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Posted on May 31st, 2012, by

Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton are considered to be the founding fathers of theUS. They really played an important role in the history of theUSand contributed to the socio-economic and political development of the country and its recognition by the international community as a really powerful and democratic state, though their views differed dramatically, especially on the future way of the development of theUS. In fact, it is even possible to estimate that they stood on a totally different ideological ground and viewed the government and society in different ways.

The difference in their views was so significant that it is even possible to estimate that they were severe antagonists which often absolutely rejected ideas of one another. Nevertheless, it does not make their role in the history of theUSless significant, especially that of Thomas Jefferson who practically became one of the main ideologists of the modern concept of American democracy. At the same time, on analyzing the opposition of these two outstanding American statesmen, it is necessary to underline that the American society actually had to make the choice either supporting the ideas ofJeffersonor his counterpart, Alexander Hamilton. In actuality, it is hardly possible to estimate that the ideas ofJeffersonhave been accepted by Americans pointblank but his major concepts concerning democratic system and human rights still remain the backbone of American democratic system. On the other hand, Hamilton’s ideas have not remained unnoticed neither since his federalist principles have eventually outweighed Jefferson’s efforts to provides states with a large sovereignty minimizing the impact of the federal state. Anyway, the analysis of the contrasting views of Jefferson and Hamilton on the government and society will help better understand their role and their contribution to the further development of American state and society.


Jefferson’s anarchy vs. Hamilton’s tyranny

Taking into consideration the fact that Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton were founding fathers of the US, it seems to be a bit paradoxical that often they were criticized for certain extremism in their views. Even though such a definition is apparently too radical, it is still necessary to underline that Jefferson andHamiltonstood on a different ground to the extent that Jefferson was often argued to tend to anarchy, whileHamiltonwas rather a follower of the idea of the establishment of the tyrant government (Epperson 221).

In this respect, it should be said thatJeffersonestimated that society is capable to a kind of self-organization. This is why he estimated that the normal social order could exist even in the anarchic communities, though he underlined that this order could exist only in a small communities where social structure was not very complicated and there was no need in a complex state interference or any other sort of regulation imposed by the state on individuals in order to make social relations more stable, predictable and meeting the interests of each individual without oppression of one’s liberty or rights. He explained such ability of communities to exist even in the state of anarchy by the presence of the moral sense which was reliable enough that an anarchist community could function well. It is worthy of mention that he, nonetheless, underlined: “I am convinced that those societies (as Indians) which live without government, enjoy in their general mass an infinitely greater degree of happiness than those who live under European governments”, but he remarked that anarchism would be “inconsistent with any great degree of population” (Norton 158).

In fact, it was a real challenge to the views of Alexander Hamilton who admired the European model of government and insisted on the introduction of the similar order in theUS. To put it more precisely, he argued that the society should be thoroughly controlled by the government since all the processes within society are extremely complicated and they naturally need the interference from the part of the government. In relation to Jefferson’s views, it should be said thatHamiltontotally rejected anarchy since he was convinced that this way of development would lead the country to the dead end and he did not shareJefferson’s optimism and admiration of Indian tribes which lived without any government of European type. In stark contrast to his opponent,Hamiltonbelieved that anarchy was a sign of underdevelopment of society while the highly developed society needs the government that should establish clear rules and make all members of society to obey them in order to maintain the normal functioning of society.

Jefferson’s liberty vs. Hamilton’s order

Basically, such a radically contrary positions of Jefferson and Hamilton may be explained by their political and philosophical views. It should be pointed out thatJeffersonwas a convinced adept of basic democratic principles founded on the major human rights and liberties. To put it more precisely, he sincerely believed that individual’s liberty is the highest value that should be protected and supported by all possible means including the protection from the part of the state. At this point it is possible to speak about the strong influence of John Locke on Jefferson’s ideas since the latter slightly modified the slogan of Locke ”˜Life, Liberty, Happiness’ into ”˜Life, Liberty, Property’ (Watson 210). In such a way, he defined three major values that should be respected by all, including the government.

This means that Thomas Jefferson viewed liberty as one of the fundamental principles of democracy. It should be said that he insisted on ”˜natural rights’ of each individual that cannot be limited by the government or any other external force but the individual him/herself (Watson 252). In other words, personal freedom and liberty of an individual were prior to the government, state and nation forJefferson. Consequently, according to his views, it was necessary to promote human rights and liberty in order to provide each individual with an opportunity to live in accordance with his natural rights.

