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A Simple Answer

January 25, 2018

Thomas Jefferson envisioned the United States as an agrarian republic where businesses are small, local, and rural.  Alexander Hamilton more accurately predicted the United States economy would be based on large concentrations of capital in urban communities.  Until recently Jefferson has usually received more accolades than Hamilton, even though Hamilton’s ideology had no place for slavery.

The 10th Amendment is among the great checks and balances written into the U.S. Constitution.  It reads in full: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”  Unfortunately, the Antebellum South tainted these great words by using them to uphold the institution of slavery.  After the Civil War, segregationists and white supremacists appealed to the 10th Amendment.  Again, this has been most unfortunate and has caused many to regard the 10th Amendment as obsolete.

When Theodore Roosevelt ran for President in 1912, his New Nationalism program acknowledged that the United States had become a Hamiltonian republic.  Therefore, in order to ensure civil rights, the national government would have to lead the way in protecting those rights.  States’ rights would have to take a back seat to people’s rights.

But Woodrow Wilson had a simple answer which appealed to the Jeffersonian predisposition of the voters.  “Ours is a program of liberty and theirs is a program of regulation,” Wilson said.  With this simple answer Wilson characterized Roosevelt not as a reformer but as an accommodator of big business.

The voters saw Wilson’s New Freedom as a middle of the road position with Taft on the right and Roosevelt on the left.  On November 5, 1912 former President Roosevelt received less than 17% of the Electoral vote, and incumbent President Taft received less than 2%.  Wilson, however, received almost 82% of the Electoral College vote and became the 28th President of the United States.



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