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Toolbox Library, primary resources thematically organized with notes and discussion questionsOnline Seminars, professional development seminars for history and literature teachersLiving the Revolution: America, 1789-1820
Living the Revolution: America, 1789-1820
Topic: Predicaments of Early Republican LifeTopic: ReligionTopic: PoliticsTopic: ExpansionTopic: Equality
Topic: Politics
Overview of Living the Revolution
Resource Menu: Politics
Text 1. Government and Liberty
Text 2. Agriculture and Manufacturing
» Reading Guide
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Text 3. George Washington
Text 4. State and Federal Power
Text 5. Thomas Jefferson
Text 6. National Identity
Text 7. The Politics of Foreign Affairs
RESOURCE MENU » Reading Guide Link

Reading Guide
2.  On Agriculture and Manufacturing in the New Nation
- Thomas Jefferson, "Manufactures," Query XIX in Notes on the State of Virginia, 1787
- Alexander Hamilton, Report to Congress on the Subject of Manufactures, 1791, excerpts

  Thomas Jefferson
  Alexander Hamilton

"Those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God" asserts Jefferson in his well-known support of the "agrarian ideal," the conviction that an agricultural society provides the best safeguards for liberty and virtue. In opposition stands Alexander Hamilton (no surprise), who, while acknowledging that "the cultivation of the earth [is] most favorable to the freedom and independence of the human mind," counters that a nation that remains only agricultural will lose ground in the long run—not only in trade but in national security, immigration, expansion, and the optimal use and ingenuity of its citizens.

Jefferson's short piece "Manufactures" is his response to the 19th of 23 questions submitted to all the states in 1780 by the French government. With an evangelist's fervor, he warns of the dangers and deficiencies of manufacturing. In contrast, Hamilton's lengthy report to Congress (submitted in his role as Secretary of the Treasury) lays out a dense economic argument for Congress to promote manufacturing; excerpted here are his rebuttals to the concerns of Jefferson and others. Impassioned writing from both men (even in Hamilton's "dry" rhetoric). 6 pages.

Discussion questions
  ·  How does each man argue that the nation's future will be more secure in his preferred economy? that the people's morals will be more secure?
  ·  According to each, what makes a person an asset to the nation? How can each citizen give the most of him/herself?
  ·  In what ways do these documents constitute a debate on the national character, on what an American should be?
  ·  How does Hamilton answer the concern that manufacturing will deepen North-South divisions?
  ·  How would Jefferson and Hamilton view the social economy of the U.S. today?

» Link

Topic Framing Questions
  •  What core political issues defined themselves in the new republic?
  •  What caused the greatest optimism and anxiety among American leaders?
  •  What do the religious overtones in these political texts express?
  •  What national identity evolved in the three decades from 1789 to 1820?

Toolbox: Living the Revolution: America, 1789-1820
Predicaments | Religion | Politics | Expansion | Equality

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Revised: May 2003