Alexander Hamilton has recently become an international celebrity thanks to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit Broadway musical “Hamilton”. But beforehand, we kind of pushed him under the rug. Obviously we are beginning to realize that he is not just the man in Thomas Jefferson’s shadow. We actually owe much of our American heritage & Independence to the genius behind Alexander Hamilton. Let’s take a look.
Alexander Hamilton was born either in 1755 or 1757 Charlestown, Nevis, British Indies, the precise date being unknown. His father James Hamilton, and mother Rachel Faucette, were never married. This caused much struggle for success to the young Hamilton.
He was primarily self-taught. Even as a young-child, Alexander Hamilton was well-known for his go-getter character. It was not acceptable for him to receive schooling due to the illegitimate-ness of his birth, thus for the most part he took it upon himself. Alexander Hamilton grew up in a family characterized by financial hardship, marital discord and bitter separations, public humiliations, parental death and abandonment. From a young age people saw that the man was Non-Stop.
In 1769, his mother tragically died of yellow fever. She’d been the sole provider for her 2 boys the past several years, and Alexander along with his older brother were left utterly destitute. They were left under the guardianship of an elder cousin, but just 1 year later the cousin committed suicide. This left 12-year-old Alexander alone in the world. The ramifications mentally, emotionally, etc., to this are unmeasurable and many would be virtually incompetent for the rest of their lives due to such intense degrees of repeated trauma. Against all odds, this is the backdrop to the story of Alexander Hamilton, one of the most important founders of America.
The Rise Up
Alexander Hamilton became a clerk prior to his cousin’s death in 1771, his mother had also been involved in clerking and store managing previous to her death. The import-export firm was Beekman and Cruger, which traded with New-England. Alexander was adopted by Thomas Stevens who was debatably his biological father, but continued clerking. Of course his job with Beekman and Cruger and His abnormal reading habits kept him extremely occupied. But it was enough for the restless Hamilton, he wrote at 14 in a letter to a friend that he “wanted a war.” He had something in him, he later recalled, stirring and ready. Alexander Hamilton was born to rise up.
His job provided him with a New-England connection as we’ve stated, and this turned out to be a divine connection. His employer, noting the youth’s ambition, skills, brilliant mind, and work ethic, made arrangements for a minister to tutor the young man. Subsequently people started talking. They were saying amongst themselves, “This kid is insane man!”
Which is how Hamilton landed in New York having his education funded by people who believed in him. He enrolled at King’s College. Political debate swirled around him as colonists wrestled with issues of taxation and separation from their mother country. Hamilton soon entered the battle with excellent essays in defense of the colonies. He was only seventeen. In less than three years he marched on the battlefield and served in various wartime capacities.
Politics & Independence
As we’ve mentioned above, by age 17 Alexander Hamilton was already heavily involved in the political talk of the day. He took a major role in the political debates over independence. Hamilton raised a company of artillery and was selected captain. This was possible through the name he’d already made for himself with patriots’ double, even triple his age (John Jay, etc.).
In late 1776, Alexander Hamilton came to the attention of George Washington, commander in chief of the Continental Army. Washington promoted Hamilton to colonel and made him his senior aide—in effect the chief of staff. Hamilton had a combat command at the Battle of Yorktown that ended the war in 1781. Hamilton may have alerted General Washington to the existence of the Newburgh Conspiracy, in which disgruntled officers might have become a threat to civilian government. Washington prevented that.
After the Battle of Yorktown, Hamilton resigned his commission. New York appointed Hamilton to the Congress of the Confederation, for the term beginning in November 1782. As Chief of Staff, Hamilton was arguably responsible for the success of the Revolution. Not only that, he kept up his insane amounts of writings during and after the war. He would never be satisfied, always wanting better for his country.
After the war, he went back to New York. He managed to turn to the law, and with his usual staggering efficiency completed a year’s study in three months, founded U.S. Currency, Co-Found the United States Coast Guard, found The New York Post newspaper, and fought to end slavery in the new nation. In November, 1783, he set up his practice and rapidly became known as the most brilliant attorney in the city.
In 1787, he wrote 51 of the 85 Federalist Papers. These are single-handedly responsible for the Constitution and its interpretation. Alexander Hamilton as usual wrote like he was running out time, and had these written and published all within 6 months. Being mostly responsible for the Federalist Papers, it is not an exaggeration to say that this makes him responsible for the implementation of American values.
