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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XVIII. Later National Literature, Part III.

XXIV. Economists

§ 5. Thomas Jefferson; Alexander Hamilton

With the adoption of the new Constitution the economic questions were put in the forefront of the battle and engaged the attention of the leading statesmen. Of these only a very few were pre-eminent as economic thinkers. Jefferson never pretended to grasp economic problems, his only contributions to the subject being found in his Notes on Virginia (1786), which disclose a striking incapacity to foretell the future industrial development of the country. Many years later Jefferson, as he tells us himself, “carefully revised and corrected” Destutt Tracy’s A Treatise on Political Economy (Georgetown, D. C., 1817), which was translated from the unpublished French original. There is, however, no evidence that Jefferson profited from its perusal. On the other hand, Hamilton showed in his great state papers and notably in his two Reports on Public Credit (1790, 1795), as well as in his Report on Manufactures (1791), that he possessed a remarkable acquaintance with economic principles as then understood. There is in fact no statesman of the eighteenth century, with the exception of Turgot, who combined more successfully the perspicacity of a great leader of men with the ability to present powerful and sustained reasoning on economic problems.