Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Faculty of Business and Law


School of Management




Austin, I. P. (2011). Alexander Hamilton and Asian Capitalism. Paper presented at the Asia-Pacific Economic and Business History (APEBH) Conference. All-University of California Group in Economic History and Economic History Society of Australia and New Zealand. Berkley, California. Available here


Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804), extensive essayist (including The Federalist), long-serving aide de camp to George Washington (1732-1799), the first Secretary to the Treasury (1789-1795), and author of a series of Reports to Congress, takes his rightful place as one of theUnited States ofAmerica’s founding fathers. Like all members of Washington administrations (1789-1797), Hamilton on taking office was acutely aware of the highly precarious nature of the new nation’s future.What was to replace British rule was far fromcertain, and at the time the construction of a functioning republic beyond a small geographical area was considered by political orthodoxy to be dubious. In the economic and strategic realms,Hamilton immediately recognised that Britains defeat in theWar of Independence (1775-1783) in no way signalled the decline of the British Empire. Indeed the opposite was the case, with the British re-energised in their efforts to secure and expand their economic and strategic interests globally, including within the North American continent (Canada and the West). Hamilton, under the political protection of Washington, was to fully utilise his renowned intellectual vigour, his extensive practical knowledge gained from the War of Independence and his encyclopedic knowledge of fiscal affairs, to forge much needed fiscal, legal and strategic institutions for the new nation. Institutions that have proven capable of enduring the test of time and varying circumstances to ensure the United States of America’s continued security and prosperity (throughout the remainder of this study simply referred to as the United States or U.S.). Hamilton’s name will forever be associated with fighting for the United States’ birth and then securing its political, economic and strategic sovereignty. This crucial work and legacy resonated further abroad beyond the United States by providing substantive answers to governance challenges faced by other leaders, of other nations, in other times. Hamilton’s legacy to East Asian development, through both direct and indirect readings of his works by Asian leaders and through direct adaptation of the ‘the American system’ of commerce, trade and industry, is the focal point of this study.

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