John Adams was descended from the Puritans who landed at Plymouth Rock
John Adams was the Rodney Dangerfield of the Founding Fathers. He got no respect. However deserving he was of respect. The man was brilliant. Well read. Honest. Virtuous. But irascible. And vain. He knew he was right when he was right. And was more than eager to argue with anyone that was wrong. Which was most of the time. Tending to make most people not love him. A lot. Earning him monikers like His Rotundity. Because he was portly. Irascible. And not really loved. Which bothered Adams. For he was one of the greatest of the Founding Fathers. But others got all the love. Such as Thomas Jefferson. The junior Congressman they delegated the writing of the Declaration of Independence to after Adams did all the heavy lifting in Congressional debate to lead the nation to declare their independence. While Jefferson sat through all those heated debates silently. For, unlike Adams, Jefferson did not like public confrontations. He preferred stabbing people in the back through surrogates. Or in the press. As Adams would learn firsthand during the 1800 presidential election.
Adams was a very religious man. His family descended from the Puritans who landed at Plymouth Rock. Who stressed filling your day with hard work and going to church. And if you had any time left in the day you might get a little eating or sleeping in. Adams was a farmer. And had the hands of a working man. But he was also a lawyer. A very good lawyer. Who had as much reverence for the law as he did for his religion. So much so that he represented the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre. After the Stamp Act (1765) things were getting a little heated in Boston. Adams then wrote the Braintree Instructions in response to the Stamp Act. Stating that there should be no taxation without representation. Calling for trial by jury. And an independent judiciary. Things the British denied the good people in the American colonies. But things Adams insisted that the Americans shouldn’t deny to the British soldiers who shot those Americans in Boston. So he represented the British on trial when no one else would take the case. And he got a jury of Bostonians to acquit all but two who they found guilty of manslaughter.
Just about every Bostonian wanted the British soldiers found guilty of murder and hung. Bu the rule of law prevailed. As Adams convinced the jury that the British did not just open fire on innocent bystanders. There was a mob harassing the British. Throwing snowballs and chunks of ice. And other projectiles. Someone knocked a British soldier to the ground. While the mob grew in size. And in intensity. Provoking the British to discharge their weapons. As much as the British killing these Americans bothered Adams so did an unruly mob. His religious teachings emphasized hard work and prayer. Not drunkenness and mob violence. However, Boston had always had drunken, unruly mobs. But they didn’t always get shot by British redcoats. So why did they this time? Because British redcoats were quartered within the city of Boston. This was the kindling that led to the mob action. Which was yet another British violation of the good people of Boston.
A Strong enough Naval Force acts like an Impregnable Fortress Wall to any Hostile Power
When the British marched to Lexington and Concord to seize some weapons in 1775 and exchanged shots with the Americans a state of war existed. The Revolutionary War had started even though their declaration of independence was another year away. Up to this time most of the trouble with the British was in Massachusetts. And some states wanted to leave it in Massachusetts. Which was a problem for Massachusetts. For they couldn’t take on the British Empire by themselves. But if the states united together they had a chance. Adams understood this. So when it came time to choose a commander for the Continental Army he looked to a Virginian. George Washington. After they voted to declare their independence he looked at another Virginian to write the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson. Understanding that they had to make this an American Revolution. Not just a Massachusetts one. For only a union of their several states could withstand the mightiest military power on the planet. But not just any union. One that would release all the latent energies of the several states. A republican union.
After declaring their independence the first order of business for the states was to replace the British governing structure. And that started with the writing of new constitutions. To make those new state governments. That could join in a republican union. Something Adams had given much thought and study to. He believed in the separation of powers between the executive, the judicial and the legislative branches. To provide checks and balances. And a bicameral legislature. A lower house to represent the common people. And an upper house to represent the rich people. With an executive to represent the state. Such that the interests of the many, the few and the one were all represented. Similar to Great Britain’s two houses of Parliament (House of Commons and House of Lords) and the king. Though, of course, having versions of these that weren’t corrupt. Thus not allowing one group of people (or person) to dictate policy to the other group of people (or person). Thereby avoiding a pure democracy and mob rule. A characteristic of a single-house legislature. As France would demonstrate during their French Revolution.
After delegating the busy work of writing the Declaration of Independence to the junior member from Virginia, Thomas Jefferson, Adams dove into the work of building a navy. What he liked to call ‘wooden walls’. For a strong enough naval force acted like an impregnable fortress wall to any hostile power. The British Empire ruled the world because the Royal Navy was the most powerful navy in the world. She could protect her coasts. Prevent the landing of armies. Keep foreign warships out of canon range of her cities. And even protect her trade routes. In a day of competing mercantile empires dependent on their shipping lanes having a navy to protect those shipping lanes made the difference between empire and former empire. As few picked fights with the nations with the big navies. Adams understood this. And he believed in it. Peace through strength. For a strong navy was a deterrent to aggressive nations.
If John Adams were Alive Today he would Likely Endorse the Republican Candidates Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan
But Adams was no warmonger. During his presidency Napoleon came to power in France and was waging war across Europe. And against American shipping. Once again Adams fought to build up the navy. To erect those wooden walls. To be able to protect American shipping on the open seas as France and Great Britain returned to war. President Washington maintained a policy of neutrality in their latest war. Adams continued that policy. Which infuriated the French. And the American people. As the French had helped the Americans win their revolution the French and the American people believed the Americans should help the French win theirs. So the French seized American shipping. And demanded tribute from the American ambassadors in France before beginning any peace discussions. When news of this leaked out to the American people (known as the XYZ Affair) the public sentiment on France changed. And soon everyone was demanding a declaration of war on France. Adams tried one more peace commission while at the same time the growing American navy fought back against French naval aggression in an undeclared war. The Quasi-War. Eventually peace came. Through strength.
Adams was pretty much everywhere in the making of the American nation. From the Braintree Instructions to supporting George Washington to winning the debate for independence to the writing of states’ constitutions to building a republican union. He helped build American naval power. And he avoided war with France when just about everybody wanted war with France. But one place he was not was in Philadelphia in 1787. Even though his constitution writing skills were second to none he did not help draft the U.S. Constitution. For he was busy in Holland. Getting the first foreign power (the Netherlands) to recognize the United States following their victory in the Revolutionary War. He negotiated a Dutch loan. Negotiated a treaty of amity and commerce with the Dutch. And established the first American-owned embassy on foreign soil.
If Adams were alive today he probably would not be a fan of the Democrat Party. And their constant use of class warfare. Especially when the top 10% of earners pay about 70% of all federal income taxes. While about 50% of the population pays no federal income taxes. This does not represent the interests of the many, the few and the one. The few pay the majority of tax revenue and have the least say in how that money is spent. Taking the nation closer to a pure democracy. And mob rule. While at the same time the Democrats use the courts to write unpopular legislation they want but can’t pass in Congress. Where a few judges can write law through court opinions. A great offense to a pure jurist like Adams. And transforming ‘the one’ into a leviathan of special interests and cronyism. Knowing how hard it was to secure loans to pay the nation’s war debt in his day he would be appalled at the size of the annual deficits and the accumulated debt today. And the constant refrain that the rich need to pay their fair share even though about 10% of all Americans are already paying approximately 70% of the tax bill. The character assassination of Mitt Romney by the Obama Campaign would be too reminiscent of the abuse he suffered through in the 1800 election. And as a firm believer in the policy of peace through strength he would not like the massive cuts in defense spending. Which will only encourage more attacks like the one on the American embassy in Benghazi. An obvious sign that our enemies don’t fear us. And are not deterred by our strength. No, if John Adams were alive today he would likely endorse the Republican candidates Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.
Tags: 2012 election, 2012 Endorsements, Adams, bicameral legislature, Boston, British Empire, British redcoats, British soldiers, checks and balances, class warfare, constitutions, democracy, Democrat, Democrat Party, farmer, federal income taxes, Founding Fathers, France, Great Britain, independence, Jefferson, John Adams, lawyer, Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, Mob rule, naval force, navy, Paul Ryan, peace through strength, Puritans, Republican, republican union, Revolutionary War, Romney, Ryan, separation of powers, Stamp Act, Thomas Jefferson, union, war debt, wooden walls
Hamilton knew that a Republican Government needed Men of Virtue for it to Survive
Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus left his plough to defend the Roman Republic. Became dictator. Defeated the enemy. Resigned the dictatorship. And returned to his plough. The epitome of a republican ruler. Voluntarily giving up absolute power to preserve the republic. America had its own Cincinnatus. George Washington. Lucius Sergius Catilina (Catiline) was basically the anti-Cincinnatus. Whereas Cincinnatus was honorable, virtuous, principled and selfless Catiline was not. Where Cincinnatus tried to save the Roman Republic Catiline tried to overthrow it. America had its own Catiline. Aaron Burr.
