It has been stated that the two organic political philosophies of America are that of Jefferson and Hamilton. Since the 1790s the division has become blurred, mingled, fused and more than a bit opaque in some areas. Who's a Hamiltonian and who are tuned into the thinking of the Sage of Monticello today?
Overall the meme of Jeffersonian thought has been stronger than that that of the Hamilton Federalists. One of the reasons for this is because the meme-tracking has been easier with Jefferson, whilst discovering Hamilton throughout the 200 plus years of the Republic is murky: the Federalists died with Hamilton then merged into the National Republicans, then Whigs, then Lincoln's Republicans. Many in said parties didn't openly announce their lineage to the thoughts of Alexander Hamilton, and as we seen with the New Deal in the 1930s, FDR Democrats paid homage to Jefferson as they adopted social-economic policy rooted in the Hamiltonian/American System of economics. Jefferson, the Virginian patrician, has a mythos of being for the 'little guy' as Hamilton has been skewed for being a stooge for rich corporate interests, a closet monarchist, would-be Caesar, and against democratic expression of the common folk. Both established and oft repeated notions about these two Founding Fathers are historically inaccurate.
Alexander Hamilton was an immigrant who went to work in a counting-house at age nine in the West Indies; Thomas Jefferson was born on third base as a plantation owner's gifted son and never had to labor a day in his life. Though an open elitist who divided humanity between the 'many' and the 'few', Alexander Hamilton believed in active energy from both factions in Public policy for the betterment of the common good of the Republic. Jefferson's States Rights, individualistic preaching and musings of a loose agrarian utopia of "yeoman farmers" was in effect a guarantee of the hegemony of the Southern slavocracy. Where these yeoman farmers settled in the frontier West, the plantation owners followed and soon put the small free-labor farmers at an economic disadvantage. Abraham Lincoln, a son of yeoman farmers from Kentucky, remarked bitterly in his later years of his family being forced to move because of the institution of slavery in his birth state, then later on in Indiana.
Hamilton seen the rich merchants as a tool for Public policy and was never a disciple of laissez-faire free-market capitalism. In fact, Hamilton obviously didn't trust the rich to be left alone to their own devices, and as his private correspondence has revealed, the 1st Treasury Secretary didn't like the "moneyed class" and loathed the idle affluent. Also, AH believed that the tax-burden should be on the wealthy via Luxury and Inheritance taxation. At the same time, Hamilton knew that for the USA to survive, America had to industrialize and become self-sufficient, asap. He believed in economic diversity, whilst his arch-enemy Jefferson felt that the USA should be forever dependent on goods from Europe, at least in his early political career(TJ later on rejected Free Trade when faced with Reality).
A nationalist was A. Hamilton who could see that only a strong federal government could protect the new USA from civil war and destruction from the European colonial powers. Jefferson's States Rights was a virus on the Union; as we have seen in the 19th and 20th centuries, it has always been a poisonous thorn in the very jugular vein of the Republic. If the Early Jefferson was followed to the letter in his political and economic prescriptions, America would had been a factionized servant of the economic and trade interests of the British Empire - an edifice TJ claimed to have hated. Hamilton, the alleged "British monarchist agent", was geared to buy the weak America time until she could become a self-sufficient and nation and hopefully on par with the world powers of his day. Political independence without economic independence nullifies the former.This, Hamilton understood and his adversary had no concept of Weltpolitik, neither realism in geopolitics.
The Federalists didn't wear their republicanism on their sleeves. Jefferson's Democrats were zealots who felt that anyone not supporting the Jacobin Terror of Revolutionary France were closet monarchists set to return the USA to the rule of King George III. People talk about the McCarthyism and Red Scares of the 20th century in America, but a kindred of this was going on in the 1790s via Jefferson. Witch hunts for "monarchists" were conducted then via the Press and Democracy Clubs throughout the Early Republic. Even George Washington - the Revolutionary Commanding General who drove the nobles and Tory monarchists from America's shore - was accused of being an agent of Westminister, when he had previously refused any suggestion of being a King of America or military dictator. Hell, the man didn't even want to be an elected President for that matter. Joseph McCarthy could had learned a few things from the Jeffersonian radical republicans of that day; Tail-Gunner Joe was tactical rank armature to compare.
