Alexander Hamilton- A Founding Father of the USA


Alexander Hamilton- A Founding Father of the USA

Alexander Hamilton was one of the most influential founding fathers of United States of America. He was the first Secretary of Treasury of the country. He was also an economist and a political philosopher. He was able to place his country on a firm financial footing. Hamilton was vocal about a strong national government. This however was opposed by Thomas Jefferson, another founding father of the country. Hamilton was one of America’s first constitutional lawyers, championing the cause of a new constitution that would govern the country. He was the founder of the Federalist Party, which was opposed by Jefferson. He was the chief author of economic policies of George Washington. Though Hamilton had conflicts with Jefferson, his political philosophy ultimately prevailed in the evolution of U.S. government. His career was cut short when he died in a duel with Aaron Burr in 1804. Every $10 bill in U.S. bears the image of Hamilton as a mark of respect for one of the country’s founding fathers.

Childhood, education and early life

Hamilton was born and raised in Caribbean. He was an illegitimate child of Rachel Faucett Lavien and James A. Hamilton. There is some doubt about the exact year of his birth - it was either 1755 or 1757. As Hamilton’s parents were not legally married, the Church of England denied him education at the church’s school. He was instead tutored in a private Jewish school. Hamilton’s family had a small library, which contained Greek and Roman classics. Hamilton read them along with his regular lessons. One of his essays on a destructive hurricane was published in the RoyalDanish-American Gazette. The then community leaders were impressed by the essay and they collected funds to educate Hamilton in America.

Hamilton was enrolled in Elizabethtown Academy, a grammar school in Elizabethtown, New Jersey. In preparation for his college work, Hamilton was highly influenced by William Livingston. He applied to the College of New Jersey (now known as Princeton University) requesting a fast-track mode of completion of his studies. His request however was turned down. Hamilton made a similar request to King’s College in New York City (now known as Columbia University). The latter was accepted and he entered King’s College in 1773-1774. His subject was medicine.

Early life: Information about his early life.

Boyhood Home: The Senator’s statements.

Hamilton Grange - the only home ever owned by Alexander Hamilton: This link has archival images and video and details on the update of the restoration.

Timeline: Biographical History

Chronology of his life: A guide to Hamilton’s life and beliefs.

The Revolutionary War

In 1775, the American troops engaged with the British for the first time. Hamilton joined a volunteer militia company in New York known as Hearts of Oak. The company included students from King’s College. He participated in drills before his classes. During this time, Hamilton took proactive interests to study military history and tactics on his own and soon achieved the rank of a lieutenant. Hamilton established connections with New York patriots like Alexander McDougall and John Jay. He founded the New York Provincial Company of Artillery, consisting of sixty men. Hamilton’s company participated in New York campaigns in 1776. The company also participated in the Battle of Trenton and the Battle of White Plains. 

Battle of Trenton: The links consists of the details of the battle.

Battle of White Plains: The links consists of the details of the battle.

Major General Alexander Hamilton: A brief biography.

Hamilton’s Works under Washington

Hamilton received an invitation to join as George Washington’s aide in 1777 as Lieutenant Colonel. Hamilton served for about four years as Washington’s chief of staff. He handled correspondences to the Congress, state governors, and army generals. Hamilton showed his capabilities and drafted many of Washington’s letters. He eventually issued orders in the name of Washington under his own signature. Under Washington, Hamilton participated in a plethora of high-level activity areas, including intelligence, diplomacy, emissaries etc. Hamilton eventually earned Washington’s confidence and trust.

Financial Founding Fathers: The Men who made America rich, the creator.

Constitution in crisis: A PDF with details about George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and the Whiskey Rebellion.

Letter: Alexander Hamilton Letter to George Washington, 1792 (A MS-Word document)

Washington’s Letters to Hamilton: List of writings of George Washington, many of them are to Hamilton.

Writings

Hamilton’s writings can be classified into two types - his contribution to the American constitution and his federalist papers. In 1787, Hamilton was the first designate to be chosen to the Constitutional Convention. Hamilton’s idea of a national government was opposed by John Lansing and Robert Yates. Hamilton wrote in favor of an elected president and elected senators. The senators would serve for life upon good behavior. Hamilton also prepared a draft of the constitution on the basis of convention debates, but never presented it. Hamilton recruited John Jay and James Madison to write in defense of his proposed constitution. The three together wrote 85 essays (now known as Federalist Papers), of which Hamilton himself wrote the lion’s share of 51. Even today, the Federalist Papers are cited and referred to by jurists, lawyers, constitution experts as the most cogent and contemporary interpretation of the constitution.

