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Reforming Republicanism: Alexander Hamilton's Theory of Republican Citizenship and Press Liberty

From: Journal of the Early Republic
Volume 25, Number 1, Spring 2005
pp. 21-46 | 10.1353/jer.2005.0012


During his life and ever since, Alexander Hamilton has been criticized as an opponent of republicanism, even a closet monarchist. Recent scholarly efforts to rescue Hamilton from these interpretations have succeeded perhaps too well, making him out to be a moderate, mainstream republican of his day. This essay assesses Hamilton's public performance during the late 1780s and 1790s as a defender of a particular federalist vision of republicanism. Drawing on a central conceptual divide over the proper virtue of republican citizenshipÑshould citizens have "confidence" in their elected leaders or maintain a "vigilant" scrutiny of them?Ñthe essay explores Hamilton's stress on confidence in his vision of republican citizenship and freedom of the press. The theory he publicly developed and defended is judged less moderate than others have suggested, but Hamilton's philosophy is best understood as an energetic, elitist reformulation of republicanism.

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