“Every nation, with a view to these great objects, ought to endeavor to possess within itself all the essentials of national supply. These comprise the means of subsistence, habitation, clothing and defense.” Alexander Hamilton, ‘Report on Manufactuers,” 1791.
With so many people learning their history from plays and movies one ought to take time to look at the real sources of material vice those of playwrights and script writers. Everyone is very taken with Hamilton on broadway and go about quoting a lot of the play here and there to make a point. But did they ever actually study what Hamilton wrote? Hamilton came to America at the age of 17 as the bastard son of a merchant in the Leeward Islands (Nevis). He was not an orphan as the play would have you believe. Thus, his formative years were not spent in the colonies of America. This means his ideas of government would not necessarily stem from the same life experiences of most of his contemporaries in either the Continental Army or the Constitutional Convention at which he was a New York representative in 1787. This would place him at odds with a great many of those contemporaries in the formation of a new government.
In short, Hamilton was always a “Big Government” man. He favored a centralized government with power over the states. He proposed the central bank and if his suggestion had been carried the Constitution would provide for a President for life. It is interesting that he termed his cause the Federal Cause and would be instrumental in arguing that cause in “The Federalist Papers” (If you haven’t read The Federalist Papers, you don’t know Hamilton) because what he proposed wasn’t federalist at all but, in fact, a one country solution with the states subservient to a unified central government. In doing so he argued that the United States of America was more important than the State of Virginia, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania or New York, the four “Big” states of the union. If Hamilton had had his way the state boundaries would have been nothing more than counties within a unified system of government with all important decisions being taken in the national capital. That given, Hamilton was an exceptionally bright man who could write and orate better than most and he had the trust of George Washington.
So then, read again that at the beginning of this blog. Hamilton, as the Secretary of the Treasury, is telling Congress that in order to take its place among the nations of the earth the United States must be self-sufficient in all things necessary for being a nation: it must be able to feed, house, clothe and defend its populace. Prior to this statement he has already noted that a nation that requires of other nations any of the elements for life and livelihood is not really an independent nation but an appendage of a suzerain.
His proposals to stop this happening included tariffs, taxes and regulations to provide an advantageous position for the United States as well as a system of government inducements to encourage the development of manufacturing and entrepreneurism like tax rebates, land and other such tangibles as those needed to increase the number and kind of manufacturers. So, in a sentence Hamilton proposed in 1791 the very same economic steps to make The United States a great country, that the current administration is attempting to implement today. Yes, lots of time has passed since 1791 and a plethora of economists have developed theories about the interplay of commodities, raw materials and manufactured goods but all seem to have forgotten the premise which isn’t about making money but being a strong and independent nation vice one of many. It is this position that historically has gained for the US a leadership position in the world. To become just one of many others is to lose that leadership role.
So, if you’re going to praise Hamilton then praise him for what he really stood for, a strong, independent nation leading the way into the future.