When the British colonies of the New World declared independence from their mother country in 1776, they fought a war that would succeed in the formation of the United States. Ironically, though “united” in spirit, this new country was far from politically unified. There existed a deep philosophical divide in the politics of this new nation, two different political systems of thought that can best be described through the opposition of two of the famous Founding Fathers, Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson.
Hamilton represented the American Federalists, a more elitist Britain-sympathizing faction that sought a strong central government, currency, and bank. Jefferson, by contrast, became part of the American Democratic-Republicans, those who championed the common people, distrusted England, and opposed the Federalist’s plans for a strong central government, instead seeking states’ rights. Ultimately, though Jefferson is likely best remembered in American history, Hamilton’s Federalist vison would better reflect modern day America.
Today, the United States government is best characterized by governing through the minority of upper class businessmen, an unwieldly and hugely-powerful federal government, and the lack of a true democratic voice for many individuals in this country. Largely, states’ rights are overruled by the federal government, which often overlooks the needs of most common people. The United States of today would make Jefferson roll over in his grave and would likely bring a smile to Hamilton’s face. Hamilton’s Federalists always sought a powerful central government, like what we have today, and a more elitist ruling class, which is also emblematic of today. By contrast, Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans sought strong state governments capable of largely governing themselves and a true democracy, where the common lower-class people would be just as influential in government as the wealthy. Therefore, many have suggested that Hamilton favored a loose interpretation of the American Constitution, while Jefferson favored a strict, literal interpretation regarding the “democratic” ideals of this then-new country. The legislative structure of this country today better represents Hamilton’s elitist ideals than the true democracy of the common people sought by Jefferson.