Key Political Figures

Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton, First Secretary of Treasury of the United States of America

Alexander Hamilton - As Secretary of Treasury in 1790, Hamilton proposed to Congress a plan to develop the economy of America. By the time he had finished developing his plan, he had founded the Federalist Party, unbeknownst to him at the time. Hamilton's fiscal policy included the desire to exchange old securities of the COnfederation with interest-bearing bonds, assuming the debts incurred by the states into the Federal Government, chartering a Federal bank, creating internal excise taxes in order to raise revenue to sustain debt policies, and introducing a protective tariff on manufactured goods. Hamilton's admiration of Great Britain's political order left him with a desire to marry wealth and government within America. Hamilton's main goal as Secretary of Treasury was to stimulate national growth of the economy; he was not just interested in protecting businessmen and bankers, he wanted his policy to reflect a creative, wide appeal for all Americans.

In a letter to Robert Morris, Founding Father and Financier of the Revolutionary War, Hamilton wrote: 

"...The first step towards determining what ought to be done in the finances of this country is to estimate in the best manner we can its capacity for revenue and the proportion between what it is able to afford and what it stands in need of for the expences of its civil and military establishments. There occur to me two ways of doing this: 1st by examining what proportion the revenues of other countries have borne to their stock of wealth, and applying the rule to ourselves with proper allowance for the difference of circumstances. 2dly by comparing the result of this rule with the product of taxes in those states which have been the most in earnest in taxation. The reason for having recourse to the first Method is, that our own experience of our faculties in this respect has not been sufficiently clear or uniform to admit of a certain conclusion; so that it will be more satisfactory to judge of them by a general principle drawn from the example of other nations compared with what we have effected our selves, than to rely intirely upon the latter.

The nations with whose wealth and revenues ⟨we⟩ are best acquainted are France, Great Britain, and the United provinces. The real wealth of a nation consisting in its labour and commodities, is to be estimated by the sign of that wealth, its circulating cash. There may be times, when from particular accidents, the quantity of ⟨this⟩ may exceed or fall short of a just representative, but ⟨it⟩ will return again to a proper level, and in the general course of things maintain it self in that state..."

Source: “From Alexander Hamilton to Robert Morris, [30 April 1781],” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified June 29, 2017, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Hamilton/01-02-02-1167. [Original source: The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, vol. 2, 1779–1781, ed. Harold C. Syrett. New York: Columbia University Press, 1961, pp. 604–635.]

"...The first step towards determining what ought to be done in the finances of this country is to estimate in the best manner we can its capacity for revenue and the proportion between what it is able to afford and what it stands in need of for the expences of its civil and military establishments..."

- Alexander Hamilton

John Adams

John Adams, 2nd President of the United States, 1st President elected as a member of a political party

John Adams - Adams was the 2nd President of the United States, an ardent Federalist, and the first to be elected president. Adams was known for a number of unpopular policy decisions, such as the XYZ Affair, the Quasi-War with France, and the Alien & Sedition Acts. Adams wrote, of the XYZ Affair: 

"The President of the United States, requests The Secretary of State, The Secretary of the Treasury, The Secretary of War and the Attorney General of the United States to take into their Consideration and Make reports of their Opinions in writing
1st. Whether the refusal to receive Mr Pinckney and the rude orders to quit Paris, and the territory of the republic with such circumstances of Indignity, insult & Hostility as we have been informed of, are Bars to all further measures of Negotiation? Or in other words will a fresh Mission to Paris be too great an Humiliation of the American People in their own sense and that of the World?"

These unpopular policy decisions by John Adams forced the Federalist Party into a downward spiral of unpopularity and inelectability. Adams would serve as the last Federalist President. 

Source: “From John Adams to Timothy Pickering, Jr., March 1797,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified June 29, 2017, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/99-02-02-1920. [This is an Early Access document from The Adams PapersIt is not an authoritative final version.]

George Washington

George Washington, 1st President of the United States

Washington's Farewell Address

George Washington's Farewell Address

George Washington - Though not a Federalist by name, George Washington was known to be sympathetic towards Federalist's ideas. In his Farewell Address, Washington warned the American people not to fall to political factions, believing that this divide would be detrimental to our nation's future. Attached to the left is his Farewell Address; read through and note the various warnings he makes to those deciding to take sides in the political realm. Even though he chose to practice ideas that were Federalist in nature, he never declared himself a member of this party. 

