Biography of Alexander Hamilton


ALEXANDER HAMILTON, an eminent American statesman, was born in the island of Nevis, one of the Lesser Antilles, January 11th, 1757. His father was a native of Scotland, and his mother, whose maiden name was Faucette, was of French Huguenot extraction. As he early manifested an aspiring disposition and extraordinary powers, his friends were induced to send him to New York, to be educated at Columbia College, which he entered in 1773. When only eighteen years old, he wrote several essays on the rights of the Colonies, exhibiting so much vigor and grasp of intellect, that they were at first ascribed to Mr. Jay, one of the ablest statesmen of that period, and then in the meridian of his powers. From that time Hamilton began to be regarded as one of the prominent leaders in the cause of independence.

In March 1776, he was appointed a captain of artillery. He soon after attracted the notice of Washington, by whom he was made aide-de-camp, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel. From this date, to near the close of the war, he was the inseparable companion and trusted counsellor of the Commander-in-Chief, who speaks of him as his "principal and trusted adviser."

In 1780, Hamilton was married to a daughter of General Schuyler, and not long after resigned his position as member of Washington's staff, though he still continued in the army. He led, at his own request, the detachment which carried by assault one of the British outworks at Yorktown, October 14th, 1781.

After the close of the war, he established himself as a lawyer in New York, and soon rose to the highest rank in his profession. In 1787, he was chosen a delegate from the state of New York to the convention that assembled in May, at Philadelphia, for the purpose of revising the constitution of the United States. In October, 1787, Hamilton commenced the publication of a series of essays under the name of The Federalist, designed as a vindication of the constitution against the various objections which had been made to it. Of these essays, amounting in all to eighty-five, a few were contributed by Madison and Jay, but by far the greater number were written by Hamilton. They are justly considered as forming one of the best, if not the very best of the works that have been written on the scope and true interpretation of the Federal constitution. Washington having been chosen the first president of the United States (1789), appointed Hamilton Secretary of the Treasury. Under his able management the public credit was raised from a state of utter prostration to the highest point, and Hamilton justly acquired the reputation of being one of the greatest financiers of the age. His official reports to congress are regarded as models of their kind. In 1795, he resigned position in Washington's cabinet, and retired into private life. On the death of Washington in 1799, Hamilton became Commander-in-chief of the army. In July 1804, in consequence of a political difference, which became on the part of his antagonist a bitter enmity, Hamilton was mortally wounded in a duel by Aaron Burr, and died the following day. The intense and almost universal sorrow caused throughout the country by this sad event, contributed powerfully to bring the practice of duelling in to disrepute, especially in the northern states.