The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Hamilton, Alexander (1755–1804)

  • Henry W. Spiegel
Reference work entry


One of the founding fathers of the United States and Secretary of the Treasury in President Washington’s cabinet, in which Thomas Jefferson served as Secretary of State. The two great men differed widely in their views about the destiny of the young nation. Jefferson wanted to preserve the position of the states and assign to the national government not much more than authority over foreign affairs. Hamilton favoured a strong and active central government. Jefferson was eager to preserve the rural economy in which he had grown up in Virginia. Hamilton proposed to promote economic development, especially manufacture, and vest in the national government the function of actively fostering such development. Jefferson took a dim view of public debts, paper money and financial institutions. Hamilton favoured them all. Jefferson was more of an egalitarian and had greater faith in the common man than Hamilton, who placed his trust in an alliance of government and the aristocracy of wealth: neither could flourish without the support of the other. Hamilton died in a duel with a political adversary during Jefferson’s presidency, but his ideas were strong enough to survive him. The exigencies of the time caused Jefferson himself to adopt a number of Hamiltonian policies.


Credit Hamilton, A. Implied powers Jefferson, T. Protection Public credit Public debt Subsidies 

JEL Classifications

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Dorfman, J. 1946. The economic mind in American civilization 1606–1865. Vol. 1. New York: Viking.Google Scholar
  2. Spiegel, H.W. 1960. The rise of American economic thought. Philadelphia: Chilton.Google Scholar

Bibliographic Addendum

  1. Chernow, R. 2004. Alexander Hamilton. New York: Penguin, has established itself as a standard biography. F. McDonald, Alexander Hamilton, New York: W. W. North, 1979, is a spirited defence of Hamilton’s vision for American development. See also E. J. Ferguson, The Power of the Purse: A History of American Public Finance. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1961.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Henry W. Spiegel
    • 1
  1. 1.