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For most of their lives, Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson squabbled over countless things. Perhaps the most important thing that they disagreed on, however, was the amount of power that the federal government should wield. Hamilton was adamant that the it was crucial for the federal government to be strong and be able to show their power, so much so that his political party was called the Federalists. Jefferson and the Democratic Republicans, however, were wearier of strengthening the federal government’s power, and argued that this could lead to tyranny. Today, it is safe to say that Hamilton ended up being right, as our federal government has much more authority than our state governments do.
Hamilton was the face of Federalism, and to this day is still seen as perhaps its most influential proponent. He believed that the federal government should be able to flaunt its force, like Washington did to crush the Whiskey Rebellion. Hamilton also proposed programs that included strengthening the powers of the president and establishing a National Bank. The Bank of the United States was probably Hamilton’s most significant contribution to America, and it essentially gave the federal government more money and power. Obviously, Hamilton was a major influence on the strengthening of our national government and set in motion some of the things that led to it. However, there is another man that also deserves recognition for the strong federal government that we know today, John Marshall.
John Marshall was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court by John Adams in 1801, just three years before Hamilton’s untimely death. During his time serving under Washington at Valley Forge, he witnessed local farmers selling food to the starving army at high prices, which convinced him that America needed a strong federal government. While Hamilton worked to institute programs and change public opinion to strengthen the national government, Marshall actually had the power to interpret the Constitution and determine that the national government had the right to be stronger. Marshall determined that “Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution, which said that the purpose of Congress was ‘to provide for the common Defense and general Welfare,’” meant that Congress and the federal government had the right to more power (Ripper 137). Marshall also ruled that the state of Maryland did not have the right to tax a branch of the Second Bank of the United States, which helped to specifically establish the authority of federal law and government over state law and government. Throughout his long career as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Marshall was a supporter of a strong national government and made many rulings and interpretations that helped to establish the federal strength that we recognize today.
Which man had the greater influence in the formation of the strong federal government and authority of federal over state governments that we know today, Alexander Hamilton or John Marshall? Why?
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