Alexander Hamilton was born as a British subjecton the island of Nevis in the West Indies on the11th of January 1755. His father was JamesHamilton, a Scottish merchant of St. Christopher.His grandfather was Alexander Hamilton, of Grange,Lanarkshire. One of his great grandfathers was SirR. Pollock, the Laird of Cambuskeith.
Hamilton’smother was Rachael Fawcette Levine, of FrenchHuguenot descent.When she was very young, shemarried a Danish proprietor of St. Croix namedJohn Michael Levine. Ms. Levine left her husbandand was later divorced from him on June 25, 1759.
Under Danish law, the (the court ordering thedivorce) Ms. Levine was forbidden from remarrying.Thus, Hamilton’s birth was illegitimate.
AlexanderHamilton had one brother, James Hamilton.Heavyburdens fell upon Hamilton’s shoulders duringchildhood. Business failures caused Hamilton’sfather to become bankrupt.
Soon thereafter, hismother died in 1768. At twelve, Alexander enteredthe counting house of Nicholas Cruger and DavidBeekman. There, young Alexander served as a clerkand apprentice. At the age of fifteen, Mr.Crugerleft Alexander in charge of the business. Earlyon, Hamilton wished to increase his opportunitiesin life. This is evidenced by a letter written tohis friend Edward Stevens at the age of fourteenon Nov. 11, 1769 where he stated, “[m]y ambitionis prevalent, so that I contemn the grovelingcondition of a clerk or the like and wouldwillingly risk my life, though not my Duringadolescence, Hamilton had few opportunities forregular schooling.
However, he possessed acommanding knowledge of French, due to theteaching of his late mother. This was a very raretrait in the English continental colonies.Hamilton was first published in the RoyalDanish-American Gazette with his description ofthe terrible hurricane of August 30th, 1772 thatgutted Christiansted.Impressed by this, anopportunity to gain his education was provided byfamily friends. Seizing this, Hamilton arrived thegrammar school in Elizabethtown, New Jersey in theautumn of 1772. One year later, in 1774, Hamiltongraduated and entered King’s College in New YorkCity. There, Hamilton obtained a bachelor’s ofarts As the War of Independence began, Hamiltontook a trip to Boston, which seems to havesolidified his loyalties with the colonists. At amass meeting held in the fields in New York Cityon July 6, 1774, he made a sensational speechattacking British policies.
In addition, he wrotea series of letters for John Holt’s New-YorkJournal.When an Anglican clergyman, SamuelSeabury, denounced the first Continental Congressin several Westchester Farmer letters, Hamiltonreplied with two powerful pamphlets. His militaryaspirations also flowered with a series on earlyaccomplishments. At King’s College he joined apatriot volunteer band known as the “Corsicans”and drilled every morning before classes.
InAugust of 1775, the “Corsicans” participated in araid to seize the cannon from the Battery. OnMarch 14th, 1776, he was commissioned captain of acompany of artillery set up by the New YorkProvidential Congress. Some sources state thatHamilton’s company participated at the Battle ofLong Island in August of 1776.At White plains, inOctober of 1776, his battery guarded Chatterton’sHill and protected the withdrawal of WilliamSmallwood’s militia.
On January 3, 1777,Hamilton’s military reputation won the interest ofGeneral Nathaniel Greene. His cannon were broughtto rear on Nassau Hall, and Hamilton gave theorder to fire when the British troops thererefused to surrender. Impressed by this, GeneralGreene introduced the young Captain to GeneralWashington. The proficiency and bravery Hamiltondisplayed around New York City impressed GeneralWashington. He joined Washington’s personal staffin March of 1777 with the rank of LieutenantColonel.He served four years as Washington’spersonal secretary and confidential aide.Hamilton’s military fervor continued in hisposition next to Washington.
At the Battle ofMonmouth (June 28, 1778), Hamilton again provedhis bravery and leadership. He warned theretreating General Charles Lee that a troop ofBritish cavalry would soon be in a position tocounterattack and was authorized to give theorder. Hamilton rallied the fleeing men, whoturned upon the British and swept them with awithering fire.
