Alexander Hamilton

Who was the first President of the United States? George Washington. Who was his Vice President? John Adams. Who was his Secretary of the Treasury? Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton was born on the island of Nevis in the British West Indies in 1755. He was orphaned at the age of eleven and was apprenticed to a merchant as a clerk. A hurricane almost destroyed the island, and young Hamilton wrote an account of the disaster that was printed in the local newspaper. The article created a sensation. The governor and others decided that such genius deserved an education on the mainland of America.
So the young lad soon found himself in New York and enrolled in King’s College, now Columbia University. Hamilton became a leader of a group of patriotic students and wrote articles and pamphlets that attracted wide attention. When the Revolutionary War began, Hamilton organized an artillery company and served as its Captain at the age of 19. His artillery company distinguished itself at the Battle of White Plains, where it halted the British attack long enough to enable Gen. Washington’s troops to withdraw into New Jersey. They also were in the thick of the Battle of Trenton where the Hessian troops were defeated after Washington’s army crossed the Delaware River and surprised the Hessians.
Hamilton’s ability and performance caught the attention of Gen. Washington, and he was promoted to Lt. Colonel and placed on Washington’s staff to handle orders and correspondence. As private secretary and Aide-de-Camp to Gen. Washington for 4 years, he was most unhappy and finally requested field duty with troops and joined in the Battle of Yorktown that saw the British army under Gen. Cornwallis surrender, thus bringing the war to a close.
In civilian life, Hamilton became a brilliant lawyer, but he was alarmed at the way the Confederation of States was working out. There was no central power or control, no money (the Federal government did not have the authority to levy taxes), the States bickered among themselves and did not support the new central government. The country was headed for bankruptcy and disaster.
Hamilton took up his pen and started to write. No American ever surpassed the power of his language, the clear and concise ideas he expressed. Again and again, he hammered his points that (1) there must be a strong, stable government, (2) a regular source of income for that government, and (3) a Constitution granting such powers. Almost single handedly, he initiated the Constitutional Convention and worked diligently to write this great document. But his greatest feat was in getting the 13 individual states to ratify the Constitution.
He wrote The Federalist Papers, fifty-five articles defending the Constitution and urging its adoption. These fifty-five articles, along with twenty-nine by James Madison and five by John Jay were extremely influential in the adoption of the Constitution.
The Constitution was adopted and George Washington was elected the first President, and for the most important and difficult position in his Cabinet, Secretary of the Treasury, he named Alexander Hamilton. The new government was bankrupt. Millions were owed in War debts here and abroad, and there was no money in the Treasury. Hamilton proposed a series of far-reaching measures:1. a tariff on imports and an excise tax on domestic products2. a funding system whereby outstanding debts would be called in and replaced by interest bearing bonds.3. a Bank of the United States to aid business and government4. the encouragement of manufacturing through protective tariffs.
Hamilton was bitterly opposed on most of these proposals, but he stuck to his guns and won his point on practically all of his recommendations. Battles over Hamilton’s policies brought forth our first political parties—the Federalists and the Republicans. Federalists were for these proposals and Republicans led by Thomas Jefferson were against them.
Alexander Hamilton is ranked fifth by most historians among the leaders of our early history behind Ben Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams.
After leaving his post in the Cabinet, he again took up the practice of law in New York. But not for long. At the age of 47, he fell on the dueling ground, killed by a bullet from the pistol of Aaron Burr, one of his deadliest enemies who had challenged him to a duel.
Hamilton’s financial schemes saved the nation. His dream of an industrial system has come true, and our government is strong and stable. America is proud and grateful to call him a founding Father, and his statue stands in Statuary Hall in the Nation’s Capitol. This memorial was not placed by one of the States, but was given by a government Commission before the practice of allotting two memorials to each State. This is a fine tribute to a great leader.

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