Oracle at Weehawken: Alexander Hamilton and development of the administrative state

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


This dissertation analyzes the major role that Alexander Hamilton's ideas and innovations played in the development of the American administrative state during and subsequent to the Federalist era. Secondly, it contrasts the richness of Hamilton's prudential theory of public administration with the sterile scientific theories of administration advanced in the twentieth century.

Though modern American public administration is usually thought of as a product of the early twentieth-century reform era, many ideas articulated during the founding period were ingrained in our legal, political, and administrative thought. Of those founding ideas, Hamilton's are the most numerous and significant.

Hamilton's administrative thought and innovations are traced in the historical development of the American administrative state in terms of three topics central to public administrative development. These are finance, military/foreign affairs, and the nature of public office. The final chapter summarizes Hamilton's contributions and then challenges our acceptance of Woodrow Wilson as founder of American public administrative thought. Alexander Hamilton is far more appropriate as founder of both the thought and practice of American public administration.



Hamilton, Alexander