But what I didn’t see in that entire article was something about Jefferson’s general views on governance and commerce.
Well, sure, but the post wasn’t intended to be a post about Jefferson’s views in general (much less to compare them to Hamilton’s views, which I also think were despicable). It was intended as a post about the need to take seriously his views and concrete actions with regard to chattel slavery.
If you want a more general take on Jefferson, I’d say that, besides slavery (which is an odd start–would you try to evaluate Augusto Pinochet’s record “aside from the torturing and murdering political dissidents”?) the following do deserve at least some critical attention: (1) his government-imposed Ograbme, (2) his decision to launch the first overseas war in American history, (3) his use of expropriated tax money for massive territorial expansion, (4) his government’s arrogation of title over the unclaimed lands in that new territory, and (5) due to that arrogation, his repeated actions against the land rights of honest homesteaders, in favor of the politically-fabricated land claims of speculators and political jobbers, who had done nothing to earn a right to the land that they claimed, but got the power to grab it away from the people who cleared and tilled it by right of the bribes they paid to the federal government. My own view is that another one of his profoundly anti-libertarian stances, and the root of many of the others, was his belief in the legitimacy of monopoly government, which necessarily involved the willingness impose a government on unwilling subjects, together with its regulations, its imposts and duties, its wars, its claims to vast tracts of land that it had done nothing to earn, etc., even without their consent, even if they wanted nothing but to be left alone to make an honest living in peace, and to violently repress any individual person who tried to do so.
None of this is to say anything about how you ought to rank-order Jefferson, on his libertarian merits, compared to Alexander Hamilton, or any of the other American revolutionaries. As I said in the post, I think Hamilton was perfectly awful as a person and as a political figure. I also don’t actually know or much care how you would go about making all the different kinds and degrees of anti-libertarian views or policies commensurable with each other so that you could do the rank-ordering. Does being for a central bank get you more or fewer or as many libertarian demerits as launching an overseas war, or a “national security” embargo on foreign trade? Or more in some respects but fewer in other respects? How do you even start to do the scoring?
Jacob T. Levy:
and is living in a monarchy– like, say, the UK, or Canada, or Australia, or New Zealand– really inherently more unfree than living in a state with widespread chattel slavery?
Today in the year 2008, no. But in 18th when even the world’s most “benevolent” monarchies – i.e. George III of England and Catherine the Great of Russia – left much to be desired
As opposed to American chattel slavery in the 18th century, which was just peachy.
Hamilton’s views on the Executive, in their more flamboyant monarchistic versions, were contemptible and absurd; his views on the Executive, in their more practical pseudo-republican versions, were no less despicable, and much more damaging (because they were more insidious). But the hereditary absolutist tyranny of slavery, as actually practiced (not merely advocated in speeches) by Jefferson and his fellow white slavelords was no less terrible for being inflicted by means other than formal government.
Jacob T. Levy:
As to whether Jefferson had any anti-libertarian views about government and commerce among whites– setting, as John V insists, “SLAVERY ASIDE”, the answer is yes, certainly. … The Embargo Acts were the most radical restriction of American trade in U.S. history.
They were also enacted as a genuine, if misguided, national defense policy amidst the turmoil of Europe’s Napoleonic wars, and this too was done within the full purview of the Constitution. Nor was the Embargo Act inconsistent with Jefferson’s advocacy of free trade, ….
As far as I can tell, Jacob was discussing libertarianism, not “national defense policy,” the Constitution, or the internal consistency of Jefferson’s anti-libertarian views. If his radical government lock-down on foreign trade was anti-libertarian (and it was), that suffices to show that “Jefferson had any anti-libertarian views about government and commerce among whites.”
That Hamilton not only proposed such a system for the United States but openly praised it as the best system of government illustrates conclusively that he was no friend of liberty.
I’m sorry, just who was claiming that Hamilton was a “friend of liberty”? My original post was explicitly about Jefferson’s vices and crimes, not about Hamilton’s virtues — which, as I said, I can find very few of. As far as I can tell, nobody else in the more widely-ranging follow-up comments made the claim you’re attacking here, either.
I think you’re walloping a strawman.