January 16, 1801 – Hamilton’s Astute Analysis of Jefferson

On this day in history, Alexander Hamilton wrote a letter to James Bayard (an American lawyer and politician from Wilmington, Delaware and a member of the Federalist Party). In the letter, he makes his objections to the nomination of Aaron Burr for the U.S. Presidency. In the process, he actually defends Thomas Jefferson, by way of comparison, but in so doing, mentions aspects of Jefferson’s character that, while blatantly evident in Hamilton’s time, have tended to get lost in our elevation of the Founding Fathers to the status of deities:

Perhaps myself the first, at some expence of popularity, to unfold the true character of Jefferson, it is too late for me to become his apologist. Nor can I have any disposition to do it. I admit that his politics are tinctured with fanaticism, that he is too much in earnest in his democracy, that he has been a mischevous enemy to the principle measures of our past administration, that he is crafty & persevering in his objects, that he is not scrupulous about the means of success, nor very mindful of truth, and that he is a contemptible hypocrite. But it is not true as is alleged that he is an enemy to the power of the Executive, or that he is for confounding all the powers in the House of Rs.”

It should also be noted that Hamilton was not even aware of all of the “dirty tricks” against him that came from the instigation of Jefferson. You can read all of Hamilton’s remarks to Bayard here.

Alexander Hamilton portrait by John Trumbull 1806

Alexander Hamilton portrait by John Trumbull 1806


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