Alexander Hamilton Biography- Alexander Hamilton was one of the founding fathers of the United States of America; He was also a respected statesman and a successful military leader. Born out of wedlock in the mid-eighteenth century, he spent his childhood at the lowest rung of white society in St. Started working at the age of nine, he later received informal education from his mentors before being sent to train as a doctor at King’s College, New York. (Alexander Hamilton Bio)
Here, he quickly became involved in politics, writing his first published article at the age of seventeen. He later became involved in the War of Independence and became close to General Washington, who made him the first Secretary of the Treasury when he became President of the United States. (Alexander Hamilton Biography)
In this new incarnation, Hamilton established the country’s fiscal policy, helping the government deal with the chaos inherited from the revolution. A supporter of a strong federal government, he was also instrumental in the ratification of the new constitution and declared slavery as morally wrong. (Alexander Hamilton Bio)
Childhood and Early Years
- Alexander Hamilton was born into marriage in Charlestown, the capital of the island of Nevis in the British West Indies. His father, James Hamilton, was a Scottish merchant and his mother, Rachel Fawcett Lavian, was a married woman of British and French Huguenot descent.
- There is ambiguity about the year of birth of Alexander. Although he himself listed his birthday as January 11, 1757, a probate paper prepared after his mother’s death in 1768 listed him as 13 years old, making 1755 his year of birth. (Alexander Hamilton Biography)
- the younger of the two sons of his parents; He had an elder brother named James Hamilton. He also had a half-brother named Peter, born of his mother’s marriage to John Michael Lavian.
- In 1765, when Alexander turned eleven, the family moved to St. Croix. Very soon her father left the family to save Rachel from the charge of bigamy. Living at the lowest rung of white society, Rachel started running a store in Christianstadt while Alexander took a job.
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- By then, Lavian had posted a public summons to appear in divorce court. In it, he declared her a prostitute who had given birth to illegitimate children. This made him the subject of malicious gossip and made life more difficult. (Alexander Hamilton Bio)
- In early 1768, Rachel contracted a severe fever and died on February 19, 1768, leaving her children orphans. Her husband then came forward to take control of her property, thus depriving the two brothers, whom they called the ‘prostitute’s sons’, of their inheritance.
On His Own
- Soon after Rachel’s death, Alexander Hamilton found a home with a businessman, Thomas Stevens. According to many, Stevens may have been Hamilton’s biological father because Hamilton had a striking resemblance to Stevenson’s son Edward. There may be another reason for the belief that only Alexander was given the house and not James. (Alexander Hamilton Biography)
- Not long ago, Alexander found employment with Beekman & Kruger, an import-export firm owned by a New Yorker called Nicholas Kruger, while his brother, James, apprenticed with a local carpenter. Eventually the two brothers parted ways and never met again.
- Kruger immediately took a liking to the young Hamilton and began instructing him in global finance. Very soon, the young boy was inspecting cargo, preparing bills of lading and advising the captains. As the Company also dealt with slaves, it also came into contact with the dark side of life.
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- After work, Hamilton spent his time reading in the library of the Reverend Hugh Knox, gaining extensive knowledge in literature, history and science. Concurrently, he also started publishing a topical poem in the local newspaper. In 1772, he impressed his readers with his vivid description of the storm.
In Mainland America
- In October 1772, Kruger and Knox pulled in their resources to send the young Hamilton to Elizabethtown, New Jersey. Here, while living with William Livingston, a leading intellectual at the time, he enrolled at Elizabethtown Academy and focused on filling gaps in his education.
- However his masters expected him to return to St. Croix to establish his own practice. It was not to happen.
In September 1774, when the First Continental Congress was being held in Philadelphia, Hamilton became interested in its proceedings. Very soon he began supporting the Patriots against the Loyalists, convinced he had legitimate enmity against England. (Alexander Hamilton Bio)
- In December 1774, 17-year-old Hamilton wrote his first published article in support of the Patriots’ cause against Samuel Seabury’s pamphlets supporting loyalist point of view. Titled ‘A Full Indication of the Measures of Congress’, it consisted of 35 pages.
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- His second article, The Farmer Refuted, was published in February 1775. He also wrote two articles attacking the Quebec Act of 1774. Fifteen installments of ‘The Monitor’, published anonymously in the New York Journal, may also have been written by him. (Alexander Hamilton Biography)
- Although he supported the revolutionary cause, he was against attacking the loyalists. On May 10, 1775, as an angry mob attacked Miles Cooper, the then president of King’s College, Hamilton is believed to have helped avoid engaging the crowd.
- In 1775, Alexander Hamilton, along with fellow students, formed a volunteer militia company called the Corsicans, later named Hearts of Oak. Before classes they would practice in the cemetery of St. Paul’s Chapel. Always an avid reader, Hamilton also studied military history and strategy.
- In August 1775, Hamilton’s militia company participated in its first campaign, when it successfully raided British cannons at Battery, the southern tip of Manhattan Island in New York City. Subsequently, the Volunteer Company was converted into an artillery company. (Alexander Hamilton Bio)
- In 1776, Hamilton was appointed as captain and directed to raise the New York Provincial Artillery Company to defend Manhattan Island. He quickly raised a contingent of 60 men and began participating in various campaigns in the city.
