Skip to content
Register Sign in Wishlist

American Machiavelli
Alexander Hamilton and the Origins of U.S. Foreign Policy

$31.99 (G)

  • Date Published: July 2007
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521708746

$ 31.99 (G)

Add to cart Add to wishlist

Other available formats:
Hardback, eBook

Looking for an examination copy?

If you are interested in the title for your course we can consider offering an examination copy. To register your interest please contact providing details of the course you are teaching.

Product filter button
About the Authors
  • Alexander Hamilton (1757-1804) was an illegitimate West Indian emigrant who became the first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury. American Machiavelli focuses on Hamilton's controversial activities as foreign policy adviser and aspiring military leader. In the first major study of his foreign policy role in 30 years, John Lamberton Harper describes a decade of bitter division over the role of the Federal government in the economy during the 1790s and draws parallels between Hamilton and the sixteenth century Italian political adviser, Niccolò Machiavelli. Harper provides an original and highly readable account of Hamiltonas famous clashes with Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, and his key role in defining the U.S. national security strategy. John Lamberton Harper is Professor of Foreign Policy and European Studies at the Johns Hopkins University Bologna Center. He is the author of America and the Reconstruction of Italy, 1945-1948 (Cambridge 1986), winner of the 1987 Marraro Prize from the Society for Italian Historical Studies, and American Visions of Europe: Franklin D. Roosevelt, George F. Kennan, and Dean G. Asheson (Cambridge 1994), winner of the 1995 Robert Ferrell Prize from the Society of Historians of American Foreign Relations. His articles and reviews have appeared in numerous publications, including The American Historical Review, The Journal of American History, The Times Literary Supplement and Foreign Affairs.

    • Publication coincided with 200th anniversary of Hamilton's death in a duel with Aaron Burr
    • Was the first major study of Hamilton's foreign policy role to appear in almost 30 years
    • Readable and accessible
    Read more

    Reviews & endorsements

    "Reaffirm(s) Alexander Hamilton's standing as one of the greatest of the American Founding Fathers. Recommended." R.C. Cottrell, California State University, Chico, CHOICE

    "The book repays a reading...its nuance is enlightening." Kevin R.C. Gutzman, Western Connecticut State University, H-Net

    "....Harper concentrates on Hamilton's role in foreign policy. He also wants to set straight all those Jefferson lovers and the school of historians - John Ferling, David McCullough, et al. - who never gave Hamilton his due or, worse, gave him a place in history as the 'manipulator and cad.' The twentieth century was surely Jefferson's century. But that's because of what Jefferson stood for - liberty and equality - not for what he actually accomplished, argues Harper....[I]n the end, though, Harper links Machiavelli and Hamilton neatly with his own worldview. Hamilton is the inspiration for those who want a US foreign policy today 'less grandiose and ideological.' Neocons beware." Weekly Standard

    "...American Machiavelli [is] remarkably well-written, given Harper's background as an academic. Whereas Chernow delved up Hamilton's personality, Harper chooses instead to focus on Hamilton's propinquity to the great Florentine diplomat and philosopher, Niccolo Machiavelli." The Plain Dealer

    "Amid the current revival of interest in Alexander Hamilton, American Machiavelli offers at once the freshest and cleverest contribution to the reappraisal of America's first realist statesman and state-builder. John Lamberton Harper's Hamilton is no amoral cynic in the crude sense with which we disparage men and measures as Machiavellian. Rather, Hamilton appears here as a shrewd and subtle judge of the national interests of a fledgling Republic, seeking to navigate the tumultuous currents of the 1790s much as Machiavelli sought to chart the course that his beloved Florence should follow amid the turmoil of the early sixteenth century. By juxtaposing Hamilton's concerns with Machiavelli's, Harper provides a new and provocative context within which to consider recurring dilemmas in the conduct of American foreign policy." Jack Rakove, Coe Professor of History and American Studies, Professor of Political Science, Stanford University

    "Harper's premise--that we can better understand Alexander Hamilton's character, vision, and career, in all their rich complexity, in the light of the Florentine diplomatist and thinker Machiavelli--offers a fascinating point of departure for this revisionist study. By exploring the convergence of biography, intellectual history, and the larger geopolitical context in each man's life, Harper offers a fresh look at both Hamilton and the American Revolutionary project of the late eighteenth century. The result is, at one and the same time, a compelling (and largely flattering) partial biography of America's often forgotten Founding Father and a detailed reassessment of American politics and diplomacy during the turbulent decade of the 1790s." Drew R. McCoy, Jacob and Frances Hiatt Professor of History, Clark University

    "A penetrating, provocative study of the brilliantly controversial founder. Hamilton might not have embraced the comparison with Machiavelli, but he certainly endorsed--and in fact embodied--many of the Renaissance realist's views on the nature of individuals and states. Harper's account is especially welcome in the increasingly Hamiltonian--dare one say Machiavellian?--current phase of American foreign policy." H.W. Brands, author of The First American and What America Owes the World

