Jefferson vs Hamilton: The Dispute that Led to the Two-Party System and Nearly Caused Civil War

Jefferson versus Hamilton - Brewminate

A Skeptics Guide to American History (2012)

Episode 4 Confusions About Jefferson and Hamilton

Mark Stoler PhD

Film Review

This presentation traces how the bitter political dispute between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson led to the creation of America’s two-party system – and almost caused civil war.

The two men first clashed when they served in George Washington’s cabinet, where  Jefferson served as Secretary of State and Hamilton Secretary of the Treasury. Their political dispute concerned main areas, the creation of an 80% privately owned (20% government owned) national bank, known as the First Bank of the United States, and the ongoing alliance with France following the French Revolution.

In addition to serving as a depository for import taxes, the First Bank of the United States also had the authority to print bank notes to supplement gold and silver in circulation. Hamilton wanted to create a national bank to help repay the country’s war debts. Jefferson opposed it for two main reasons: first because the US Constitution specifically assigns Congress the power to create money and secondly (which Stoler doesn’t mention) because the vast majority of the bank’s investors were foreign (mainly British). The official ownership breakdown would be 70% foreign investors (see https://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/watkins/BofUS.htm), 10% domestic investors and 20% government.

Jefferson supported an interpretation of the Constitution that assigned states (as per the 10th amendment) all powers not specifically mentioned in the Constitution. Hamilton, in contrast, favored a strong federal government operating in close alliance with wealthy commercial interests (via the national bank).

Hamilton and Jefferson also differed on whether to support the French republic following their revolution. Following the execution of Louis XVI in 1793, numerous European countries (Great Britain, the Holy Roman Empire, Prussia, Russia, and several other monarchies) declared war on France.

As secretary of state, Jefferson believed the US should support the French republic (because he favored republicanism over monarchy, because the French had supported the US colonists during the War of Independence, and because the US had a treaty with France). Hamilton wanted the US to support Britain because he felt trade with the UK was essential for US economic development.

Jefferson also opposed the Jay Treaty* (1794) with the UK, which was extremely unpopular with the American people. Like Jefferson, they feared closer ties with Britain would undermine US independence. Hamilton claimed it was essential to prevent another war with Britain.

The political dispute between Hamilton and Jefferson would give rise to America’s two-party system, with Hamilton and his supporters forming the Federalist Party (1789) and Jefferson and his supporters the Democratic-Republican Party (1792). President John Adams, who supported the Federalist Party, signed the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798. These were four laws directly primarily against the Democratic-Republican Party.

At the time, most immigrants supported Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican Party. As well as allowing the president to imprison or deport aliens considered “dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States,” the Alien and Sedition Acts (which the Supreme Court later declared unconstitutional) prohibited all speech critical of the federal government. The latter resulted in the prosecution and conviction of many Jeffersonian newspaper owners.

Jefferson and his supporters responded by passing resolutions in the Virginia and Kentucky legislatures declaring the Alien and Sedition Acts unconstitutional. A civil war with northern states was narrowly averted when Jefferson was elected the third president of the US on the Democratic-Republican ticket in 1800.


*Instead of being negotiated by Jefferson, who was Secretary of State, the Jay Treaty was negotiated by John Jay (a federalist like Hamilton), who was Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court. Through this treaty, the British agreed to withdraw their remaining army units from Northwest Territory (all the land west of Pennsylvania, north of the Ohio River, east of the Mississippi River and below the Great Lakes). In return, the US agreed to end the confiscation of British loyalist estates and arbitrate the US-Canadian boundary and the settlement of wartime debts owed to British financiers. It also granted Americans limited rights to trade with British colonies in the Caribbean in exchange for some limits on the American export of cotton.

The film can be viewed free on Kanopy.

https://pukeariki.kanopy.com/video/confusions-about-jefferson-and-hamilton

Hidden History: White House Slaves

The Invisibles: The Untold Story of African American ...

