66 pages 2 hours read

Ron Chernow

Alexander Hamilton

Nonfiction | Biography | Adult | Published in 2004

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Themes

A Strong Central Government

In the aftermath of the American Revolution, the founding fathers, and public sentiment, were divided on the idea of how much power should be given to the central (Federal) government. The states weren’t yet a unified nation, and the leadership of each state had different ideas about how best to serve the states’ constituents. 

Federalists like Hamilton believed that unless the federal government had the power to tax the states, collect those taxes, and enforce its policies through law enforcement and the use of militiamen, the states would have no incentives to stay bound to the union. Without the ability to tax, the Treasury office would have been unable to restore and build America’s credit. Under a system in which the government did not centralize power, Americans would still have freed themselves from England’s rule, but would then be in a position of potential odds with the interests of other states. Hamilton envisioned future disorder, rebellion, and perhaps even civil war—an apprehension that would come true less than 100 years later. 

The anti-Federalists believed that a strong central government would limit the freedom that Americans had just fought and died for. A strong government was still run by fallible, ambitious people. Hamilton’s enemies saw him as building the government to suit his own whims, not for the current and future stability of a nation.

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