Jefferson was in Paris throughout most of the War of Independence - rubbing shoulders and attending Balls and parties with French aristocrats, collecting paintings and fine wines. He always imitated the French nobility in matters of architecture,mannerisms, and fine living throughout his life, even when he was supporting the Jacobins and being a Man of the People. Hamilton served in the Revolutionary Army from almost Day One. Though Colonel Hamilton spent the largest part of the conflict as Washington's aide-de- camp, his military exploits were crucial: his artillery placement on Brooklyn Heights in 1776 allowed Washington's Army to escape from certain capture. Later, Hamilton led a successful suicidal charge on Redoubt #10 at the Battle of Yorktown that some military historians agree turned the tide in the land phase of the last battle of the Revolutionary War. His personal bravery was never in dispute by even his most virulent enemies. Jefferson, however, may have had a few things in common with the present day Neocon Chickenhawks. Though TJ did put symbolically his neck into the noose by drafting and signing the Declaration of Independence, his subsequent hasty fleeing from Virginia's Governor's Residence when it was reported that the Redcoats were on the march in the vicinity led even his most ardent partisans to question his manhood.
Hamilton was always for the abolition of slavery. This 'elitist' was even more progressive on the issue than most supporters of manumission of his day. He wrote that whites and blacks both had the same natural abilities and AH didn't join in the call for re-colonialism of free slaves "back to Africa" as Jefferson and the later Free Soilers warranted. Jefferson, a spendthrift constantly in debt, bought and sold slaves throughout his life. His apologists today state that Jefferson was wracked with a guilty conscience because of his slavery ways, yet apparently it wasn't strong enough to release his slaves from servitude at his death as George Washington did his inherited slaves(George never bought nor sold slaves,btw) at neighboring Mt. Vernon when the Greatest American was bled to death by quack doctors. Thomas Jefferson was a life-long proponent of White Supremacy; for being alleged to be a philosopher-king, Jefferson believed the cranky theory that republican-democracy had its roots in the ancient Anglo-Saxons. When David Hume refuted this theory in one of his works, TJ, the Bill of Rights zealot, had this particular book of Hume banned from the University of Virginia. It should be no wonder that Thomas Jefferson is high on the list of white supremacist organizations to this very day.
Some Blogger nut that I had read once wrote that he believed that Hamilton was a godfather of neoconservatism. This insane thesis shouldn't deserve many words in rebuttal, but a few are in order. Hamilton, again, was an Elitist. Yet, he was for an open Elite based on merit with a national consensus of economic diversity so that the talented Commons could hopefully rise from the ranks up as he did. TJ, with his democracy preaching, cloaked in proper Leo Straussian fashion a hidden elite directing behind the scenes(slavocracy) the process of governance and economics of a nation in the name of the People. I do not think neither Jefferson or Hamilton would have much in relation with Neocons, but TJ was closer than AH to their thinking and agenda. Jefferson was all for a global revolution in his early days, and admitted that he would had seen the Earth destroyed if his concept of "democracy" failed. Though Jefferson never claimed that revolutionary democracy was the 'end of history', he seemed to have believed it.
Russell Kirk wrote that Alexander Hamilton wasn't 'one of us'(conservative) and he was correct. It is truth that AH's Federalism was a primitive forerunner of FDR's New Deal: the social contract that private industry had to have a marriage of the utilitarian good of the Public, and that America needed a strong activistic federal government to regulate and play the Conductor. Ronald Reagan was the most Jeffersonian President of the last century with his rhetoric of "getting the federal government off the backs of the people", his pleas for States Rights and individualism. Such policies turned the Economic Predators loose on the citizenry of the United States and we know the rest.
Hamilton was a Wise One who knew that economic elites would only act in their own interests if left undirected. Jefferson's policy ironically gave free reign to Economic Predators and speculations - something that this agrarian romantic was opposed to.
I confess to being privy to Jefferson in my younger years, as most students of the Founding Fathers are. I was thrilled with his democracy preaching, his Deist secularism. Yet the years progressed and I read and studied more the issue and became a Hamiltonian when I realized that AH had the correct format and that Hamilton understood human nature, and Jefferson did not. Being inclined to democratic-socialism at heart, I seen the compromise of Hamiltonian Federalism as being what is best for my Nation, economically and politically. Private Enterprise is so entrenched in the American psyche that only reforms at the margins, a Check, is what can be 'do-able'. That is why I am for a renaissance of FDR's New Deal - our version here of the Social Market economy where both the private and public check one another. The Founding Father of it is Alexander Hamilton - not Jefferson.