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Alexander Hamilton was born as a British subject on the island of Nevis in the West Indies on the 11 th of January 1755. His father was James Hamilton, a Scottish merchant of St. Christopher. His grandfather was Alexander Hamilton, of Grange, Lanarkshire.
One of his great grandfathers was Sir R. Pollock, the Laird of Cambuskeith. Hamilton's mother was Rachael Fawcett e Levine, of French Huguenot descent. When she was very young, she married a Danish proprietor of St. Croix named John Michael Levine. Ms.
Levine left her husband and was later divorced from him on June 25, 1759. Under Danish law, the (the court ordering the divorce) Ms. Levine was forbidden from remarrying. Thus, Hamilton's birth was illegitimate.
Alexander Hamilton had one brother, James Hamilton. Heavy burdens fell upon Hamilton's shoulders during childhood. Business failures caused Hamilton's father to become bankrupt. Soon thereafter, his mother died in 1768. At twelve, Alexander entered the counting house of Nicholas Cruger and David Beekman. There, young Alexander served as a clerk and apprentice.
At the age of fifteen, Mr. Cruger left Alexander in charge of the business. Early on, Hamilton wished to increase his opportunities in life. This is evidenced by a letter written to his friend Edward Stevens at the age of fourteen on Nov. 11, 1769 where he stated, "[m]y ambition is prevalent, so that I contemn the groveling condition of a clerk or the like and would willingly risk my life, though not my During adolescence, Hamilton had few opportunities for regular schooling. However, he possessed a commanding knowledge of French, due to the teaching of his late mother. This was a very rare trait in the English continental colonies.
Hamilton was first published in the Royal Danish-American Gazette with his description of the terrible hurricane of August 30 th, 1772 that gutted Christiansted. Impressed by this, an opportunity to gain his education was provided by family friends. Seizing this, Hamilton arrived the grammar school in Elizabethtown, New Jersey in the autumn of 1772. One year later, in 1774, Hamilton graduated and entered King's College in New York City. There, Hamilton obtained a bachelor's of arts As the War of Independence began, Hamilton took a trip to Boston, which seems to have solidified his loyalties with the colonists. At a mass meeting held in the fields in New York City on July 6, 1774, he made a sensational speech attacking British policies.
In addition, he wrote a series of letters for John Holt's New-York Journal. When an Anglican clergyman, Samuel Seabury, denounced the first Continental Congress in several Westchester Farmer letters, Hamilton replied with two powerful pamphlets. His military aspirations also flowered with a series on early accomplishments. At King's College he joined a patriot volunteer band known as the "Corsican's" and drilled every morning before classes. In August of 1775, the "Corsican's" participated in a raid to seize the cannon from the Battery. On March 14 th, 1776, he was commissioned captain of a company of artillery set up by the New York Providential Congress.
Some sources state that Hamilton's company participated at the Battle of Long Island in August of 1776. At White plains, in October of 1776, his battery guarded Chatterton's Hill and protected the withdrawal of William Smallwood's militia. On January 3, 1777, Hamilton's military reputation won the interest of General Nathaniel Greene. His cannon were brought to rear on Nassau Hall, and Hamilton gave the order to fire when the British troops there refused to surrender. Impressed by this, General Greene introduced the young Captain to General Washington.
The proficiency and bravery Hamilton displayed around New York City impressed General Washington. He joined Washington's personal staff in March of 1777 with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He served four years as Washington's personal secretary and confidential aide. Hamilton's military fervor continued in his position next to Washington.
At the Battle of Monmouth (June 28, 1778), Hamilton again proved his bravery and leadership. He warned the retreating General Charles Lee that a troop of British cavalry would soon be in a position to counterattack and was authorized to give the order. Hamilton rallied the fleeing men, who turned upon the British and swept them with a withering fire. At the court martial of Lee that followed, Hamilton testified against the General. He declared that he "seemed to be under a hurry of mind, " and that, while his men retreated, he sat on his horse, "doing nothing that I saw. " Lee, in turn, accused Hamilton of being hotheaded and in "a sort of frenzy of valor. " Hamilton, however, remained ambitious for military glory.
He became impatient in his position of dependence and used a slight reprimand from Washington as an excuse for leaving his staff position in February of 1781. He secured a field command through Washington and won laurels at Yorktown (Sept. - Oct. 1781), where he led the American column in a final assault in the British works. As the need for the military diminished, Hamilton acquired a domestic life. On Dec. 14, 1780, he married Elizabeth, the daughter of General Philip Schuyler.
The Schuyler's were one of the most distinguished families in New York. Hamilton and Elizabeth eventually had eight children. Here, Elizabeth is pictured to the left, with her father and mother to the right. At twenty-five, Hamilton began his popular political efforts from which his greatest fame arises. In letters dated from 1779 to 1780 he correctly diagnosed the ills of the new Confederation and suggested the necessity of centralization. He was also one of the first to suggest adequate checks on the anarchic tendencies of the time.
At twenty-seven, with the Revolutionary War over, Hamilton began a non-military career. After three months of intensive study of the law in Albany, New York, Hamilton was admitted to the bar in July of 1783. Then, after the British army evacuated New York City, he opened his law office at 57 Wall Street. Hamilton also continued with his political endeavors.
He served in Congress from 1782 to 1783, was elected to the Continental Congress, and founded the Bank of New York in February of 1784. Once elected, Hamilton remained politically active all of his life. He prepared but did not present a proposal calling for a convention with full powers to revise the Articles of Confederation. Instead, he became one of the prime movers for calling the Annapolis Convention. At the Annapolis Convention in September of 1786, Hamilton served as one of three delegates from New York.
He supported Madison in inducing the Convention to exceed its delegated powers and personally drafted the call to summon the Federal Convention of May 1787 at Philadelphia. At that Convention, Hamilton again represented New Hamilton's own presence at the Convention was limited. His colleagues from New York represented converse political views from Hamilton. They chose to withdraw from the convention, leaving New York without an official delegation and Hamilton without a vote. However, he did make one remarkable speech on June 18 th, 1787. In this he attacked the states' rights proposal of William Paterson.
In this speech he upheld the British government as the best model from the world for the colonists to use. He advocated that the best solution lied in an aristocratic, strongly centralized, coercive, but representative union with devices that would give weight to class and property. Apart from this, Hamilton was largely absent from the convention, having left on June 30, 1787. Washington wrote him saying, "I am sorry you went away. I wish you were back. " At the close of the Convention, Hamilton returned to sign the Constitution for his Hamilton immediately used his talents to secure the adoption of the Constitution. Hamilton was the first to publish a letter in the Constitution's defense.
This article was published in the New York Independent Journal on Oct. 2, 1787, only two weeks after the Constitution was signed. He was one of three authors of The Federalist. This work remains a classic commentary on American constitutional law and the principals of government. Its inception and approximately three-quarters of the work are attributable to Hamilton (the rest belonging to John Jay and James Madison).
Hamilton also won the New York ratification convention vote for the Constitution against great odds in July 17 -July 26, 1788. Chancellor James Kent stated that "all of the documentary proof and the current observation of the time lead us to the conclusion that he surpassed all of his contemporaries in his exertions to create, recommend, adopt and defend the Constitution of the United States. " During Washington's presidency, Hamilton became the first secretary of the Treasury. In this position he secured the traditional strength of American finance. He is chiefly responsible for establishing the credit of the United States, both at home and abroad.
His Report on the Public Credit, Jan. 14, 1790, constituted a watershed in American history. It marked an end of an era of bankruptcy and r...
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