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Hamilton: The Constitutional Clashes that Shaped a Nation

Posted by Stephanie Kelly, High School Teacher and Instructional Coach on Jan 23, 2019 11:16:00 AM

HamiltonTitlewImages-SalmonWant to check out an extra replica of the Hamilton-Burr dueling pistols?  You can at the newest exhibit at the The National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. 


The National Constitution Center has created many exhibits about our ten-dollar-founding-father.  And now there’s a new one.  Hamilton: The Constitutional Clashes That Shaped a Nation explores Hamilton’s competing ideas and relationships with James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Aaron Burr.

The National Constitution Center’s website explains more about the featured exhibit:

Examining the personalities and constitutional debates that shaped America – including the scope of the national government, the establishment of a standing army, the creation of a federal banking system, and more – the exhibit provides an intimate look into Alexander Hamilton’s enduring role in the constitutional and political arguments that continue to create sparks to this day.

The exhibit narrative begins in 1789 when the national government began operating under the new U.S. Constitution. In each section, visitors are introduced to one of Hamilton’s rivals and their competing visions for the nation.


This includes Hamilton’s public dispute with James Madison over the scope of national power, arguments with Thomas Jefferson that developed into the nation’s first political parties, disputes with John Adams over foreign policy, and a final clash with Aaron Burr, whom Hamilton believed was an unprincipled man. Additionally, the exhibit examines Hamilton’s personal struggles, which revolved around his keen sense of honor, and concludes with an exploration of his legacy.

While in the exhibit, students can browse through the following artifacts:

  • Hamilton’s portable writing desk from the late 1700s (Burke Library at Hamilton College) through Memorial Day Weekend 2019

  • Exact replicas of the original Hamilton-Burr dueling pistols, ca. 1976 (JPMorgan Chase Corporate History Collection)

  • A 1788 first edition copy of The Federalist, a work that remains one of Hamilton’s greatest legacies (National AlexanderHamiltonConstitution Center Collection)

  • Draft of “An American No. 1” in which Hamilton launched a full-scale attack against Jefferson, 1792 (Connecticut Historical Society)

  • John Adams’s draft reply to Hamilton’s anti-Adams pamphlet, 1801 (Massachusetts Historical Society)

  • Letter from Alexander Hamilton to Oliver Wolcott, Jr., preferring Jefferson over Burr for the tied presidential election of 1800 (Connecticut Historical Society)

The National Constitution Center is a popular NationsClassroom destination for our school groups visiting Philadelphia.  Check out our Philadelphia itineraries here.  


Topics: Historic Attractions, School Trip to Philadelphia

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