The Federalist Papers: A list of the essays by Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison

Secretary of Treasury

President George Washington appointed Hamilton as the first Secretary of the Treasury in the year 1789. He held office for five years and during his tenure much of the structure of the United States government was chalked out. Hamilton produced some important treasury reports to Washington - the first report on public credit (1790); operations of the act laying duties on imports; the second report on public credit, report on mint establishment; and the report on manufactures. During Hamilton’s tenure as Secretary of Treasury, the political arena of U.S. witnessed the emergence of rival factions. Hamilton and his allies called themselves Federalists and they were opposed by the opposition group (now known as Democratic-Republican Party) led by James Madison, William Giles, and Thomas Jefferson, Hamilton’s principal political opponent. Both sides took help of newspapers to promote their ideas.

The Department of the Treasury: Hamilton was the first Secretary of the Treasury.

Hamilton and the Federalist Financial revolution: A PDF from the New-York journal of American History.

Resignation from Secretary of Treasury

In 1791, Hamilton became involved in an affair with Maria Reynolds and that tarnished his image to a considerable extent. Reynolds’ husband James, who connived with Maria, blackmailed Hamilton for money. James was arrested, but he contacted Hamilton’s political opponents intending to expose a top level official corruption. In an interview, Hamilton pleaded that he was innocent so far as his official responsibilities were concerned; but he also admitted his affair with Maria. Eventually, he resigned from his office as the Secretary of Treasury. Later, he publicly confessed about the affair. This shocked his family members and admirers and he had to bear a stained personal image for the rest of his life. In his post-resignation life, he resumed his law practice and remained a close associate of George Washington. Members of the Cabinet consulted him quite often.

Hamilton’s Affairs: A webpage on Hamilton’s affair with Maria and the investigation.

Hamilton’s wedding ring: The images of wedding ring of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton.

Duel and Death

After the 1804 gubernatorial election, Hamilton was at loggerheads with his political rival Aaron Burr. Following an exchange of three ill-tempered letters between the two, both settled for a duel. Their friends tried to avert the confrontation, but failed. The duel was scheduled on July 11, 1804. Unfortunately, a bullet pierced Hamilton’s lower abdomen inflicting fatal damage to his vital organs. Hamilton expired on the following day and was buried in the Trinity Churchyard Cemetery in Manhattan.

Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr Dueled to the Death: The cause for the duel.

The grave: Images of the grave at Trinity Churchyard, Manhattan, New York

Political, Economic and Personal Legacy

Hamilton’s policies as Secretary of the Treasury had a tremendous impact on U.S. polity. Even much later in 1962, during Cuban Missile Crisis, the United States Navy followed Hamilton’s communication protocols. His constitutional interpretations are still used by politicians and scholars alike. The government and local bodies honored this great personality by printing his portrait on $10 bills and renaming several towns after him in the country. As an economist, Hamilton opposed the British ideas of free trade, as he found them to be heavily rooted to their colonial ambitions. Henry C. Carey, the leading 19th century economist of the American School of Capitalism was heavily inspired by Hamilton’s economic ideas. After Hamilton’s death, his widow Eliza survived for 50 years till 1854. Together they had 8 children. Eliza was a highly religious personality and devoted her time towards alleviating the plight of widows and orphans.

U.S. Constitution: Details on Hamilton and the U.S. Constitution.

The Alexander Hamilton Historical Society: A site dedicated to all things Hamiltonian.

The US$10: The redesigned $10 Note.

Resurgence of Interest about Hamilton

Several biographies and specialized studies have tried to revisit Alexander Hamilton’s persona from different perspectives. These scholastic endeavors have catalyzed resurgence of interests about this great political, economic, and diplomatic personality. Some of the notable works are—The Many Faces of Alexander Hamilton: The Life & Legacy of America's Most Elusive Founding Father, by Douglas Ambrose, and Robert W. T. Martin (2006); Alexander Hamilton: Portrait in Paradox, by John C Miller (1959); Alexander Hamilton: A Life. HarperCollins, by Willard Sterne Randall (2003); The Effective Republic: Administration and Constitution in the Thought of Alexander Hamilton, by Harvey Flaumenhaft (1992); and American Machiavelli: Alexander Hamilton and the Origins of U.S. Foreign Policy, by John Lamberton Harper (2004).

The Rise and Fall of Alexander Hamilton: A concise look at the rollercoaster-like life of Hamilton.

Historical Society: The website includes exhibition highlights, portraits of Hamilton and a timeline of his life.

Biography from the National archives

Complete biography: A website with biography of Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton Quotes: A list of the famous quotes by Alexander Hamilton

Books on Alexander Hamilton: A list of books.