Burr was an unprincipled opportunist. While George Washington approached politics by asking what was best for the country Aaron Burr asked what was best for Aaron Burr. Washington loathed politics and tried to stay above it. Whereas for Burr politics were the only good thing about governing. Burr entered politics at the birth of political parties in the US. As the tensions were building up between Hamilton’s Federalists and Jefferson’s Republicans. Burr started out as a Federalist. But chafed in a subordinate role to Hamilton. The titular head of the Federalist Party. So he left the Federalist Party and became a Republican. He accepted an appointment from Republican New York governor George Clinton as attorney general. New York had two Federalist senators in Congress. And Hamilton wanted to keep those seats Federalist. He tried to appeal to Burr’s principles to get him to return to the Federalist Party. But Burr had no principles. And when Governor Clinton backed him for Senator he stayed Republican. And won one of those seats.
Being Senator was nice but Burr wanted to be governor of New York. He tried to make a deal with the Federalists. He knew they wanted to get rid of Republican Governor Clinton and replace him with a Federalist governor. He wanted to be that Federalist governor. But Hamilton was a lot like Washington. He had principles. And put the country first. Hamilton knew that a republican government needed men of virtue for it to survive. And Burr had no virtue. So he was not interested in making any deals with Burr.
Alexander Hamilton called Aaron Burr the American Catiline
In the election of 1800 Thomas Jefferson needed New York. And Burr had connections. So Jefferson asked for his help. And he delivered. By changing the New York electors from Federalist to Republican. Jefferson then added Burr to the Republican ticket in the 1800 election. At that time the president was the candidate who won the most votes. And the vice president was the candidate who won the second most votes. Burr and Jefferson tied. Instead of conceding the election to Jefferson (the whole point in enlisting Burr’s help was to get Jefferson elected president) he forced the House of Representatives to vote 36 times until the tie was finally broken. Thus alienating Burr from Jefferson forever. Knowing that Jefferson would drop him from the Republican ticket in the 1804 election he began talking to New York Federalists again. Who wanted Burr to run for New York governor. And he was more than willing to switch parties again as he was completely unprincipled and offered himself to the party that made it most worth his while. It was at this time that Hamilton called Burr the American Catiline.
Also at this time there was a Federalist plot in New England. Should Jefferson win reelection in 1804 there were plans for New England to secede from the union. With Burr’s help New York would secede and join in a northern confederacy. Hamilton knew of the plot. And desperately wanted to stop it. For it was the last thing he wanted was for the American union to dissolve. He turned up his public attacks on Burr. Which helped Burr lose the election in New York. Attacks that Burr took exception to. Challenging him to a duel to restore his honor besmirched by Hamilton’s attacks. So on July11, 1804, Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton crossed the Hudson River to Weehawken, New Jersey. And exchanged pistol shots at 10 paces. Hamilton reportedly fired his shot harmlessly past Burr. Not wishing to hurt him while at the same time exposing himself to danger so as not to besmirch his honor. Burr’s shot, though, found Hamilton. He died the following day. Burr won the duel. But he lost his reputation and his political future.
Burr then headed west. Where he had planned to set himself up in an independent nation formed by parts of Mexico, Louisiana and Texas. He may have tried to get Great Britain involved. And he may have had plans of going to war with Spain. The details are a little sketchy. But he was up to something. When President Jefferson learned of his activities he had Burr arrested and indicted for treason. He was acquitted of treason at his trial. But the trial destroyed whatever was left of his political career after killing Hamilton.
If Aaron Burr were Alive Today he would likely endorse the Democrat Candidates Barack Obama and Joe Biden
If Burr were alive today he would be in awe of what the federal government became. Back in his days there were few federal jobs available. But today? He could live the life he always wanted. And he wouldn’t even have to win an election. All he would need to do is use his political connections to obtain a position in the federal bureaucracy. A post for life. And with an ever expanding federal government there would always be a post for life somewhere in that magnificent bureaucracy. Where politics ruled. Not principles. Where government spending soars regardless of the consequences. And class warfare creates a new aristocracy. Not the top 10% earners who pay 70% of federal income taxes. Or the bottom 50% who pay no federal income taxes. No, the new aristocracy is the federal bureaucracy that sits on top of this great wealth transfer. Like the nobility of old. Only without the need of having a good last name.
Had Burr lived today he would have looked at the federal government and cried out, “Where have you been all my life?” He would support anyone furthering this massive government expansion. Especially those practitioners of class warfare. The Democrat Party. If Aaron Burr were alive today he would likely endorse the Democrat candidates Barack Obama and Joe Biden.
Tags: 1800 election, 2012 election, 2012 Endorsements, Aaron Burr, Alexander Hamilton, American Catiline, aristocracy, bureaucracy, Burr, Catiline, Cincinnatus, class warfare, election of 1800, federal bureaucracy, federal government, Federalist Party, Federalists, George Washington, Governor Clinton, Hamilton, Jefferson, New York, politics, Republic, Republicans, Roman Republic, Thomas Jefferson, Washington
The Father of the Constitution nudged the Father of the Country out of Retirement
The Confederation Congress did not work as well as some had hoped. Despite having won their independence from Great Britain there was still no feeling of national unity. Sectional interests prevailed over national interests. Greatly affecting the ability of the national government to function. Negating the benefits of union. And offering little respect for the young nation on the world stage. The new nation simply was not taken seriously at home. Or abroad. Prompting a meeting of states delegates in Annapolis in 1786. Twelve delegates from five states showed up. The states just didn’t care enough. The convention adjourned after only three days. But not before Alexander Hamilton put a plan together for another convention in Philadelphia for the following year.
The states were happy with the way things were. They did not want to give up any of their powers to a new central authority. But the problem was that the states were fighting against each other. Trying to protect their own economic interests and their own trade. Some could extend this behavior out into the future. And they did not like what they saw. States with similar interests would form regional alliances. And these alliances would ally themselves with some of the European powers who were also on the North American continent. The northern states (having industry and commerce) would join together and ally with the industrial and commerce powerhouse Great Britain. The agrarian southern states would join together and ally with Great Britain’s eternal enemy. France. And the western territories dependent on the Mississippi River to get their agricultural goods to marker would ally with the European power in control of the Mississippi River. Spain. Who were both eternal enemies of Great Britain. And the centuries of warfare on the European continent would just extend to North America. Some saw this as the American future if they didn’t unite and put the nation’s interests ahead of sectional interests.
The Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787 almost didn’t happen. For there was as much interest in it as there was in the Annapolis Convention in 1786. James Madison, the father of the Constitution, made the meeting in Philadelphia a reality. By his persuasive efforts with his neighbor. George Washington. Father of our Country. Then in retirement at Mount Vernon with no interest to reenter public life after resigning his commission following the Revolutionary War. He could have been king then but declined the numerous offers to make him so. Happy that they won their independence he just wanted to live out his years on his farm. Like Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus. Who left his plough to become dictator of the Roman Republic. To defend the Roman Republic. He defeated the enemy. Resigned his dictatorship. And returned to his plough. Earning a cherished place in our history books. Something Washington had just done. Only taking some 8 years instead of 16 days like Cincinnatus. His place in history had come with a far greater price. And he did not want to risk losing what he had earned after paying so dearly for it. But Madison knew that it would take Washington’s presence to get the other states to send their delegates. So Madison was persistent. The Father of the Constitution nudged the Father of the Country out of retirement. And made the retired general do the last thing he wanted to do. Return to public life. As he was already an old man who outlived the average lifespan of Washington men.
Madison didn’t believe a Bill of Rights would Stop a Majority from Imposing their Will on the Minority
It took four long, miserable months to produce the new constitution. It was a hot and insufferable summer. And they kept the windows of Independence Hall closed to block out the city noise. And prevent anyone from hearing the debates. So the delegates could speak freely. And after those four long months the delegates signed the new document. Not all of them. Some hated it and refused to sign it or support it. And would actively fight against it during the ratification process. As they did not like to see so much power going to a new federal government. Especially as there was no bill of rights included to help protect the people from this new government. The document they produced was based on the Virginia Plan. Which was drafted by James Madison. Which is why we call him the Father of the Constitution. So Virginia was instrumental in producing the new constitution. And the delegates finally agreed to it because of another Virginian. George Washington. Making Virginian ratification of the new constitution conditional for other states to ratify it. So all eyes were on Virginia. For without Virginia all their efforts in Philadelphia would be for naught. Because if Virginia did not join the union under the new Constitution that meant George Washington would be ineligible to be president.
