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We the Teachers

Alexander Hamilton: Founding Father of the Commercial Republic

October 3, 2019

by Sarah A. Morgan Smith

John Trumbull. Alexander Hamilton, c. 1805. Public domain, from the White House. Accession number 1962.203.1. Photographed by the Google Cultural Institute.

The theme of this year’s Teaching American History Saturday webinars is American Minds. Prominent scholars will discuss individuals who made significant social, cultural, or political contributions to the American identity. With panelists Chris Burkett (Ashland University), Rob McDonald (United States Military Academy), and Greg McBrayer (Ashland University), we will explore some of Alexander Hamilton’s most creative and controversial writings in support of the ideals of the American Revolution.

Below, you’ll find selected passages from each of the readings to be discussed — we hope these will inspire you to read more in each text in order to better understand Hamilton’s complex beliefs about the connection between stability, commerce, and energy in governments.

The Farmer Refuted, Alexander Hamilton, 1775

If we take futurity into the account, as we no doubt ought to do, we shall find, that in fifty or sixty years, America will be in no need of protection from Great Britain. She will then be able to protect herself both at home and abroad. She will have a plenty of men, and a plenty of materials, to provide and equip a formidable navy. She will, indeed, owe a debt of gratitude to the parent State for past services; but the scale will then begin to turn in her favor; and the obligations for future services will be on the side of Great Britain.

The “Hamilton Plan,” Alexander Hamilton, 1787

As to the Executive, it seemed to be admitted that no good one could be established on republican principles. Was not this giving up the merits of the question; for can there be a good government without a good Executive? The English model was the only good one on this subject. The hereditary interest of the King was so interwoven with that of the nation, and his personal emolument so great, that he was placed above the danger of being corrupted from abroad; and at the same time was both sufficiently independent and sufficiently controlled, to answer the purpose of the institution at home.

Federalist 1, Alexander Hamilton, 1787

It has been frequently remarked, that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country to decide, by their conduct and example, the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not, of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend, for their political constitutions, on accident and force. If there be any truth in the remark, the crisis at which we are arrived may, with propriety, be regarded as the period when that decision is to be made; and a wrong election of the part we shall act may, in this view, deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind.

Opinion on the Constitutionality of the Bank of the United States, Alexander Hamilton, 1791

It is not denied that there are implied as well as expressed powers, and that the former are as effectually delegated as the latter. And for the sake of accuracy it shall be mentioned, that there is another class of powers, which may be properly denominated resting powers. It will not be doubted, that if the United States should make a conquest of any of the territories of its neighbors, they would possess sovereign jurisdiction over the conquered territory. This would be rather a result, from the whole mass of the powers of the government, and from the nature of political society, than a consequence of either of the powers specially enumerated.

Letter to Edward Carrington, Alexander Hamilton, 1792

It is yet to be determined by experience whether it be consistent with that stability and order in Government which are essential to public strength & private security and happiness. On the whole, the only enemy which Republicanism has to fear in this Country is in the Spirit of faction and anarchy. If this will not permit the ends of Government to be attained under it—if it engenders disorders in the community, all regular & orderly minds will wish for a change—and the demagogues who have produced the disorder will make it for their own aggrandizement. This is the old Story.


To learn more about Alexander Hamilton’s life and legacy, please join us for the American Minds Webinar

11am, Saturday, 5 October 2019.

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