Discussion Question Conflict in the Early Republic: Thomas Jefferson vs. Alexander Hamilton

Discussion Question Conflict in the Early Republic: Thomas Jefferson vs. Alexander Hamilton

Conflict in the Early Republic: Thomas Jefferson vs. Alexander Hamilton ** DUE DATE 2/3/19 10:00 pm Introduction: All was not well in terms of d/omestic policy in the years after the ratification of the Constitution in 1789. There were several fault lines that ran through the early republic, thus the period from 1789-1800 is referred to by historians as the “Critical Period” in American history. Would George Washington become a military dictator as Napoleon would in the late 1790s? Would a national bank be allowed? Was the Constitution meant to be interpreted as a strict document or as a document that allowed for anything “necessary and proper” for the operation of the government? What was the proper balance between federal and state power? Is free speech a core part of American democracy? Were political parties an essential part of the American political order? These questions and many others were debated during the critical period, with founding fathers Thomas Jefferson (Republican) and Alexander Hamilton (Federalist) often on differing sides of each. This week I would like to concentrate on foreign policy during the Critical Period. Today we debate what our relationship should be with the Russian Federation. Do we see them as a friend of stability in the region or a serious threat to the current political order? How should we deal with them? In 2017, we look at this relationship from a position of power and relative international strength. We have choice in our relationship with Russia. In the critical period, America was a relatively weak country; we had little to no choice in foreign affairs. We were thrown around between Britain and France like a political football. In the early republic we questioned the nature of our relationship with France. The French had sided with the colonies during the American Revolution, providing naval power, infantry, arms, and cash to aid the American fight for independence, not necessarily because they believed in liberty, but because they hated the British as their chief economic and military rival. Our relationship with the French and their king, Louis XVI, was strong until the French Revolution erupted in 1789. As France was plunged into an era of extreme bloodshed, American leaders questioned whether revolutionary terror and violence would emanate from France and spread throughout the new American states. What would be the nature of our relationship with the French? Jefferson and Hamilton fell on opposite sides of this French question during a time when the British and French, the two dominant world powers, were perpetually at war. Hamilton saw the British, our former enemy, as the harbinger of a new industrial future and he sought to build America in Britain’s image. He felt that a relationship with the French would be at best feebleminded and at worst irresponsible and dangerous. Thomas Jefferson disagreed; he was a Francophile who had once been minister to France. Jefferson supported a close relationship with the French based on their friendship during the conflict with the British and the idea that they were our revolutionary brothers in arms. This became the main political issue in the election of 1796 between Republican Thomas Jefferson and Federalist John Adams. Eventually the French instituted a “quasi-war” against American shipping that carried British goods. The French felt that our allegiance was to the British because of our trade relationships. Washington declared neutrality, but it was to no avail. Rumblings of war with France dominated political discussion in the late 1790s, and John Adams pushed to limit immigration and free speech during this time period. ********Question for Discussion: Given our revolutionary ties with the French, should we have honored our former alliance and sided with them in their conflicts with the British? With whom would you have sided, Hamilton or Jefferson? Readings for this Discussion: Roark, Page 230 (Concerning the Jay Treaty), page 231 (Concerning the Haitian Revolution), Pages 232 – 235 (Concerning the Election of 1796, the XYZ Affair, and the Alien and Sedition Acts). This Short Article on Washington’s Neutrality and the Genet Affair: http://www.let.rug.nl/usa/biographies/alexander-hamilton/strained-loyalties-the-french-revolution-1789-1799.php Cabinet Battle #2 from the musical Hamilton: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B0HZUatZtXI