George F. Will nominated Thomas Jefferson as the person of the millennium {op-ed, Dec. 16}. Then Free-for-All writers made their own nominations {Dec. 22}. I would like to weigh in with my choice, Alexander Hamilton.

I accept Mr. Will's premise that two of the great developments of the millennium have been the nation state and political freedom. But I would add that individual social and economic freedom and development are at least as important.

I also agree with him that "America is the most important thing that ever happened, both because of the vision of good it has presented and the evils it has prevented" and "that history is the history of the human mind, of ideas." But Mr. Hamilton, not Mr. Jefferson, was "the mind of the Revolution that succeeded."

Ten years after the Declaration of Independence, war debts to citizens and other countries were unpaid, the currency was "not worth a Continental" and states were imposing tariffs against one other. Internal rebellions threatened in several states.

Mr. Hamilton called for the Constitutional Convention of 1787. At Philadelphia, he fought for one unified nation, with economic freedom and liberal representation for all, and led the struggle against anti-federalists for adoption of the Constitution. Four-score years before Abraham Lincoln's proclamation, he called for the emancipation of the slaves.

Meanwhile from Monticello, his hereditary estate worked by 150 slaves, Mr. Jefferson recommended a nation of independent agrarian states, with full rights to secede, little or no manufacturing and automatic repudiation of long-term debts after a term of years. Under those principles, the revolution would have failed, like the revolutions in France, Russia and elsewhere.

Mr. Hamilton made many vital contributions to history. As Washington's first secretary of the treasury from 1789 to 1795, he instituted a program to assume state debts, which yoked the states into a union strong enough to survive secession and Civil War. He created the public credit of the United States, established an effective tax system as well as a national banking system that was the antecedent of the Federal Reserve System. He found implied powers in the Constitution, fostered manufacturing and businesses and the expansion of wealth for the benefit of the greatest number of people.

Mr. Hamilton also founded New York's first bank, the nation's oldest surviving daily newspaper (The New York Post) and the Society for Useful Manufactures, the first conglomerate corporation. When he left office, the United States was no longer an economic basket case, as Mr. Jeffersonian policies might have left it.

To Mr. Hamilton, the truths that the Declaration held to be self-evident were not self-executing. He saw that honest, moderate, energetic and creative administration was needed to give life to declarations and constitutions and to make market-oriented capitalism work.

Hamiltonianism, as exemplified today in America, is a beacon of freedom and financial success in the modern world. It has peacefully discredited agrarianism, communism and totalitarianism.

Thomas Jefferson high in his chateau at Monticello may be the image of what we wish we were, but Alexander Hamilton, writing late in his office by candlelight or at his Grange on its 50-foot lot in Harlem, is what we are.


The writer is the author of two-volume and one-volume biographies of Alexander Hamilton.