Alexander Hamilton: The Founding Father Of The American Freedom
“How does an orphan son of a whore and a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean by providence, impoverished, in squalor, grow up to be a hero and a scholar? The 10 dollar. Founding father without a father. Got a lot farther by working a lot harder, by being a lot smarter. By being a self-starter by 14.”- Lin Manuel Miranda (Hamilton an American musical) Against impossible odds, Alexander Hamilton rose above devastating circumstances to become one of the most crucial parts of the founding of the United States of America. It wasn’t until recent years that Hamilton received proper recognition for his accomplishments. Many attribute this to Lin Manuel’s musical, “Hamilton”.
He became a founding father, Constitutional Convention delegate, author of the Federalist Papers, first secretary of the United States Treasury, as well as, a father and a husband. Alexander Hamilton was born on January 11th in the British Indies. Historians believe he was born sometime between the years 1775 and 1777. His mother, Rachel, was forced into an abusive marriage with an old merchant when she was a young teenager. Unhappy in her circumstances, she fell in love with another man, leading to an affair. In time her adultery was exposed and she was put into prison. Once released, rather than returning to her husband and son, she fled the troubled marriage to St. Kitts where she met and moved in with a man named James Hamilton. She had a son with him and he was named James, as well. Shortly after Rachel conceived another child, a son whom they named Alexander. Soon after Alexander’s birth his father left them; leaving Rachel and the two young sons impoverished. Young Hamilton determined to improve his lot, began working at the mere age of eleven. He worked as an accounting clerk in a mercantile. Bright and ambitious, young Hamilton quickly impressed his employer. He was introduced to international trade which included the importing of slaves and learning about the business of money and trade.
Sadly, Alexander and his mother both became bedridden. Alexander recovered, but his mother died at the age of thirty-eight. Hamilton then moved in with his cousin who soon after committed suicide. Hamilton’s boss, a businessman named Nicolas Cruger, so valued Hamilton’s ability to make good judgments and quick decisions when it came to accounting that he and other businessmen pooled their resources with a minister and newspaper editor named Hugh Knox to send Hamilton to America for an education. Hamilton had impressed Knox with an eloquent letter he had written describing a ferocious hurricane that had hit the island in 1772. In 1773 at the age of sixteen Hamilton arrived in New York and enrolled into King’s college (now University of Columbia). He was more drawn to political involvement then he was to academics. In 1774, at the age of seventeen, he wrote his first political article defining the patriots cause against the interests of Pro-Britain loyalists. A quick learner, Hamilton deemed himself quite capable of becoming a self-made man. Determined on learning through hands-on experience, he left King’s College before graduating to join forces with the Patriots in their protest of British-imposed taxes and commercial business regulations.
Alexander Hamilton began fighting in the Revolutionary war from it’s beginning in 1775. He was promoted in 1777 to lieutenant colonel of the Continental Army. Catching George Washington’s eye, Hamilton soon became his assistant and trust worthy advisor. The next five years Hamilton spent putting his writing skills to use. He wrote Washington’s critical letters and composed numerous reports on the strategic reform and restructuring of the Continental Army.
On December 14,1780 Alexander Hamilton married Elizabeth (Eliza) Schuyler, daughter of Revolutionary War general, Philip Schuyler. The happy couple enjoyed a strong relationship throughout their marriage and had eight children together, despite the revelation of Hamilton’s affair with another married woman, Maria Reynolds. Hamilton’s affair with Reynolds is considered one of the first sex scandals in the country’s history. Living fifty years after Hamilton’s death, Eliza dedicated her life to preserving her husband’s legacy.
In 1787, Hamilton met with group of men in Philadelphia to discuss how to fix the Articles of Confederation. During the meeting, Hamilton expressed his view that a reliable ongoing source of revenue would be crucial to developing a more powerful and resilient central government. Although Hamilton didn’t have a strong hand in writing the Constitution, he did have a heavy influence on it. Alexander along with two others, James Maddison and John Jays, wrote the Federalist Papers in 1788. In a total of eighty-five essays, Alexander wrote fifty-one of them.
In 1789 when Washington was elected President, he appointed Hamilton as the first Secretary of Treasury. At that time the U.S. was facing great foreign and domestic debt because of the expenses of the Revolutionary War. Ever a proponent for a strong central government, during his tenure as treasury secretary, Hamilton butted heads with fellow cabinet members who were fearful of a central government holding so much power. Lacking their state loyalties, Hamilton went so far as to turn down New York’s opportunity to house the nation’s capital in favor of securing backing for his economic program, dubbed the ‘dinner table bargain.’ It was Hamilton’s belief that the Constitution gave him the authority to create economic policies that strengthened the central government. His proposed fiscal policies initiated the payment of federal war bonds, had the federal government assume states’ debts, instituted a federal system for tax collection and would help the United States establish credit with other nations. The State loyalists were outraged with his proposal. Finally after a compromise was made during a dinner on June 20, 1790, between James Maddison and Alexander.
Hamilton agreed that a site near the Potomac would be established as the nation’s capital, and Madison would no longer block Congress, particularly its Virginia representatives from approving policies that promoted a more powerful central government over individual states’ rights. In 1795, Alexander Hamilton retired from the role as Secretary of treasury. During this time period, presidents and vice presidents were for voted separately unlike present day. Aaron Burr expected to be Jefferson’s vice president on the Democratic-Republican ticket. However, he actually tied Jefferson for the presidency. Ultimately, the House of Representatives chose Jefferson to be president with Burr serving as vice president. Infuriated by this decision, Burr blamed Hamilton for his “loss”. This feud resulted in a duel which began at dawn on July 11, 1804, in Weehawken, New Jersey. The duel left Hamilton injured and he was brought back to New York City where he died the next day. He was buried in the cemetery of Trinity Church, which is located in downtown Manhattan, New York City.
During Hamilton’s life, he continually sought to rise above his circumstances to make something more of this life. He served as Washington’s chief body of staff, aided and handled intelligence, was a diplomat, worked with negotiating and communicating with Congress and governors. Appointed by President as Chief Executive in 1789, Hamilton grew to become the nations first Secretary of the Treasury.
“Greatness is not measured by what a man or woman accomplishes, but by the opposition he or she has overcome to reach his goals.”- Dorothy Height
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