Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson defined the biggest question facing America in their time with their regular debates via contemporary literature. The new nation started at a crossroads. In one direction, the vast wilderness could be exploited for manufacturing and commerce, creating a profitable nation. In the other direction, yeoman farmers dot the rural American landscape and epitomized the rural idea of Jeffersonians.
Alexander Hamilton made the case for manufacturing and commerce in “Manufactures.” Hamilton was not opposed to agriculture; in fact, he wanted a balance of agriculture and commerce. This balance would create a surplus in the overall federal economy, which would be turned around for a profit in intra- and international trade. Hamilton also made the case for the industrialization as a way of igniting the intellect of Americans. Industry would “stimulate activity of the human mind.” The division of labor would create specialization and, accordingly, an exploitation of an individual’s natural abilities. Hamilton made one important point in “Manufactures.” The industrialization of the United States would allow those not typically involved in commerce to be involved in the economy. This was a plea to those who languished in poverty to support manufacturing, a shrewd political maneuver.
Thomas Jefferson was an avid opponent of the preeminence of manufacturing in America. In his “Report on Manufactures,” he says that the increased proportion of manufacturers to “husbandmen” is the same proportion of “unsound to healthy parts” in the human body. Jefferson also compares manufacturers to “sores” which take away from the overall health of the nation. He was obviously not a fan. Jefferson believed in working the fields as a farmer. He thought husbandry was the true course of the nation. This was his opinion not only because of the vast amounts of land available but because of some sort of divine right. The land was put forth to mankind so that it could be cultivated.
It is obvious that Hamilton’s scheme of development was more successful in the long term. By 1920, more people lived in urban areas than rural areas. But Jefferson’s ideas cannot be dismissed even as urban sprawl cuts into farm lands. It is obvious throughout history that urban development has created issues for the environment and human health. The loss of yeoman farmers is tragic and a sign of our lost connection to nature. Having said this, Hamilton still made the most logical argument for the long term health of America. His role as the first Secretary of Treasury as well as the support of many fellow founders and Americans helped thoroughly implement this scheme.