Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson were the new government’s two most talented men. President George Washington picked Alexander Hamilton, his brilliant thirty-four-year-old wartime aide to head the Department of the Treasury and Thomas Jefferson, recently back from his diplomatic duties in France to head the Department of State.
Both Hamilton and Jefferson were brilliant. Hamilton’s success in creating a funded government debt, a budget, a federal tax system, a national bank, a customs service and a coast guard provided the foundations for American commercial capitalism. On the other hand, Jefferson developed a breadth of cultivated interest widely ranged from science to arts and the humanities.
Hamilton and Jefferson represented contrasting visions. Their political and philosophical ideas still echo, more than two hundred year later. Jefferson was an aristocrat and a radical utopian, and he was by nature an optimist. Hamilton was an urban realist, who foresaw a diversified capitalist economy. Hamilton was supporter of a strong central government that would encourage urban-industrial growth while Jefferson wanted to preserve a decentralized agrarian republic made up primary of small farmers.
One of Hamilton’s revolutionary views, still relevant today is an active federal government that encourages new fields of enterprise and fosters investment and entrepreneurship. As he had risen from poverty to success, Hamilton wanted to ensure that every American would always have such opportunities.
Jefferson’s most fundamental political belief, that is still relevant to our government is “absolute acquiescence in the decisions of the majority.” Guided by his deep optimism in human reason, Jefferson believed that the will of the people, expressed through democratic elections, provided the most adequate guidance for directing the government’s course.