Of course getting Virginia to ratify was another story. Because George Washington and James Madison were not the only Virginians in politics. There was also George Mason. Who wrote the Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776). Which Thomas Jefferson may have borrowed from when writing the Declaration of Independence. And Mason also wrote the Virginia State Constitution (1776). Mason opposed granting the new federal government so much power and refused to sign the Constitution in Philadelphia. And then there was Patrick Henry. Perhaps the greatest Patriot orator. And of “Give me Liberty, or give me Death!” fame. Which he shouted out during the Stamp Act (1765) debates. He was also Virginia’s first governor under the new state constitution. Mason and Henry were Patriots of the 1776 school. The kind that hated distant central powers. Whether they were in London. Or in New York. Mason wanted a bill of rights. Henry, too. As well as amendments transferring a lot of power from the federal government back to the states. Or, better yet, no federal constitution at all. Which Henry would work towards by leading a fierce ratification opposition.
Perhaps the greatest flaw of the new constitution as many saw was the lack of a bill of rights. This was a contentious issue during the convention. It was the reason why Mason refused to sign it. As there was nothing to check the powers of the new government and protect the people’s liberties. So why did they not include a bill of rights? Because it was not necessary. According to Madison. Who fought against it. Because the new federal government was a government of limited powers. It wasn’t like the state governments. The new federal government only did those things the states didn’t do. Or shouldn’t do. Like treat with other nations. Provide a common defense. Regulate interstate trade. Things that expanded beyond a state’s borders. And what powers it had were enumerated. Limited. It did not repeal individual rights protected by state constitutions. And had no authority over those rights. Whatever rights a person enjoyed in their state were untouchable by the new federal government. Therefore, a bill of rights was not necessary. Which actually protected rights greater than listing them. For whatever rights they forgot to list the federal government would assume were fair to abuse. Finally, Madison didn’t believe a bill of rights would stop a majority from imposing their will on the minority. A tyranny of the majority. Something he saw firsthand as a young man returning from college. Where the state of Virginia harassed and imprisoned Baptist ministers for holding Baptist services in Anglican Virginia. Something he didn’t forget. Nor did the Baptists.
If James Madison were Alive Today he would Likely Endorse the Republican Candidates Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan
Patrick tried hard to prevent the ratification of the constitution in Virginia. But failed. When it came time for the Virginian legislature to elect their federal senators Henry campaigned hard against Madison and saw him defeated. When it came to the federal House elections Henry drew the new Congressional districts that made Madison campaign in a district full of people that mostly disagreed with him. Which it took a change of his position on adding a bill of rights to the Constitution to overcome. His position gradually changed from opposed to being lukewarm to being a strong supporter. In part due to some correspondence with Thomas Jefferson then serving in France. And the Baptists’ concerns over rights of conscience. Something Madison had longed believed in. Believing religious liberty was essential to a free people. As the Constitution stood there were no safeguards specifically against the oppression like that the Anglicans imposed on the Baptists earlier. What the Baptists wanted was a bill of rights.
Madison promised, if elected, to introduce an amendment to the Constitution addressing their concerns. In fact, a bill of rights would be the first Constitutional amendment. And he would introduce it and fight for it until it was ratified. Based on this promise the Baptists threw their support behind Madison. Got him elected to the House of Representatives. And Madison delivered on his promise. Championing a bill of rights through Congress. The Father of the Constitution also became the Father of the Bill of Rights. And then it was a knockdown drag-out fight in the Virginian legislature to get the new Bill of Rights ratified. Where the opposition to ratification was led by none other than Patrick Henry. But he would lose that fight, too. And the nation would have a federal government with limited, enumerated powers. With individual liberties protected by a bill of rights. Providing a federal government powerful enough to do the things it needed to do like treat with other nations, provide a common defense, regulate interstate trade, etc. Those things that expanded beyond a state’s borders. And in the following decade we would be prosperous because of it.
None of this could have happened without Virginia’s ratification of the Constitution. Which opened the door for George Washington to be our first president. And helped New York ratify the Constitution. With the ratification in Virginia. And the letter writing campaign in support of ratification. Which appeared in newspapers. Articles written by James Madison and Alexander Hamilton (mostly) and John Jay. Now published as the Federalists Papers. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Madison and Hamilton the nation had a new form of government. But Madison and Hamilton would soon part ways once Hamilton was Secretary of the Treasury. And took great liberties with the necessary and proper clause of the Constitution. Expanding the power and scope of the federal government far beyond what Madison had ever envisioned. Which moved Madison into closer company with George Mason and Patrick Henry. Desperately trying to hold onto states’ rights and oppose the expansion of the federal government. Like he would oppose the great overreach of the federal government today. The transfer of power from the states to the federal government. And the expansion of suffrage to include those who don’t own property or pay taxes. Leading to mob rule at times. Populism. And a tyranny of the majority.
Madison suffered ill health most of his life. Stomach disorders and dysentery. Brought on by the pressures of public service. If he were alive today he probably wouldn’t remain alive long. Seeing what has happened to his Constitution would probably kill him. If he had the chance to vote today he would vote for the party that championed limited government. The party that would stop the growth of the federal government. And reduce its size. The party that governed for all people and not the will of the populist mob. The party that did NOT govern through class warfare but through sound principles. If James Madison were alive today he would likely endorse the Republican candidates Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.
Tags: 1787, 2012 election, 2012 Endorsements, Alexander Hamilton, Baptists, Bill of Rights, Cincinnatus, Constitutional Convention, enumerated powers, father of the Constitution, Father of the Country, federal government, George Mason, George Washington, Hamilton, Henry, James Madison, limited government, limited powers, Madison, Mason, Mob rule, national interests, Patrick Henry, Philadelphia, ratification, sectional interests, state governments, Thomas Jefferson, tyranny of the majority, union, Virginia, Washington
When the Radicals attacked Parliament and the King’s Ministers Jefferson’s Summary View attacked King George
When Thomas Jefferson entered politics he was still a quiet and shy awkward young man. He was not the public speaker Patrick Henry was. And did not enjoy being in the spotlight. That said he was incredibly book smart. When he was in college he spent up to 15 hours a day reading. And another 3 hours practicing his violin. Which probably explained why he was quiet and shy. And not a real lady’s man. His first love was and always remained his books. And it was this insatiable thirst to read and learn that made him one of the greatest writers of the Revolutionary era. It was also where he was most comfortable. For it was something a quiet and shy young man could do best in his solitude.
After earning a law degree he went into law. Then he won a seat in the Virginian House of Burgesses. And joined the opposition against the taxing efforts of British Parliament. As well as their regulation of trade. Going so far as to join a boycott of British imports. Unless it was something really nice that he really, really wanted. For he was a bit of a dandy who enjoyed the finest fashions, furnishings, wines, pretty much anything French, etc. If it was fashionable in high society Jefferson probably had it. But you wouldn’t believe he was a dandy by his writing. For he wrote some powerful stuff while still in the House of Burgesses. Especially his A Summary View of the Rights of British America (1774). Published at a time when there was a lot of friction between the colonies and the mother country. As furious debate raged about Parliament’s right to tax and regulate trade in the colonies. To summarize his Summary View Jefferson stated, “The British Parliament has no right to exercise authority over us.” Like many of the Revolutionary generation, Jefferson did not like some distant central power imposing their will on them. But Summary View went even farther.
At the time most British Americans still wanted to be subjects of Great Britain. They just wanted the same rights subjects living in England had. Namely, representation in Parliament. Denied that they attacked the dictatorial powers of Parliament. And the king’s ministers. But they didn’t attack King George. Jefferson did. When the other radicals attacked Parliament and the king’s ministers Summary View attacked King George. While the other radicals wanted fair and equal treatment as subjects of the British Crown Jefferson was already moving beyond that. He was ready for independence from the British Crown. For he had no love of monarchy.
The States drafting their own Constitutions was a de facto Declaration of Independence
Much of the trouble in the colonies began with the Stamp Act of 1765. But in Summary View Jefferson said their problems went further back. To 1066. To the Norman Conquest of England. A time when, according to the Whig interpretation of history that Jefferson had read, things changed. All land belonged to kings after 1066. Not to the people. But before the Norman Conquest there was the Saxony model of government. Tracing its lineage back to Saxony Germania. Along the North Sea. Where once upon a time in a mystical place the good people of Saxony enjoyed representative government. A beautiful system of government under which people lived in harmony and bliss. Until feudalism came along. And kings arose. Who snuffed out these old ways. So Jefferson hated all monarchies. The nobility class. And birthrights. He didn’t believe in the divine rights of kings. To him they were just a bunch of bullies who came along and changed the rules of the game by force for personal gain. And King George III was no different.
