Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton: Architects of Modern Day Political Parties

Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton were not only two of most powerful and influential of America’s founding fathers, but in many ways the two represent the polar differences that led to the development of the Democrat and Republican parties. Obviously, both the Democratic and Republican parties have undergone significant transformations and will probably continue to do so; hard as it may be for most people to believe now, the Republican Party was once look to by African-Americans as their saviors.  Man, that really is hard to believe, isn’t it?  Nonetheless, there do remain significant divisions between the Democrats and Republicans that harkens back to the equally significant divisions between Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton.   

Thomas Jefferson, it must be remembered, was not just a politician, a writer, an architect and an admirer of Nubian princesses, he was also a Virginia farmer.  In his capacity as a sole proprietor who ran a farm, Jefferson stood in direct opposition to Alexander Hamilton’s desire to create a national banking system in concert with an American economy that was based on manufacturing rather than agriculture.  In partnership with this specific divide between the two men stood a much wider philosophical difference that found Thomas Jefferson wanting more power in the hands of the common man, while Alexander Hamilton eyed a more aristocratic elite that would act as overseers of the common man.   It is certainly not hard to see how Jefferson’s basic ideals developed into the contemporary Democratic Party and how Hamilton’s views developed into the Republican ideal. 

Thomas Jefferson’s support of the rights of the common man were clearly at odds with Alexander Hamilton’s over the French Revolution, at least at the beginning.  George Washington stood philosophically between these men and his reaction was one of neutrality.  However, this neutrality probably had more to do with Washington’s outrage over the violent offenses being committed, and by the desire to keep the US from being dragged into a war between France and England than it had to do with any actual intellectual engagement with political philosophy. Why do our Presidents named George seem so averse to thinking grandly? 

While Hamilton and Jefferson both gave themselves over to forging ideas that were both unique and revolutionary, it is a testament to the greatness that American occasionally had before 2001 that the better of these two wanted grew into political parties that are genuinely shaped by the philosophies of both. It is also interesting to note that despite the divide that exists between the Democrats and Republicans on social issues, both parties mirror the fact that at heart there was actually not terribly much substantive difference between Jefferson and Hamilton.  Whether Federalist, Anti-Federalist, Democrat or Republican, everyone agrees that the current economic system is exempt from criticism. 

And that is the tragedy that befalls us all.