- On August 27, 1776, when the Battle of Long Island broke out and Hamilton’s army fought shoulder to shoulder with Washington’s army. He later participated in the Battle of White Plains (October 28, 1776), the Battle of Trenton (December 26, 1776) and the Battle of Princeton (January 3, 1777).
- In March 1777, Hamilton was made a lieutenant colonel in the Continental Army and was appointed aide-de-camp to General Washington. He spent four years drafting Washington’s letters, preparing reports on reforms, reorganizing the Continental Army, and performing various intelligence and diplomatic duties.
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- Eager to return to the battlefield, he was commissioned as the commander of the New York Light Infantry Battalion on July 31, 1781. In October, he led a victorious charge at the Battle of Yorktown, which effectively ended the War of Independence. (Alexander Hamilton Biography)
In the Congress of the Confederation
- After the war, Alexander Hamilton resigned from his commission and entered the Congress of the Confederation in 1782 as New York’s representative. It was a difficult period for the newborn stage and now he proceeds to solve his teething problems. (Alexander Hamilton Bio)
- By now, he had already been vocal about the decentralized nature of the Congress, which had no tax authority and was dependent on the states not only for voluntary financial aid, but on many other matters.
- Hamilton drafted a motion to revise the Articles of Confederation. It included many features that were later incorporated into the US Constitution, which was created in 1787 and ratified in 1788. This included a strong federal government with the power to collect taxes and raise an army. It also proposed separation of powers into executive, legislature and judiciary. (Alexander Hamilton Biography)
- In 1783, Alexander Hamilton left Congress in desperation, returning to New York to study law, passing exams by the end of the year. Thereafter, he established his practice in New York City. Many of his clients were loyalists who were prosecuted as trespassers. (Alexander Hamilton Biography)
- The most important of these cases was Rutgers v Waddington (1784), in which he defended a British subject who held the brewery during the military occupation and now suffered damages from its owner. He won the case, arguing that the Trespass Act violated the 1783 Treaty of Paris.
- Hamilton was equally active in the financial market. On June 9, 1784, he founded the Bank of New York, which opened in Lower Manhattan with a capital of $500,000. It continued to function until it merged with Mellon Financial Corporation on July 2, 2007. (Alexander Hamilton Biography)
- Alexander Hamilton was always for a strong federal government and continued to work in that direction in the 1780s, writing several essays on it. Later when the new constitution was ready for ratification, he used his oratory power to turn the anti-federal tide and ratified the constitution.
- In 1789, when George Washington became President of the United States, he appointed Hamilton as the first Secretary of the Treasury. At that time the financial condition of the central government was bad. Now he formulated many policies, which saved the newly-minted country from financial destruction.
- On January 31, 1795, Hamilton resigned his position as First Secretary, making the federal government more financially stable. He now returned to New York to continue his legal practice. However, he remained closed to President Washington, writing drafts for subsequent letters and addresses.
- During this period, he clashed repeatedly with many influential leaders such as Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Aaron Burr. Despite this, when quasi-war broke out in 1798, the then President of the United States, John Adams, appointed him a major general. (Alexander Hamilton Bio)
- Hamilton served as Inspector General from July 18, 1798 to June 15, 1800; But was effectively the head of the United States Army. Then after Washington’s death, he became a senior officer in the United States Army, a position he held from December 14, 1799 to June 15, 1800. (Alexander Hamilton Biography)
- Alexander Hamilton is best remembered as the builder of national infrastructure in a very difficult situation. Not only did he work hard to create a strong federal government, but as the first Secretary of the Treasury, he also made a significant contribution to improving his country’s financial situation.
- During his tenure as Treasury Secretary, he submitted various financial reports to Congress. The most important of these are the First Report on the Public Debt, the Operation of the Act imposing Tariffs on Imports, the Report on a National Bank, on the Establishment of a Mint, the Report on the Construction, and the Report on a Plan to Help the Further of the Public Debt. (Alexander Hamilton Biography)
Awards & Achievements
- In 1791, Alexander Hamilton was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Personal life and legacy
- On December 14, 1780, Alexander Hamilton married Elizabeth Schuyler, daughter of Revolutionary War general Philip Schuyler. They enjoyed a very close relationship, and had eight children; Philip, Angelica, Alexander, James, John, William, Eliza and Philip. (Alexander Hamilton Bio)
- In the summer of 1791, Hamilton met Maria Reynolds, somewhat married to James Reynolds. Eventually the two began an illicit relationship which lasted till June 1792. This incident had no effect on their marriage; But many believe it took away his chance to become the next US President. (Alexander Hamilton Bio)
- On June 27, 1804, Hamilton was challenged to a duel by Aaron Burr, who felt that the other man had insulted him. After a series of attempts at reconciliation failed, Hamilton decided to accept the offer, but threw shots.
- The duel began on July 11, 1804, on the banks of the Hudson River in New Jersey. While Hamilton’s shot hit the branches above his opponent’s head, Burr’s shot mortally wounded him and died from it on July 12, 1804. He was later buried at Trinity Churchyard Cemetery in Manhattan. (Alexander Hamilton Biography)
- Hamilton’s portrait is depicted on the front of a US$10 bill from 1928. His legacy continues in various parts of the country with his statues as well as buildings and geographical sites named after him.
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