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Alexander Hamilton's American empire: The intellectual foundations of federalist foreign policy

Donald Lee Walker, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Alexander Hamilton's American empire was a flexible and contradictory one that was based on economic stability, military power, social order, and the rule of law. These concepts established the intellectual foundations of federalist foreign policy and were determined by Hamilton's studies, experiences, and comprehension of American power. Economic stability would be ensured with the implementation of his reports on the public credit, the bank, and manufacturing. These innovations would pay off the nation's foreign debt, assume the states' debts, and industrialize the U.S. economy. Hamilton believed that the creation of a professional military establishment was a necessary requirement for national security. He had visions of a professional army capable of defending the western frontier against Indian raids and confronting the British, French, and Spanish in North America. His navy would be limited in its operation to the Western Hemisphere and protecting shipping lanes, commercial vessels, and harbors against encroachment by European powers. At the local level, social order would be maintained through free associations such as the New York Manumission Society and the Society of the Cincinnati. At the national level, a powerful central government would protect property, facilitate trade, and project power. The rule of law would serve as the conduit through which economic regulations, military orders, and domestic ordinances would be administered. Hamilton had seen the implications of diplomatic agreements and the problems that they posed when they conflicted with state laws. His commitment to the rule of law was conditional if the issues involved conflicted with his sense of morality or the nation's interests. ^ This dissertation begins with Hamilton's birth in the West Indies and ends in 1791 after the Nootka Sound crisis in the Pacific Northwest. It identifies how Hamilton's ideas of economic stability, military power, social order, and the rule of law fit within his own concept of an American empire. This dissertation offers a new analysis of the limitations and successes of Hamilton's thinking and how they fit within his own imperial perspective. ^

Subject Area

History, United States

Recommended Citation

Walker, Donald Lee, "Alexander Hamilton's American empire: The intellectual foundations of federalist foreign policy" (2005). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3186887.