The Invisibles: The Untold Story of African American Slaves in the White House

by Jesse J Holland

First Lyons Press (2017)

Book Review

This fascinating book recounts the personal histories of individuals slaves owned by US presidents between 1789 and 1861. Twelve of the first eighteen presidents owned slaves. Of founding fathers who became president, only John Adams and John Quincy Adam (who were Quakers) didn’t own them. Jefferson and Adams owned slaves despite speaking out against slavery.

Most is known about the individual slaves owned by Washington, Jefferson and Madison. At the time of the revolution, Washington owned 150 slaves. He would bring some of his house slaves with him to New York (the first US capitol) when he assumed the presidency in 1789. Things got more complicated when the US capitol moved to Philadelphia in 1790.  Pennsylvania, which abolished slavery in 1780, had a law automatically granting freedom to any slave who remained in the state longer than six months. This meant Washington had to send his slaves back to his Mount Vernon plantation every six months to retain ownership.* This process likely led to of them to escape.

The chapter on Jefferson’s slaves includes his relationship with 15-year-old Sally Hemmings and the six children he had by her. Sally and her children remained at Jefferson’s Virginia plantation, though her brother James served as a French-trained chef in the Jefferson White House.

Madison owned 100 slaves. Like Washington and Jefferson brought his house slaves to the White House to serve as domestic servants.

In addition to chapters on slaves owned by Monroe, Jackson, Van Buren, Harrison, Tyler, Polk, Taylor, Andrew Johnson and Grant, there are excellent chapters on the history of the transition from indentured servitude to slavery and the early states to abolish slavery (Vermont 1777, Massachusetts 1783 and New York 1827).

One of the best chapters concerns the vital role slaves played in constructing the White House. One of the most important jobs they performed was digging up clay for bricks, although they also quarried stone used in interior walls and served as carpenters. The US paid their owners a wage for their services.


*This six-month rule was largely responsible for the decision to create a separate district as the nation’s capitol (Washington DC). The Southern slave states of Maryland and Virginia gladly gave up some of their state territory to accommodate slave-holding presidents.

Mumia Abu Jamal: Murder Incorporated

Murder Incorporated: Dreaming of Empire Book 1 (Empire, Genocide and Manifest Destiny)

By Mumia Abu Jamal* and Stephen Vittoria

Prison Radio (2018)

Inspired by Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States, this book is a carefully compiled history of the genocidal racism that forms the bedrock of US history and culture.

Murder Incorporated begins by exploring the Aryan and New Israel mythology embedded in the writings of the early colonists and so-called founding fathers. This was the same Aryan mythology Hitler would borrow to justify the attempted extermination of European Jews. According to the myth,  a selected subgroup of Aryans  reportedly originating near modern day Iran) migrated north to Germany and west to England. They purposely kept their bloodline pure by annihilating all the inferior tribes they crossed paths with.

The writings of North American settlers are also full of New Israel “Manifest Destiny” mythology. The latter regards the continent as a “new Israel” promised to them by divine Providence – Just as Palestine was promised to Jewish slaves escaping Egypt.

Mumia and Vittoria quote extensively from  Thomas Jefferson, the founding father most commonly extolled for his “liberalism.” His writings are full of these myths, which he uses to justify both the extermination of Native Americans and the immensely profitable institution of African slavery. In his business journal about whipping boys as young as 10 to force them to work in his nail factory.

The authors also definitively settle the question of whether he “raped” Sally Hemings, the slave who bore him six additional slaves. They also refute modern accounts of Jefferson’s so-called “love affair” with Hemings – by pointing a 16-year-old slave girl is incapable of consenting to have intercourse with her 47-year-old master.

Moving on, the book describes the founding fathers’ deliberate decimation of dozens of indigenous civilizations over the next 75 years. They provide an equally graphic analysis of the western slave trade, which would cost the lives and/or freedom of 60 million Africans. This sections includes a fascinating discussion of the Arab trade in African slaves that preceded it.