When Peyton Randolph left the Continental Congress Jefferson replaced him. At the time he was a very minor player in Virginian politics. But his Summary View created a reputation that preceded his arrival. And he was warmly welcomed. Especially by the more radical elements. The Americans had not yet declared their independence but they were already at war with Great Britain. Blood was spilled at Lexington and Concord. And General Washington was now in command of the Continental Army then laying siege to the British in Boston. More importantly, some states were already drafting their own constitutions. To form new governments to replace the royal government. Which to many (including Jefferson) was the most pressing business. As it was a de facto declaration of independence. Which was even more important than the drafting of the Declaration of Independence. Something the more senior members delegated to the junior member from Virginia. Because they had more important things to do.
In May and June of 1776 Jefferson’s mind was back in Virginia. And he wrote three drafts of a new constitution for Virginia. His constitution was similar to the future U.S. Constitution. It included a separation of powers. A 2-house (i.e., bicameral) legislature. An independent judiciary. And, most importantly of all, a WEAK executive. Leaving political power in the hands of the people via their representatives in the legislature. There would be no royal governors or kings in the new state government. Just pure self-government. Just like in that mystical place where the Saxons lived in harmony and bliss. And so it would be in Virginia. There would be democracy. At least for the people who owned property and paid taxes, that is. For if you wanted to tell government what they could do you had to have skin in the game. And pay taxes. But after taking care of this Virginian business he got around to writing the Declaration of Independence. And that thing that no one wanted to waste their time doing? It became the seminal document of the United States. Making Jefferson a superstar among the Founding Fathers. In posterity John Adams regretted that he didn’t waste his valuable time to write it.
If Jefferson were Alive Today he would likely Endorse the Republican Candidates Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan
After the Americans won their independence Jefferson accepted a diplomatic post in France where he accomplished little. Jefferson championed open markets and free trade. And he worked tirelessly with the French to adopt a free trade agreement. So cheap raw materials (like Virginian tobacco) could flow to France. And cheap manufactured goods could flow to the United States. But the political reality in France stymied him. The French refused to lower tariffs so they could protect their domestic markets. Not to mention that those high custom duties allowed corrupt officials to pocket more for themselves. His only success in France was a Dutch loan John Adams secured while Jefferson was tagging along. Adams understood the complex world of international finance. Jefferson did not. Other than large sums of money tended to corrupt people. Custom agents. And governments. So it was a wise thing to keep the centers of finance apart from the center of government. Which is why the federal capital is in Washington DC and not in New York City.
Jefferson was in France during Shay’s Rebellion. An armed protest against new taxes imposed by Boston. Those in the fledgling government worried about suppressing this uprising (the Continental Congress had few resources other than to ask states for contributions) to prevent the collapse of the new nation. While Jefferson said, “The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive…I like a little rebellion now and then.” And, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.” Later, serving as Secretary of State in the Washington administration, he battled with Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton over the size of government and the meaning of the Constitution. Hamilton wanted to expand the power of the federal government to help jumpstart America into becoming a mighty empire like the British Empire. With the government partnering with the private sector. Pooling great amounts of capital together to build incredible things. While Jefferson wanted all Americans to be yeoman farmers physically working their own land. With as small a federal government as possible. And one that spent as little money as possible and remained debt-free. In fact, when he was president he slashed spending so much that the nation could barely afford the navy to protect its shipping from the Barbary pirates.
So it is pretty clear that Thomas Jefferson hated big government. He spent his entire political life trying to limit the power and scope of government. To make government as impotent as possible. To the point where he even supported a little rebellion every now and then to keep government in its place. What would he think of the federal government today? It would probably make him physically ill. The spending? The debt? The federal register? These would make him long for the responsible governing of King George. And his pro-American policies. If he were able to vote today he would vote for the lesser of two evils. And that would be the party of limited government. To stop the out of control growth of the federal government. And hopefully reduce its size. If Jefferson were alive today he would likely endorse the Republican candidates Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan for president and vice president.
Tags: 2012 election, 2012 Endorsements, Alexander Hamilton, British, British Crown, British Parliament, Constitution, Continental Congress, Declaration of Independence, England, federal government, France, free trade, Great Britain, Hamilton, House of Burgesses, Jefferson, John Adams, King George, limited government, Mitt Romney, monarchy, Norman Conquest, Parliament, Paul Ryan, representative government, Republican, Romney, Ryan, Saxony, self-government, Summary View, taxes, Thomas Jefferson, Virginia, Virginian, Virginian House of Burgesses
The US enjoyed a Booming Economy due to Trade with Great Britain and the Protection of that Trade by Britain’s Royal Navy
In politics there is domestic policy. Where politicians can really make a mess of the nation. And then there’s foreign policy. Where politicians can make an even bigger mess of things. Because nations are not isolated from other nations in the world. And what they say or do can have a great impact on those nations who threatened them. And those nations who peacefully coexist with them. Bad foreign policy can do anything from hurting the economy (by disrupting international trade). To causing war.
America came into being in part due to the treaties they made with the King of France. Louis XVI. Who helped them overthrow their king’s rule. An interesting thing for a king to do. What with Louis being a king himself. And the last thing he wanted was his subjects to overthrow him. Which they would do a decade or so later. As they were inflamed with the spirit of liberty. Thanks to the American Revolution. The very thing that Louis helped the Americans win. Who did so to improve his position against his perpetual enemy. Great Britain. But in the end he lost his own kingdom.
The Franco-American treaties included a perpetual military alliance. Such that if a hostile nation attacked France the U.S. was obligated to help protect the French West Indies. Under a commercial treaty French privateers could use U.S. ports. Meaning that if they captured an enemy ship, say a British ship, they could bring that prize into a U.S. port. Even refitting the ship into another French privateer to go out and attack more British shipping. All sensible and reasonable considering the U.S. was at war with Great Britain at the time they entered those treaties. But the U.S. did not remain in a perpetual state of way with Great Britain. In fact, the U.S. enjoyed a booming economy in part due to trade with Great Britain. And the protection of that trade by Britain’s Royal Navy. The most powerful navy in the world.
The Port of New Orleans was the Gateway for all American Farm Goods West of the Appalachians
So as war clouds loomed over Europe again with the outbreak of the French Revolution these treaties complicated matters for the young nation. She had no navy. Not much of a standing army. And a lot of debt from the last war. Which was not an enjoyable experience having lasted some 8 years before the Treaty of Paris of 1783 officially ended it. Now the nation was enjoying peace and economic growth. And the last thing they wanted was another war. Which was going to be difficult to avoid. And the animosity between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson didn’t help. As they both wanted the young nation to remain neutral. But they each wanted that neutrality to lean in opposite ways.
In 1790 war loomed between Great Britain and Spain. The Spanish had allied themselves with France in the American Revolution to settle some old scores with Britain. That war did not end as well as they had hoped. As Gibraltar was still British. So there was that. Among other deeply held…differences. When it looked like they would return to war the British in Canada sent an official to meet with the Washington administration. To get permission for the passage of British troops on American territory to attack Spanish Louisiana. Which is where the Mississippi River flowed through to the Port of New Orleans. The gateway for all American farm goods west of the Appalachians.
This was a complex issue. For the Spanish didn’t really like the Americans. Wanting to keep them as far east of the Mississippi river as possible. So on the one hand getting the Spanish out of North America completely might have been a good thing. But replacing the Spanish with the British not so good. Alexander Hamilton wanted to grant the British this passage. In exchange for a guarantee of navigation rights on the Mississippi River. He also wanted to grant them passage as he feared they would take it with or without the American’s permission. And if they did without that permission the Americans would have no choice but to go to war to preserve American honor and her territorial sovereignty. So supporting the British was the only way to save face in the international community without going to war. In the end, though, the British and the Spanish resolved their differences peacefully.
Genêt refitted the British Brigantine Little Sarah into the Commerce Raider Petit Démocrate, Pushing the Americans Closer to War
The British didn’t go to war with the Spanish. But the French and British did in 1793. Which caused a lot of trouble in America. For the American people still hated the British. Despite a lucrative trade with them. A trade protected by their Royal Navy. But that did little to make them forget all those years of war. Or forget the people who helped them win their independence. The French. So when the French Revolution broke out, and the French and the British went to war again, the American people sided with the French. Despite what was happening in Paris. The Terror. And the execution of the king and queen. As far as they were concerned the only good king was a dead king. But that dead king posed a problem for American foreign policy. Those Franco-American treaties were made with that now dead king. And his court. Which no longer existed. So were the Americans still bound by those treaties?
