Alexander Hamilton, “First Report on the Public Credit” (1790)
“That an adequate provision for the support of the public credit is a matter of high importance to the honor and prosperity of the United States,” (p. 297). Hamilton (1790) argues that borrowing and credit are a necessity for all nations; all nations, such as in times of war, must borrow capital and have good financial credit to do so. Hamilton (1790) also argues public credit is necessary to invest in resources, to ensure justice, to unify the States, essential for trade, agriculture and manufacturing, and lowering interest rates. Hamilton (1790) was a proponent of a federal public credit account. Hamilton (1790) quotes the Constitution, “all debts contracted and engagements entered into before the adoption of that Constitution shall be as valid against the United States under it, as under the confederation,” (p.303) arguing the federal government will take up the debts of the Revolutionary War from every State. If there is “not a national assumption of the state debts,” (p. 304) Hamilton (1790) argues, there will be problems of interest rates and with the various creditors and that in the best interests of industry and commerce, all States should be held by the same regulations.
“Opinion on the Constitutionality of the Bank” (1791)
Hamilton (1791) supports the creation of a national bank, and address criticisms that such action would be unconstitutional. Hamilton (1791) suggests “that there are implied as well as expressed powers,” (p.305) of government and maintains it is applicable to the the “necessary and proper” (p. 306) clause of the Constitution arguing creating banks is a right of a sovereign government. Hamilton (1791) makes the argument that a bank would be essential to the regulate trade between the States, borrowing money, and regulating foreign currency. Hamilton (1791) argues by design, the Constitution gives the federal government the power of the United States’ financial administration.
“Report on Manufactures” (1791)
Hamilton (1790), in favor of federal manufacturing investment, address four major concerns in opposition: agriculture is more beneficial, industry will do fine by itself, the United States lacks the labor force and cannot compete with Europe, and inevitable monopolies will be detrimental to society. Hamilton (1790) argues federal manufacturing investment would yield benefits such as increasing national revenue, high employment rates, sector diversity, and encouraging emigration.
Henry Clay, “Speech on the Tariff” (1824)
Clay (1824) writes, “Our agriculture is our greatest interest…Can we do nothing to invigorate it?” (p. 390). Clay (1824) argues that in order to secure a sustainable national economy, it would need the “PROTECTION of our own legislation against the inevitable..action of foreign policy and legislation,” (p.391) and therefore it is necessary to establish a tariff. Clay (1828) claims the purpose of the tariff is to “tax the produce of foreign industry, with the view of promoting American industry,” (p.391).
John Quincy Adams, “First Annual Message to Congress” (1825)
Adams (1825) supported federal funding of “internal improvements” such as expeditions to explore United State territories, a national university, a national astronomical observatory. Adams (1825) argues improvement should be encourage in a free society and promoting science and enlightenment would progress the country and benefit citizens.
Daniel Webster, “Speech on Jackson’s Veto of the United States Bank Bill” (1832)
Webster (1832) supported a federal bank as well as private management of the bank. Webster (1832) claimed “government banks are among the most dangerous of all inventions,” (p. 446). Webster (1832) argued government operated banks would bar foreign investment, and claimed opposition is class warfare. Webster (1832) foreigner’s money in national banks is not a threat because the money is subject to United States law.
James Fenimore Cooper, “The American Democrat” (1838)
Cooper did not share an egalitarian view on social class. Cooper (1838) describes social class as “dependent on birth, education, personal qualitites, property, tastes, habits, and, in some instances, on caprice, or fashion,” (p. 465) but mainly depends on property. Cooper (1838) does not believe that, “one man is as good as another,” (p. 466). Cooper (1838) argues “there is no natural equality,” in that “as nature has made differences between men, those institutions which create political orders, are no more than carrying out the great designs of providence,” (p. 466). Cooper (1838) believed men were equal when it came to rights, and that equal rights encourages meritocracy in society. Cooper (1838) argues “social inequality of America is an unavoidable result of the institutions,” and that “it is as much a consequence of civilized society, as breathing is a vital function of animal life,” (p. 468). Without inequality, Cooper (1838) argues, “civilization would become stationary,” (p. 467) and the acquisition of property encourages progress. Cooper (1838) argues it is impossible to raise all men to high standards, and therefore egalitarianism would reduce all men to the lowest standards.
