Alexander Hamilton Brought the Constitution to Life
Alexander Hamilton Brought the Constitution to Life.
Hello and welcome to what will be my first debate. This debate will center around Alexander Hamilton who in my opinion is not credited enough for his achievements in the implementation of the Constitution of the United States. My position during this debate is, Alexander Hamilton did more to implement the Constitution of the United States than any other founding father.
Of course the opponent has to disagree with my position, which from my personal experiences most people do. Thanks in advance to whoever accepts this challenge.
Rules of debate:
That's all I have. If the opponent wishes to add any other rules please do so in the first round.
Thanks to Jingle_Bombs for accepting the debate.
The Failed Articles of Confederation.
In order to understand Alexander Hamilton's outstanding leadership role which he played in bring the Constitution of the United States to life, one must first understand the failed form of government which leaders such as Alexander Hamilton and James Madison opposed, the Articles of Confederation. Implemented in early 1781 the Article of Confederation united the 13 colonies under one set of laws, it would soon be proved however, that the Articles of Confederation lacked the basic functions that are needed for a government to do its job. The Articles of Confederation gave states more power than the federal government, which would soon be proved to be a disadvantage to the prosperity of the United States.
First, The Articles of Confederation did not give much freedom to Congress to regulate trade. Due to this, the central government was not allowed to engage in trading agreements with foreign nations, leaving this power to each individual state. During this time the United States was still in the process of accumulating great debt from a very pricey Revolution, with 13 different states seeking different trading agreements it is hard to imagine how a stable economy could be implemented.
Secondly, The Articles of Confederation did not permit Congress to conduct taxation. It does not take much knowledge to understand that it is through taxation that the United States is able to fund most of the social programs that we Americans enjoy today.
Lastly, The Articles of Confederation permitted Congress to declare war or peace; but did not allow Congress to establish an army, leaving the defense of the United States to the hands of the state militia, which would not be efficient in defending the borders of the United States, who were only threatened by European power but by Native American's to the west.
It is evident in these three points that the new government adopted in 1781 would soon fail or as Alexander Hamilton would put, fail the needs of the people. It was up to our great founding fathers to ensure the progress of the United States, and it is because of heroes such as Alexander Hamilton that the Constitution of the United States became a reality.
The United States Constitution.
Alexander Hamilton was one of the earliest voices to call for a revision of the Articles of Confederation and thanks to Alexander Hamilton's persistent voice the Constitutional Convention became a reality. It was Alexander Hamilton along with James Madison who were champions of the Constitutional Convention, leading the other delegates in the creation of a new government in which the central government would be able to lead the new nation, who was on the verge of anarchy.
The new Constitution solved the problem that were present in the Articles of Confederation. The Constitution of the United States created a federal government split into three branches, the Legislative Branch, Executive and Judiciary. These three branches would now possess the power to tax the American people, engage in foreign trading and create a standing army. Now most of the delegates present in the Constitutional Convention were against such a government, which they believed place too much power in the hands of the central government and left states at the mercy of the former, but it was thanks to Alexander Hamilton's persistant voice that the United States Constitution addressed the problems which the Articles of Confederation did not.
After much hard work, the new Constitution was signed by all delegates with the exception of three in 1787. However, the fight was far from over. The United States Constitution now faced it's greatest challenge, ratification by 9 out of the 13 states.
No one in the United States was better prepared to defend the United States Constitution than Alexander Hamilton. Despite the fact that the Constitution could be easily ratified in smaller states, without the ratification of the Constitution in bigger states such as New York the effectiveness and longetivity of the United States Constitution was impossible.
Before we move on to our next point it is critical to understand the importance of Alexander Hamilton's dedication to the Constitutional Convention, or as Robert E. Wright and David J. Cowen write, "without the efforts of Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and to a lesser extent John Jay, the Constitutional Convention might have a become a mere footnote in history."
The Federalists Papers.
Out of all delegates in New York, only Alexander Hamilton signed the Constitution. Noticing the great challenges the Constitution faced, Alexander Hamilton along with James Madison and John Jay devised what historian Richard B. Morris describes as an "incomparable exposition of the Constitution, a classic in political science unsurpassed in both breadth and depth by the product of any later American writer." It was Alexander Hamilton who wrote over two-thirds of the Federalists Papers and it is hard to imagine how the federalists would have been able to gain allies throughout the 13 states without the creation of the Federalists Papers. The Federalist Papers not only played a role in giving the United States Constitution a weapon (metaphorically speaking) to defend itself against its many enemies, but as well recruited allies in states such as Virginia, Pennsylvania which were needed to ratify the new constitution in these crucial states
Ratification in New York and It's Importance.
