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Did Alexander Hamilton's financial plan put the country first? Show more Show less

Of all the founding fathers of the American nation, Alexander Hamilton remains one of the most enigmatic and controversial characters. In his role as Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton submitted a financial plan to Congress designed to reduce the national debt by creating a national bank and encouraging economic diversification and the establishment of a manufacturing economy. But more than 200 years later, questions remain over the plan’s effectiveness and Hamilton’s motives.
A lack of evidence means that we will never know Hamilton's true motives or aims for his financial plan.
<< Previous (4 of 4 Positions)

Taken too soon

Hamilton died before he could publish a retrospective memoir reflecting on his time as Treasury Secretary.

(1 of 1 Argument)

Context

Hamilton died prematurely in a duel, robbing him of the ability to publish essays or memoirs in later life explaining the motive behind his decisions as Secretary of the Treasury. As history is written by the victors, and the victors were Hamilton’s political opponents like John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, we will never truly know the motives for Hamilton’s financial plan.

The Argument

Hamilton was killed prematurely in a duel. As a result, he never got the opportunity to reflect on the decisions he made in office once the dust had settled and he could give a more objective appraisal of his performance. This means that many of the motives behind Hamilton’s financial plan and his decisions as an early American statesman remain obscured. As such, it is almost impossible to really know whether the nation was at the core of Hamilton’s decision-making. [1]

Counter arguments

Hamilton wrote extensively during the 1790-1792 period. His Report on Public Credit, presented to Congress in 1790, outlines Hamilton’s goals to restructure domestic debt, revealing that he anticipated future crises and sought to establish a mechanism through which the government could allow liquidity injections to calm speculators and stabilize the markets. [2] Similarly, his Report on the National Bank was comprehensive in its nature. Hamilton’s own thoughts on the creation of a national bank can also be found in the arguments he made to George Washington to defend his proposal in February of 1791. [3] Finally, although the least related to fiscal policy, Hamilton’s Report on Manufacturers also reveals a great deal about the economic policies Hamilton held dear and his reasoning behind them. In his recommendations, he proposed concepts such as defining the US dollar in set terms of gold, silver and foreign currencies, which reveal his desire to establish the US as a world leader in economic and financial development. There is no dearth of information on Hamilton’s policies and motives from Hamilton’s own hand. He was an enthusiastic writer and did not shy away from producing extensive reams and tracts promoting and defending his ideas in the face of scrutiny. In addition to the aforementioned reports, Hamilton also published work anonymously in the Independent Journal under the Publius pseudonym. These essays eventually became known as the Federalist Papers and formed the ideological basis for many elements of the constitution.[4] These anonymous essays provide further introspection into Hamilton’s ideology, political beliefs and precursory motives for his financial plan for the nation.

Premises

[P1] There is insufficient evidence to determine the primary objectives of Hamilton's financial plan. [P2] Therefore, it is impossible to know if he was putting the country first.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] There is plenty of evidence to determine Hamilton's motives.

References

  1. https://time.com/4149352/ron-chernow-alexander-hamilton-interview/
  2. http://w4.stern.nyu.edu/research/alexander_hamilton_central_banker.pdf
  3. https://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/910687.html
  4. https://www.thenationalherald.com/129117/the-real-alexander-hamilton-not-what-you-see-on-broadway/

Proponents

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This page was last edited on Wednesday, 20 Nov 2019 at 16:33 UTC