Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton portrait by John Trumbull 1806.jpg
1st United States Secretary of the Treasury
In office
September 11, 1789 – January 31, 1795
PresidentGeorge Washington
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byOliver Wolcott Jr.
Senior Officer of the United States Army
In office
December 14, 1799 – June 15, 1800
PresidentJohn Adams
Preceded byGeorge Washington
Succeeded byJames Wilkinson
Delegate to the Congress of the Confederation
from New York
In office
November 3, 1788 – March 2, 1789
Preceded byEgbert Benson
Succeeded bySeat abolished
In office
November 4, 1782 – June 21, 1783
Preceded bySeat established
Succeeded bySeat abolished
Personal details
Born(1755-01-11)January 11, 1755 or 1757
Charlestown, Nevis, British Leeward Islands
Died(1804-07-12)July 12, 1804 (aged 47 or 49)
New York City, New York
Resting placeTrinity Church Cemetery
Political partyFederalist
Spouse(s)Elizabeth Schuyler (m. 1780)
ChildrenPhilip Hamilton
Angelica Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton Jr.
James Alexander Hamilton
John Church Hamilton
William S. Hamilton
Eliza Hamilton Holly
Philip Hamilton (the second)
ParentsJames A. Hamilton
Rachel Faucette
EducationKing's College (renamed Columbia)
Signature
Military service
Allegiance New York
 United States (1777–1800)
Service/branch New York Provincial Company of Artillery
Continental Army
Seal of the United States Board of War and Ordnance.png United States Army
Years of service1775–1776 (Militia)
1776–1781
1798–1800
RankUnion Army major general rank insignia.svg Major general
CommandsU.S. Army Senior Officer
Battles/warsAmerican Revolutionary War
 • Battle of Harlem Heights
 • Battle of White Plains
 • Battle of Trenton
 • Battle of Princeton
 • Battle of Brandywine
 • Battle of Germantown
 • Battle of Monmouth
 • Siege of Yorktown
Quasi-War

Alexander Hamilton (January 11, 1755 or 1757 – July 12, 1804) was an American statesman and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. He was an influential interpreter and promoter of the U.S. Constitution, as well as the founder of the nation's financial system, the Federalist Party, the United States Coast Guard, and The New York Post newspaper. As the first Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton was the main author of the economic policies of George Washington's administration. He took the lead in the Federal government's funding of the states' debts, as well as establishing a national bank, a system of tariffs, and friendly trade relations with Britain. His vision included a strong central government led by a vigorous executive branch, a strong commercial economy, a national bank and support for manufacturing, and a strong military. Thomas Jefferson was his leading opponent, arguing for agrarianism and smaller government.

Hamilton was born out of wedlock in Charlestown, Nevis. He was orphaned as a child and taken in by a prosperous merchant. When he reached his teens, he was sent to New York to pursue his education. He took an early role in the militia as the American Revolutionary War began. In 1777, he became a senior aide to General Washington in running the new Continental Army. After the war, he was elected as a representative from New York to the Congress of the Confederation. He resigned to practice law and founded the Bank of New York.

Hamilton was a leader in seeking to replace the weak national government, and he led the Annapolis Convention (1786) which spurred Congress to call a Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. He helped ratify the Constitution by writing 51 of the 85 installments of The Federalist Papers, which are still used as one of the most important references for Constitutional interpretation.

Hamilton led the Treasury Department as a trusted member of President Washington's first Cabinet. He was a nationalist who emphasized strong central government and successfully argued that the implied powers of the Constitution provided the legal authority to fund the national debt, assume states' debts, and create the government-backed Bank of the United States. These programs were funded primarily by a tariff on imports, and later also by a controversial whiskey tax. He mobilized a nationwide network of friends of the government, especially bankers and businessmen, which became the Federalist Party. A major issue in the emergence of the American two-party system was the Jay Treaty, largely designed by Hamilton in 1794. It established friendly trade relations with Britain, to the chagrin of France and supporters of the French Revolution. Hamilton played a central role in the Federalist party, which dominated national and state politics until it lost the election of 1800 to Jefferson's Democratic-Republican Party.

In 1795, he returned to the practice of law in New York. He called for mobilization against the French First Republic in 1798–99 under President John Adams, and became Commanding General of the previously disbanded U.S. Army, which he reconstituted, modernized, and readied for war. The army did not see combat in the Quasi-War, and Hamilton was outraged by Adams' diplomatic success in resolving the crisis with France. His opposition to Adams' re-election helped cause the Federalist party defeat in 1800. Jefferson and Aaron Burr tied for the presidency in the electoral college in 1801, and Hamilton helped to defeat Burr, whom he found unprincipled, and to elect Jefferson despite philosophical differences.

Hamilton continued his legal and business activities in New York City, and was active in ending the legality of the international slave trade. Vice President Burr ran for governor of New York State in 1804, and Hamilton campaigned against him as unworthy. Taking offense, Burr challenged him to a duel in which Burr shot and mortally wounded Hamilton. He died the next day on July 12, 1804.