Alexander Hamilton’s huge success in his writings made him very despised. Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe and John Quincy Adams among a host of others “all hated Hamilton, and did their best” to both “assassinate his character” and to “bury him by omission.’’
From Conservapedia: “Jefferson repeatedly attacked Hamilton as an enemy of American values—and Jeffersonians have echoed the criticism over the centuries. Jefferson said he was an enemy of popular government, did not believe in republicanism, admired the British system too much, and even wanted to set up a monarchy. Since the 1980s scholars have rescued rescue Hamilton from these interpretations and stressed his republicanism, arguing that Jefferson went too far in his attacks. Historians now portray Hamilton as a moderate, mainstream republican. They point to the Federalist Papers as a core statement of American values, and also Washington’s “Farewell Address.” One debate in the 1790s was whether true republican citizens should have “confidence” in their elected leaders, which was Hamilton’s position, or maintain a “vigilant” scrutiny of them, which was Jefferson’s. Hamilton stressed confidence in his vision of republican citizenship and freedom of the press. Hamilton’s philosophy, argues Martin (2005), is best understood as an energetic, elitist reformulation of republicanism.”
Hamilton served as the country’s first secretary of the treasury and was the chief architect of the policies of the Washington Administration. He was an economical genius and he alone made the United States a financial superpower. He helped convince Congress to pay off both the federal and state debt incurred in fighting the Revolutionary War in order to restore the nation’s financial standing at home and abroad, thus winning the allegiance of many Americans to the national government.
Alexander Hamilton played a part in the debates of the Constitutional Convention. He opposed the compromise at the 1787 Constitutional Convention by which the federal government could not abolish the slave trade for 20 years, and was disappointed when he lost that argument. Nevertheless, he was a key signer (not to mention he is responsible for it’s existence).
After his step down from politics, he didn’t stop. He kept writing. Alexander Hamilton actually wrote many, many more legal papers for our young nation before his death. He is even the author of George Washington’s farewell address; he taught ‘em how to goodbye.
“There are strong minds in every walk of life that will rise superior to the disadvantages of situation, and will command the tribute due to their merit….” Alexander Hamilton, Federalist, no.36, 222
“Why has government been instituted at all? Because the passions of men will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice, without constraint.”
“Men often oppose a thing merely because they have had no agency in planning it, or because it may have been planned by those whom they dislike.”
“Men give me credit for some genius. All the genius I have lies in this; when I have a subject in hand, I study it profoundly. Day and night it is before me. My mind becomes pervaded with it. Then the effort that I have made is what people are pleased to call the fruit of genius. It is the fruit of labor and thought.”
It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see
I wrote some notes at the beginning of a song someone will sing for me
America, you great unfinished symphony, you sent for me
You let me make a difference…” ~ The World Was Wide Enough, Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Alexander Hamilton accomplished a lot – probably more than most people realize. In addition to what has been listed here, he literally accomplished HUNDREDS of other things for America, too.
While admitting that Hamilton’s “legendary ambitions were motivated” in part by self-interest, Ron Chernow (Author of the 2004 biography titled ‘Alexander Hamilton’) contends that his “passionate patriotism” and indomitable will enabled him to effectively lay the foundation for “American prosperity and power.” Chernow also calls Hamilton America’s “most central figure.” Hamilton clearly played a major role in helping the new United States succeed as it conquered challenges from Britain, France, and Spain who coveted land west of the original 13 states.
“Hamilton’s love of liberty was nonetheless rooted in a sense of classical nobility and Christian philanthropy that simultaneously elevated and contradicted his liberalism. The complex relation between liberty, nobility, philanthropy, and power in Hamilton’s conception of human nature, in effect, defined his thought and exposed the strengths and weaknesses of his ideology.”-Conservapedia
At the end of the day, America has bought into the muddied lies that Jefferson told of Hamilton. But that is changing. In defense of freedom, educate yourself. Find out just how responsible A. Ham is for our Independence and many of the freedoms of America. Study the remarkable writings of Alexander Hamilton. Find out everything he did for the United States. What do you think, was Alexander Hamilton a patriot?