At the court martial of Lee thatfollowed, Hamilton testified against the General.He declared that he “seemed to be under a hurry ofmind,” and that, while his men retreated, he saton his horse, “doing nothing that I saw.” Lee, inturn, accused Hamilton of being hotheaded and in”a sort of frenzy of valor.” Hamilton, however,remained ambitious for military glory.
He becameimpatient in his position of dependence and used aslight reprimand from Washington as an excuse forleaving his staff position in February of 1781.Hesecured a field command through Washington and wonlaurels at Yorktown (Sept. – Oct.
1781), where heled the American column in a final assault in theBritish works. As the need for the militarydiminished, Hamilton acquired a domestic life. OnDec. 14, 1780, he married Elizabeth, the daughterof General Philip Schuyler.The Schuylers were oneof the most distinguished families in New York.
Hamilton and Elizabeth eventually had eightchildren. Here, Elizabeth is pictured to the left,with her father and mother to the right. Attwenty-five, Hamilton began his popular politicalefforts from which his greatest fame arises. Inletters dated from 1779 to 1780 he correctlydiagnosed the ills of the new Confederation andsuggested the necessity of centralization. He wasalso one of the first to suggest adequate checkson the anarchic tendencies of the time.
Attwenty-seven, with the Revolutionary War over,Hamilton began a non-military career.After threemonths of intensive study of the law in Albany,New York, Hamilton was admitted to the bar in Julyof 1783. Then, after the British army evacuatedNew York City, he opened his law office at 57 WallStreet. Hamilton also continued with his politicalendeavors. He served in Congress from 1782 to1783, was elected to the Continental Congress, andfounded the Bank of New York in February of 1784.Once elected, Hamilton remained politically activeall of his life. He prepared but did not present aproposal calling for a convention with full powersto revise the Articles of Confederation.
Instead,he became one of the prime movers for calling theAnnapolis Convention.At the Annapolis Conventionin September of 1786, Hamilton served as one ofthree delegates from New York. He supportedMadison in inducing the Convention to exceed itsdelegated powers and personally drafted the callto summon the Federal Convention of May 1787 atPhiladelphia. At that Convention, Hamilton againrepresented New Hamilton’s own presence at theConvention was limited. His colleagues from NewYork represented converse political views fromHamilton. They chose to withdraw from theconvention, leaving New York without an officialdelegation and Hamilton without a vote. However,he did make one remarkable speech on June 18th,1787.In this he attacked the states’ rightsproposal of William Paterson.
In this speech heupheld the British government as the best modelfrom the world for the colonists to use. Headvocated that the best solution lied in anaristocratic, strongly centralized, coercive, butrepresentative union with devices that would giveweight to class and property. Apart from this,Hamilton was largely absent from the convention,having left on June 30, 1787. Washington wrote himsaying, “I am sorry you went away. I wish you wereback.
” At the close of the Convention, Hamiltonreturned to sign the Constitution for his Hamiltonimmediately used his talents to secure theadoption of the Constitution.Hamilton was thefirst to publish a letter in the Constitution’sdefense. This article was published in the NewYork Independent Journal on Oct. 2, 1787, only twoweeks after the Constitution was signed. He wasone of three authors of The Federalist. This workremains a classic commentary on Americanconstitutional law and the principals ofgovernment.
Its inception and approximatelythree-quarters of the work are attributable toHamilton (the rest belonging to John Jay and JamesMadison).Hamilton also won the New Yorkratification convention vote for the Constitutionagainst great odds in July 17-July 26, 1788.Chancellor James Kent stated that “all of thedocumentary proof and the current observation ofthe time lead us to the conclusion that hesurpassed all of his contemporaries in hisexertions to create, recommend, adopt and defendthe Constitution of the United States.” DuringWashington’s presidency, Hamilton became the firstsecretary of the Treasury. In this position hesecured the traditional strength of Americanfinance. He is chiefly responsible forestablishing the credit of the United States, bothat home and abroad.
His Report on the PublicCredit, Jan. 14, 1790, constituted a watershed inAmerican history. It marked an end of an era ofbankruptcy and r ….