Alexander Hamilton: A Theory of Statesmanship

Doctoral Dissertation


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.


Attribute NameValues
  • etd-06032015-172400

Author Matthew Van Hook
Advisor Michael P. Zuckert
Contributor Susan D. Collins, Committee Member
Contributor Michael P. Zuckert, Committee Chair
Contributor Vincent P. Munoz, Committee Member
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline Political Science
Degree Name PhD
Defense Date
  • 2015-06-02

Submission Date 2015-06-03
  • United States of America

  • american founding

  • natural rights

  • alexander hamilton

  • statesmanship

  • constitutional theory

  • University of Notre Dame

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units


Please Note: You may encounter a delay before a download begins. Large or infrequently accessed files can take several minutes to retrieve from our archival storage system.