Debate over the meaning and purpose of the grand experiment called the United States has existed since its inception. Alexander Hamilton and James Madison worked closely together to achieve the ratification of the Constitution, which both considered essential for the survival of the United States. However, within just a few years of the Constitution’s ratification, they became bitter political enemies as the pair disagreed about what the United States should be like under the new Constitution, specifically how to interpret the Constitution they both worked to create and support.
Defining the Republic: Early Conflicts over the Constitution documents, through presentation of their own words, that these two essential early Americans simply had different expectations all along. Expectations that went unexamined during the frenetic times in which the Constitution was written, debated, and ratified.
It is to their differences that Americans today can look in order to better understand the history of the United States, as well as current debates over politics and life in general in the country Hamilton and Madison helped to create.
William J. Nichols is instructor at Wayne County Community College in Detroit, Michigan.
Chapter 1: Definitions of a Republic from Other Authors
Chapter 2: Hamilton and Madison on Slavery
Chapter 3: Hamilton and Madison on France versus Great Britain
Chapter 4: Hamilton and Madison on Constitutional Interpretation
Chapter 5: Hamilton and Madison on Religion
Chapter 6: Hamilton on the Federal Government’s Role in the Economy
Chapter 7: Madison on the Federal Government’s Role in the Economy
Nichols’ well-researched and clearly written book demonstrates that even our celebrated founders often disagreed on the meaning and nature of republican self-government. If anything, Nichols’ timely work remind us that our contemporary debates are continuations of those between Hamilton and Madison.