    "This is the best book on the origins of American Foreign Policy since Felix Gilbert's classic To the Farewell Address. Harper has incisively delved into the mind of Hamilton and the circumstances that shaped his political thinking in general as well as in foreign policy. He has illuminated strains of thought that still shape this nation's course in the world." John Milton Cooper, Jr., E. Gordon Fox Professor of American Institutions, University of Wisconsin, Madison

    "...a judicious interpretation of the key events in the history of Hamilton's foreign policy and an intriguing interpretation of how Hamilton's approach corresponded to Machiavelli's analysis of events in his own time." The Journal of Southern History, Jerald A. Combs, San Francisco State University

    "American Machiavelli is a very effective and interesting account of the foreign policy of the Federalist era and of Hamilton's significant contribution to it. It is made all the more effective by Harper's heavy reliance on primary sources. It may not be accessible to all readers, but I highly recommend it for those especially interested in the subject." Gregg L. Frazer

    "Harper's contention that Hamilton governed as a Machiavellian is not an original point. But what is original here is Harper's illumination of the nature of that connection and the larger similarities in the shared understanding of realpolitik that characterized both men. By seeing Hamilton as a state-builder and by connecting his thoughts on state building back to Machiavelli's very similar teachings, Harper has provided a fresh way of understanding the complex Hamilton. Additionally, by focusing on Hamilton the statebuilder, Harper has emphasized a sometimes overlooked aspect of his career, but one which is consonant with other studies emphasizing his quest for fame and glory as a driving passion." New Perspectives on the Eighteenth Century Todd Estes, Oakland University

    "...truly original is in its explicit paralleling of Hamilton and the sixteenth century Florentine politico Niccolo Machiavelli." -Kevin M. Gannon, JOURNAL OF THE EARLY REPUBLIC

    See more reviews

    Customer reviews

    Not yet reviewed

    Be the first to review

    Review was not posted due to profanity


    , create a review

    (If you're not , sign out)

    Please enter the right captcha value
    Please enter a star rating.
    Your review must be a minimum of 12 words.

    How do you rate this item?


    Product details

    • Date Published: July 2007
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521708746
    • length: 376 pages
    • dimensions: 226 x 156 x 22 mm
    • weight: 0.55kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. The Coming of Necessity:
    1. From providence to fortune, 1757(?)–1781
    2. Prepared to be not good, 1781–1788
    Part II. Battle Lines are Drawn:
    3. At Washington's side again, 1789
    4. Hamilton versus the Virginians, 1789–1791
    5. The Nootka Sound Crisis, part one: the Morris mission
    6. The Nootka Sound Crisis, part two: Hamilton and Jefferson
    7. Liaisons Dangereuses, 1791–1792
    Part III. Seizing the Helm:
    8. The birth of American neutrality, February-May, 1793
    9. 'A most distressing dilemma', May-December, 1793
    10. Hamilton and the war crisis of 1794
    11. The Jay treaty
    Part IV. Informal Adviser to the Prince:
    12. Return to not-so-private life, 1794–1795
    13. 'Camillus' into the breach, 1795
    14. A high-stakes game: Washington's farewell address, 1796
    15. Transition to the new regime, 1796–97
    Part V. A Prince in His Own Right?:
    16. Hamilton and Adams: the background
    17. Hamilton's 'Grand Plan'
    18. Hamilton's army, part one, 1797–1798
    19. Hamilton's army, part two, 1798–1799
    20. Killing two birds with one stone, 1799
    Part VI. The Lesser of Evils:
    21. 1800 and after
    22. From fortune into providence.

  • Author

    John Lamberton Harper, Bologna Center of the Johns Hopkins University, Italy
    John Lamberton Harper is Professor of American Foreign Policy and European Studies at the Bologna Center of the Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. He is the author of America and the Reconstruction of Italy, 1945–1948, winner of the 1987 Marraro Prize from the Society for Italian Historical Studies, and American Visions of Europe: Franklin D. Roosevelt, George F. Kennan, and Dean G. Acheson, winner of the 1995 Robert Ferrell Prize from the Society of Historians of American Foreign Relations. His articles and reviews have appeared in The American Historical Review, The Journal of American History, The Times Literary Supplement, Foreign Affairs, The National Interest, Survival, World Policy Journal, SAIS Review, and other publications.

Sign In

Please sign in to access your account


Not already registered? Create an account now. ×

Sorry, this resource is locked

Please register or sign in to request access. If you are having problems accessing these resources please email

Register Sign in
Please note that this file is password protected. You will be asked to input your password on the next screen.

» Proceed

You are now leaving the Cambridge University Press website. Your eBook purchase and download will be completed by our partner Please see the permission section of the catalogue page for details of the print & copy limits on our eBooks.

Continue ×

Continue ×

Continue ×

Find content that relates to you

Join us online

This site uses cookies to improve your experience. Read more Close

Are you sure you want to delete your account?

This cannot be undone.


Thank you for your feedback which will help us improve our service.

If you requested a response, we will make sure to get back to you shortly.

Please fill in the required fields in your feedback submission.