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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
President George Washington
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Oliver Wolcott Jr.
Senior Officer of the United States Army
In office
December 14, 1799 – June 15, 1800
President John Adams
Preceded by George Washington
Succeeded by James Wilkinson
Delegate to the
Congress of the Confederation
from New York
In office
November 3, 1788 – March 2, 1789
Preceded by Egbert Bensonor
Succeeded by Seat abolished
In office
November 4, 1782 – June 21, 1783
Preceded by Seat established
Succeeded by Seat abolished
Personal details
Born (1755-01-11)January 11, 1755 or 1757
Charlestown, Nevis, British Leeward Islands
Died July 12, 1804(1804-07-12) (aged 47 or 49)
New York City, New York
Resting place Trinity Church Cemetery
Political party Federalist
Elizabeth Schuyler
(m. 1780)
Children Philip Hamilton
Angelica Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton Jr.
James Alexander Hamilton
John Church Hamilton
William S. Hamilton
Eliza Hamilton Holly
Philip Hamilton (the second)
Parents James A. Hamilton
Rachel Faucette
Education King's College (renamed Columbia)
Military service
Allegiance  New York
 United States (1777–1800)
Branch/service New York Provincial Company of Artillery
Continental Army
Seal of the United States Board of War and Ordnance.svg United States Army
Years of service 1775–1776 (Militia)
Rank Union Army major general rank insignia.svg Major general
Commands U.S. Army Senior Officer
Battles/wars American 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

Alexander Hamilton (January 11, 1755July 12, 1804) was a statesman, a political theorist and an economist. He was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Hamilton was the United States' first Secretary of the Treasury. He was known for the creation of a national bank. Born on the island of Nevis in the Caribbean, Hamilton moved to New York City. When the American Revolutionary War started, Hamilton served in the Continental Army. He was a close aide to General George Washington. After leaving the military, he started a bank. He was one of the framers (someone who writes out the laws) of the United States Constitution. Along with James Madison and John Jay, he wrote the Federalist Papers, which supported the new Constitution.

Hamilton became the Secretary of the Treasury under George Washington. He helped set up the United States' financial system. Hamilton supported a national bank. A leader of the Federalist Party, he was a long time rival of Thomas Jefferson. He was killed in a duel with political rival Aaron Burr in 1804.

Today, Hamilton is usually thought of as one of the most important of the early leaders. Hamilton's portrait appears on the United States ten-dollar bill.

Early life

Hamilton was not born in the United States. He was from the Caribbean island of Nevis. His father was James Hamilton and his mother was Rachel Fawcett Lavien. His father had left him as a child. Two years after this tragedy, both Hamilton and his mother became sick. Hamilton recovered, but unfortunately, his mother died.

In 1772, Hamilton went to New York to continue his education. He attended Kings College (now called Columbia College, part of Columbia University) until 1776.


Early in the American Revolution, Hamilton was an artillery officer. Later, he served on George Washington's staff. Hamilton believed by the late 1780s that the Articles of Confederation made a government that was too weak to work well, and he supported drafting a new document. He was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, and he was a signer of the Constitution.

In 1789, he was one of the authors of the Federalist Papers, a series of letters written by Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison under the name "Publius." Hamilton wrote about two-thirds of the essays. They were published in newspapers in New York and supported the new Constitution. These writings are usually thought of as being one of the most important American works on politics and government. They are still read by many people today.

George Washington, who became President in 1789, chose Hamilton to be the first United States Secretary of the Treasury. While he was Secretary of the Treasury, he supported a national bank and invented a way to pay the debt that the country owed for the Revolutionary War. He helped start the Federalist Party. John Adams was a member, and Washington supported the party, though he was not a member. After being Secretary of the Treasury, he worked as a lawyer and continued to lead the Federalist Party.

Hamilton said he was anti-slavery. Along with John Jay, he was a leader of the New York Manumission Society. The society worked to end slavery in New York by getting slave owners to choose to free their slaves. However, he bought and sold slaves for himself, his family, and his friends.