Orestes Brownson, “The Laboring Classes” (1840)
Brownson (1840) questioned why the laborer is “poor and depressed” while non-laborers are wealthy, (p. 457). Brownson (1840) acknowledges laborers do not earn money from production and “in general unable to procure anything beyond the bare necessaries of life,” (p. 457). Brownson (1840) believes himself an abolitionist, but argues with slavery there is less suffering than with low-wage labor. Brownson (1840) argues the wealthy manufacturer, who pays less than a living wage to his laborers, is a hypocrite for calling himself a Christian and criticizing the slave owner when in reality low wage labor is cheaper for the manufacturer because slaves at least have food, clothing, and lodging which low wage laborers cannot afford.
Brownson (1840) believes G-d has created all men equal, and therefore it is necessary to “emancipate the proletaries, as the past has emanicipated the slaves,” (p. 459). Brownson (1840) argues it is necessary to relieve social inequality such as by “Christianiz[ing] the community” (p. 461) and that society should not condone a Christian gospel that allows few men to profit while the masses live in miserable poverty. Brownson (1840) argues society should adopt the messages of Jesus and lead society to the “great social reform needed,” (p. 462). Brownson (1840) argues government “must proceed to repeal all laws which bear against the laboring classes, and then to enact such laws as are necessary to enable them to maintain their equality,” (p. 463). Brownson (1840) believed the influence of the banks benefits the employer and are in opposition to the laboring class; he argues the “subtle influence of credit, and such the power of capital” will eventually overtake government and that banks will have “fatal influence on the political action of the community,” (p. 463). Brownson (1840) proposes, since inequality stems from being born rich or poor, that upon death, property should “become the property of the state”, (p. 464) to promote equality for the next generation.
Andrew Jackson, “First Annual Message to Congress” (1829)
Jackson (1829) argues that “in a country where offices are created solely for the benefit of the people no one man has any more intrinsic right to official station than another,” (p. 421). Jackson (1829) was an opponent of a tariff on foreign goods arguing that “we must ever expect selfish legislation in other nations,” but that “which will place our own in fair competition with those of other countries,” (p. 422). Jackson (1829) argued if the national public debt was abolished, “the fiscal power of the States will also be increased” (p. 423) and that States would have more funding for education and other public investments.
“Veto of Maysville Road Bill” (1830)
Jackson (1830) argues “works of internal improvement” (p. 425) by the federal government encroach on State’s rights of sovereignty and jurisdiction. Jackson (1830) argues internal improvement programs should be enacted with an amendment to the Constitution rather than implying the federal government has such powers.
“Bank Veto Message” (1832)
Jackson (1832) vetoed the bank bill, claiming “every monopoly and all exclusive privileges are granted at the expense of the public,” (p. 428). Jackson (1838) critcized the amount of money owned by foreigners such that in times of war, “it would be more formidable and dangerous than the naval and military power of the enemy,” (p. 429). Jackson (1832) argues that the national bank is unconstitutional because, “there is nothing in its legitimate functions which makes it necessary or proper,” (p. 429). Jackson (1832) argued that “it is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes,” (p. 429). Although Jackson (1832) agrees social inequality cannot be avoided, but that constitutionally, every man is equal under the law and such government policies, like titles of nobility in England, generate distinction to the rich at the expense of the poor. Jackson (1832) called such policies “prostitution of our Government to the advancement of the few at the expense of the many,” (p. 430).
“Farewell Address” (1837)
Jackson (1837) argues that the Constitution’s “powers being expressly enumerated, there can be no justification for claiming anything beyond them,” (p. 435). Jackson (1837) commented on “his views on the dangers of moneyed interests and sectionalism to popular democracy and to the Union,” (p. 431).
Kramnick, Isaac and Theodore J. Lowi. American Political Thought: A Norton Anthology. W. Wl Norton & Company, Inc. (2009)
PSC 435 Course Discussion: Was the economic program of Hamilton and the Whigs forward-thinking and realistic, or simply the reflection of monied interests, the primary critique of the Jacksonians?
