Liberty, Nobility, Philanthropy, and Power in Alexander Hamilton's Conception of Human Nature


Michael J. Rosano is Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Michigan-Dearborn, Dearborn, Michigan 48128-1491 (


Alexander Hamilton's conception of human nature grounds his political thought. His predominately and radically liberal conception of human nature is based on Locke's concept of liberty, Hobbes's concept of power, and Machiavelli's concept of the “effectual truth.” It thus stresses the necessary relation between self-interest and republican government and entails the repudiation of classical republican and Christian political ideals. But Hamilton's love of liberty is nonetheless rooted in a sense of classical nobility and Christian philanthropy that elevates even while contradicting his liberalism. The complex relation between liberty, nobility, philanthropy, and power in Hamilton's conception of human nature, in effect, defines his thought, reveals its assumptions, constitutes its strengths, and poses urgent problems. That complexity forms the spirit of his liberal republicanism.