Hamilton also had great respect for the small Jewish community in America and was a major supporter of religious freedom.

In 1800, Hamilton's political rival Thomas Jefferson beat the Federalist John Adams. Jefferson and Hamilton had very different ideas about the direction the new country should take, although both were important founding fathers.

Duel and death

Hamilton had a long-time rivalry with Jefferson's vice president Aaron Burr. Hamilton kept Burr from being re-nominated for Vice President. He also kept him from becoming Governor of New York. Burr responded by challenging Hamilton to a duel. They agreed to meet on July 11, 1804, at Weehawken, New Jersey. Dueling was illegal in New York, which is why they chose Weehawken. It was also the site where Philip Hamilton, Alexander Hamilton's son, had been killed in a duel three years earlier. The night before the duel, Hamilton wrote his will, letters to friends, and finally a letter to his wife.

At dawn the next morning, the two met at Weehawken. Without any discussion, the two men took their positions. Unusual for a duel of this kind, the two fired about 4–5 seconds apart. Who fired first is not known today. Burr's bullet struck Hamilton and knocked him down. Then Burr promptly turned and left. The bullet went through Hamilton's ribs and damaged his lungs and liver. Hamilton was taken to a friend's house in Manhattan where his wife and children joined him. He asked two ministers to give him Communion but was refused. Finally the Episcopal Bishop Benjamin Moore gave him the sacrament. Hamilton died the next morning.


US10dollarbill-Series 2004A
Hamilton on the US $10 bill
  • Hamilton is shown on the face of the U.S. 10 dollar bill. Hamilton is one of only two non-presidents honored on commonly used notes.
  • Some of Hamilton's words are still quoted. For example, "I never expect a perfect work from an imperfect man."
  • Hamilton was the founder of the United States Revenue Cutter Service, which in 1915 became the United States Coast Guard. For that reason, he is considered the father of the United States Coast Guard.
  • He was a staunch constitutionalist who, unlike several of the founding fathers, believed in a strong central government. During his life, he was involved in nearly every major political event from the Revolution to the election of 1800.
  • His writings fill a staggering 27 volumes. Yet he is probably the least well-understood of any of the founding fathers. By the time of Hamilton's death, the Federalist Party he had helped start was in decline. Hamilton and the Federalists had convinced Washington to create a central bank, assume the debts of the states, and pass tax laws. There is little doubt these moves helped save the new democracy.
Lin-Manuel Miranda in Hamilton
Lin-Manuel Miranda performs the title role in the 2015 musical Hamilton.

Alexander Hamilton quotes

  • "Those who stand for nothing fall for everything.”
  • “The constitution shall never be prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.”
  • “A nation which can prefer disgrace to danger is prepared for a master, and deserves one.”
  • “Safety from external danger is the most powerful director of national conduct. Even the ardent love of liberty will, after a time, give way to its dictates. To be more safe, they at length become willing to run the risk of being less free.”
  • “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”

Interesting facts about Alexander Hamilton

  • The locals in Nevis (where Alexander Hamilton was born) were so impressed with his writing in the local paper that they gathered enough money to send him to King's College in New York City. It is now called Columbia College.
  • Alexander fought in the Continental Army as a captain and an aid to George Washington.
  • After the war, Hamilton took only six months to study and pass the bar exam to become a lawyer. He defended many British Loyalists.
  • The Federalist Papers that Hamilton helped to write were printed and read in New York but not in many other areas of the country.
  • Hamilton helped to create the mint (a place that makes its own national money) in Philadelphia.
  • Because Alexander Hamilton loved to write, he started a newspaper and called it the New York Evening Post. It is now called the New York Post.
  • Hamilton did not like either Thomas Jefferson or Aaron Burr, who were both running in the 1800 presidential election. He chose to help Jefferson get elected over Burr considering Jefferson the lesser of two evils.
  • Alexander Hamilton was involved in 12 attempted duels in his lifetime. The duel with Aaron Burr was his last.
  • Because dueling was illegal in New York, Hamilton and Burr went over to New Jersey at dawn on July 11, 1804, to fight the duel.

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See also

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