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Alexander Hamilton is one of the most famous public figures in the history of the United States of America. He is one of the most controversial economists of his era. Whether America’s financial strength can be attributed to Alexander Hamilton or no continues to be a debatable topic. In this paper, we discuss the opposing views of two historians. John Steele Gordon, a historian who wrote Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power, claims that Hamilton’s policies and foresight are what turned around the US’s economy from having unsalable obligations and nil borrowing ability in 1789 to having bonds that were selling at 10 percent above par and the highest credit rating in Europe in 1794. However, Professor Carey Roberts argues that Hamilton’s policies diminished faith in the federal government. He also challenges the claim that the policies had been beneficial to the general public and the economy itself.

According to John Steele Gordon, Hamilton’s foresight and knowledge of public finance helped him chart a course for the American economy in a way that nobody else could. Starting from spearheading the Constitutional Conventions in Annapolis and Philadelphia to his proposal to Congress and the first National Bank, he displayed his brilliance as an economist. He also outlined a plan to create the capital required to kick start a prosperous economy and introduced government tariffs, subsidies, and awards to encourage American Manufacturing. According to John Steele, Alexander Hamilton can take all the credit for creating an economy that went on to become one of the strongest in the world. Even the then ‘future’ French Foreign minister – Talleyrand stood by Hamilton’s proposal for the federal government to assume the debts that had been incurred by the various states fighting in the revolution. Hamilton advocated federal bonds as opposed to state bonds, and according to Talleyrand, the bonds were “safe and free from reverses. They have been funded in such a sound manner and the prosperity of this country is growing so rapidly that there can be no doubt of their solvency.”

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While John Steele believes that Hamilton laid the foundation for America’s strong and powerful national economy, Carey Roberts believes that there is a lot that has not been spoken about and that has been hidden under the carpet of a prosperous economy. According to Carey Roberts, the increasing tax burden on the common man, the inflations, and initially spiraling economy are not taken into consideration anywhere. For instance, The Bank of United States – created by Hamilton - exercised an inflationary effect and also followed a fairly rapid credit expansion policy in the first few years. As Carey points out, “Hamilton mistakenly saw credit as a means of stimulating investment and failed to recognize that demand for credit does not correlate to demand for the investments created with it.” It is also believed that the inflationary tendencies of Hamilton’s policies misled entrepreneurs into thinking that the economy was better than it actually was – the Panic of the 1790s is the best example of misled entrepreneurs.

While John Steele glorifies Alexander Hamilton’s policies and the way the economy reacted to them, Carey Roberts brings to light the various misconceptions and miscalculations in Hamilton’s policies which affected the economy and caused it to spiral at one point of time. However, it cannot be denied that Hamilton was a visionary and a genius when it came to planning for an economy that was sinking and debt ridden. Though his policies did have some major negative impacts, the United States of America was able to sustain and pick itself from the slightly better position that Hamilton had put it in and move to great heights from there. Even without overlooking the economic crises that the United States went through, Hamilton can be considered an economic genius for the sheer courage and work that went into outlining the future of the American economy.

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