University of Notre Dame
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Alexander Hamilton: A Theory of Statesmanship

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posted on 2015-06-03, 00:00 authored by Matthew Van Hook
The United States public yearns for statesmen who can transcend the limited scope of the average politician, but does have a precise model for great statesmanship. This dissertation draws a theory of statesmanship from the political thought and actions of Alexander Hamilton in three parts. First, the statesman requires a type of knowledge of the political origins of the body politic and the ability to explain to a given people a more perfect understanding of the nature of their regime and their relationship to it. Hamilton centered his early statesmanship on this task as he interpreted the revolutionary statements and actions of the Continental Congress. He began with the public consensus that the American body politic was connected with free government and elucidated its natural rights source and the principle foundations of the English constitution and colonial charters which put it into practice. Second, the statesman requires knowledge about how to fit a form of government and political institutions to a particular regime. This component of a statesman's political science politics is important for founders as well as those who follow, for even these must have a form toward which they strive in order to recognize the difference between improvement and decay. In the apex of Hamilton's political career he distinguished two regimes—free and absolute—and offered a multi-tiered proposal on forms of government suited for the perpetuation of the free regime, accounting for the habits, mores, and present opinions of its citizens. Finally, the statesman requires a theory of civil society that looks to the future health of the body politic by considering the relationship of other relevant spheres of social interaction and their effect on the attachment between a people and their government. Hamilton's nascent theory of civil society emerges from his ideas on the place of religion, education, and civil associations in America. I conclude that Hamilton need not have been a model statesman to have provided us with a viable theory of statesmanship—one capable of meeting the long held public demand in the United States for more complete political leadership.


Date Modified


Defense Date


Research Director(s)

Michael P. Zuckert

Committee Members

Susan D. Collins Vincent P. Munoz


  • Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Level

  • Doctoral Dissertation


  • English

Alternate Identifier



University of Notre Dame

Program Name

  • Political Science

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