Thursday, October 3, 2019

The New American Desk Encyclopedia Essay Example for Free

The New American Desk Encyclopedia Essay Both Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson have large, enduring legacies in American history. While Hamilton is largely responsible for the United States becoming an economic giant with an economy based on finance, manufacturing, and trade, I admire Thomas Jefferson more, particularly for his broad, considerable intellect and his challenging views on human liberty. Modern America admittedly fits Hamilton’s vision much more than Jefferson’s. After serving as Washington’s aide-de-camp, Hamilton organized the infant United States’ economy and foresaw a capitalist America not unlike Britain’s, which dominated world trade and had a growing number of factories, abundant capital, and vast commercial enterprises. (Jefferson’s rural nation of yeoman farmers was a noble vision but not realistic in the modern world then taking shape. ) Hamilton was also a strong advocate of federalism, which gave the centralized national government far more authority than the one conceived in the Articles of Confederation. However, he was no friend of broad democracy, known in his time as an unscrupulous elitist and ambitious social climber who adhered to what today seem like outdated notions of â€Å"natural aristocracy† maintained by â€Å"enlightened self-interest† (New American Desk Encyclopedia 548-549). He openly mistrusting the American public (which he considered â€Å"a great beast† and little more than an unruly mob) and opposed the Bill of Rights, the basis for American civil liberties (which Jefferson’s protege Madison wrote). For believers in broad democracy and individual liberty, though, Jefferson is by far the more admirable figure. The First Amendment is perhaps his greatest legacy, stemming from his statutes on religious freedom in Virginia and firm belief in church-state separation. He was also a believer in freedom of the press, claiming to prefer a nation where there was a free press and no government, rather than vice versa (Countryman 69-71). The Declaration of Independence is almost entirely his creation as well, a vivid, articulate piece of writing that has influenced democratic thought worldwide. It helped inspire the French revolution less than a generation later, and even the United States’ past enemies have invoked it, including Ho Chi Minh, who based Vietnam’s 1945 independence declaration on Jefferson’s document. He was also a superior intellect, known as one of the colonies’ best minds while still a young man. Jefferson was a gifted writer, skilled diplomat, believer in liberty (his ideas on the subject were progressive for their time), architect, inventor, creator of the University of Virginia (revolutionary in its time for offering a wholly secular higher education), and amateur scientist who commissioned Lewis and Clark to explore the newly acquired American West. He was also a contradictory figure, as an educated, affluent slaveholder who wanted a rural nation of free yeoman farmers enjoying widespread democracy. He was also accused of siring at least one child by his slave, Sally Hemings. (In his defense, the Declaration of Independence’s first draft contained a strong condemnation of slavery, which other Southern delegates made him remove, and he was himself ambivalent about the practice. ) While Alexander Hamilton helped make the United States prosperous and economically powerful, Jefferson played an even greater role in helping make it a democracy (albeit a limited one compared to democracy today), setting an example of a civil society based on the rule of law and individual liberties that other nations would follow over the next two centuries. His lasting legacy helped shape the meaning of liberty and democracy, which became a worldwide phenomenon during the late twentieth century, helped change the world’s politics, and helped define modernity itself. REFERENCES Anonymous. The New American Desk Encyclopedia. Third edition. New York: Signet, 1993. Countryman, Edward. The American Revolution. New York: Hill and Wang, 1985. Davis, Kenneth C. Don’t Know Much about History. New York: Avon, 1990.

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