Hamilton lecture draws record crowd for Constitution Day

Constitution Day is the anniversary of the signing of the United States’ Constitution, which was signed on Sept. 17, 1787.

Mercyhurst College hosts an annual Constitution Day lecture in honor of this occasion. On Thursday, Sept. 17, Dr. Michael Federici of the political science department presented his views on the constitutional theory of one of America’s ‘founding fathers,’ Alexander Hamilton.

In his lecture, Federici discussed the constitutional and political theory of Hamilton as it related to the creation of a National Bank and Hamilton’s ideological opposition of Thomas Jefferson.

After giving a brief history of Hamilton’s life, Federici spoke about Hamilton’s constitutional theory.

Hamilton was a loose constructionist, a Federalist, opposed citizen rebellion and was against the Bill of Rights, Federici said. Loose constructionist is the name used for those who believe the Constitution contains not only those powers explicitly included in writing, but also implied powers.

According to Federici, many modern political scientists, especially those who admire Hamilton’s political and ideological nemesis, Thomas Jefferson, tend to view Hamilton as someone who advocated stretching the Constitution to cover any power desired by the national government with no oversight.

On the contrary, Hamilton was an advocate of limited implied powers, which are powers that must necessarily be tied in explicitly to the Constitution, Federici said. Hamilton viewed the creation of the National Bank as one such limited implied power.

On this and many other issues, Hamilton frequently clashed with Jefferson, who favored only allowing the national government those powers specifically stated in the Constitution.

Another issue on which the two disagreed was on the type of national government which ought to be adopted by the fledgling United States of America. Hamilton believed that the welfare of the nation depended on a strong national government, while Jefferson was a fervent proponent of states’ rights, without interference from the national government.

Similarly, Jefferson believed that “a little revolution now and then” was a good thing, while Hamilton considered citizen rebellion a threat to the nation, Federici said.

The difference in political ideologies between the two men continues to be discussed today.

Hamilton was in the process of writing a multi-volume work on political theory at the time of his death.

Its incompletion, according to Federici, makes Federici’s forthcoming book on Hamilton “both easier and harder” to write, he said.

Federici’s book will tentatively be released in 2011, by John Hopkins University Press.

“The lecture was really interesting,” freshman Phil Blair said. “I know more about one of our ‘founding fathers’ now.”

Over 75 people attended the lecture, the largest crowd ever to attend a Mercyhurst College Constitution Day lecture.