Jefferson vs. Hamilton Book Report

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Confrontations That Shaped a Country Noble E. Cunningham wrote the novel, which was published in Boston and copyrighted by Bedford/St. Martins in the year 2000. Despite coming from widely disparate backgrounds, Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson were arguably two of the most prominent political activists during the early years of post-independence America. At this time, Hamilton and Jefferson both wrote journals. Noble E. Cunningham collected a number of these writings into the book Jefferson vs. Hamilton: Confrontations That Shaped a Country. The book is about the different views of Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson on government and society during the New American Nation following independence. This paper provides a report on the book Jefferson vs. Hamilton: Confrontations That Shaped a Nation by Noble E. Cunningham.
The author of this book, Noble E. Cunningham, was born in Evans Landing, Indiana in 1926. He was among the leading scholars of Thomas Jefferson’s life and thought. To reach the status he has now achieved, he has worked hard throughout his life. He served in the United States’ Army between 1944 and 1926. In 1948, he received his B.A. from the University of Louisville. He earned his M.A. and Ph.D., with honors, from Duke University in 1949 and 1952 respectively. He has since worked in many colleges and universities including the University of Missouri at Columbia, the University of Richmond and Wake Forest College, all in the history department. He has since proven an asset in the history department and received many awards including the Missouri Conference of History Award, Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Medal and the University of Missouri Thomas Jefferson Award.
I found this book very well written and well thought. Most people would say that the intentions of writing the book were to shed the light on the economic and foreign policy, government and the Constitution, and the military through the views of Hamilton and Jefferson. I do agree with this, to some extent. The way Noble E. Cunningham provides a commentary on the aspects addressed by the two men shows the general view of the people of America following independence. In fact, it is a documentary study of their divergent views and leads readers to a well-informed understanding of the times. I feel the purpose of Noble E. Cunningham writing this book is to create awareness of the events that followed the early years of independence in America and the New American nation.
As one would expect, the majority of the book centers around the views of the two men in the New American nation. Jefferson and Hamilton had divergent views on economic and foreign policy, government and the Constitution, and the military. This can be revealed from the generous excerpts of their private letters and public papers as compiled by Cunningham. In this way, Noble E. Cunningham, through the book, illustrates and provides a commentary on the topics in post-independence America. Readers get the first-hand of the philosophies of the two men in such documents as the Report on Public Credit, Jefferson’s First Inaugural Address, and the Kentucky Resolutions. Readers also get to learn the impact these documents had on the New American nation.
In the first chapter, the author uses Hamilton and Jefferson to bring out the picture of two different personalities from different backgrounds and with divergent opinions. Hamilton came from a low-class family and would work to provide for himself at a very tender age while Jefferson was from a wealthy and more privileged family (Cunningham, 5). Regardless of this multiplicity in their backgrounds, both of them found themselves at the cyclone of a new nation in the early 18th century. Despite their divided vision of the United States, each of the significantly contributed to this development. Among the leading advocates of the current U.S. Constitution was Hamilton while the Declaration of Independence was drafted by Jefferson (Cunningham, 13). Their major division in opinions started when both were nominated to serve in George Washington’s cabinet (Cunningham, 77). In the second and third chapters, the author presents these two giants’ original writings in early American history. These writings depict their opinions on the major aspects of the period including the Alien and Sedition Acts, the United States bank, the resulting Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, foreign policy (Cunningham, 106) and the 1800 election. The concluding chapters present the documents on Jefferson’s presidency following the 1800 election.
Hamilton had a strong belief in the need to have a very strong central government. He had seen the results of a weak central authority having served in the U.S. Army during the revolutionary war. On the contrary, Jefferson was a proponent of state sovereignty. He believed that the political system should be dominated by the state. His view was the bottom-up approach of political power. Their competing visions of the United State led to them butting heads on many occasions during their service in President George Washington’s Cabinet (Cunningham, 77). Jefferson advocated for the republican ideal and the state’s role while Hamilton championed for an economy based on industry and banking and a strong federal government. The formation of America’s first political parties was as a result of the growing division in the views of Hamilton and Jefferson (Cunningham, 78).
In Hamilton’s foresight, America would become a strong military and economic power to overtake the likes of Great Britain and other European powers. In his Report of the Secretary of the Treasury on the Public Credit (1790), he challenged his fellow Americans to think in a continental way (Cunningham, 29). It is true that America would not have emerged a superpower if it were not for Hamilton’s contributions. On the other hand, the influence that Jefferson had on the political history of America outstrips that of any other contributor. The disentanglement of religion and government was his chief achievement. The republican spirit that has since characterized America was infused by Jefferson. He believed that the states would unite voluntarily. In this regard, he proposed that each state had the power to nullify federal law in case the government exceeded any of its enumerated powers (Cunningham, 127). His other achievement was the founding of the University of Virginia and for this reason; he conjured every university in those days. According to Cunningham, Hamilton’s and Jefferson’s competing visions’ debate was settled in the 1800 election (145).
In conclusion, the book Jefferson vs. Hamilton: Confrontations That Shaped a Nation by Noble E. Cunningham has 7 chronological chapters that interweave over 40 letters of these two personalities. It provides the modern reader with texts of lives and careers of Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson from their youth and throughout the Great Revolutionary War up to and until the death of the former in 1804. Noble E. Cunningham was selective in the letters and writings but all in all, it is a good piece of work and a useful resource in understanding the history of America. I found it particularly useful. The book gave me more insight on the New America in such aspects as the Revolutionary War and post-independence America. I had to read the book in order to come up with a good report despite the fact that I am a lover of American history. Reading this book, I found it very enjoyable and informative at the same time. I would recommend this book for everyone who yearns to learn how America was shaped following the revolutionary war and after independence. The book presents a mirror image of the debates that shaped America in its first years of existence. Readers particularly gain an insight on the critical formative early years in the United States. We also get to learn about the major aspects of the period including Alien and Sedition Acts, the United States bank, the resulting Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, foreign policy and the 1800 election.

Work Cited
Cunningham, Noble E. Jefferson vs. Hamilton: Confrontations That Shaped a Nation. Boston:
Bedford/St. Martins, 2000. Print.

July 24, 2021

Sociology History

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Expertise Alexander Hamilton
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