Analyzing the Text
Hamilton advocated for a “vigorous central government” (22) and Jefferson “favored states” rights’ (27). This affected their roles as members in the Cabinet as Hamilton took office zealously and Jefferson rather hesitantly.
The conflict between them began over the debt left over from the American Revolution and as to who should profit from the interest of securities (p. 143). This conflict escalated with the argument over the creation of a central bank (99) which was then heightened by the publication of a series of aggressive papers.
Revealing words: “brilliant, brash and charming” “intelligent” “one-man army” “self-reliant” “wits.” This gives us the image of a powerful man with many capabilities.
Hamilton ‘“served up his opinions promiscuously” (49) whereas Jefferson was more soft-spoken (54). Jefferson preferred private correspondence (55) whereas Hamilton loved debates (50). This affected the medium through which their feud would take place — Jefferson would publish papers and Hamilton, speeches.
Hamilton was not a land-owner and so, while he knew agriculture would remain important for America’s economy, he wanted to develop a trading, commercial economy (90). Jefferson owned land and “retained the landed gentry’s disdain for the vulgar realities of trade, commerce” (89-90). In such, Jefferson did not want a central bank and Hamilton did, because a central bank would create a new economy, one that would not rely so heavily on agriculture.
They were similar because they were both excessively ambitious, and hid potent hedonism behind an intellectual facade, as shown in their two great sex scandals (152-3).
Hamilton’s scandal was that he had maintained a long term affair while married. He responded by confessing in great detail and length. Jefferson’s scandal was that he had had a relationship with one of his slaves, and fathered children with her. He neither confirmed or denied this. This is consistent with their personalities because Hamilton is out-spoken and confrontational, but Jefferson preserves the ‘nobility’s disdain for vulgar things’ and is more soft-spoken.
It enhances the ‘irony’ of Hamilton helping Jefferson achieve presidency — it shows also that when one comes to power, as Jefferson did, that previous statements as to how much power should be controlled, change: “Hamilton said he had long suspected that as President, Jefferson would develop a keen taste for… federal power” (188-189). This makes their differences, as pointed out by Chernow, far more ironic.
Chernow is very effective. By the time the text ends, we have a clear image of how these two men differed and why. Through this structure, it seems obvious that due to their backgrounds, personalities, and events, they were destined to be mortal foes.