By Nancy Spannaus
Feb. 20, 2019—In his grand exposition of his vision for a future American industrial republic, the 1791 Report on Manufactures, our First Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton laid special stress on the fact that his economic policy was the essential grounding for national unity. Contrary to the accusation that he was out to benefit the super-rich, or to advance the interests of the North against the South, or East against the West, Hamilton asserted:
Mutual wants constitute one of the strongest links of political connection, and the extent of these bears a natural proportion to the diversity in the means of mutual supply. Suggestions of an opposite complexion are ever to be deplored, as unfriendly to the steady pursuit of one great common cause, and to the perfect harmony of all the parts.
That concept of harmony was very specific in Hamilton’s mind. He understood the interdependence of the welfare of the farmer and the craftsman, the merchant and the producer, the city and the countryside. With his credit system, ensconced in the Bank of the United States, all parts of the economy could mutually benefit and progress together. All would find ready markets for their goods, productivity would increase with the use of machinery, and transport infrastructure would link the country together. Progress would benefit all.
The subject of uniting the country through economic cooperation toward progress had been on Hamilton’s mind from his earliest days on the continent. Take a look at his rebuttal of the Tory Samuel Seabury in 1775, A Farmer Refuted, and you will find the 18-year-old Hamilton ripping apart the idea that the interests of the merchants who were leading the boycott of British goods, were at odds with those of the farmers. The prosperity of each sector of the society was linked with the other, he argued; to disparage their collaboration and mutual interest was simply British propaganda.
It was the failure of our leaders to follow through on Hamilton’s vision which allowed our nation to enter into sectional conflict, even Civil War. Indeed, a look at the electoral map of the United States –the heavily urbanized coasts against the more rural center of the country—shows that we are still bedeviled by the same kind of divisions.
I take on this issue, by way of Hamilton’s American System concepts, in my just-released book, Hamilton Versus Wall Street, The Core Principles of the American System. We need Hamilton’s economics to bring about that “perfect harmony,” and Americans need to get to know his real ideas.
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