I’ve always thought of Jefferson as America’s founding conservative. Of course, the meanings of words like “liberal” and “conservative” are ever-shifting, but I do see a tradition of states’ rights, skeptical-of-empowered-centralized-government-infringing-on-my-community’s-ways-of-doing-things, highly individualistic tradition in US politics which I think could reasonably called a “conservative tradition.” Richard Norton Smith, for example, has referred to a “Jeffersonian, if you will, Coolidge-to-Reagan tradition” in American history.
But on the other hand, Jefferson was psyched about Paine’s Rights of Man, written as a rebuttal to Burke…famously renowned as one of modern conservatism’s main founders! Hamilton, on the other hand, joined Burke in being deeply skeptical of the French Revolution. Michael Federici sees the political theories of Hamilton and Burke as very similar.
So who’s the real forerunner of conservatism, Jefferson or Hamilton? I’ve put this in the GD board to throw the question up for debate, but also, if you know of any books or articles which might shed light on the answer, I’d be much obliged.