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Hamilton vs. Jefferson: The Rivalry that Shaped America
Louis Masur | Rutgers University
Hamilton is experiencing a well-deserved revival. Often forced to take a back seat to other Founding Fathers, his vision of America as an economic powerhouse with a dynamic and aggressive government as its engine has found many followers. Hamilton helped get the Constitution ratified, helped found the Federalist Party, and served as the first Secretary of the Treasury. An orphan born in the West Indies, he was like a son to George Washington and perhaps should have been like a brother to Thomas Jefferson.
But Jefferson fought bitterly against the Federalists and his election as president ushered in the “revolution of 1800.” Ironically, it would be Hamilton who helped assure Jefferson’s triumph over Aaron Burr. Jefferson articulated a different vision from Hamilton’s, promoting an agrarian democracy built upon geographic expansion—an “empire of liberty,” he called it. In 1793, he would resign as Secretary of State to protest Hamilton’s policies. In retirement, Jefferson would reflect on the differences between Federalists and Democratic-Republicans and express fear for the future of the new nation.
Learn about the conflict that took shape in the 1790s between America’s first political parties—the Federalists, led by Alexander Hamilton, and the Republicans, led by Thomas Jefferson in Hamilton vs. Jefferson: The Rivalry that Shaped America.
Louis Masur is a Distinguished Professor of American Studies and History at Rutgers University. He received outstanding teaching awards from Rutgers, Trinity College, and the City College of New York, and won the Clive Prize for Excellence in Teaching from Harvard University. He is the author of many books, including Lincoln’s Last Speech, which was inspired by a talk he presented at One Day University. His essays and articles have appeared in The New York Times, the Washington Post, Slate, and on CNN. He is an elected member of the American Antiquarian Society and serves on the Historians’ Council of the Gettysburg Foundation.
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