Born out of wedlock, raised in poverty in St. Croix, abandoned by his father, and orphaned by his mother as a child, Hamilton transplanted himself as an adolescent to a New York City filled with revolutionary fervor. An eloquent and prolific writer, he was the author of two-thirds of the Federalist Papers; after serving as George Washington’s aide during the Revolutionary War, he became America’s first Treasury Secretary.
Later, Hamilton achieved the dubious distinction of being at the center of the nation’s first political sex scandal, after an extramarital affair became public. He never again held office, and before reaching the age of fifty he was dead, killed in a duel by Aaron Burr, the Vice-President, after a personal dispute escalated beyond remediation.
"My Ambition is so prevalent...I wish there was a war"
After months of battling and compromises, the US Constitution was finally adopted on September 17, 1787. Still, America was embroiled in heated arguments over exactly how the government would work and what powers it could really exercise. Political parties soon developed as groups argued about the direction of the country. Alexander Hamilton became a leading voice of the Federalists who believed that the federal government needed to be strong. On the other side, Thomas Jefferson, a Republican, argued that too much power in the hands of the federal government would lead to tyranny.
The necessary and proper clause part of Article I of the Constitution allowed for Congress to make laws and provisions that were not part of the enumerated powers. Hamilton and Jefferson debated many times over what was meant by “necessary and proper.” Hamilton took a more liberal reading of the clause and said that Congress should do anything it felt was necessary to carry out national responsibilities. Jefferson held that the clause meant that Congress should only take actions that were absolutely necessary, and no more.
explicitly: stated clearly. ↩
enumerated: listed one-by-one. ↩
In 1791, Hamilton proposed that the United States charter a national bank in order to take care of Revolutionary War debt, create a single national currency, and stimulate the economy. Jefferson argued that the creation of a national bank was not a power granted under the enumerated powers, nor was it necessary and proper. Both gentlemen presented their arguments to President Washington...