The U.S. Constitution: Fintech 1.0

A new talk on Alexander Hamilton’s Systems and the Transformative Power of Financial Technology

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Alexander Hamilton’s national finance system’s critical importance to the U.S. founding is widely acknowledged, both within and outside the finance industry—yet some writers on that history continue to put what Hamilton saw as the cart before what he saw as the horse. In the familiar narrative, the national financial system flowed naturally out of the creation of the national government itself, at the famous Constitutional Convention, in Philadelphia in 1787. And at first glance, the misconception might seem to make plenty of sense.

But as William Hogeland argues in this lively new talk, that’s just the opposite of what happened.

National finance drove the creation of the national government—not the other way round. In that process, a carefully designed technology connected dynamic national aims with dynamic national money. An expert on finance in the early republic, Hogeland shows how bankers’ and investors’ desire to create a consolidated financial system, beginning in the period preceding the Constitutional Convention,  fostered not only the calls for a national government but also certain long-overlooked aspects of that new government critical to Hamilton and his allies.

While the subject is rarely taught this way, what really came out of the convention in Philadelphia should be seen as a set of specs for an early and highly innovative financial technology: the U.S. Constitution, Fintech 1.0. Our national government was, at its founding, dedicated to and even dependent on what was then cutting-edge fintech. 

“Technology” is an old word. It’s taken on such modern, even digital connotations, however, that applying it to the Constitution and to Hamilton’s system might seem anachronistic.  The usage here is precise. In a fun and compelling way, Hogeland shows how Hamilton drew on an existing science of public finance to design a set of financial tools dedicated to bringing about a fundamental transformation of the United States. Once that design was worked into the Constitution’s legal framework, Hamilton built and used the toolset to bring about the first iteration of a dynamic American economy that hadn’t existed before him—an economy that would ultimately have powerful global effects.

The story brings to life the unexpectedly freewheeling world of founding-era finance theory and action; the genius of the American banking pioneer Robert Morris, Hamilton’s mentor, little-remembered today; and the nationally transformative effects of Hamilton’s systems. In its earliest essence, our nation was bound up in and dependent on financial technology.

For a sense of Hogeland’s focused yet improvisatory speaking style, here’s a brief clip from very different yet related talk. To pursue a booking, please contact Eric Lupfer at United Talent Agency:



William Hogeland is a compelling and experienced speaker who has given well-received talks, sparking enthusiastic q&a, for such varied audiences and organizations as the Museum of American Finance History, Citrin Cooperman Accountants and Advisors, the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association (morning keynote, Aspen), the Kansas City Public Library, the World Affairs Council of Dallas, the Museum of American History, and many others. He is the author of The Whiskey Rebellion (Simon and Schuster), Founding Finance (University of Texas Press), The Hamilton Scheme (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, forthcoming), and other books on founding-era U.S. history for general readers. He has served as a history consultant for Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” and appeared on PBS TV “History Detectives,” CBS TV “Good Morning, America,” C-SPAN “Book TV,” and PCN “PA Books,” as well as on many podcasts and radio shows. More here.