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The Many Faces of Alexander Hamilton

The Many Faces of Alexander Hamilton: The Life and Legacy of America's Most Elusive Founding Father

Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 300
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    The Many Faces of Alexander Hamilton
    Book Description:

    Revolutionary War officer, co-author of the Federalist Papers, our first Treasury Secretary, Thomas Jefferson's nemesis, and victim of a fatal duel with Aaron Burr: Alexander Hamilton has been the focus of debate from his day to ours. On the one hand, Hamilton was the quintessential Founding Father, playing a central role in every key debate and event in the Revolutionary and Early Republic eras. On the other hand, he has received far less popular and scholarly attention than his brethren. Who was he really and what is his legacy?Scholars have long disagreed. Was Hamilton a closet monarchist or a sincere republican? A victim of partisan politics or one of its most active promoters? A lackey for British interests or a foreign policy mastermind? The Many Faces of Alexander Hamilton addresses these and other perennial questions. Leading Hamilton scholars, both historians and political scientists alike, present fresh evidence and new, sometimes competing, interpretations of the man, his thought, and the legacy he has had on America and the world.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-0784-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. CHAPTER 1 Introduction: The Life and Many Faces of Alexander Hamilton
    (pp. 1-22)

    Everyone knows the face. It gazes out from the ten-dollar bill, confident, strong, thoughtful. Most Americans know the face of Alexander Hamilton from that ten-dollar bill, and most would probably acknowledge that he rightly occupies a place among the pantheon of those we call “the founders.” But of all those founders, Hamilton remains the most elusive. For as much as Americans may recognize the face on the bill, few really know the man. And many who think they know him find it hard to embrace him with the same enthusiasm that they do a Washington, a Jefferson, a Madison, an...

  5. PART I: The Contest with Jefferson

    • CHAPTER 2 “Opposed in Death as in Life”: Hamilton and Jefferson in American Memory
      (pp. 25-53)

      The division between Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton has, in many ways, permeated the consciousness and self-understanding of Americans. As recently as 1987, President Ronald Reagan, speaking at a bicentennial celebration, could capture and express perfectly the prevailing national sentiment with the simple affirmation that “we’re still Jefferson’s children.” But Reagan might well have added these comments from his friend George Will: “There is an elegant memorial in Washington to Jefferson, but none to Hamilton. However, if you seek Hamilton’s monument, look around. You are living in it.We honor Jefferson, but live in Hamilton’s country.”¹ While George Washington, Thomas Jefferson,...

    • CHAPTER 3 The Hamiltonian Invention of Thomas Jefferson
      (pp. 54-76)

      Thomas Jefferson claimed to crave neither power nor popularity. “Public service and private misery,” he contended, are “inseparably linked together.”¹ As he noted after two particularly difficult years as Virginia’s governor, office-holding required “constant sacrifice of time” as well as “labour, loss,” and dereliction of “parental and friendly duties.” In 1782, when James Monroe prodded him to return to Richmond as a member of the House of Delegates, he replied that the idea left him “mortified.”² But calls to public service continued to harry Jefferson, who agreed to serve in the Confederation Congress in 1783 and 1784 before embarking for...

    • CHAPTER 4 Alexander Hamilton’s View of Thomas Jefferson’s Ideology and Character
      (pp. 77-106)

      This chapter seeks to describe the relation between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson from Hamilton’s point of view; and to contrast Hamilton’s with Jefferson’s perceptions of what was at stake in the long-running political and personal conflict between the two men (which began sometime in 1791 and lasted at least until Hamilton’s death in 1804). For Jefferson, Hamilton was not so much an individual as an archetype of monarchism and corruption; and what was at stake in the conflict with Hamilton was nothing less than the survival of republicanism. For Hamilton, Jefferson always remained recognizably an individual, with his own...

  6. PART II: Hamilton’s Republicanism

    • CHAPTER 5 Reforming Republicanism: Alexander Hamilton’s Theory of Republican Citizenship and Press Liberty
      (pp. 109-133)

      In the very last letter he wrote, Alexander Hamilton famously called “democracy” a “disease” and a “poison.”Myriad comments like this one have led many scholars since his death—and many of his contemporaries before it—to see Hamilton as an opponent of republicanism, even a closet monarchist. Happily, some recent scholarship has disabused us of this notion, making the nature of Hamilton’s republicanism an interesting and important question. But as so often happens, the pendulum has swung too far. At the extreme, the political journalist Michael Lind has praised Hamilton as the founder of the “democratic nationalist” tradition in America,...

