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    I recently had someone tell me that playing with taxes in order to get businesses to do what they want isn’t in contradiction with the Founders, being that the second act of Congress was to tax imports and the Whiskey tax followed soon after (which, he made sure to point out, caused the Whiskey Rebellion that was put down). He also pointed out that the creation of the Patent office as an example of the Founders taking control of business right away. He basically told me that since the Founders disagreed on just about everything, then really anything is permissable under the Constitution. He used Hamilton as a crutch.

    I answered by saying the taxes were to pay off debt, not to manipulate business – though I am not sure Hamilton would object. He was in favor of a monarchy and though he had influence, of course, his actual intentions most likely would have made the Constitution impossible to ratify. Our country would look completely different if we did what Hamilton would have wanted. I think what followed Washington’s administration was proof enough – it is not as though the Constitution was ratified and bam! Everything just fell in to place.

    Am I on the right track? I need to know if I need to switch tracks before I keep going. Am I holding on too tightly to the Founders and the Constitution? There’s so much rearranging I need to do that I get confused. I took Political Science at Rutgers, so it should be apparent what I learned compared to what actually happened. I am literally trying to undo years of brainwashing, and it is a slow journey. I wish it had never been taught to me at all.


    Congress was given power to regulate trade with foreign countries in part so that it could via adoption of tariffs discourage purchase of imports. This theme runs through James Madison’s correspondence for years before the Philadelphia Convention, and other framers shared this goal. The point of patent protection wasn’t to “tak[e] control of business,” but to encourage innovation — though some libertarian scholars today argue that intellectual property stifles innovation, and thus should not be protected.

    Reference to original understanding — “the Founders” — is necessary if you subscribe to the Jeffersonian idea that the people’s will was expressed through the ratification process, and so their understanding is controlling. Many currently dispute this idea too, for various reasons.


    “Our country would look completely different if we did what Hamilton would have wanted.”

    Yes, if you are talking about Hamilton’s proposed government at the Philadelphia Convention; no if you are talking about the current mess in D.C. We live in Hamilton’s America, particularly in regard to political-economy and the power of the general government. Or it would be better to suggest that we live in Robert Morris’ government with a scattering of Pennsylvania nationalism thrown in, but no one knows who Robert Morris is. Hamilton soaked in everything he sold him and then made it policy.

    But it must emphasized strongly that Hamilton, Marshall, James Wilson, and other ardent nationalists were the outliers, not the norm. Hamilton, in fact, picked up his toys and went home during the Philadelphia Convention because the other two New York delegates continually made his vote irrelevant. And he was called out on the carpet during the New York Ratifying Convention as a liar.


    Thank you, both, I haven’t had a chance because of these great lectures I’ve been listening to.. I definitely get that we are in Hamilton’s America now – I wasn’t thinking that far ahead at the time. I was looking for the validation that he was an outlier though, just to make sure I am on the right track, so thank you!

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