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Alexander Hamilton: Author of American Government

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Alexander Hamilton: Author of American Government

In the United States during the late 18th century, the American Colonies were struggling with their identity. The Revolutionary War had won Americans their collective freedom, but the best way to exercise it was the subject of much debate. One American, Alexander Hamilton, felt a need for a common, strong economic and political base for the states. This ideology stemmed from both his boyhood on the Island of St. Croix, and trying events during the Revolutionary War- influences that would later be instrumental in his publishing of the Federalist Papers.

Hamilton's boyhood on St. Croix was not that of a typical founding father. His mother took him and fled their home after his father refused a divorce, putting a label on his mother and his family wherever they went. This constant feeling of inferiority instilled in Hamilton a drive to succeed, and his way of feeding this drive was constant study. In fact, when he was deciding on colleges after coming to the United States, a major criterion was the college's willingness to allow him to cram work into a smaller time frame thus allowing him to graduate earlier (Decarolis 125). As a result he would eventually become one of the nation's most learned men; this, he felt, obligated him to publish The Federalist Papers and other

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works that showed the ideology he had derived from his studies. St. Croix also had an impact on his political views later in life. The island was fueled by the slave trade and sugar plantations. On the surface one might see the basis for Hamilton's hatred for the institution, as a slave on a sugar plantation was subject to the most inhumane treatment of any during that period (Decarolis 77). Also, this triggered a need to fight injustice on a larger scale. Government was eventually the vehicle he used to accomplish this. Underneath, however, one also sees the formation of Hamilton's love for order (Chernow 33). Slaves greatly outnumbered any other demographic on the island, leaving the island in constant fear of revolt. The strong plantation structure was the only curb for this fear of disorder. He would later be reminded of his discomfort with such a sentiment during the period between 1777 and 1781 when the United States operated under a confederate system. Hamilton's Federalist Paper #9 is titled: "The Union as a Safeguard Against domestic faction and Insurrection" conveys the connection between Hamilton's fears as a boy on St. Croix and his fears for the United States as a man.

The second major influence on Hamilton's political ideals published in the Federalist Papers was the Revolutionary War. Early in the war, Hamilton obtained the position of Washington's "aide-de-camp." This position allowed him the highest security clearance, and as a result made him aware of the war effort in its entirety. A serious problem Hamilton observed was an unwillingness of certain generals to comply with orders, and no strong central body to enforce these orders. For

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example, following the battle at the Hudson River Valley, the British position in the North was decimated; this was a logical opportunity for General Washington to transfer troops from New England to his more exposed position in the South (Harper 171). The two northern generals of whom he requested this of, Gates and Putnam, were uncooperative. Gates held a personal vendetta against Washington and Putnam was too proud to let another General command his troops. (Sterne 243) The disagreement left the continental army in limbo. The Federalist Papers #67-77 discuss the need for a strong executive branch able to issue similar orders and see them executed without debate; these essays were no doubt the result of a first hand account of a situation where this order did not exist. Hamilton was also a witness to the winters at Valley Forge and Morristown. A weak

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