Alexander Hamilton, 1757 - 1804

portrait of Alexander Hamilton
oil on canvas by John Trumbull (1806)
Alexander Hamilton signature
178

Born: 11 January 1757, Charlestown, Nevis (now Saint Kitts and Nevis)
Died: 12 July 1804, New York City

The bastard son of Rachel Faucett Lavien, a landed Huguenot mother who had left her husband, and James Hamilton, the son of a Scottish laird who abandoned the family after siring two sons, Alexander was refused admission to the Anglican schools on the island. After Rachel died in 1768 Hamilton became a clerk at an export-import firm where he did well, to the point of being left in charge for as long as five months when the owners were at sea. His published account of a hurricane in 1772 attracted attention, the community collected funds to send him to the American colonies for an education. After a year of tutoring he entered King's College (now Columbia University). In 1775 Hamilton wrote a number of political pieces attacking Crown policies. He joined a New York militia company called the Hearts of Oak, studied tactics on his own, and led his company to capture the British guns on the Battery, while under fire from a British ship. He led artillery that was critical in the battles of White Plains and Trenton. He lobbied for a position with George Washington and served as his chief of staff for four years. After a minor incident that led him to quit that position he was given command of three battalions for the assault on Yorktown; his troops accomplished their mission, ending British military operations. He was active in the Constitutional Convention, at all points arguing for increased federal powers and reluctantly signing the final document. Washington named him as first Treasury Secretary, during his tenure he founded the mint, took part in shutting down the Whiskey Rebellion, established the Revenue Cutter Service (now the Coast Guard), and founded the Federalist Party. Largely for personal reasons, he worked to defeat not only his own party's John Adams but his sometime law partner Aaron Burr in the presidential races of 1796 and 1800, leading to the election of his rival Thomas Jefferson. After reports of slandering Burr in the New York gubernatorial race, he was challenged to a duel. Failing to follow the protocol for "throwing away" his first shot, Hamilton closely missed Burr and Burr hit Hamilton with his answering shot. The duel took place on a rocky ledge on the New Jersey side of the Hudson, a place where Hamilton's son had been killed in a duel three years previous. He was taken back to New York where he spent time finding a clergyman who would give him communion before he died the following afternoon.

Biography from Wikipedia and American Revolution Home Page

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