Obviously, his views may be considered as idealistic. At any rate they were significantly influenced by his observation of the life of Indians where there were no governments similar to those which had European states or theUS. The Declaration of Independence, to which he was the major contributor, perfectly reflects Thomas Jefferson’s views on liberty and the relationship between the government and an individual. For instance, the Declaration reads: “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” and “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government” (Declaration of Independence). This is a very important point since it proves the fact thatJeffersonviewed the Government as a ”˜product’ of society, as an institution that is created by people and, therefore, it could be changed, modified, or even abolished by people. Consequently, it is people who actually control the government and the latter has no right to interfere in the life of people and substitute their natural rights by the rights established by the government that would be the limitation of their liberty.

In this respect, Alexander Hamilton had a contrary point of view. In contrast to Jefferson,Hamiltoninsisted on the necessity of the establishment of a strict order that could maintain the normal functioning of society. To put it more precisely, he argued that the society needed strict rules and regulations to follow. Otherwise, the existing social order would be ruined and anarchy would rouse instead, which, as it has been already mentioned above, was totally unacceptable forHamiltonas a destructive form undermining the normal social life.

At the same time, he underlined that the existing rules, norms and regulations are not sufficient to make all people obey and follow them. To make them really effective and simply functioning, it was necessary, accordingHamilton, to establish strict control from the part of the government (Epperson 285). The latter with the help of the laws and other legislative tools available to the government should control the social order. This could be done through the use of the government power to maintain order using all available means, including military forces.

In fact, he viewed the ideal society as a perfectly functioning machine where all mechanism work in accordance with the idea of its creator and it is only on the condition of strict order the entire machine can function well. In such a way,Hamiltonviewed individuals rather as tiny parts of the machine known as the state, while the major function of the government was to establish strict order and control the functioning of this social machine constituting of thousands and millions of individuals.

Jefferson’s republicanisms vs. Hamilton’s British-like monarchic system

In the result of the difference in views on the ideal society and the role of the government, Jefferson and Hamilton had different positions concerning the realization of their ideas in practice. Jefferson insisted on the necessity of the creation of such a system which could fully guarantee liberty and natural rights to all people and non-interference of the government, whileHamiltoninsisted on the creation of such a system which could establish a strict order and control its maintenance effectively from the part of the government.

In such a situation, it seems to be quite logical that Thomas Jefferson was a convinced supporter of republicanism since such a system, according toJefferson, could be the most effective in provision people with the maximum liberty. To put it more precisely, he viewed the republican system as a panacea from the dictatorship of the government since this system created conditions for the wide representation of various social groups. This means that with the help of the republican systemJeffersonhoped to give all people the opportunity to express their own position and protect their own interests since republicanism implied the presence in power of various groups which have different interests and which are loyal to certain social groups. Obviously,Jeffersonidealistically hoped that the republican system would guarantee people the opportunity to exercise their natural rights since they would be able to elect and control the political power of the country, including the government.

Instead, Alexander Hamilton argued that the republicanism is the wrong way of the development of theUS. He rather insisted on the necessity to follow the example of the leading European states, such asGreat Britain. In such a situation, it is quite natural that he believed the British-like monarchic system is the best system that should be accepted by theUS. In fact, such a choice was quite logical since it perfectly met his ideological basis. It was obvious that the system when the power was centralized in the hands of few and the monarch and ruling elite still had a larger impact on the government than large masses of ordinary people. His logic is quite simple since as there was less diverse and more authoritarian government than this government would be able to establish clear and strict rules understandable to all and, what is more, this government would be able to effectively control the execution of the established rules, even though they might oppress the liberty of some individuals, which he viewed rather as a disobedience to laws than the realization of democratic principles of human rights and liberty promoted by Jefferson.

Finally, it should be said that Hamilton partially expressed his views on the political system of the US in Federalist Papers where he insisted on the necessity to increase the role of the central, federal government and limit the of states. Obviously,Jeffersoncould not agree with such limitations since he severely opposed to the loss of power and freedom by states. Jefferson viewed the federalization of theUSas an attempt to enforce the government and establish a stricter control over citizens through considerable limitation of states and local governments. In stark contrast,Jeffersoninsisted that states should have more freedom since it is the natural right of people to self-governance which could not be limited by the federal government. According toJefferson, this would threaten to the interest of the local communities which, as he believed, could be sacrificed for the national interests’ sake or, even for the sake of the interests of privileged elite.


Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, being important historical figures in American history, had quite different views on the role of the government and relations between an individual and the government. Basically,Jeffersonstood on a more progressive democratic ground insisting on the necessity of the minimization of the role of the government which power derived from people and it should be people the only power able to define their own fate and that of the government. In such a way,Jeffersonhad an unlimited faith in man as the self-sufficient part of society and state which had natural rights and which liberty was the highest value. In contrast,Hamiltondemonstrated the conservative, if not to say, rigid belief in the necessity of the government control over all aspects of the life of society.

According to him, the ideal society was the society controlled by the tyrant government with a strict order where an individual was just a tool in hands of the ruling elite.

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