Small states like Delaware who showed no potential in being success on its own quickly ratified the Constitution, however, bigger states such as Pennsylvania, Virginia and most importantly New York were undecided on whether to ratify the Constitution. It was crucial that states such as New York ratified the Constitution, for if ratification had not occurred in states such as New York and Virginia, the nation would have not been united and would have been defeated in the many challenged that the nation faced in the years to come.
It was up to Alexander Hamilton to bravely stand against 47 anti-federalist defending the Constitution of the United States in Albany. As the most populated state, it was essential for New York to ratify the Constitution for it's validity to be taken serious on a national level. And it was Alexander Hamilton that began a month long debate against anti-federalists in June 1788 to bring the Constitution to a reality. Without this debate and battle which Alexander Hamilton fought and won it is hard to see as how the Constitution could have been implemented in New York.
It is here that Alexander Hamilton once again, defended and saved the Constitution of the United States. In fact it is easy to assure ourselves that without Alexander Hamilton's brave battle in Albany to ratify the Constitution, the 13 initial states would have not been united under one flag. Imagine how history would have been written if the United States would have gone to war in 1812 with the UK without New York or Pennsylvania as part of its Union? It is hard to imagine the United States becoming the great nation it is today without Alexander Hamilton ensuring the ratification of the Constitution in New York.
The first step to bring the Constitution of the United States to life was to abolish the Articles of Confederation, which Alexander Hamilton began to oppose since its creation. Alexander Hamilton initially understood the impracticality of facing the challenges that laid ahead of a nation which Alexander Hamilton described as an empire, if the central government was not able to deal with the economic problems the nation faced and establish a strong standing army.
The second step in bringing the Constitution of the United States to life was to create a Constitutional Convention which created the Constitution of the United States. It was Alexander Hamilton along with James Madison who demanded the creation of a Constitutional Convention and it was Alexander Hamilton's who ferociously defended the Constitution against many opponents of it. It is without a doubt that we must come to the conclusion that without the Federalist Papers (which Alexander Hamilton was the main architect of), the United States Constitution would not have gained the allies it needed in order to be ratified in important states such as Virginia and New York.
The third step in bringing the Constitution of the United States to life was in ensuring that big states such as Pennsylvania, Virginia and most importantly the most populous state at the time New York ratified the Constitution. Without these states ratifying the Constitution, the 13 colonies would have been split into separated confederacies.
These were the intial battles that Alexander Hamilton faced and overcame in order to dismantle a disfunctional government, establish a place in which a delegation could draft a new and stronger constitution and defend the Constitution of 1787 against many opponents.
“Your name could not be spared.” – James Madison to George Washington, Independence Hall, 1787.
“I am persuaded, if you were determined to attend the Convention, and it should be generally known, it would induce the Eastern States to send Delegates to it.” – Henry Knox, letter to George Washington, 1787
“… your Presence will be of the greatest Importance to the Success of the Measure” – Benjamin Franklin, letter to George Washington, 1787.
"Be assured, (Washington's) influence carried this government." – James Monroe, letter to Thomas Jefferson, 1787.
George Washington - President of the Constitutional Convention
I unfortunately do not have the luxury of time to write a lengthy pedigree background of George Washington as Pro has done for Hamilton; but I also believe that the admirable George Washington (Father of The Country) perhaps needs no real outstanding introduction. Besides being the most acclaimed general of the American Revolution and 1st President of the United States, as well as patron for constitutional thinkers like James Madison and Alexander Hamilton), Washington was also President of the Constitutional Convention, which he chaired by unanimous election. His distinguished role as President of the Convention was defined not by legislative contributions, which were the ultimate feats of Hamilton and Madison, but by legitimizing the adoption of unity and national government for all the states through the forceful persuasion of his awesome presence and participation.
So I will instead focus on framing the context for what was necessary for “bringing the Constitution to life” as it were, and how George Washington played the biggest part in those.
