Alexander Hamilton

"It's not tyranny we desire; it's a just, limited, federal government."[1]

Portrait of Alexander Hamilton by John Trumbull

Early Life

Alexander Hamilton was born on January 11, 1755, in Charleston, the capital of Nevis in the West Indies. Early in his childhood he and his brother, James Jr., were abandoned by their father, after which solely their mother supported them. However, Rachel Hamilton would later succumb to fever, leaving both Alexander and James Hamilton, orphaned. After his mother's death he became a clerk at a local trading firm, and was often left to manage the firm, while the owner was at sea. He was adopted several times and eventually ended up in the care of Thomas Stevens, all the while pursuing academic interests. Hamilton would go on to write an account of a devastating hurricane that impressed the local leaders, who collected funds to send him to the American colonies, for education. In 1773, Alexander Hamilton attended King's College (now Columbia University) in New York City, and became an avid supporter of the Revolutionary cause.

Significance in the Revolution

Alexander Hamilton's actual involvement with the Revolutionary War, began when he joined a New York Volunteer militia company called the Hearts of Oak, among which included many students from King's College. As a lieutenant he led a successful raid for British cannon in the Battery, such action resulted in the Hearts of Oak becoming an artillery company. Through several notable connections, he would become the elected captain of the New York Provincial Company of Artillery, he commanded sixty men in 1776. The company was involved in the campaign of 1776 around New York City, most notably at the Battle of White Plains and at the Battle of Trenton. Hamilton later served as General George Washington's Chief of Staff, handling and even drafting most of Washington's orders and letters, at Washington's direction. Aside from being involved in a variety of high-level duties, he was eventually able to issue orders through General Washington's signature, with his own signature. Though Hamilton was deeply involved with the internal portions of the war, he sought after more command in actual combat situations. Eventually he was given command of a three New York infantry battalions at the assault on Yorktown, where his command in conjuncture with the French, ultimately forced British surrender. In November 1782, he was elected as a New York representative in the Congress of the Confederation.

After the Revolution...

Alexander Hamilton's took his biggest role after the conclusion of the Revolutionary War, as he took it upon himself to strengthen the federal government, and implement a Constitution. Although Hamilton's draft of the document had many of the features of the Constitution we have today, it was in some respects radically different. Many of the aspects of the document were kept, but things like Senators for life and Presidents with the power of absolute veto, deterred many from accepting this version of the Constitution. At the end of alteration of the Constitution, Hamilton was left unsatisfied with the final form, but signed it anyway. In an attempt to help the bill be ratified by Congress, Hamilton recruited John Jay and James Madison to write a defense of the proposed Constitution, which would later be called the Federalist Papers. Later Hamilton was appointed as the first Secretary of the Treasury, and proposed that the federal government would assume state debts incurred the Revolutionary War. To get the plan passed by his primary opponents, Jefferson and Madison, Hamilton had the capital placed on the Potomac River, where it still stands to this day. Along with creating an assumption plan to deal the incurred debt, he also helped found the United States Mint or the first National Bank. Aside from other notable accomplishments it could also be said that Hamilton inadvertently started bipartisanism, creating Federalists and Republican-Democrats. Alexander Hamilton died on July 12, 1804, after he was shot in a duel with political rival and Vice President, Aaron Burr, he was 49 years old.
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Alexander Hamilton's obituary as published in The Balance

References (ARG10)

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