The Age of Federalism

By Stanley Elkins; Eric McKitrick | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
The Emergence of Partisan Politics:
The "Republican Interest"

The twelve-month period from the fall of 1791 to the fall of 1792 was marked by the emergence of what could for the first time be clearly discerned as an opposition. The opposition impulse was in reaction to the rising influence of the Treasury over Administration policy, and to the fierce urge of Jefferson and Madison to prevent the completion of Hamilton's grand design. They would partially succeed, and in the course of their efforts all the hostilities that had been accumulating since Hamilton's plans first began unfolding late in 1789 would burst fully into the open in bitter partisan warfare.

But as Hamilton himself viewed the future in the autumn of 1791, he had every reason to hope that the program of national development he had projected two years earlier would be fully enacted into law by the end of the coming session. Except for the temporary impasse over assumption and the brief financial panic of the late summer, he had experienced nothing but success since taking office in 1789. Madison's attempt to prevent the establishment of a national bank had been no more fruitful than his effort to discriminate between original and current holders of Continental securities or his campaign to kill assumption. Moreover, the predictions of Hamilton's critics that the nation's credit would collapse under the huge debt it had assumed were dramatically disproven, first by the sharp improvement of American credit abroad and then by the rapid rise of federal securities at home. And finally, the minister from Great Britain who was about to arrive might well be the instrument for bringing the two countries a step closer to the hoped-for accommodation. Hamilton, of course, had as yet no idea of the frustrations George Hammond would encounter at the hands of Secretary Jefferson.

Only two major items remained to complete Hamilton's program. One was congressional approval of a plan for direct assistance to domestic manufacturing through a system of tariffs and bounties. The other was the establishment of a model manufacturing corporation -- financed and organized on a sufficient scale

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