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Blame Hamilton: How He Screwed Up America
by Dave Benner
Posted November 1, 2017

privately owned 1st National Bank of the United StatesIn most cases, books on the founding fathers are packed with reverence and adulation. American historians generally find something uniquely admirable about their subject, going to great lengths to justify that individual’s political positions and philosophy. While value can be gleaned by reading some of these works, authors often fall short by acting as an apologist for their subject, or by omitting important information. With the advent of a highly popular Broadway musical based on a founding father, it seems even more likely that popular historians will be prone to veneration.

After taking his first steps into constitutional abnegation, Hamilton took a full leap in 1791 when he pushed Congress to adopt the First National Bank of the United States. When pressed to produce a constitutional argument to support their contrary positions, Hamilton admitted that the Constitution did not grant such a power, but argued that the bank was authorized and justified under the Necessary and Proper Clause. This opinion became the foundation of the “implied powers doctrine,” the fallacious idea that the clause allowed for the execution of a vast reservoir of unlisted, unenumerated powers. Two years after the Constitution was ratified by the states, this was the first time such a notion had ever been articulated. More…