Which brought up an even bigger question. Should the Americans recognize the French Republic? No other nation had. And after the execution of King Louis and Marie Antoinette, it was unlikely any monarchy would. So should the Americans be first? Hamilton said, “No.” While Jefferson said, “Yes.” As far as the Franco-American treaties Hamilton did not want to honor them as that government no longer existed. Jefferson insisted on honoring them as if they were made with the new French Republic. Jefferson also insisted that Washington receive the new French envoy. Citizen Edmond Genêt. Washington ultimately consented to receiving Citizen Genêt. But he also issued his Proclamation of Neutrality. Telling the British and the French that America would remain friendly but impartial to both. Which did not go over well with the French. Or the American people.
Genêt landed in South Carolina. And travelled overland to Philadelphia. Getting a hero’s welcome along the way. Genêt even said that Washington was jealous of him for how the American people loved him more than the president. These actions and remarks did not endear Genêt to the Washington administration. Washington and Hamilton gave him a cool reception. While Jefferson gave him a very warm reception. Telling him he had a friend in the Secretary of State. Genêt demanded an advance on the money America owed France. Hamilton refused. Knowing what he wanted that money for. To pay for the Armée du Mississippi and the Armée des Florides that George Rogers Clarke was putting together for him on paper. To attack the Spanish in Louisiana and in Florida. When Hamilton refused he complained to Jefferson. Saying he was clearly favoring the British Crown over the Franco-American alliance. And even lied. Saying that if he agreed to use that money to contract with Hamilton’s friends he could have it. Further convincing Jefferson of the corruption at the Treasury Department under Hamilton.
As bad as all of that was Genêt was also outfitting privateers that were attacking and capturing British shipping. Worse, he was bringing these prizes back to American ports to sell. Which did not look very neutral to Britain. Who demanded their ships back. And that the Americans close these ports to the French. Which Washington did. For the last thing the Americans wanted was another war with Britain. Chaffing under the American restrictions Genêt refitted the British brigantine Little Sarah into the commerce raider Petit Démocrate. Telling Jefferson he did so by the authority of the Franco-American treaties. And when she set out to sea it captured one British ship after another. Pushing the Americans closer to war with the British. Turning the American people against the French. And the Republican Party. Who had so warmly embraced Citizen Genêt. So that was the end of Genêt. And the Franco-American treaties. The Americans would remain neutral. Even if that neutrality favored the British. Which turned out to be a good thing. As the whole world would be at war with France in a few years. With even the American people demanding to go to war with France. Thankfully, America’s second president, John Adams, was able to keep that from happening.
Tags: Alexander Hamilton, American Revolution, Britain, Citizen Genêt, Edmond Genêt, foreign policy, France, Franco-American treaties, French privateer, French Republic, French Revolution, Genêt, Great Britain, Hamilton, Jefferson, Louis XVI, Mississippi River, neutrality, Petit Démocrate, port of New Orleans, privateers, Proclamation of Neutrality, Royal Navy, Spain, Spanish Louisiana, Thomas Jefferson, Washington
Week in Review
Thomas Jefferson did not like having money and government get too close. Because history is strewn with examples of corruption whenever money and government come together. From padding the federal payroll to spending money to buying votes to outright graft. Which is why Thomas Jefferson would have opposed Obamacare. For he would have thought it was not the federal government’s business to provide health care. And he definitely would not have wanted the federal government spending that kind of tax money.
We spend a lot on health care. About $2.6 trillion today. And another bad thing about spending that kind of money? Government bureaucrats just aren’t that good at it. So you know Obamacare won’t be as good as the health care provided by the private sector. Just look at what’s happening in the UK to see the future of Obamacare when the government takes responsibility for $2.6 trillion in health care spending (see The great hospital robbery: Defibrillators, baby heart monitors, even beds – thieves are walking out of NHS wards with vital equipment by John Naish posted 9/24/2012 on Mail Online).
The great hospital robbery: Defibrillators, baby heart monitors, even beds – thieves are walking out of NHS wards with vital equipment…
Experts suggest they are spiriting it abroad, to Eastern Europe or even as far afield as Iraq and Afghanistan.
And, shockingly, NHS staff are sometimes involved, acting as an ‘inside man’.
But if such thefts are not scandalous enough in themselves, NHS chiefs appear to be so blasé about the losses they don’t even have a national picture of how much equipment is being stolen, let alone a comprehensive anti-theft strategy…
To make matters worse, NHS trusts can’t claim for the stolen property, says Sarah Bailey of the Association of British Insurers.
‘The NHS does not tend to take out commercial insurance policies. Instead, it “self-insures”, which means it absorbs the cost of its losses, rather than taking out policies that could be expensive.’
As she points out: ‘Ultimately, it could be the taxpayer who funds those losses.’
Of course government bureaucrats aren’t going to get excited about theft. Why should they care? It’s not their money. And it’s not their job. Besides the losses won’t come out of anyone’s pay. They’ll just pass the losses on to the taxpayers. Something they can’t do in the private sector. Which is why they take loss prevention a bit more seriously in the private sector. Because there is accountability in the private sector. And profits. So they put people in places to minimize anything that will reduce those profits. Like theft. Something the NHS appears to be not overly concerned about. Pity. For they are stealing more than just medical equipment.
Laptops used by hospital staff are the most frequent target of hospital thieves, which could mean millions of people’s personal details and medical records have fallen into the hands of criminals.
In June last year, for example, NHS North Central London admitted that an apparently unencrypted laptop, containing details of more than eight million patients, was one of 20 machines reported stolen from a storeroom.
When computer thefts result in the loss of sensitive information on patients, this has to be reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the independent public authority set up to uphold information rights.
Figures from the ICO show that the NHS is the top sector for such losses, with significantly more incidents than the whole of the private sector put together…
And this is the future under Obamacare. Greater inefficiencies because of theft. And greater theft of personal information. Which there will be a lot of available to steal as Obamacare digitizes all our medical records. So as we move to national health care it will cost more and we will get less. As they spend a lot of our tax dollars to replace stolen equipment thanks to the lackadaisical attitude of the government bureaucrats in charge of Obamacare. While we spend more to replace what others steal from us thanks to their lackadaisical attitude about securing our personal information.
Sure, some say Obamacare will do better than the NHS. But to them I say the NHS probably does national health care better than most. And after doing it since 1948 they’ll be able to do it better than the Americans will be able to do it just starting out. Only it will be a lot harder than it was in 1948. Thanks to an aging population raising the cost of health care. And the sophistication of the bad guys in stealing from the system. No. Obamacare will be a far cry from the NHS. So as bad as anything is in the NHS just remember that Obamacare will probably never be that good.
Tags: government bureaucrats, Health Care, health care spending, lackadaisical attitude, laptop, loss prevention, medical equipment, medical records, NHS, Obamacare, personal information, private sector, Thomas Jefferson
Hamilton trusted Men of Integrity to Govern Justly while Jefferson believed Money and Power would Corrupt Anyone
Nasty politics began back in the Washington administration. With the seething hatred between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson. These American greats had two different visions for America. Based on their background. Hamilton’s from his experience in the Continental Army and his business experience. Jefferson’s from his books. As different as their views for America were, and despite their hatred for each other, they both loved their country. And wanted what was best for their country. While absolutely sure that the other had nefarious plans for its ruin.
Both were students of the Enlightenment. Both believed in the natural, God-given rights of the people. And both believed vehemently in the rule of law. In fact, both were lawyers. But Hamilton was part of the Continental Army when its troops were barefoot, half-naked and starving. Which were barefoot, half-naked and starving because of a weak Continental Congress that could not provide for them. Because they were weak, impotent and could not levy taxes. All they could do was ask the states to give them money. The states promised little. And delivered even less. Threatening the American Revolution itself.
Jefferson, on the other hand, saw that history was replete with examples of corruption and oppression whenever financial centers and the seat of power got too close. Hamilton may have seen this. But what he was most conscious of was the British Empire. The greatest empire in the world. Which became the greatest empire in the world by bringing the financial centers and the seat of power together. Which is what Hamilton wanted to do. Trusting in the integrity and moral character of gentlemen of the Enlightenment. Who would rule with selfless indifference. Principled men with strong Judeo-Christian values. These were the men that would rule America. Men like the Founding Fathers. Who they could trust with money and power. Who America should trust with money and power. To make an American Empire to surpass the British Empire. This is what Hamilton wanted. While Jefferson believed that money and power would corrupt anyone. If not in their generation then surely in the generations to follow. And the best way to prevent this was by giving government as little money and power as possible.
