A slight tangent from my presidential biographies series, this 352-page volume by Stephen F. Knott examines how Washington and Hamilton worked together and ultimately laid the foundation for banking and commercial success of the United States.
Jefferson’s view that the country should remain primarily an agrarian society stood in direct opposition to Hamilton’s dream of a robust national bank and thriving trade. Probably partly due to Hamilton’s service during the Revolutionary War as Washington’s secretary, and partly due to his prolific writing, he usually managed to get his ideas approved.
Here are a couple of my favorite quotes from the book:
Weak vs. Strong Federal Government
Jefferson, to give him his due, was primarily devoted to liberty, which he believed was best preserved in a simple republic in which the citizenry were truly self-sufficient, and many of Hamilton’s schemes threatened to erode that self-sufficiency. Washington and Hamilton were devoted to liberty but believed that this could be best achieved if Americans thought continentally, moving beyond the parochial and developing more of an attachment to a traditional nation-state.
—Kindle book location 4134
Washington and Hamilton looked at more conventional forms of national power as the surest bulwark of liberty, while Jefferson believed that the character of the citizenry, fostered in an environment of unencumbered liberty, would best protect the American experiment.
—Kindle book location 4140
Results of Washington and Hamilton’s Teamwork
Americans should put aside the caricatured account of their early history that pits the supposed “champions of the people” (Jefferson, Madison, and their party) against the “forces of privilege and authoritarianism” (Washington, Hamilton, and the Federalists). If they do so, they will discover that due to the exertions of George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, the American people began to “think continentally” and created a strong union that decades and then centuries later helped defeat fascism and communism, explored the universe, produced endless scientific and technological breakthroughs, and perhaps most importantly abolished slavery and Jim Crow, thereby securing the blessings of liberty for all of their fellow citizens.
—Kindle book location 4251