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Did Alexander Hamilton's financial plan put America first?
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Hamilton first

Hamilton's financial plan was an exercise in self-preservation and self-promotion.


Hamilton was a political chameleon who advocated for policies that stood to gain him the most political influence. He was not capable of putting the nation first. For him, it was always about putting Hamilton first.

The Argument

Hamilton was not consistent in the policies he chose to endorse. During the signing of the constitution, Hamilton pushed for federal restraint and limited central government authority. However, following the ratification of the constitution, he would go on to backtrack and eventually push for more central authority and near-limitless central power.[1] There are other instances of Hamilton appearing to flip-flop on political and philosophical belief. When he wrote ‘A Full Vindication’, he seems to subscribe to a Hobbesian view of man, writing: “[s]elf-preservation is the first principle of our nature. When our lives and properties are at stake, it would be foolish or unnatural to refrain from such measures as might preserve them, because they would be detrimental to others.” Yet, a few months later, in ‘A Sincere Friend to America’, he seemed to take a different, anti-Hobbesian tact. He refuted the Hobbesian assertion of an amoral state of nature and the notion that all virtue is artificial, calling such assertions, “absurd and impious.” [2] Hamilton was fickle and would often change his political endorsement to capitalise on the existing political climate. This may not have necessarily been a problem if the byproduct of his own political machinations had produced an outcome beneficial to the country and the masses. However, the fact that the Hamilton that signed the Constitution was at odds with the Hamilton that became Secretary of the Treasury meant that the American people got a secretary that was at odds with the version of the Constitution they had bought into. These examples of Hamilton's fickle nature serve to underscore the fact that self-preservation and self-promotion were at the heart of Hamilton's political career. His financial plans must be interpreted as an extension of his political aims and were therefore, first and foremost, an exercise in self-preservation.

Counter arguments

Just because Hamilton’s motives may have been selfish, doesn’t mean he didn’t strive for the betterment of the American nation. It is possible that his financial plan put both the country first, and Hamilton's political legacy. Hamilton wanted to achieve fame and greatness through the establishment of a modern American state. He saw his own reputation intrinsically linked to the rise of the American nation. If he could successfully build a powerful and prosperous economy, he would be hailed as the architect of a nation and secure the reputation as an economic mastermind. [3] As such, the argument that Hamilton's financial plan was an exercise in self-promotion and that he was a political chameleon does not refute the notion that Hamilton's financial plan put the country first. In reality, it supports it. Hamilton had to put the country first in order to build his own legacy; the two are inseparable. In this light, Hamilton's plan put both the country and his own career first.



[P1] Hamilton was fickle and often endorsed competing policies at different times to further his political career. [P2] Therefore, self-promotion and self-preservation were the driving forces behind his policymaking. [P3] Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that Hamilton's financial plan was, first and foremost, an exercise in self-promotion/self-preservation.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P3] The two are not mutually exclusive. Hamilton's political career and legacy depended on his ability to build a prosperous economy. Therefore, his plan put both first.


This page was last edited on Wednesday, 13 Nov 2019 at 23:15 UTC

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