The following chapter covers the brutal class war between farmers and workers and wealthy planters and merchants who forced them to fight in the War of Independence and later wrote the Constitution to strip them of their basic political and economic rights. Citing Zinn and others, the authors detail scores of food and debtor prison riots that began 50 years before the Declaration of Independence.

Setting the stage for two centuries of bloody foreign conquest, a long chapter on the Monroe Doctrine (1824) leaves no doubt the founding fathers knew they were building an empire from the outset. The Monroe Doctrine would be used to justify the US invasion of Mexico in 1846, of Cuba and the Philippines in 1898, of Colombia in 1983 (leading to the US occupation and annexation of Panama), of multiple Latin American invasions under Wilson and his successors and the 56 successful or attempted CIA coups to overthrow democratically elected governments.***


*In 1982 Mumia Abu Jamal was sentenced to death for the murder of a Philadelphia police offer, despite a local gang member’s confession to committing the murder. In 2011 his sentence was commuted to life without parole. He continues to fight for a new trial. See Mumia Wins Right to Re-Open Appeals

**Allowing the US to occupy and annex more than half of Mexico (which at the time included California, Nevada, Texas, Utah, New Mexico and parts of Wyoming, Colorado and Oklahoma).

***Including Australia in 1975. See John Pilger: Gough Whitlam 1975 Coup that Ended Australian Independence

 

 

 

Emma Goldman and the American Anarchist Movement

Emma Goldman: An Exceedingly Dangerous Woman

Mel Bucklin (2004)

Film Review

Other than the pro-capitalist depiction of the self-governing anarchist democracy Franco and his Wall Street supporters overturned during the Spanish Civil war, most of this documentary is historically accurate. The commentary, in contrast, is sentimental psychobabble and considerably detracts from the film.

The film beings with Goldman’s arrival in the US in 1885 at age 16 – escaping from an arranged marriage in czarist Russia. It would be four years before she connected with anarchists and other radicals in New York City.

The Panic of 1893, in which the US economy nearly collapsed, would launch her into the public spotlight. She led numerous protests marches of unemployed workers and spent a year in jail for incitement to riot. There was a crowd of 2,800 waiting outside the workhouse on her release.

American anarchists were extremely well-organized during a period of massive labor unrest and saw the wisdom of promoting a powerful speaker like Goldman. She believed that America’s founding father had a hidden libertarian/anarchist streak that had been corrupted by capitalism and often quoted from Jefferson and Paine.

In addition to speeches educating people about anarchism (ie replacing the state with self-governing workers committees and cooperatives), she also lectured widely about free speech, equal rights and economic independence for women, free love and birth control (she was sentenced to 15 days in jail for advocating for birth control in public).

She was an enormously popular speaker and received wide coverage in the mainstream media.

She also campaigned heavily against US entry into World War I, and in June 1917 was sentenced to 22 months for conspiracy to violate the Draft Act.

Shortly after her release in 1919 she was deported to Russia along with thousands of other Eastern European immigrants illegally arrested and deported during the Palmer Raids.

For me the most interesting part of the film concerns her meeting with Lenin in 1921.

The Lost Science of Money – Wars Are Won By Bankers, Not Armies

The Lost Science of Money: The Mythology of Money – The Story of Power

by Stephen Zarlinga

American Monetary Institute (2002)

Book Review

This book, by co-author of Congressman Dennis Kucinich’s HR 2990 to abolish the Federal Reserve (see HR2990: Historic Bill to Abolish the Federal Reserve), is one of the most amazing books I’ve ever read. At 775 pages, the lowest price I could find for a used copy was $225 from Alibris. Fortunately it’s also available in PDF format at The Lost Science of Money

It’s clear from Zarlenga’s extensive documentation and footnotes that the research for this book took decades. He essentially rewrites western history dating back to the ancient Sumerians. His goal is to expose and correct all the distortions and myths introduced into official history historians in the pay of merchants and bankers. Both are fiercely committed to perpetuating our current global monetary system in which private central banks create and control the money supply.

Among many others, two of the myths Zarlenga explodes are that the Roman Empire collapsed due to barbarian invasion (he demonstrates very convincingly that Rome collapsed due to a debasement of their currency) and the often repeated claim that excessive government printing of money was responsible for the deadly inflation in the early years of the Third Reich – as Zarlenga points out, it was actually the privately owned central Reichsbank that issued the money and created the inflation.

The Concept of “True Money,”

Zarlenga begins by establishing a clear difference between “true money,” which he defines as money with a fixed value set by law and “commodity money,” in which private merchants and banks issue and control the value of money. In the rare historical periods where governments have issued and controlled money by law, the result has been long periods of political stability and flourishing industry and culture.

The Romans enjoyed the longest continuous period (200 years) of monetary stability. Roman leaders maintained control of their money by prohibiting silver and gold coinage for domestic use – issuing fixed value copper and bronze coinage instead. In this way they prevented foreign merchants from capturing control of their money supply and manipulating the value of their currency.

He Who Controls the Money Controls the World

Zarlenga carefully traces how after the fall of the Roman Empire, control of western money shifted from Constantinople (after the 4th Crusade which sacked Constantinople – see link), to Venice, to Portuguese traders in Antwerp (after they opened the trade route around the southern tip of Africa), to Amsterdam (following the civil war splitting the Netherlands into Holland and Belgium), to London (after the Dutch prince William of Orange seized the English throne). In each case, control of the money supply was far more important than military strength in consolidating political control.

Zarlinga also clarifies, though careful research, the historical role played by the Knights Templar and Jewish merchants and money lenders in the development of global monetary centers.

The Dutch Usurper Who Chartered the Bank of England

One of the sections that interested me most concerned the founding of the Bank off England – which set the global standard for all private central banks – in 1694. Previously I hadn’t realized that the Bank of England was started by a Dutch king (William of Orange), who usurped the English throne from James II. Nor that his purpose for chartering the Bank of England was to advance the interest of the Dutch merchants and bankers who initially controlled it.

“True Money” in the Americas

I also enjoyed the detailed section outlining the history of government issued money in the US. Again Zarlenga presents extensive and convincing evidence that it was the ability of colonial governors to issue their own money that enabled commerce and industry in the 13 original colonies, as well as enabling them to organize a successful war of independence against England.

Zarlenga also describes in detail the battle Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and their allies fought against the creation of a privately controlled central bank, as well as the immense popularity of the Greenback Congress issued during the Civil War – and the immense national uprising (the populist movement) launched at the end of the 19th century to save them.

The Federal Reserve Engineers the Great Depression

Obviously the book wouldn’t be complete without a chapter on the criminal conspiracy that lead to the formation of the Federal Reserve in 1913, the Federal Reserve’s role in engineering the Great Depression 26 years later, and Roosevelt’s prolonged battle with Wall Street to implement the New Deal recovery.

The Inherent Right to Rebel

The Defense of Gracchus Babeuf

J A Scott

MW Books (1988)

Book Review

Babeuf’s speech available free on line at: Defense Speech

Babeuf was a whistleblower under Louis XVI, who in 1782 exposed corruption in the tax system imposed by the French aristocracy. He spent the years immediately preceding the French revolution (1789) either in hiding or in jail. On learning the Bastille had fallen, he joined the revolutionary struggle. In addition to launching a newspaper, he circulated numerous pamphlets and petitions calling for the abolition of private property and an end to the private expropriation of the commons and the division of society into exploited and exploiting classes.

In September 1792, he was elected to the revolutionary government, only to be arrested in 1795 by the counter-revolutionary forces that overthrew Robespierre. He was charged and found guilty of advocating for the re-establishment of the Constitution of 1793.

