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Home > History > Alexander Hamilton Biography

Alexander Hamilton Biography

This is a complete Alexander Hamilton biography

Alexander Hamilton - First Treasury Secretary

Alexander Hamilton

Humble Beginnings

Alexander Hamilton was born January 11, 1755, on the Caribbean island of Nevis. His father abandoned him and his mother died when he was just a boy. Despite the hardships he experienced, his shrewd and ambitions mind carried him far. At age 12, Hamilton served as an apprentice at the Counting House of Nicholas Cruger and David Beekman. At age 15, Hamilton was put in charge of the business.

Off to College

Despite a lack of formal schooling during his adolescent years, Hamilton was an intelligent boy and knew both English and French. He was an excellent writer and was published for his descriptive account of a hurricane that ravaged the Caribbean islands. Friends of his family were impressed by his writing and paid for his formal schooling. Hamilton soon entered King’s College in New York City and earned a bachelor’s degree in 1774—in one year!

Strong Political Feelings

Hamilton gained political prominence later that year when he traveled to Boston to show his support for the colonies. While in Boston, he delivered a powerful speech denouncing British policies and wrote two pamphlets attacking a clergyman’s opposition to the Continental Congress.

Fighting in the Revolutionary War

During the American Revolution, Hamilton was commissioned as the captain of a company of artillery that defended Patriot interests at Long Island and White Plains. Hamilton’s military tactics won widespread praise and earned him a reputation for decisiveness and bravery. He was soon introduced to General George Washington who appointed him to his personal staff with the rank of lieutenant colonel. He became Washington’s personal secretary and gathered pivotal intelligence at the Battle of Monmouth in 1778. At Monmouth, Hamilton’s leadership and spirit helped rally retreating troops who promptly routed the British. The ambitious Hamilton later served at the Battle of Yorktown where he led a Patriot assault against the British.

Rising to Prominence

Alexander Hamilton married Elizabeth Schuyler in 1780 and eventually had eight children. In 1783, Hamilton was admitted to the New York State Bar after studying for three years. He soon opened his own law practice on Wall Street in New York City. He also served in Congress from 1782 to 1783, was elected to the Continental Congress, and founded the Bank of New York in February of 1784.

One of America's Founding Fathers

Although Hamilton supported a Parliamentary-type government, he is most famous for his works regarding the US Constitution and the Federalist Papers. He was a staunch supporter of the Constitution and helped in its creation and execution. He was also the primary author of the Federalist Papers, a classic commentary on principles of government and American constitutional law. When George Washington was elected president, Alexander Hamilton was appointed the United States’ first Secretary of the Treasury. Hamilton is credited with the establishment of America’s financial system and took great care in establishing America’s credit at home and abroad. His opinions concerning the structure and function of the national bank were groundbreaking and are still the inspiration behind the English and German economic systems. Hamilton also established an American philosophy on foreign policy and influenced George Washington to assert a position of neutrality regarding the French Revolution.

The Decline of the Federalists

Hamilton resigned from the treasury in 1795 but remained one of Washington’s most trusted advisors. After returning to his New York law practice and serving in the military for two more years, Hamilton’s Federalist Party became divided. Hamilton disagreed with many of the policies implemented by president John Adams and sought to control his policy as well as members of his cabinet. He wrote a seething letter denouncing Adams that was intended for private circulation. Vice President Aaron Burr, however, published the letter which was distributed to the public. Burr’s actions stirred great anger in Hamilton, who promptly short-circuited Burr’s political aspirations for president and governor. In the presidential election of 1800, in which Burr was campaigning, Hamilton persuaded the House of Representatives that Burr was untrustworthy and urged them to vote for Thomas Jefferson. He did the same when Burr lost the election for governor of New York.

Alexander Hamilton Postage Stamp

Alexander Hamilton 200th Birthday Postage Stamp

Duel with Aaron Burr

Aaron Burr had finally had enough with Hamilton after this failure in New York. Burr challenged him to a duel on July 11, 1804. Burr won the duel and Hamilton died the next day from his wounds.

Legacy

Alexander Hamilton will always be remembered as one of America’s greatest economic and political minds.His ideas still influence politics and economic policy today. He is immortalized on the United States ten-dollar bill.

Alexander Hamilton Articles

  • Siege of Yorktown - This page describes the decisive Siege at Yorktown
  • The Federalist Papers - This page describes the Federalist Papers - often called the Greatest Public Relations Campaign in American History.
  • Assumption - This page describes the Hamilton's plan to strengthen the central government and the deal he brokered to make it happen.
  • The Whiskey Rebellion - This page describes the Whiskey Rebellion and the roles of Hamilton and Washington.
  • Federalists Versus Republicans - This page describes the differences between Federalists and Republicans following ratification of the Constitution.
  • Newspaper Wars - This page describes the divisive nature of American newspapers, pamphlets, and publications after ratification of the Constitution.
  • The XYZ Affair and Adams Presidency - This page describes the XYZ Affair during the presidency of John Adams.

Hamilton Online Activities

  • Alexander Hamilton Correct-me Passage - This fun activity requires students to correct a passage about the life of Alexander Hamilton that has eight factual errors. Students first must discover the errors, then click on them and select the correct answer from the drop down menu.
  • Alexander Hamilton Fact or Fiction - This fun activity requires students to read an Alexander Hamilton passage and then, to sort 11 statements into those that are facts and those that are fiction. It gives immediate feedback.
  • The Siege of Yorktown Reading Comprehension - This resource includes a historical passage and ten multiple choice questions. It gives immediate feedback. In addition, when you click the "listen" button, you can hear the passage while it highlights the text.
  • Federalist Papers Reading Comprehension - This resource includes a historical passage andseven multiple choice questions. It gives immediate feedback and a score report.
  • The Federalists Versus Republicans Reading Comprehension - This resource includes a historical passage and seven multiple choice questions. It gives immediate feedback and a score report.
  • Alexander Hamilton Cloze Reading - This contextual vocabulary exercise requires students to insert the vocabulary words from the word bank that complete the paragraph.

Alexander Hamilton Online Games

  • Who is your Founding Father? - In this innovative game, students determine the "Founding Father" by evaluating the accomplishments of Franklin, Washington, Jefferson, and Hamilton on a significance scale of 1-10. As students evaluate each accomplishment, the "father" responsible for the accomplishment moves forward. For example, if a statement such as "How significant is it that this person wrote the Declaration Independence?" appears, and the student judges it "9," Thomas Jefferson would move forward nine steps.
  • Currency Mismatch - This is a wildly fun game that requires students to drag and drop the correct presidential faces to their correct dollar bills. The game is timed and makes for awesome friendly competitions within a classroom.
  • Founding Fathers Jeopardy - This is a "jeopardy" like game on United States Founding Fathers. It's super fun for classrooms, individuals, or small teams, totally customizable. Uncheck "teams take turns" to make it more exciting for kids.

Alexander Hamilton Printable Activities

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