This article is part of my continuing dialogue and debate with author William Hogeland on the Constitution and the Founding Era. You can read the complete article at Broadside Books' "Line of Fire" here.
You’ve previously indicated your surprise that I trace the origins of the modern Tea Party movement’s critique of our federal government’s Constitutional usurpations to the actions of Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton during George Washington’s first term as President. Starting with his successful support of the establishment of a national bank, using the “necessary and proper clause” of the Constitution in ways both Madison and Jefferson deemed to be far beyond that document’s original intent, Hamilton supported policies that suggest many of the arguments he advanced just a few years earlier in The Federalist Papers were more tactical sophistry than sincerely held beliefs.
To me, Madison and Jefferson were the defenders of the Constitution, Hamilton the usurper. In his old age, years after Hamilton’s death, Jefferson said of Hamilton’s financial system that “[it] had two objects, 1st as a puzzle, to exclude popular understanding and inquiry; 2nd, as a machine for the corruption of the legislature . . . men thus enriched by the dexterity of a leader [Hamilton], would follow of course the chief who was leading them to fortune, and become zealous instruments of all his enterprises…”