathers. One of the Founding Fathers was Alexander Hamilton, whom this essay is dedicated. Paul Johnson calls Hamilton a genius with the elusive, indefinable characteristics (218). However, he was a person whose efforts led to the ratification of the Constitution. Hamilton was also credited with developing a system of reforms, which helped the country to avoid bankruptcy.
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Alexander Hamilton was a purposeful and hardworking person who committed himself to reaching perfectly defined goals. This can be proved by many facts from his life. For example, a church school refused to teach Alexander Hamilton as his parents were not legally married, so he started self-education with the help of thirty-four books from a family library. Later, certainly, he had a chance to get education in King’s College (now Columbia University). During the Revolutionary War, Alexander Hamilton quickly achieved the rank of lieutenant and also very soon became one of the most trusted advisers of George Washington. He was making drafts of letters to Congress, state governors, and generals. In November 1782, Hamilton was elected to Congress of the Confederation and in 1787 he became the first New York delegate chosen for the Constitutional Convention.
Hamilton always was an avid reader. Thus, he learnt a lot from European philosophers and political writers. Based on the gained knowledge and awareness of American realities, he developed his outstanding political philosophy. He believed that only “talented few” have the wisdom to implement the measures necessary for the public wellbeing. The second distinguishing feature of his political philosophy was so called energetic government. Explanation of this idea we can find in Ian Finseth book The Rise and Fall of Alexander Hamilton: the government should be proactive in economic and military affairs and be able to exercise authority directly on the people (Finseth 10). He was sure that only an energetic government can stabilize the situation in the country and solve newly appeared problems after the Revolution.
Hamilton’s political philosophy found its interpretation in all his actions. His speech at the Constitutional Convention included some propositions, which were quite shocking for other delegates such as state governors are appointed by the President, while Congress has an exclusive authority to make all the laws of the country. These and some other of his statements raised a wave of zealous discussions. The draft of the Constitution contained lots of his thoughts, though the document was not based only on the ideas of Alexander Hamilton. The Constitution became a compromise of competing interests of all states.
The most outstanding merit of Hamilton was his unique role in the Constitution’s ratification. New York state had its opposition. Hamilton was the only one of the three delegates from New York who signed the final document of the Constitution. Hamilton realized that New York as leading state cannot ignore the Constitution’s adoption. He strongly believed that the Constitution was the last hope for a union. That is why this smart person was in the forefront of the movement for its ratification.
James Madison, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton produced jointly the Federalist Papers – a series of eighty-five newspaper pieces under the pseudonym ”Publius”, which were printed between October 1787 and August 1788. Hamilton was the principle author and wrote two-thirds of all essays. These three politicians collectively represented the first major work of political theory ever produced in America, discussing with great clarity and force such fundamental questions of government as the distribution of authority between the center and the periphery, between government and people, and the degree to which the constituent elements of government, executive, legislature and judiciary, ought to be separated (Johnson 192). It is still widely read and still produces lots of debates.
Some of the issues, which Hamilton revealed in The Federalist Papers, were connected with the analysis of a state system with laws concentrated on people not on states, and also with exposition of the powers. In newspaper essays, Hamilton was convincing people with concrete arguments to recruit as many New Yorkers as possible. The Federalist Papers served as a handbook and “an effective weapon” for speakers on the federalist side before and during the ratification of the Constitution (Hicks 94).
After the Constitution was finally adopted the first presidential elections took place, which George Washington had won. In 1789, Hamilton was appointed as the first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury. This post was very important as the most urgent problem of the new government was to find any way to pay the national debts (domestic and foreign). As the first secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton was playing policy-making role in the field of finance and he took some advantages from this post. Hamilton believed in the connection between national power and commerce. Being on the post of the Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton implemented several reforms, which were successful. He worked out a program in several reports, which stabilized national finances and shaped the future of the country as a powerful, industrial nation. Thanks to his reformation programs, the newly created country to avoid bankruptcy. This was his second contribution to formation of the United States.
Based on the principle that property must be secured or liberty cannot exist, Hamilton submitted to the Congress his “Report on the Public Credit” in January of 1790. He based this report on the assumption that national strength and prosperity are inseparably connected with the establishment of a new national credit system. In this report he presented a scheme of full reimbursement of the foreign and domestic debts contracted with the Confederation government. The Secretary of the Treasury solved the problem of the Continentals by giving one dollar for every hundred as the embittered people viewed themselves lucky to get anything at all (Johnson 213). The rest of the domestic dept and the foreign debt were rescheduled as long-term securities, which were payable in gold. The report also proposed a system of taxation.
Hamilton introduced two more reports in 1791 concerning national bank and manufacturing industry. In fact, the idea about the bank was not new as England created such in the 1690’s. With the help of the bank, Hamilton wanted to facilitate credit provision to people as well to simplify a loan and deposit process to government and business. First two reports of Hamilton were not taken for granted and he had to exert much effort in order to let his ideas to be approved by the Congress, but the compromise was found. However, Hamilton’s last propositions aimed to finish the reformations, which were reflected in the “Report on Manufactures”, were rejected by the Congress. Hamilton might have been exhausted from political fighting. However, this last report is often considered as Hamilton’s most important state paper.
Hamilton’s economic program was innovative and creative. It reflected American previous experience and suited to the practical needs of the United States. His design was to turn the United States eventually into a commercial empire (DeCarolis 70). Hamilton’s plan for centralizing the national economy was closely related with his political philosophy. He strongly believed that an energetic government should act in the interest of people; therefore, he encouraged manufacturing, took responsibility for the country's debts, standardized and controlled the currency system with the help of the national bank.
Alexander Hamilton worked hard to unite the country. He sincerely wanted to see the United States as a strong country with stable economy. To reach this goal Hamilton as a talented politician had to make concessions when it was necessary or persistently was moving ahead spreading his political philosophy to masses. Hamilton once said: “the honor of saving the Constitution from defeat” (Hicks 96). His approaches to create a centralized economy and government were approved. He framed a good basis for a system that has survived till nowadays. Some accepted Alexander Hamilton as a hero, while others considered him to be dangerous. Years passed and now we can confidently say the he was a noted statesman who made important and lasting contributions to the governance of the nation.
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