The first thirty years of American history was largely influenced by the thought processes of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. The nature of how America developed as a country can be traced to the opinions that men such as these had in the formative years of the nation. Among many of the hotly contested subjects was that of foreign affairs and the relationship that individuals had with the country that were not native to the colonies at the time or involved in exploits outside of those merely pertaining to the colonial issues. There were many influences that were brought forth during this time, including those that were presented by the English empire that essentially laid the foundation for the colonies as an entity, as well as the French empire which helped provide munitions and support for the colonies to divide themselves from the English and establish their own right to their existence.
Much like many of the famous thinkers and politicians of the time, Jefferson and Hamilton expressed many viewpoints and opinions upon the involvement of other countries into the workings of the fledgling United States. In many of the works that Hamilton wrote and penned, there is a high level of influence which is brought forth from the French Revolution as well as the French’s approach to democracy and diplomacy. This is one of the central aspects to the works presented from the selected readings, especially in regards to the formation of the ideas that Hamilton came to adopt. As Secretary of the Treasury and for many years after the period in which he resigned, Hamilton was a large factor in how America came to address foreign diplomacy and the viewpoint that many of the politicians held.
In 1793, Napoleonic France declared war on many of the sovereign states in Europe which in turn contributed to a large amount of unrest in many countries such as Spain and Great Britain. While it can be said that America’s choice to remain neutral in the affairs had much to do with resources and overall desire to incite the effects of such an action, Hamilton and Jefferson were both primary contributors to the decision. Their methods and reasoning for this were entirely different though, as well as their approaches. Hamilton was of the opinion that Washington should be the primary individual to declare the United States’ neutrality, while Jefferson believed that the responsibility to do so should be left unto the Congress since Congress was the governing body responsible for the nation’s ability to declare war.
Despite this, Hamilton’s approach was the one that ultimately won out, which eventually led to Washington proclaiming and issuing the now famous Neutrality Proclamation in 1793. Hamilton based many of his ideas upon foreign affairs around the idea of present utility for the new country as he argued that the United States need not be involved in the affairs of France at the time, despite the Franco-American treaty of 1778. The basis for his argument was that the arrangements for the treaty were defined by the king of France at the time, and not necessarily by the French Republic which had been brought forth afterwards. Hamilton’s opinions of the matter were detailed in many of the selected works, as were his motivations.
While Hamilton viewed the French as a major determining factor for the United States, he also viewed the fledgling country’s ability to maintain such a position and to adequately provide for themselves as the main factors for not involving themselves with European affairs. Yet, despite this, Hamilton also understand the nature of political motivation and greatly valued keeping alliances and treaties steady with the European powers. To prevent an eventual war with the British, Hamilton persuaded Washington to sign a treaty with the English, sending John Jay to London to do so. While it can be said that many viewed the treaties to be a disappointment due to the eventual nature of the conflict with Britain, Hamilton believed that they were essential to prevent war and eventually, the efforts that he brought forth helped to get the documents ratified, thus ensuring that conflicts with the British would not occur.
Thomas Jefferson had many interests similar to those of Hamilton, but many of the approaches were different in how the two went about conducting their respective affairs. Jefferson was a proponent of limiting the reach and power of the federal government and Hamilton was in favor of a strong, centralized federal government, the logic behind their actions were rather sound and similar. This is a principle aspect of the documents discussed by Jefferson. The nature of Jefferson’s presidency saw a huge precedence on the foreign affairs that the country needed of the time, so as a result, the federal government was largely required to conduct these affairs for Jefferson.
One of the most famous instances of Jefferson utilizing the power of the federal government was in the Louisiana Purchase, which was analyzed greatly by the readings provided. Jefferson believed the purchase to be of a high strategic importance to the nation as it allowed the country to grow exponentially and to subdue many of the foreign influences that were present in the ownership of the region. Jefferson felt that by appeasing the institutions present for the territorial ownership, the nation would be better serviced by the lucrative capacity for expansion. While it can be said that their methods were different in scope, the reasons for Hamilton’s and Jefferson’s actions were universally the same as both sought to increase the scope and power of the United States as a nation, while helping to develop the country’s identity in the formative years that it experienced.