    • CHAPTER 6 Understanding the Confusing Role of Virtue in The Federalist: The Rhetorical Demands of Two Audiences
      (pp. 134-164)

      Much work has been done during the past fifty years on Alexander Hamilton’s and James Madison’s principal authorship, under the pseudonym of Publius, ofThe Federalist;¹ indeed, one might argue that more than enough has been written to last another fifty years. There are, however, three reasons for renewed attention. First, in contrast to the received wisdom of an earlier generation of scholars, today among influential political theorists (and at least one prominent historian, Lance Banning) there are those who argue thatThe Federalistdefends the necessity of virtue in popular government. Second, Publius often writes in an apparently contradictory...

    • CHAPTER 7 Madison versus Hamilton: The Battle over Republicanism and the Role of Public Opinion
      (pp. 165-208)

      The feud between James Madison and Alexander Hamilton that began early in the Washington administration left a lasting impression on the American political landscape. It led to the formation of the first political parties in the United States, to the decisive victory of the Republicans over the Federalists in the election of 1800, and to the establishment of participatory politics in the American republic.¹ Although it is one of the most noted political battles of American history, the cause of the dispute remains to this day a source of controversy among scholars. In 1792 Hamilton himself was unclear about the...

  7. PART III: Hamilton’s Legacies

    • CHAPTER 8 Alexander Hamilton and the 1790s Economy: A Reappraisal
      (pp. 211-230)

      Historians and political scientists commonly credit Alexander Hamilton’s economic plans for revitalizing the American economy and providing the impetus for extended economic progress. Such arguments usually take for granted many of the criticisms levied against the policies of the states and Confederation during the 1780s. They further assume that the weakness of the American economy stemmed from the decentralized nature of its financial institutions, lack of specie, and burdensome problems of the Revolutionary debt.

      There is little doubt that economic problems prevailed under the Articles of Confederation; however, it remains unclear how much Hamilton’s policies corrected those problems. Hamilton’s program...

    • CHAPTER 9 Hamilton and Haiti
      (pp. 231-246)

      Haiti, the one-time French colony of Saint Domingue (“Santo Domingo” to the Americans), after a brief time off the front pages in the late 1990s, has resurfaced in the news again with another round of stories of political instability, economic distress, and ecological disaster. Jean-Paul Aristide, whose restoration to rule as a democratically elected president was an object of American foreign policy for Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, has once again been driven from office because of threatened violence. The first time, his ouster was led by officers in the Haitian military in alliance with political and economic...

    • CHAPTER 10 Hamilton, Croly, and American Public Philosophy
      (pp. 247-266)

      My exploration of Hamiltonianism as an American public philosophy consists of two parts.¹ First, I consider Herbert Croly’s treatment of Alexander Hamilton, especially in his influential 1909 book,The Promise of American Life.² Croly’s work has long been acknowledged as one of the critical sources of the progressive liberal public philosophy that dominated twentieth-century American politics.³ The second part of my paper turns to Hamilton himself. I focus on what Croly took to be the key Hamiltonian insight: the use of “constructive” legislation and policy in pursuit of anationalprinciple. The contrast between Croly’s Hamilton and the actual Hamilton...

    • CHAPTER 11 Epilogue: Alexander Hamilton, Abraham Lincoln, and the Spirit of Capitalism
      (pp. 267-282)

      In the study of American history, Abraham Lincoln is frequently treated as an exponent of Thomas Jefferson and the doctrines of liberty, democracy, equality, and popular sovereignty. On Fourth of July occasions Lincoln did indeed hail Jefferson, and in the debates leading up to the Civil War he invoked again and again Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence to refute the argument for slavery and its expansion into the territories. But a further look at Lincoln’s political mind and the values he stood for would place him closer to Alexander Hamilton and the values he expressed and the vision he had for...

  8. Contributors
    (pp. 283-284)
  9. Index
    (pp. 285-300)