The Federalist Era By John C. Miller – Book Review

The Federalist Era

In his book, “The Federalist Era”, Miller presents a reasonable summary that reflects one of the most recounted periods of the America’s political history just like it is acknowledged by modern participants. In his book, Miller acknowledges the era between 1789 and 1801 as being the most crucial period that influenced the creation of the long desired new federal government. However, his views do not regard the rigid terms that various earlier writers did. Even though Beard’s highlighting of the battle between commercialism and agrarianism, and Claude G. Bower’s molding of the era in the context of democratic struggle had strong influence, generally, on the accounts of the American nation in the 1790’s. Miller; however, does not regard Beard or Bower’s views even though he gives more consideration to the battle between Hamilton and Jefferson as well as the economic factors.

Miller recognizes that the first annual message by George Washington had a caution to the nation. The message reflected the past, which had been extremely turbulent, and was prophetic for a future that would entirely be a federal era. According to Miller, Washington said Americans will be able to distinguish between “oppression and the necessary exercise of lawful authority” and also differentiate between “licentiousness” and “the spirit of liberty”. In these words, he warned Americans that the violent, explosive revolution, which defeated the British rule, had given rise to some reckless elements that could be a danger to the freedom and stability of the nation if not curbed in time. He acknowledges that the main problems of the federal era entailed achieving a suitable balance between authority and freedom as well as ensuring that each one of them had clear boundaries. Miller recognizes that acceptable solutions to all people had not been found by the time the period ended. In the same regard, the opposing political and ideological camps proposed methods, concepts and ideas that became firm foundations for future developments. During the federal era and thereafter, the problems were complex and vast to the extent that they influenced and were influenced by all economic and political issues that were embraced in the realm of government administration. Such issues included foreign affairs, political factions, sectionalism, the judiciary, nation-state relationships, finance, and the constitution.

Miller acknowledges these issues by stating that “Union and Liberty” are the most dominant themes found in his books. Miller emphasizes the significance and the role of states especially in the context of advocates of individual rights and the ones who desired a stronger union. He recognizes these issues when he presents a classic illustration of the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions. During the federal era and thereafter, these states were reactive to most of the highlighted issues and with peculiar sensitivity; they developed significant measures, which the national government found necessary to consider adopting. The reactions were both economic and political. In this book, the themes “Union and Liberty” have a political orientation. This is because political subjects were the main motif of the federal era. This is to mean that any time economic issues were brought to the table; they were discussed in the political context. It is worth considering, also, that the most interesting aspect of this entail the contest that ensued between Jefferson and Hamilton and the sympathies that are much placed on Hamilton’s side.

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