Alexander Hamilton


Early years: Hamilton was born in the British island colony of Nevis in the West Indies. He was raised as a Presbyterian and even wrote a few hymns in his day. He would move to the American colonies in 1772 and go to college at King's College in New York (now Columbia University).

Revolution: Hamilton joined the New York volunteer militia company and was involved in several 1776 campaigns in New Yorik. He became an aide to Washington in 1777 and effectively became his chief of staff. He was part of the defeat of Cornwallis at Yorktown. Hamilton went on to being elected to Congress of the Confederation as a representative from New York. During the war, Hamilton had been upset with the lack of power that the Confederation Congress had especially when relying ont he states for finances. He also supported the army using its claims for pensions that were promised to get a national funding system (Confederation Congress wasn't able to tax the states to raise revenue). Hamilton wrote to Washington to use the army if the national funding system couldn't be accomplished, but Washington declined and wrote back to Hamilton about the dangers of using the army as leverage. Washington ended up putting an end to the rise up of the army when he addressed the soldiers. He resigned from the Congress in 1783 to go into law.

Constitution: Hamilton attended the Annapolis Convention, which was an attempt to fix some of the problems under the Articles of Confederation, but not all of the colonies were present (therefore, the delegates agreed to meet in Philadelphia where the Congress of the Confederation was located). In Annapolis, Hamilton drafted a resolution that agreed to a larger Constitutional convention, which brought his dream of a more powerful and more financially independent central government a step closer to reality. Hamilton wanted a much stronger government than what was in the Constitution but still signed it since it was a major improvement from the Articles of Confederation. He was one of the writers of the Federalist Papers, which were articles supporting the new Constitution. Perhaps Hamilton's major influence was as the first Secretary of the Treasury under Washington. Hamilton proposed that the federal government assume the debts of the states, which would increase the power of the new federal government since it would put the nation's most serious financial situations in the hands of the federal government. Thomas Jefferson opposed the plan since some states (like Virginia) paid back half of their debt). Hamilton and Jefferson made a deal to have their supporters pass a compromise of passing the assumption of state debts and setting up a permanent capital on the Potomac River (D.C.). With raising revenue up to the federal government, there would be an excise tax on whiskey, which would lead to the Whiskey Rebellion in western PA, which would be put down by the army, which showed the power of the new federal government. Hamilton also used his position of Treasury Secretary to establish the U.S. Mint to print and coin the nation's money. He would set up the Revenue Cutter Service, which would later become the Coast Guard. Hamilton encouraged the growth of manufacturing and industry to build the United States. Overall, the supporters of Hamilton would form one of the first two political parties - the Federalist Party (the name being taken from the Federalists who supported the Constitution after the Constitutional Convention and the battle over ratification).

Duel with Aaron Burr: Hamilton didn't support the presidency of John Adams, even though Adams was a Federalist. In the 1800 election, Jefferson had defeated Adams but there weren't enough Electoral votes cast for Jefferson to give him a majority so the vote went to the House of Representatives (original elections weren't set up for political parties, which led to the 12th Amendment to have a separate Electoral vote for President and Vice President). Hamilton threw his support for Jefferson to keep Aaron Burr from becoming President. Hamilton felt Jefferson was honest and Burr was dangerous. When Burr wasn't going to be on the ticket for Vice President in 1804 he decided to run as a Federalist against Morgan Lewis, a Jeffersonian Democrat, in the 1804 election for governor of New York. Lewis was greatly assisted by Alexander Hamilton and won. Aaron Burr and Hamilton would schedule a duel. Burr's shot hit Hamilton in the abdomen and Hamilton's shot hit a tree branch right above Burr's head. Shortly after, Hamilton died.


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