How Did Hamilton and Jefferson Differ in Their Interpretation of the Constitution?

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Thomas Jefferson believed in a federal system that primarily supported the states’ rights to govern themselves. Alexander Hamilton believed in a strong central government with far-reaching powers to secure the rights of the people.

The two men also sparred on finances and industry. Alexander Hamilton supported the formation of a national bank and wanted to take action to encourage the facilitation of a strong merchant industry. Thomas Jefferson, on the other hand, believed that the U.S. economy could sustain itself through its farming efforts. Jefferson believed that Hamilton’s idea of government was too similar to the monarchical system of England and expressed his concern to then-president George Washington. Alexander Hamilton expressed concerns about Jefferson’s ideas. 

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The two mens’ sparring on these issues led to the formation of the first political parties within the U.S. government and the institution of a vice presidential candidate to the presidential ticket. Until that time, the person with the most votes in an election became the president, and the person with the second most votes became the vice president. Thomas Jefferson went on to become the third president of the United States. In 1804, Alexander Hamilton engaged in an infamous duel against Aaron Burr, which largely stemmed from political differences. Purportedly, Hamilton did not wish to kill Burr and intentionally missed his shot. Burr, however, returned fire with deadly intent – killing Hamilton out of instinct.