An Outbreak of Yellow Fever in Philadelphia nearly settled the Quarrel between Hamilton and Jefferson
So Jefferson opposed Hamilton at every opportunity. Such as the Bank of the United States. And Hamilton’s funding system. Making matters worse was that Hamilton’s Treasury Department was the largest department in the federal government. While Jefferson’s State Department was one of the smallest. So Jefferson tried to transfer some parts of Treasury to his State Department. The Post Office. Which he failed in getting. But he did succeed in transferring the Mint from Treasury to State. Hamilton even learned that James Madison and Jefferson met with Robert Livingston and Aaron Burr to conspire against Hamilton to remove him from office. Hamilton saw an ambitious Jefferson. Who wanted the kind of power Jefferson accused Hamilton wanted for himself.
So these gentlemen began a campaign to force the other from office. Hamilton had an ally in the Gazette of the United States who championed his policies. To counter Jefferson hired Philip Freneau into the State Department to help finance a new paper. The National Gazette. Whose sole purpose was to attack Hamilton while praising everything Jeffersonian. Hamilton wrote anonymous attacks published in the Gazette of the United States. While Jefferson left his dirty work to Freneau. And the attacks grew uglier. The attacks were not just on policy or the future vision of the nation. But these were personal attacks on each other. Where accuracy was not a major requirement. Such as when Hamilton took Jefferson out of context. Quoting selective excerpts from a 1787 letter to suggest that Jefferson wanted to rob the Dutch to repay the French. Hamilton and Jefferson became like two quarreling children in Washington’s cabinet. Each running to ‘father’ tattling on the other. Insisting that Washington demand the resignation of the other.
An outbreak of yellow fever in Philadelphia nearly settled the question. By almost killing Hamilton. But he survived. Unlike some 4,000 others in Philadelphia. Even Hamilton’s illness was seen through a political lens. Hamilton sought the medical advice from an old college buddy. As opposed to following the good advice of Dr. Benjamin Rush. Who recommended massive bloodlettings. When Hamilton recovered he publically thanked his friend (who had nothing to do with his recovery) and encouraged others to follow his recommended treatment. Which didn’t include bloodletting. Dr. Rush was infuriated. Accusing Hamilton of killing countless others through this quackery instead of the sensible bloodletting that was established medical practice. Of course, this was a personal attack on Dr. Rush. Because he was not a Federalist. But a Republican. And a friend of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson.
While the French were causing Headaches for Jefferson and his Republicans the British were doing the same to Hamilton and his Federalists
The yellow fever also claimed another casualty. The National Gazette. As people fled Philadelphia, or died, circulation fell. And the paper lost money and closed shop. About the same time that happened Jefferson resigned from the cabinet. And returned to Monticello. Things were looking up for Hamilton. Until the reverberations of the French Revolution further divided the country. The Federalists were reestablishing trade with the British. So when the French and British were back at war with each other it caused some problems in America. For the American people still hated Britain. While having deep emotional ties to the country that had helped them win their independence. France. The United States had proclaimed their neutrality in this new war. But being a maritime nation dependent on exports her best interests lay with Great Britain and the most powerful navy in the world. Which further proved that Hamilton and his Federalists were secret monarchists. And that Hamilton wanted to be king.
Meanwhile, the French had sent their new ambassador to America. Citizen Genêt. Who Jefferson, the Republicans and the American people welcomed with open arms. But then he started issuing letters of marque to American captains to attack and capture British shipping. Bringing them back to American ports to refit them. Which was a dangerous thing for a neutral nation to do against the nation that kept the sea lanes safe for their commerce. Then Citizen Genêt tried to raise an American army to attack the Spanish in Florida and in New Orleans. With further aims of attacking the British in Canada. This was too much even for Jefferson. And it was one of the few times that Jefferson and Hamilton were in agreement. Citizen Genêt had to go. For Jefferson he was proving to be an embarrassing liability for the Republicans.
While at the same time the British were retaliating. Issuing orders to blockade France and to seize any neutral shipping trying to supply France with corn. Which was pretty much any agricultural grain product. A major export of the United States. So this was a direct blow against U.S. commerce. Even though she was a neutral in this current war between France and Great Britain. This did not make the American people happy. Nor did it help Hamilton or his Federalists with their rapprochement with Britain. Then the British began to seize all shipping going to and from the French West Indies. Which were mostly American ships. So while Citizen Genêt was causing great headaches for Jefferson and his Republicans the British were doing the same to Hamilton and his Federalists. Further dividing the nation. And bringing them closer to war. In large part due to the politics dividing the nation.
Tags: Alexander Hamilton, Britain, British, British Empire, Citizen Genêt, commerce, Continental Army, corruption, Dr. Rush, Enlightenment, Federalists, France, French, French Revolution, Freneau, Gazette of the United States, Great Britain, Hamilton, James Madison, Jefferson, letters of marque, Madison, money and power, National Gazette, neutral shipping, neutrality, Philadelphia, Republicans, State Department, Thomas Jefferson, Treasury Department, Washington, yellow fever
Jefferson could not Turn a Profit on his Plantation and was Forever in Debt Leading to a Lifelong Disdain for Merchants and Bankers
At the time of the Founding America was (and would be for a long time) an agrarian nation. A country of farmers. Big and small. Rich plantations. And lots of hard-working family farms that were far from being rich. Yeomen famers. Who, to borrow a phrase from Oliver Wendell Douglas, “got their hands dirty!” For those of you too young to recognize this line it’s from the 1960s classic sitcom Green Acres. Where Douglas was a rich New York City (NYC) attorney who moved out of NYC to Hooterville to be a farmer. Who he called the backbone of America. Much like Thomas Jefferson.
Douglas and Jefferson shared a lot in common. Both were lawyers. Both were part of high society. And both could make a good speech (or put something great in writing). Douglas lived on Park Avenue in NYC. And he and his wife travelled in the top social circles. Just like Jefferson. They both enjoyed the best of the best. But neither were very good farmers. The Douglas farm was a disaster despite his best efforts. While Jefferson could not turn a profit on his plantation. And was forever in debt. Leading to a lifelong disdain for merchants and bankers. Especially merchant bankers.
Alexander Hamilton was born on the British Isle of Nevis. And raised in St. Croix. Hamilton was a bastard child. Illegitimate. A stigma that spurred him to do everything aggressively in his life to show he was not a second-class person. He worked at an early age. In commerce. And he was very good. A natural. Very smart. And brave. A veteran of two American wars. He loved America. But having been born and raised outside of the country he had no allegiance to any state. Put it all together and it made Hamilton a nationalist.
Jefferson wanted to hold on to the Agrarian Past while Hamilton wanted to bring on the Industrial Revolution
Hamilton was just as much a Patriot as the other Founding Fathers. Perhaps more so as he actually served in the Continental Army. And while serving he saw how poor military power and poor financial power made a country dangerously weak. The Americans almost lost their Revolution because of a weak nation that could not provide for her army. So he wanted to make America strong. And united. The key in Hamilton’s eyes to making America a powerful nation (like Great Britain) that could stand up against any enemy was a strong union. And in the Washington administration he advanced policies towards that end. Ironically, policies that would do more to drive the nation apart.
So Hamilton (Secretary of Treasury) and Jefferson (Secretary of State) could not be more different. And as they started to push their agendas in the Washington administration they grew to hate each other. For their visions for America couldn’t be more different. Despite both being ardent Patriots. Jefferson wanted to hold on to the agrarian past. While Hamilton wanted to bring on the Industrial Revolution. Jefferson believed in the landed aristocracy built upon virtue and talent. Not the aristocracy money could buy you. Or birth or a title like in a monarchy. Which Jefferson believed Hamilton was trying to turn America into. As did all the farmers throughout the South and in the West. Who all hated bankers and merchants. Those people who made money off of other people’s labors. Investors and speculators. While speculation in land, on the other hand, was perfectly acceptable as it was what the southern gentry did to acquire their wealth.
And so began the political parties. The Federalists were for a strong national government that Hamilton tried to make as strong as possible. And the anti-Federalists. Who already felt that the national government had grown too strong. Or as they would become under Jefferson’s leadership, the Republicans (which were NOT the forbears of the current Republican Party). In general, southern planters. While Hamilton led the Federalists. In general, northern businessmen. The game of politics was born. And it got dirty pretty quickly. Thanks to each party’s friends in the media. The newspapers of the day. Which were pretty much political arms of these parties.