Hamilton and the Whigs (Clay, Adams, Webster, Cooper) had views distinct from that of the Jacksonians (Jackson, Brownson) such as with the federal government’s involvement in the economy as well as views on social inequality. Hamilton (1790, 1791) supported the federal “public credit” account, the creation of a national bank (which Webster (1832) argued should be privately operated), and federal investment in manufacturing. Clay (1824) supported a tariff on foreign imports, Adams (1825) supported federal funding of “internal improvements” such as a university, astronomical observatory, and territory expedition while Jackson (1829) opposed a national bank and federally funded public works as these programs, in his view, were unconstitutional. Cooper (1838) did not share Jackson (1832, 1837) and Brownson’s (1840) egalitarian view on social class and instead argued inequality is necessary for progress. Given the arguments made, I tend to agree with the Jacksonians that, in Jackson’s words, Hamilton and the Whigs’ views represent “dangers of moneyed interests and sectionalism to popular democracy and to the Union,” (p. 431).
Hamilton supported the public credit claiming it is necessary for funding future war, investment in resources, ensuring justice, unifying states, essential for trade, agriculture, and manufacturing, lowering interest rates, and ensuring States abide by equal regulations. While Hamilton’s reasonings appear fair, I agree with Jackson that a national bank like “every monopoly and all exclusive privileges are granted at the expense of the public,” such that Webster’s privately operated bank is likely to be influenced by private interests and lead to disproportionately benefitting the wealthier classes at the poor’s expense. Why should the wealthy profit in the form of interest rates and other monetary policies with the tax dollars of the masses? I agree a national bank, in purpose to allow the federal government to function is necessary, but Webster’s argument leads me to believe the national bank’s private operation will lead to monetary policy in favor of wealthy elites. Jackson called such policies “prostitution of our Government to the advancement of the few at the expense of the many,” (p. 430) and Brownson argued such policies have a “fatal influence on the political action of the community,” (p. 463). I agree with Jackson that a national bank was abolished, “the fiscal power of the States will also be increased,” (p. 422) such that by letting States reallocate their individual tax revenue, there will not be favoritism between States such that some benefit while other do not. While I also agree with Adams that territory expeditions, universities, and astronomical observatories would promote science and the enlightenment of society, I believe federalization of such institutions would benefit the wealthy elites rather than the public such that only a select few will have access to such institutions. Again, this may disproportionately allocate public works to some States despite all States contributing; I believe public works should be a State’s responsibility to ensure fairness.
I also agree with the Jacksonians that the Whigs have very elitist views on social class and that it is reflected in their fiscal policies. Cooper describes social class as “dependent on birth, education, personal qualities, property, tastes, habits, and, in some instances, on caprice, or fashion,” (p. 465) but mainly depends on property. Cooper (1838) does not believe that, “one man is as good as another,” (p. 466) and that men were equal when it came to rights, and that equal rights encourages meritocracy in society. Cooper (1838) argues “social inequality of America is an unavoidable result of the institutions,” and that “it is as much a consequence of civilized society, as breathing is a vital function of animal life,” (p. 468). Without inequality, Cooper argues, “civilization would become stationary,” (p. 467) and the acquisition of property encourages progress. To me, Cooper’s views are very elitist in favor of the wealthy few. Cooper not only acknowledges all men are unequal, but argues social inequalities are necessary for society. Such thinking leads me to believe the Whigs, such as the Jacksonians’ criticisms, supported policy that would benefit the rich at the poor’s expense. Brownson takes almost a Marxian view of labor and the corrupting power of the elite on the government. While I disagree with Brownson that low wage labor is more sufferable than poverty, I agree that it should be noted that low wage labor allows for more profits for the wealthy while the poor go without the necessities of life such as food, shelter, and clothing. While I do not agree with Brownson that society should promote Christian values, I agree the values of social justice should be encouraged in a free society and the government should enact policy that may relieve such inequality. Lastly, while I believe Brownson’s proposition that in purpose to end the inequality from rich and poor birth, property should be given to the government after death in very extreme and radical, the notion of an estate/death tax to fund social welfare programs to relieve poverty are a good idea. I agree with Jackson that although social inequality cannot be avoided, every person is equal under the law and certain government policies, like the titles of nobility in England, generate distinction to the rich at the expense of the poor and should be avoided.