Republican Empire

Alexander Hamilton on War and Free Government

Karl-Friedrich Walling

The republics of Greece and Rome proved incapable of waging war effectively and remaining free at the same time. The record of modern republics is not much more encouraging. How, then, did the United States manage to emerge victorious from the world wars of this century, including the Cold War, and still retain its fundamental liberties?

For Karl-Friedrich Walling, this unprecedented accomplishment was the work of many hands and many generations, but of Alexander Hamilton especially. No Founder thought more about the theory and practice of modern war and free government. None supplied advice of more enduring relevance to statesmen faced with the responsibility of providing for the common defense while securing the blessings of liberty to their posterity.

“In this remarkable book, Walling contradicts the conventional wisdom. He contends that the unprecendented ability of the United States to wage war while still preserving liberty is primarily the legacy of Alexander Hamilton. . . . . This is a book that Hamilton deserves. It is unthinkable that the United States could have triumphed in this century without having become Hamilton’s republican empire.

—Washington Times

“A very detailed and subtle explication of Hamilton’s thinking that takes careful account of concrete historical events and circumstances.Gordon S. Wood in the ”

—New York Review of Books
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Hamilton's strategic sobriety led many of his contemporaries to view him as an American Caesar, but this revisionist account calls the conventional "militarist" interpretation of Hamilton into question. Hamilton sought to unite the strength necessary for war with the restraint required by the rule of law, popular consent, and individual rights. In the process, he helped found something new, the world's most durable republican empire.

Walling constructs a conversation about war and freedom between Hamilton and the Loyalists, the Anti-Federalists, the Jeffersonians, and other Federalists. Instead of pitting Hamilton's virtues against his opponents' vices (or vice versa), Walling pits Hamilton's virtue of responsibility against the revolutionary virtue of vigilance, a quarrel he believes is inherent to American party government. By reexamining that quarrel in light of the necessities of war and the requirements of liberty, Walling has written the most balanced and moving account of Hamilton so far.

About the Author

Karl-Friedrich Walling is a fellow at the Liberty Fund. He received a joint Ph.D. from the department of political science and committee on social thought at the University of Chicago, was a research fellow in the program on constitutional government at Harvard University, and has taught history and political philosophy at the United States Air Force Academy, Ashland University, and Carleton College.

Additional Titles in the American Political Thought Series