The Newspapers launched Vitriol at each Other including a Lot of Lies, Slander and Libel
The Treasury Department was the largest government department. It was huge. With a huge budget. Whereas the State Department was basically Jefferson and a few clerks. Hamilton no doubt felt he was the most important man in America next to the president. And Jefferson was sure that Hamilton was using his position to steal money from the treasury. So sure that Jefferson and his Republicans launched Congressional investigations that turned up nothing. Convincing Jefferson that Hamilton was a better thief than even he had imagined. Jefferson still pressed and had a colleague introduce multiple resolutions in Congress against Hamilton hoping to get Hamilton thrown from office on a House vote. The House voted down all resolutions.
James Reynolds was a con man who made his money by defrauding veterans. And other criminal pursuits. Tired of the scale of these scores he came to Philadelphia to make some bigger money. By using his wife, Maria, to seduce and have an affair with Alexander Hamilton. So he could blackmail him. Which she did. Then he did. When Reynolds’ criminal past caught up with him and sent him to jail he talked about the affair. Which was more than just an affair. He told some Republicans that he and Hamilton were using treasury funds to fund speculation for personal gain. Jefferson and the Republicans were overjoyed. Sure that they at last had a way to get rid of Hamilton. When confronted in his home to answer these charges he fessed up and told the truth. Which included no speculation with treasury funds. While all the money paid to Reynolds came from his own pocket. All treasury funds were present and accounted for. Politicians being the gentlemen they were then were satisfied and promised to never speak of Hamilton’s marital indiscretions.
So the political battle between Hamilton and Jefferson would carry on in the press. Hamilton contributed most of his writings to the Gazette of the United States which wrote positively about Federalist policies. And enjoyed a national circulation. So Jefferson countered that by setting up a Republican national paper. The National Gazette. Who James Madison helped kick off by convincing Philip Freneau to come to Philadelphia to edit the paper. Which he did. And Jefferson helped him with his finances by hiring him into the State Department. Putting him on the payroll to attack Washington’s treasury secretary while he was the sitting Secretary of State. Trying to undermine the very administration he belonged to. And the war between the two men escalated. The papers launched vitriol at each other. Including a lot of lies, slander and libel. Enlisting other papers to join in the journalistic malfeasance. People who talk about negative political campaigns today have no idea how ugly it was back then. There was no interest in reaching across the aisle. They just wanted to destroy the opposition so they could advance their policies. Much like it is today. Only without it being about principle. But advancing the privileged government class. That other aristocracy that Jefferson hated.
Tags: agrarian past, Alexander Hamilton, anti-Federalists, aristocracy, bankers, famer, Federalists, Freneau, Hamilton, Industrial Revolution, James Reynolds, Jefferson, merchants, Patriots, Philip Freneau, plantation, press, Republicans, Reynolds, Reynolds affair, Secretary of State, Secretary of Treasury, speculator, Thomas Jefferson, Washington administration
The Americans stuck by the Rule of Law while the French descended into Mob Rule
The American Revolutionary War was pretty brutal at times. Especially on the frontier. And in the civil war in the South. Where Patriot and Loyalist could be rather cruel to one time friends and neighbors. But for the most part both the professional soldiers and politicians practiced restraint. And prosecuted the war by international law. And a code of honor. When the Americans defeated Burgoyne’s army at Saratoga the defeated soldiers did not suffer cruel acts of vengeance. Instead they got rather generous terms of surrender.
When the war was over there were a few flare ups such as Shays’ Rebellion and the Whiskey Rebellion. But these were the exception. Not the rule. The newly independent states had problems. Which they addressed through political debate in Philadelphia. And they drafted a new constitution. This unleashed bitter partisan debate. But only bitter partisan debate. The states ratified the Constitution. And the new nation went forth. It wasn’t quite like this in the French Revolution. Where the streets literally ran with blood.
Jean-Paul Marat, Georges-Jacques Danton and Jacobin Maximillien Robespierre were no Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson or James Madison. The Americans stuck by the rule of law. While the French descended into mob rule. Where competing mobs rallied around different movements. The Jacobins, the Cordeliers and the Girondins. Who all incited the mobs to violence. Against the ancien régime. The monarchy. And the Church. As well as any counterrevolutionaries. And anyone lacking in revolutionary zeal.
In 1793 French Revolutionaries Guillotined King Louis and Marie Antoinette
The mobs became judge, jury and executioner. The Paris Commune (the revolutionary ruling authority in Paris) sanctioned the mobs. Who could act with impunity. While the people even watched. And cheered. Revolutionaries fell on imprisoned political prisoners. Priests. The Swiss Guards who protected the king. As well as the royal servants and clerics. They forced prisoners to run a gauntlet of revolutionaries armed with swords, knives, pikes, axes and other blunt and sharp instruments. And bludgeoned and hacked them to death as they ran screaming back and forth.
And the violence grew. With torture becoming sport. The level of barbarity reached such levels to include the butchering of women. Including the hacking off of a woman’s breasts. Then setting a bonfire beneath her spread legs. While the people cheered. They brutally killed Princess de Lamballe, consort of Marie Antoinette. Bludgeoned with a hammer, stripped naked, mutilated and dragged through the streets of Paris. Then guillotined. But that wasn’t the end of it. They cut out her heart and roasted it over a fire. Then stuck her bloodied head on a pike. Took it to a hair salon to fix her hair. Then returned it to the pike. As they impaled her naked body on another pike. Her crime? She refused to denounce her king and queen.
In 1793 they guillotined King Louis. The executioner held up his severed head and the people cheered. Later that year they guillotined Marie Antoinette. The executioner held up her severed head and the people cheered. And the processions to the guillotine increased. Enemies of the revolution. People falsely accused of being enemies of the revolution. And a lot of Girondins. Who the Jacobins condemned. And guillotined. Then the people condemned the Jacobins. And guillotined them. They even condemned American Patriot Thomas Paine (who was in Paris and even helped write one of the revolutionary constitutions—unfortunately for him it was with the Girondins) to the guillotine. But he would escape the guillotine and return to America. They even imprisoned George Washington’s ‘adopted’ son, the Marquis de La Fayette. Who fought with him throughout the American Revolution. But he, too, survived. Though he would languish in a prison for some 5 years.
When Genêt arrived in Philadelphia Washington greeted him with Portraits of King Louis and Marie Antoinette conspicuously behind Him
The events in France would reverberate across the Atlantic. And further divide an already divided Washington administration. As the French Revolution escalated the Americans were negotiating the Jay Treaty to resolve some issues left over from the Revolutionary War. The end result was that the British and the new United States of America moved closer together. Which really offended the pro-French elements in the Washington administration. In particular Jefferson and Madison. While inflaming the French. For following the Reign of Terror the French exported their revolution throughout Europe. And soon were at war with the old European monarchies. Including Great Britain. Again.
Interestingly, neither Jefferson nor Madison fought in the Revolution. While Alexander Hamilton and George Washington did. And yet they were for closer ties to Britain and not revolutionary France. Why? America’s future depended on trade. Most of that trade was with Great Britain. And that trade enjoyed the protection of the world’s most powerful navy. The Royal Navy. It was the pragmatic choice. Jefferson, though, thought it showed Hamilton’s true colors. That he was an aristocrat who wanted to turn America into a monarchy like Britain. That he wanted power for himself. Not individual liberty. As exemplified in the American republic. And in the republic the French were fighting for. The French believed so strongly in liberty that they turned to world conquest. Bringing that liberty to oppressed people everywhere. Which Jefferson liked. He saw a republican revolution sweeping the world, leaving a swath of liberty in its wake. Others saw mob rule in France and the execution of a king and queen. Which absolutely appalled Washington.
George Washington issued a Proclamation of Neutrality in these new European wars. Which meant they weren’t going to help their one time ally. France. Which irked Jefferson. Then came the Jay Treaty. Further irking Jefferson. And the American people. For the people were clearly behind the French. And did not like the British at all. Which made President Washington a very unpopular president at the time. Then the French sent over Edmond-Charles Genêt. Citizen Genêt. The new French ambassador to the United States. And he was on a mission. To get American support for their wars against Spain and Great Britain. Something Jefferson was eager to support. He communicated with Genêt. Who assured Genêt that the Franco-American alliance would persevere. Despite any proclamation or treaty. He looked forward to his arrival in Philadelphia. But he didn’t go to Philadelphia to meet President Washington. He went to South Carolina first. Where he recruited American privateers to join the French on their attacks on British shipping. And tried to raise armies to attack Spanish Florida and Louisiana. And eventually the British in North America as well. When word of these activities reached Washington he was furious.