Bringing the U.S. Constitution to life required three things:
1) Winning the War of Independence
2) Ratifying the U.S. Constitution
3) Putting the Constitution and national government into practice
Winning the War of Independence
I’ll be brief here, but no single person in American history did more to win the War for Independence than General George Washington. This is important because winning the war against Great Britain is what allowed for the opportunity for the American colonies to host a constitutional convention -and rights to self-government- in the first place. And Washington’s military contributions here cannot be denied; crossing the Delaware, surviving Valley Forge, victory at Yorktown, as well as training and leading a rag-tag rebel army against the greatest power of his day, are just some of his superior historical accomplishments. But let’s not forget about Washington’s heroism and personal sacrifices either. He had several horses shot from under him while leading from the front, and it is well known that Washington went bankrupt in order to fund the troops when the continental congress many times could not. Then later, after the war was over, Washington went “blind in service of his country” when he quelled threats of coups from officers and enlisted men alike who again demanded compensation for their services. Consequently, no other American General, or participant in the American Revolution for that matter, could have commanded this much influence.
Ratifying the U.S. Constitution
Washington was named President of the Constitutional Convention for the same reason why he was named General of the Continental Army, his reputation and status as a wealthy egalitarian landowner and gentlemen from Virginia, combined with his unique military pedigree and personal charisma, made him the obvious choice for a leadership position. Having George Washington at hand to lead the convention provided the credibility and legitimizing factors that were necessary to unite the states and colonial factions together for a common cause. Unlike the other delegates who attended the convention, Washington was arguably the only person in America who could have been seen as representing the interests of all the states, as he had done before by leading the continental army. I argue this is why the first order of business of the constitutional convention, was in fact, to unanimously elect George Washington as President. Having him there of course, as a national hero, convinced other states to send their delegates, ensured that disgruntled war veterans wouldn’t rebel, and ensured trust among the public that whatever agreements that came forth from the convention would not be an attempt at treason or an effort to reestablish unfavorable government on style of Great Britain’s.
Let there be no mistake either, Washington was not just a political figure head while at the convention. Through his quiet and discreet nature, he allowed healthy debate to ensue by staying out of conversation until it was necessary to form a compromise, then and only then did he offer a deciding opinion, which of course was to put Madison and Hamilton’s ideas before a vote. At the close of the convention, Washington also - very importantly to the Republic- reached across the aisle to advocate that smaller states should have more favorable representation in the House by skillfully proposing legislation that reduced the population ratio to representatives when the majority of delegates were tired and ready to go home. This maneuvering by Washington allowed him to lend some of his voice to the smaller states without losing the confidence of the larger states he had typically supported, so in effect he was bipartisan.
Putting the Constitution and national government into practice
Perhaps the biggest part of “bringing the constitution to life,” can be summarized as putting words and ideas into practice; making sure that the type of government outlined (and its three branches) worked and would continue to work for future generations. For the first representatives of the newly elected government, this sometimes meant the pivotal role of setting an example for roles that the Constitution loosely defined or was vague on, such as Judicial Review. But for Washington’s role of course, being the first chief executive ever elected, it was to define the constitutional role of President of the United States, knowing that the example he set would be mirrored and modeled after for future generations.
The Constitution for instance, though establishing the Office of President, did very little to actually define the powers of Chief Executive. Washington tried to interpret this role as someone who could enforce the laws through discreet executive powers and the advice of congress; which allowed the President to nominate cabinet officials, lead the military when at war, receive diplomats, and negotiate treaties, but left actual approval of those measures up to a vote in Congress. Washington presidency also helped establish executive privilege and executive orders, two important powers of the Office of the President that the constitution failed to define but were important enough to establish in order to enforce the laws and protect the constitution. Washington also delivered the first State of the Union address, setting an example for what that relationship between the Excutive Branch and Legislature should be; and very importantly left the Presidency after two terms and eight years – term limits of course, had not been defined by the Constitution. This last feat by Washington, turning away from power, President of the United States would not become a King.
In this round I will continue to present a few other points as to why Alexander Hamilton should be the founding father most credited with bringing the Constitution to life. I will save all rebuttals towards my opponents points for the last round.
The First Presidential Cabinet.
