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He who helped to make Partisan Politics what it is today.
How can one interpret the meaning of the constitution? Should it be taken word for word, or should one read between the lines to find a deeper meaning? These are the types of questions that came up in the 1790s as the government was just getting started. Why, one might ask, would the men who were all together during the creation of this new constitution so soon find a division between themselves? Well the question has many answers, although one of the most obvious is Alexander Hamilton. Partly due to the fiscal policy derived by Alexander Hamilton during his time as secretary of treasury a, division grew between the founding fathers that would forever affect American politics.
Alexander Hamilton was a cunning man who was born in Barbados. Being born out of wedlock, he should have been destine for a hard life, but he worked hard and married well and was able to bring himself to the top of the social ladder during his time. Hamilton was also very ambitious, but due to the fact that he was not a natural born citizen he would never be allowed to be president. Instead Hamilton settled for being Secretary of the Treasury. Hamilton’s fiscal policy helped to solidify the power of the new government by tying the wealthy to the success of the government. Since the war bonds that people bought to fund the Revolutionary war had lost much f their value, Hamilton offered to pay them back at face value. When people came to take him up on his offer, though, he would offer them interest on the bond if they did not cash it out right away. Many people agreed with this offer and left their money in the care of the new government. Since the government now held the money of the rich it was much less likely that there would be any one trying to overthrow the new government. Furthermore, Hamilton’s plan called for a federal assumption of the state war debts. This undoubtedly made many of the northern states very happy. With all this handling of money, though, Hamilton found it ever more necessary to create a federal bank and this is where the problems started.
Nowhere in the constitution did it say the federal government could make a National Bank! Instead it was apparently assumed that this would be a power left up to the states. Still, though, Hamilton found it necessary to build a national bank and, in his mind, he found a way to legally make one. In the last part of article I section 8 of the constitution it states that congress has the power to “make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.” This clause which became known as the necessary and proper clause gave the congress power to do almost anything in order to ensure the execution of its powers. Hamilton and his followers, whom became known as the “loose constructionists”, insisted that this meant making a national bank as well. The people who disagreed with Hamilton such as Thomas Jefferson insisted that the Tenth Amendment, which states “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people,” is the most important and should be respected. Sense the Constitution does not say that the federal government is allowed to make a federal bank the “strict constructionists” believed that the states should make their own banks.
The Differences that grew between the loose and strict constructionists derived from more than just the issue of a National Bank. The idea of “implied power” which Hamilton used to support the building of the bank also pushed for a more powerful central government. According to Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia Standard 2004 Hamilton believed that there was a “need for a strong central government in order to foster the development of a great and powerful American nation.” The strict constructionists, on the other hand, believed that a strong central government should be avoided in order to protect the rights of the states and the privet citizens. As the division between the two groups grew further apart they started to form into political parties. The people whom believed in a strong federal government became known as the Federalists whereas the people who fought more for direct states rights became known as the Democratic-Republicans. This division that split between the politicians discouraged many people, even George Washington warned against the dangers of partisan politics as he left office at the end of his second term. By this time, though, it was too late. The division between politicians was so grand that even John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, two men that had been close friends and fought side by side to get the constitution ratified, became harsh political opponents.
The political divide that drove the creation of political parties never left the American political scene. Today, instead of Federalists and Democratic-Republican the Americans have Democrats and Republicans. Ironically, the political makeup that so worried the first American President became the rock solid political foundation that continues to drive American Politics to this day. Everything that needs to get done in congress becomes a political issue that is fought for, or against depending on which political party the congress man is affiliated with. No matter what the issue, from important laws to land use issues, nothing today escapes the over whelming red tape of partisan politics.
As Hamilton’s fiscal plan provided the necessity for a federal bank a divide grew between American politicians. The Strict Constructionist, who were fundamental Constitutionalists, believed that since the constitution does not say that the federal government has the right to build a bank there should be no bank built. The looses Constitutionalists who believed in a strong central government, on the other hand, followed the Necessary and Proper Clause and believed that a bank should be built. This break up between American politicians never left the American political scene. Even today as law need o be passed the American people feel the affect of Alexander Hamilton, the man who helped to make Partisan Politics what it is today.
© All words and music written and owned by Shawn Nelsen.