When Genêt finally arrived in Philadelphia Washington greeted him with portraits of King Louis and Marie Antoinette conspicuously behind him. The king that was America’s staunchest ally during the American Revolution. And the king the French had recently executed. Genêt asked Washington to suspend their neutrality. The answer was no. Even Jefferson agreed and told the French ambassador he was out of line. Actually joining Hamilton on this one issue. Soon the Jacobins back in France issued an arrest warrant for Citizen Genêt and asked him to return to France. Knowing that meant a trip to the guillotine he asked Washington for asylum. That Washington granted on the advice of Hamilton. Thus ending the Genêt affair. But the French Revolution still threatened the young American republic. First by an overwhelming public sentiment to stand by France. Then by overwhelming public sentiment to go to war against France. Something that would threaten to tear apart the next presidential administration.
Tags: Alexander Hamilton, American Revolution, British, Citizen Genêt, Constitution, France, French, French Revolution, George Washington, Girondins, Great Britain, guillotine, Hamilton, Jacobins, Jay Treaty, Jefferson, King Louis, liberty, Mob rule, mobs, Paris, Proclamation of Neutrality, Reign of Terror, revolutionaries, Revolutionary War, Spain, Thomas Jefferson
America’s First Tax was a 25% Excise Tax on American Whiskey made from Corn
Thomas Jefferson held a dinner party where he, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison met to resolve some issues. Hamilton was stressed out. He was facing strong opposition for his assumption plan. Secretary of the Treasury Hamilton wanted to assume all the states’ debts and lump them into the federal debt. To get the nation’s finances in order. Establish good credit. And raise revenue for the new nation. The Virginians, Jefferson and Madison, offered their assistance if Hamilton would give them the nation’s capital. Hamilton got his assumption. And the Virginians got the nation’s new capital on the Potomac River. Across from Virginia. Where they could keep a close eye on the nation’s business. And everyone lived happily ever after.
Well, not exactly. There was already growing discontent across the land. Hamilton understood business and commerce. And banking. Farmers don’t like bankers. Or commerce. Or business. Many in the south and on the frontier worked the land. As yeoman farmers. Families working small farms that they owned. They believed, as Jefferson believed, that the most honorable work in America was farming. And that America’s future was the growth of farming. Small farms. Owned by families working the land. Yeoman farmers. Proud. Pure. And wholly American. This despite Jefferson being a member of the slave-owning planter elite. Who indulged in little physical labor.
So the south and the frontier were no Hamilton supporters. They didn’t like his high finance ideas for the new nation. And they especially didn’t like his whiskey tax. A tax of 25% on western corn products. Which you made whiskey from. The new American alcoholic beverage of choice after they eschewed beer. The beverage of choice before the rebellion. When they were all content British citizens. But an excise tax on corn products was little different from the excise taxes that caused the colonies to rebel against Great Britain in the first place. Sure, there was one subtle difference this time. The whiskey tax was taxation with representation. And, technically speaking, legal. But on corn? The new tax seemed to fall unfairly on the West. Which had a corn economy. And used the whiskey they made from it for money. So these frontier people were not just going to sit idly by and take this new taxation without a fight.
The Washington Administration took Decisive Action in Suppressing the Whiskey Rebellion
This first tax was to help finance Hamilton’s assumption. But it was more important than the revenue it would raise. The whiskey tax was a matter of principle. It was probably poor policy. And probably not the smartest thing to do. Picking a fight with the toughest and most fiercely independent people in the country. Frontier people. Who lived off the land without any of the city comforts enjoyed back east. But the tax was the law. And the first test of the new nation. If the government retreated in the face of opposition to a law passed by Congress their experiment in self-government would fail. For as unpleasant as taxation was it was the reason they formed a new nation in 1787. To levy taxes so they could pay their past debt. And their current bills. So President Washington and Hamilton hunkered down on the tax.
And the riots came. The Whiskey Rebellion. Around Pittsburg. Kentucky (aka bourbon country). The backcountry of the Carolinas. And elsewhere. They refused to pay the tax. And attacked the tax collecting apparatus. Even the courts. It was war. The spirit of ’76 was alive again. Protesting a distant central power trying to impose a tax on them. Washington offered amnesty if they just dispersed and went home. They refused. So Washington raised an army of some 13,000 strong. Larger than any army he commanded during the Revolutionary War. And led the army west with Hamilton to meet the insurrection. The first and only time a sitting president led an army. As the army approached resistance melted away. So Washington handed command over to Henry “Lighthorse Harry” Lee (a Revolutionary War veteran and hero) and returned to the capital in Philadelphia. Hamilton remained with the army. As the army arrived the insurrection collapsed. The army caught some rebels and tried them. And two received death sentences. Who Washington later pardoned.
Score one for the rule of law. Washington was pleased with the outcome. Hamilton, too. They took decisive action to subdue an insurrection. The people in general were happy that they restored peace. And that the country didn’t collapse into anarchy. All in all a win-win for the people and the government. Almost. Not everyone saw it in this light. Some saw a king leading an army against his own people. A professional army. Little different from British redcoats. Or Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army a century or so earlier. A professional standing army squashing those who disagreed with the government. And Jefferson did not like it. Nor did a lot of those in the south. Or on the frontier.
President Washington issued a Proclamation of Neutrality in the New War between Great Britain and France
Seeing Hamilton ride at the head of an army only reinforced Jefferson’s opinion of him. A power-hungry, British-loving puppet master. And the puppet was President Washington. The dislike between Hamilton and Jefferson turned into outright hostility. They had two different visions of America. And these two visions were mutually exclusive. Cabinet meetings became insufferable as Hamilton and Jefferson constantly fought. And the French Revolution didn’t help matters any. The radical Jefferson supported the radical French. Who he knew and sat with in the Jacobin clubs while he was in France. Jefferson was all for overthrowing monarchies. So when the French and British declared war on each other it was a no brainer who to support for Jefferson. Vive la France!
Of course there was only one problem with that position. About 75% of U.S. exports went to Great Britain. Even more of her imports (approximately 90%) came from Great Britain. And then there was the Royal Navy (RN). Who still ruled the high seas. And all the international trade routes. In addition to the RN there was the British Army. Who still occupied forts on the American western frontier. And who were still in contact with their Indian allies from the Revolutionary War. Couple this with the fact that the U.S. had no comparable army or navy. And was already having trouble on the frontier with the Indians (from the influx of settlers into the western territories). So siding with France against Britain was not the smart move. Yes, the French were instrumental in helping the Americans achieve their independence from Great Britain. But America was a country emerging from 8 years of war that just had to suppress a tax rebellion over a sin tax. She did not have the wealth to enter a European war. Besides, the Americans were supported by the monarch (King Louis XVI) the French were overthrowing. Which complicated matters.
Washington and Hamilton saw things differently than Jefferson. More like realists than the idealist Jefferson. The Revolution was over. The British and Americans were no longer enemies. But important trade partners. That shared a common British past. Of laws and traditions firmly established in what was once British America. So Washington issued his Proclamation of Neutrality (1793). They would support neither in this European war. Which infuriated the French. And Jefferson. For though they were neutral it was clear that their neutrality would favor the British. As well as Hamilton. And it did. But it also favored America’s best interests. For another long war would have probably bankrupted the nation. And perhaps resulted with her partitioned among the European nations. For the French Revolution lasted for a decade. And the Napoleonic Wars it begot lasted another 11 years. Which let us not forget the French lost. In large part due to the Royal Navy. And Great Britain’s wealth generated by her international trade. Something the Americans could not have altered had she entered the war on France’s side. A wise foreign policy call by President Washington (and yet another time he saved his country). But it was one that tore his administration apart. Firmly establishing the opposition party. With Jefferson at its head. With but one purpose. To destroy Hamilton. And to lead the nation away from where Hamilton was taking it.
Tags: Alexander Hamilton, assumption, Britain, British, British Army, corn, excise tax, farmers, France, French, French Revolution, frontier, Great Britain, Hamilton, James Madison, Jefferson, Madison, President Washington, Proclamation of Neutrality, professional army, Revolutionary War, RN, Royal Navy, standing army, tax, tax rebellion, Thomas Jefferson, Washington, whiskey, Whiskey Rebellion, whiskey tax, yeoman farmers
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