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Republicanism Recast: The Fusion of Hamiltonian and Jeffersonian Thought in the Republican Party of the 1920s

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posted on 2023-09-07, 05:07 authored by Dan Ballentyne

The current paradigm of dividing American political history into early and modern periods and organized based on "liberal" and "conservative" parties does not adequately explain the complexity of American politics and American political ideology. This structure has resulted of creating an artificial separation between the two periods and the reading backward of modern definitions of liberal and conservative back on the past. Doing so often results in obscuring means and ends as well as the true nature of political ideology in American history. Instead of two primary ideologies in American history, there are three: Hamiltonianism, Jeffersonianism, and Progressivism. The first two originated in the debates of the Early Republic and were the primary political division of the nineteenth century. Progressivism arose to deal with the new social problems resulting from industrialization and challenged the political and social order established resulting from the Hamiltonian and Jeffersonian debate. By 1920, Progressivism had become a major force in American politics, most recently in the Democratic administration of Woodrow Wilson. In the light of this new political movement, that sought to use state power not to promote business, but to regulate it and provide social relief, conservative Hamiltonian Republicans increasingly began using Jeffersonian ideas and rhetoric in opposition to Progressive policy initiatives. In doing so, they began a fusion of Hamiltonian and Jeffersonian thought within the Republican Party. The fusion they created, however, was imperfect. Mainstream Republicans borrowed from Jefferson irregularly without changing their overall policy objectives. In doing so, they redefined Jeffersonian ideas of limited government to include traditional Republican priorities while excluding Progressive ones. Progressive Republicans used both Hamilton and Jefferson to sell their ideas. The result was ideological conflict within the party, not only between Progressives and Conservatives, but also over whether the pro-business Hamiltonian priorities or small-government Jeffersonian ones should take precedence.





Degree awarded: Ph.D. History. American University


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American University. Department of History

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  • Doctoral

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