The book is the verbatim defense Babeuf presented to the court that sentenced him to death. He cites the writings of Plato, Sir Thomas Moore, Thomas Jefferson, Rousseau, Diderot and other Enlightenment thinkers to argue that human beings have a natural right to rebel against political and economic injustice and that violence, poverty and war all have their roots in the concept of private property.

He further argues that the natural function of society and social institutions is to protect the weak against the tyranny of the strong (whereas in reality they do the opposite). He contends that the 1789 revolution wasn’t complete because it allowed the wealth to continue to control all social power and government. He also (correctly) claimed that the election adopting the 1795 constitution was rigged and thus failed to represent the true will of the people.

For me the significance of Babeuf’s courtroom oration (which predated Marx by more than 60 years) was the surprising realization that Marx wasn’t the first to argue against the argue against the damage wealth inequality wreaks on society. It’s easy to forget that Karl Marx was but one of a long line of thinkers (which includes Thomas Jefferson and Adam Smith) who advocated against class exploitation.

A British View of American History

the american future

The American Future: A History from the Founding Fathers to Barack Obama.

Simon Schama

Random House (2008)

Book Review

Written for a British audience, The American Future attempts to define the quintessential American national character by tracing historical movements that have shaped US society. The five political movements Schama considers most important are 1) the gradual rise of a professional military officer class, 2) the role of evangelical religion in the movement to abolish slavery, 3) the brutal imperialist war against Mexico and the Philippines, 4) the forced displacement of the Cherokee and four other Native American nations under Andrew Jackson, and 5) the development of large scale irrigation in to open the Southwest desert area to agriculture.

For me the primary value of this book is all the historical gems Schama includes that you never learn about in high school. For example:

• The founding of West Point military academy with its Jeffersonian emphasis on philosophy and civil engineering, as opposed to military tactics. Jefferson believed a sound liberal education for US military officers would help ensure the US never went to war except to defend liberty. Congress consistently refused to fund a US military or naval academy until an undeclared war with France broke out in 1796.* Over a period of ten months, the French seized 300 US merchant vessels. When Congress eventually authorized funding for West Point, its primary purpose was to train the Army Corps of Engineers, who built the levees, bridges, damns, dykes and forts that enabled westward expansion. They also drained the swamp in Washington DC and built the Capitol and other important federal buildings.

• President Lyndon Johnson’s role, in 1964, in blocking the credentialing of Mississippi’s Freedom Democratic Party, led by Fannie Lou Hamer, after the Mississippi Democratic Party declared their support for the Republican candidate Barry Goldwater. This blatant white cronyism would provide major impetus to the growing black power movement.

• The profound religious intolerance that persisted in the US even after the 1780 adoption of the Bill of Rights guaranteeing separation of church and state. ** In Massachusetts, Sunday church attendance was compulsory until 1833 – until 1840, blasphemy could be punished by one year in prison, public whipping or the pillory. In Maryland Jews weren’t allowed to vote or hold office until the state passed the Jew Bill in 1820.

• Anti-immigrant feelings, especially against Germans, Irish, Mexicans and Chinese were so intense during the 19th century that there were frequent riots in which immigrants were lynched or had their homes set on fire. An 1855 riot in Louisville would have affected my great grandfather, whose family arrived in the area after immigrating from Germany in 1840.

• President Teddy Roosevelt’s 1902 National Reclamation Act, which led to the construction of 600 dams (including Grand Coulee and Hoover Dam) in thirty years. These would provide irrigation to millions of acres of desert in California and the Southwest. This project would include the diversion of the Colorado River to supply Southern California’s Imperial Valley, which supplies nearly half the fresh fruit and vegetables consumed by Americans, as well as Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix and parts of Mexico.


*Prior to reading this book, I had no idea the US and France had been at war (with each other).

**The early view of the Bill of Rights was that it only pertained to the federal government and didn’t apply to state law.