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of the United States, and the 1st President elected as a Democratic-Republican. His election as a Democratic-Republican signified the first peaceful transfer of power within a nation in what was later referred to as the Revolution of 1800.

Thomas Jefferson - Alongside James Madison, Thomas Jefferson opposed Hamilton's fiscal ideas, believing America would be best served as an agrarian republic where farmers were the most important people in the union. Led the Revolution of 1800, where he defeated John Adams for the presidency.

In a letter to James Madison, Jefferson wrote of the Alien and Sedition Acts:

"...Parker is completely gone over to the war-party, in this state of things they will carry what they please. one of the war-party. in a fit of unguarded passion declared some time ago they would pass a citizen bill, an alien bill, & a sedition bill. accordingly some days ago Coit laid a motion on the table of the H. of R. for modifying the citizen law. their threats point at Gallatin, & it is believed they will endeavor to reach him by this bill. yesterday mr Hillhouse laid on the table of the Senate a motion for giving power to send away suspected aliens. this is understood to be meant for Volney & Collot. but it will not stop there when it gets into a course of execution. there is now only wanting, to accomplish the whole declaration beforementioned, a sedition bill which we shall certainly soon see proposed. the object of that is the suppression of the whig presses. Bache’s has been particularly named. that paper & also Cary’s totter for want of subscriptions. we should really exert ourselves to procure them, for if these papers fall, republicanism will be entirely brow-beaten..."

Source: “From Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 26 April 1798,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified June 29, 2017, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-30-02-0209. [Original source: The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 30, 1 January 1798 – 31 January 1799, ed. Barbara B. Oberg. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003, pp. 299–302.]

"...Parker is completely gone over to the war-party, in this state of things they will carry what they please. one of the war-party. in a fit of unguarded passion declared some time ago they would pass a citizen bill, an alien bill, & a sedition bill..."

- Thomas Jefferson

James Madison

James Madison, 4th President of the United States, known to have created the Democratic-Republican party with Thomas Jefferson to oppose the Federalist Party led by Alexander Hamilton

James Madison - Madison was the 4th President of the United States. Despite contributing to the Federalist Papers with Hamilton, Madison was vehemently opposed to the Federalist Party's fiscal policies. Fearing these policies, Madison worked with Thomas Jefferson to create an anti-Federalist movement known as the Democratic-Republican party. Madison believed that the planters, farmers, and plain people would be able to live prosperously if they just had simple governmental protections, were not heavily taxed, and were simply left alone. He did not believe laissez faire would serve agricultural interests and the principle of equality and still be able to succeed, and by 1793, Madison was fixed in opposition to Hamilton. 

In a letter to Jefferson, Madison wrote: 

"...Our army threatened with an immediate alternative of disbanding or living on free quarter; the public treasury empty; public credit exhausted, nay the private credit of purchasing Agents employed, I am told, as far as it will bear, Congress complaining of the extortion of the people; the people of the improvidence of Congress, and the army of both; our affairs requiring the most mature & systematic measures, and the urgency of occasions admitting only of temporizing expedients, and those expedients generating new difficulties. Congress from a defect of adequate Statesmen more likely to fall into wrong measures and of less weight to enforce right ones, recommending plans to the several states for execution and the states separately rejudging the expediency of such plans, whereby the same distrust of concurrent exertions that has damped the ardor of patriotic individuals, must produce the same effect among the States themselves. An old system of finance discarded as incompetent to our necessities, an untried & precarious one substituted, and a total stagnation in prospect between the end of the former & the operation of the latter: These are the outlines of the true picture of our public situation. I leave it to your own imagination to fill them up. Believe me Sir as things now stand, if the States do not vigorously proceed in collecting the old money and establishing funds for the credit of the new, that we are undone; and let them be ever so expeditious in doing this[,] still the intermediate distress to our army and hindrance to public affairs are a subject of melancholy reflection. Gen Washington writes that a failure of bread has already commenced in the army, and that for any thing he sees, it must unavoidably increase..."

Source: “From James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, 27–28 March 1780,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified June 29, 2017, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/01-02-02-0004. [Original source: The Papers of James Madison, vol. 2, 20 March 1780 – 23 February 1781, ed. William T. Hutchinson and William M. E. Rachal. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1962, pp. 5–7.]

"...Believe me Sir as things now stand, if the States do not vigorously proceed in collecting the old money and establishing funds for the credit of the new, that we are undone; and let them be ever so expeditious in doing this[,] still the intermediate distress to our army and hindrance to public affairs are a subject of melancholy reflection..."

- James Madison