Now that I have spoken of the success of Alexander Hamilton's fight to ratify the Constitution in important states such as Virginia and New York, we must now talk about the most important part of bringing the Constitution to life, putting into action the Constitution of 1789. The greatest challenge that Alexander Hamilton would face during the years 1791-1795 was in setting straight the power that the Constitution granted the federal government. No other person in the First Presidential Cabinet of the United States would do more to extend the powers of the federal government and explain to the American public the Constitution than Alexander Hamilton. Assigned as Secretary of Treasury in 1789 by George Washington who described Hamilton as one of his closest allies, Alexander Hamilton would go on to do more for the implementation of the Constitution of the United states than any other politician in his cabinet, including President Washington.
The date is January 14, 1790 and Alexander Hamilton releases "First Report on the Public Credit" in which he argues the assumption of all state debts. This was the first step towards a recovery for the troubling economy the new republic found itself in. Alexander Hamilton strongly believed that the federal government had to handle the economic recovery of the United States. He understood that each state trying handle their debt and economic collapse as they saw fit would only ensure the downfall of the new republic's economy. This plan remained under constant attack from popular men such as Thomas Jefferson and Madison and with such strong opposition, Hamilton had to convince these men to support his plan for it to pass Congress.
Alexander Hamilton was a very persuasive man with a set of goals and a dedication towards achieving a fast and stable economy in the United States. An economy which he believed would challenge and conquer the economy of Britain and France, but most importantly an economy that would meet the standards of an empire, as he described the United States of America. With this in mind Alexander Hamilton on June 20th, sat down with Jefferson and Madison promising the establishment of Philadelphia as the capital of the United States in return for their support of Hamilton's economic plan. Both Jefferson and Madison agreed and on July 10th, the United States Congress established Philadelphia as the nations current capital and within a few weeks Congress approved Hamilton's assumption plan. This was his first major victory as Secretary of Treasury, by winning this battle, Alexander Hamilton not only set the United States on the correct path to setting up a strong economy, but as well he showed the nation of the power that the new federal government possessed.
In the same year Alexander Hamilton proposed to Congress the creation of a national bank, this would become Alexander Hamilton's greatest achievement. Passed by Congress on February 25th, 1791 the first bank of the United States was established this as well granted the federal government a federal mint and the power to excise tax. Not only was this a major victory for Alexander Hamilton's belief of "implied powers" which has been used again and again during times of hardship in the United States, but it was a victory for the economy of the United States.
Alexander Hamilton faced many challenges which included convincing Jefferson and Madison, but as well as convincing George Washington. Out of his entire cabinet Alexander Hamilton was the only visionary to understand that without the power to establish a national currency, without the power to tax and without the creation of a bank, the United States would never become the economic power it was destined to become. When asked by George Washington to convince him as to why he should support the creation of the bank, Hamilton responded "any government by its very nature was sovereign "and includes by force of the term a right to attainment of the ends...which are not precluded by restrictions & exceptions specified in the constitution...", George Washington was convinced and approved the bank bill. However, without Alexander Hamilton's persistent voice and strong opinions the creation of the first bank, the ability to print money and the ability to excise tax would have not been enacted for generations to come, in fact it is hard to imagine that it would be enacted at all without Alexander Hamilton's brave fight.
This achievement not only granted the federal government the ability to fully address with full authority the economic problems the United States faced, but as well allowed it to create a national currency and to tax goods within the nation. These were the major contributions and steps that Alexander Hamilton enacted in order to ensure the establishment of the American economy, which would soon become the strongest economy in the world.
The Whiskey Rebellion.
The Whiskey Rebellion perhaps became one of the biggest achievements in proving the power that the Constitution granted the federal government and in reality, the Whiskey Rebellion played a big role in setting an example for the entire nation of the mighty power that the executive branch now possessed. Despite the fact that history tends to claim victory for George Washington during the Whiskey Rebellion, victory should be granted to Alexander Hamilton.
Alexander Hamilton was the one who decided to tax whiskey making it the first product to be taxed by the federal government. This set a clear point in the nation that the Constitution granted the federal government the power to tax American goods. Before this brave act by Alexander Hamilton there were no federal taxes, each state had full power over taxation, so it was Alexander Hamilton who brought the act of federal taxation (one of the biggest powers of the federal government) to a reality.