Childhood in the Caribbean

Arms of Hamilton of Grange
Hamilton of Grange arms
Arms: Gules, a lion rampant, argent, betwixt three cinquefoils, ermine[2]
Hamilton of Grange arms, crest, and motto
Arms, crest, and motto
Arms of the Lairds of Grange in Ayrshire, Scotland, including Hamilton's paternal grandfather[1]

Alexander Hamilton was born and spent part of his childhood in Charlestown, the capital of the island of Nevis in the Leeward Islands (then part of the British West Indies). Hamilton and his older brother James Jr. (1753–1786)[3] were born out of wedlock to Rachel Faucette, a married woman of half-British and half-French Huguenot descent,[4]:8 and James A. Hamilton, a Scotsman who was the fourth son of Laird Alexander Hamilton of Grange, Ayrshire.[5] Speculation that Hamilton's mother was of mixed race, though persistent, is not substantiated by verifiable evidence. She was listed as white on tax rolls.[6][7]

It is not certain whether the year of Hamilton's birth was 1755 or 1757. Most historical evidence after Hamilton's arrival in North America supports the idea that he was born in 1757, including Hamilton's own writings.[8][9] Hamilton listed his birth year as 1757 when he first arrived in the Thirteen Colonies, and celebrated his birthday on January 11. In later life, he tended to give his age only in round figures. Historians accepted 1757 as his birth year until about 1930, when additional documentation of his early life in the Caribbean was published, initially in Danish. A probate paper from St. Croix in 1768, drafted after the death of Hamilton's mother, listed him as 13 years old, which has caused some historians since the 1930s to favor a birth year of 1755.[10]

The Museum of Nevis History, Charlestown
The Hamilton House, Charlestown, Nevis. The current structure was rebuilt from the ruins of the house where Alexander Hamilton was born and lived as a young child.

Historians have speculated on possible reasons for two different years of birth to have appeared in historical documents. If 1755 is correct, Hamilton might have been trying to appear younger than his college classmates, or perhaps wished to avoid standing out as older.[10] If 1757 is correct, the single probate document indicating a birth year of 1755 may have simply included an error, or Hamilton might once have given his age as 13 after his mother's death in an attempt to appear older and more employable.[11] Historians have pointed out that the probate document contained other proven inaccuracies that demonstrated that it was not entirely reliable, and Richard Brookhiser noted that "a man is more likely to know his own birthday than a probate court."[8]

Hamilton's mother had been married previously to Johann Michael Lavien, a Danish[12] or German merchant,[13][14] on St. Croix in the Virgin Islands, then ruled by Denmark.[15] They had one son, Peter Lavien.[15] In 1750, Faucette left her husband and first son, and traveled to St. Kitts where she met James Hamilton.[15] Hamilton and Faucette moved together to Nevis, her birthplace, where she had inherited property from her father.[10]

James Hamilton abandoned Rachel Faucette and their two sons, James Jr. and Alexander, allegedly to "spar[e] [her] a charge of bigamy... after finding out that her first husband intend[ed] to divorce her under Danish law on grounds of adultery and desertion."[5] Thereafter, Rachel moved with the young Hamilton to St. Croix, where she supported her children by keeping a small store in Christiansted. She contracted yellow fever and died on February 19, 1768, 1:02 am, leaving Hamilton orphaned.[16] This may have had severe emotional consequences for him, even by the standards of an 18th-century childhood.[17] In probate court, Faucette's "first husband seized her estate"[5] and obtained the few valuables that she had owned, including some household silver. Many items were auctioned off, but a friend purchased the family's books and returned them to Hamilton.[18]

Hamilton in his youth

Hamilton became a clerk at local import-export firm Beekman and Cruger, which traded with New York and New England. He and James Jr. were briefly taken in by their cousin Peter Lytton; however, Lytton committed suicide in July 1769, leaving his property to his mistress and their son, and the Hamilton brothers were subsequently separated.[18] James apprenticed with a local carpenter, while Alexander was given a home by Nevis merchant Thomas Stevens. Some clues have led to speculating that Stevens may have been Alexander Hamilton's biological father: his son Edward Stevens became a close friend of Hamilton, the two boys were described as looking much alike, both were fluent in French and shared similar interests.[18] However, this allegation, mostly based on the comments of Timothy Pickering on the resemblance between the two men, has always been vague and unsupported.[19] Rachel Faucette had been living on St. Kitts and Nevis for years at the time when Alexander was conceived, while Thomas Stevens lived on Antigua and St. Croix; also, James Hamilton never disclaimed paternity, and even in later years, signed his letters to Hamilton with "Your very Affectionate Father."[20][21]

Hamilton proved capable enough as a trader to be left in charge of the firm for five months in 1771 while the owner was at sea. He remained an avid reader and later developed an interest in writing. He began to desire a life outside the island where he lived. He wrote a letter to his father that was a detailed account of a hurricane which had devastated Christiansted on August 30, 1772. Hugh Knox, a minister and journalist, published the letter in the Royal Danish-American Gazette. The biographer Ron Chernow found the letter astounding for two reasons; first, that "for all its bombastic excesses, it does seem wondrous [that a] self-educated clerk could write with such verve and gusto," and second, that a teenage boy produced an apocalyptic "fire-and-brimstone sermon" viewing the hurricane as a "divine rebuke to human vanity and pomposity."[22] The essay impressed community leaders, who collected a fund to send Hamilton to the North American colonies for his education.[23]

Other Languages
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slovenščina: Alexander Hamilton
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