Stephen Knott is professor of national security affairs at the Naval War College and the coauthor of a new book on the relationship between George Washington, the indispensable man, and Alexander Hamilton, an indomitable genius among the founders. We invited Professor Knott to write something that would allow us to bring the book to the attention of Power Line readers. Professor Knott has graciously responded with this message:
Washington and Hamilton: The Alliance That Forged America challenges the conventional wisdom that pits the supposed “champions of the people” (Jefferson, Madison, and their party) against the “forces of privilege and authoritarianism” (Washington, Hamilton, and the Federalists). Due to the statesmanship of these unlikely collaborators, the American people began to “think continentally” and, to borrow from Jefferson, created an “empire of liberty.”
There is no other book that makes the case that this was the indispensable alliance of the founding era. Washington and Hamilton were the leading nationalists of the founding generation – they wanted Americans to think of themselves as Americans, not as Virginians or New Yorkers. These men came from two entirely different worlds, yet somehow they bonded to create a new nation, a nation that would become a superpower.
While there are numerous biographies of Washington and Hamilton as independent actors, no one has focused exclusively on the interactions between these two key founders, and very few contest the conventional narrative that the two key players of the founding era were Jefferson and Madison. This narrative is the preferred account of many historians, partly for ideological reasons, and partly due to the fact that Jefferson was a font of feel-good rhetoric regarding the wisdom of the people. Jefferson’s correspondence with Madison and with John Adams was more philosophical, and at times even poetic, a quality bound to appeal to scholars, while Washington’s and Hamilton’s correspondence tended toward the prosaic and was focused frequently on solving the pressing problems of the day.
Thomas Jefferson was the poet of the American founding, while Hamilton, at Washington’s behest, was the engineer who infused the essential elements of permanence and stability into the American system. While Washington is recognized as the father of his country, the nature of his collaboration with Hamilton has either been slighted or distorted by scholars for over two centuries. Washington and Hamilton challenges this distorted history and demonstrates that this collaboration was vital to the success of the American Revolution, in adopting the Constitution, in building the foundations of American capitalism, and creating the institutions necessary to secure liberty at home and respect abroad.