After implementing taxes on whiskey, farmers in Western Pennsylvania decided to defy the federal government and not pay taxes. George Washington along with Alexander Hamilton decided that it was necessary to bring the insurrection to an end. George Washington along with Alexander Hamilton marched with 13,000 men to Western Pennsylvania and brought the Whiskey Rebellion to an end. Now you may be wondering, if George Washington lead the army against the defying farmers why should Alexander Hamilton be given credit? Well without Alexander Hamilton's idea to implement taxes the Whiskey Rebellion would have never came to play and without Alexander Hamilton convincing the always neutral George Washington, the implementation of taxes on a federal level would have never occurred. Therefore, George Washington played a small role in the Whiskey Rebellion, it was Alexander Hamilton who without direct intention created the Whiskey Rebellion, and allowed George Washington to bring it to an end.
In conclusion, it was Alexander Hamilton's who by implementing federal taxation made the Whiskey Rebellion possible and set the national stage for all Americans to see the power that the federal government most importantly the executive branch now possessed under the new Constitution.
By doing everything Alexander Hamilton did during his time as Secretary of Treasury, he not only brought the idea of "implied powers" to American politics, which continues to be used by Presidents such as Abraham Lincoln, who used "implied powers" to put to a halt habeus corpus and suppress freedom of speech during the Civil War, but he also established the national bank, helped establish a national currency and put into place federal taxation. It cannot be stressed enough how important these actions were in bringing the Constitution of the United States to life.
While George Washington was the first President of the United states, it was Alexander Hamilton who orchestrated the greatest achievements by Washington's cabinet. It was Alexander Hamilton who extended the power of the federal government, it was Alexander Hamilton who paved a road for the creation of the American economy (which still remains the strongest in the world). It was Alexander Hamilton who created the American credit, it was Alexander Hamilton who allowed the Whiskey Rebellion to occur and by doing so showed the American public that the federal government did in fact now have the power to tax and use force against its citizens if necessary.
Despite much opposition from Thomas Jefferson, Jefferson himself would use the idea of "implied powers" to purchase the Louisiana Territory from France. Thomas Jefferson unlike Alexander Hamilton decided to interpret the Constitution strictly, while the latter interpreted it loosely as he believed the Constitution should be used liberally in order to benefit the well being of the entire nation. Therefore, it can be concluded that even Alexander Hamilton's opponents came to understand the concept of "implied powers" which they opposed so ferociously. Furthermore, it can be stated that Alexander Hamilton played a critical role in the Louisiana Purchase, for it was his idea of implied powers which allowed Thomas Jefferson to conduct the purchase in the first place.
So I state again, Alexander Hamilton's actions not only brought the Constitution to life but allowed future American President's including his opponent Thomas Jefferson to use it for the good of the United States.
I will do my best to show that while George Washington did much to bring the Constitution of the United States to life, Alexander Hamilton's achievements surpassed those of Washington.
Winning the War of Independence.
No one can deny George Washington's achievements during the American Revolution, and of course one can come to the conclusion that without winning the American Revolution, the Constitution itself would not have come to life. However, George Washington was solely a man of action not of intellect, Alexander Hamilton was both, and it is crucial in understanding that without the intellects a revolution is unimaginable and the creation of a new republic would be impossible.
Not only did Alexander Hamilton surpass by far George Washington when it came to the political and rational defense of the Constitution of 1789, but Hamilton as well proved his braveness, patriotism and will in the American Revolution. Michael Schellhammer writes, Hamilton himself was sick Christmas Day, but he rallied to join the Army as they crossed the Delaware River to attack the Hessian garrison at Trenton, New Jersey. He and his company swarmed into Trenton alongside the Continental infantry, surprising the Hessians. Hamilton was perhaps at his deadliest in this battle. He set up two guns under fire, leaned into the blowing snow, and ordered his men to blast Trenton’s streets clear of the counterattacking Hessian infantrymen and artillery gunners. In minutes the American guns raked King Street with round after round of grapeshot and solid shot that smashed the enemy guns and cut through Hessians as they ran out of their barracks.
Alexander Hamilton's success and role in the Battle of Trenton which took place on December 25th, 1775, cannot be overlooked. As Schellhammer describes Hamilton played a crucial role in defeating the Hessians in Trenton, with the use of cannons which was not an easy to skill to acquire, especially for Hamilton who grew up in Nevis an island far from such advanced military weaponry. Still Hamilton quickly learned how to manage cannons and used his skills in the Battle of Trenton to be of great aid to George Washington in claiming a victory for the new republic in Trenton.
Jingle_Bombs forfeited this round.
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