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Alexander Hamilton was born as a British subject
on the island of Nevis in the West Indies on the
11th 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 Fawcette 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 30th, 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 “Corsicans”
and drilled every morning before classes. In
August of 1775, the “Corsicans” participated in a
raid to seize the cannon from the Battery. On
March 14th, 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 Schuylers 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 18th,
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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