Nationalism as a political creed found roots also in the Western Hemisphere. The United States took a large step toward greater national unity in 1789 when George Washington became the first American President (1789-1797) under the new federal constitution. But just as citizens of the new republic debated the relative merits of aristocratic or democratic government, so they argued without essential agreement on the nature of their union -- whether the locus of authority should reside in the central government or be reserved to the individual states. The followers of Alexander Hamilton, the Federalists, interpreted the Constitution as permitting stronger central government. On the other hand, Thomas Jefferson and his cohorts insisted that the greater authority lay with the individual states. [excerpt]
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Bloom, Robert L. et al. "6. Nationalism Develops in the United States, 1789-1871. Pt. XIII: Political Liberalism and Nationalism, 1815-1871." Ideas and Institutions of Western Man (Gettysburg College, 1958), 62-63.