Who was Alexander Hamilton?

What do we know about Alexander Hamilton beyond his picture on the ten dollar bill?
Alexander Hamilton

He was born in the West Indies on the island of Nevis. His parents were Scottish but his father lived in Scotland while his mother raised him.  When he was but ten years old his mother moved to St. Croix.  She died not long afterwards.  His mother’s friends and relatives took him and taught him to read, write, and do numbers.  Inspired by his words, his education was sponsored in the colonies and he was sent to King’s College (which later becomes Columbia University). He was but 17 years old when he arrived in the young colonies.

As a young man, he wrote about American independence and the rights of the American colonies. He defended the American congress and when the Battle of Lexington and Concord occurred he pressed for others to hear his words and support the colonies. 

He joined the military in New York in 1776. He studied artillery tactics and military maneuvers.  He served as a captain.  “He not only had to recruit and train his own men; he also had to see that they were fed, clothed, and paid.”  Just as his compatriots did, he wrote to the leaders, asking for funds to provide for his troops. George Washington admired the young Hamilton and thought of his as a son in many respects. Hamilton’s victory at the Battle of Trenton was his crowning glory.  Many saw this victory as a signal that the Patriots did stand a chance against the British. Because of his victory, he was later assigned to be an aide de camps for General George Washington.
George Washington

Washington so approved of the young Hamilton, that the man was sent on an important mission – destroy a supply of flour and other supplies so they do not fall in British hands.  Hamilton along with Henry Lee and 7 other cavalry men attempted to do just that but were attacked by British dragoons.  Hamilton and his men were splintered, Hamilton himself forced to swim across the Schuykill River.  He was then sent on a mission to go into Philadelphia ahead of the British and gather shows, blankets, and clothing for the Continental Army. He continued to carry out missions for Washington. He was with Washington when they arrived at West Point and discovered Benedict Arnold’s duplicity and turn to the British cause. After resigning as an aide-de-camp, he was given his own command.  As a matter of fact, he was in charge of the capture of Redoubt #10 during the Battle of Yorktown – the decisive battle of the revolution.
Thomas Jefferson

Hamilton is appointed to Congress where he worked with fellow patriots to form the government we know today.

He married Elizabeth Schuyler who was a member of one of the most distinguished families in New York. They had eight children. While not exactly the match her father had hoped, he realized Hamilton’s ambition would take him far and he finally approved of the match. He studied law and entered the bar in 1783.  He founded the Bank of New York in 1784.  At the Convention of Annapolis, he served as one of three delegates from New York.  He would argue for a centralized government, even using Great Britain as a model. He was present to sign the new Constitution of the United States.  He published a letter urging all to sign the Constitution and support the new government.  Along with John Jay, he wrote the Federalist.

Hamilton became the first Secretary of the Treasury.  He established credit for the United States and helped set up the means for the US to repay debt to foreign countries. He was a leader of the Federalists, one of the first political parties in the country.   In 1795, he returned to practicing law in New York.  He remained a friend and advisor to Washington throughout his life.  He even wrote Washington’s farewell address in 1796.
John Jay

After Washington died, the Federalists became split – those who followed Hamilton and those who followed Adams.  Unfortunately, Hamilton did not have the finesse of Adams.  He was far too opinionated. He wrote political attacks of the president and, though they were supposed to be private letters, they were published by Aaron Burr. When Burr ran for president against Thomas Jefferson, the votes were tied.  The final decision was sent to the House of Representatives.  Hamilton used his influence with other Federalists and the vote went to Jefferson.
Aaron Burr

Burr was furious by Hamilton’s interference and challenged him to a duel.  The duel was fought at Weehawken, New Jersey.  Hamilton was shot and died the following day on July 12th, 1804. He was opposed to dueling, since his own son had died in a duel, and he only wanted to fire the shot into the air.

No comments: