One of the Greatest Founding Fathers of America
Alexander Hamilton was one of the Continental Army officers, who served George Washington during the American war of Independence. Hamilton prevailed over the greatest difficulties and miseries like penury and illegitimacy, while gaining the auspicious position as aide-de-camp to George Washington. Hamilton and Washington work hand in hand for more than quarter of century during the Revolutionary War, Hamilton helped Washington in framing the Constitution, and finally the Presidency of the US. The unyielding reputation Alexander Hamilton had enjoyed during the Revolutionary War put him among the greatest heroes of American history.
Hamilton was the strongest advocate of the Constitution, and his contribution to the substance of American government is incomparable. Even today after the passage of two centuries, Hamilton’s importance remains unmatched. He will always be remembered for his financial prowess, principled politics, intellectual depth, and hard work. $10 bill of US currency still reminds us of the only non-presidential face besides Franklin to appear on currency note. Hamilton’s Early Life Alexander Hamilton’s early life was not an auspicious by any means; he was born in 1755 in the British West Indies.
His father, James Hamilton, was a merchant, could not come to America because of debt. Hamilton’s mother, Rachel Fawcett, had to depended upon friends and family to survival in the new land. When Hamilton reached the age of ten, the family moved to a small island of St. Croix, where his mother could not survive more than few months. Although Hamilton could not get the proper school education, but he excelled himself as a mercantile clerk upon the encouragement of friends and relatives. His formal education began when a Presbyterian minister Reverend Hugh Knox gave a sermon, which proved inspiring to him.
Reverend Hugh Knox raised funds to send Alexander away to school in 1773. He entered Kings College in 1774. “He was quite a mature young man, with a strong grasp on political issues with a working knowledge of British and American government, which he exhibited in a series of anonymous pamphlets so discerning; they were attributed to John Jay. He was only 17 at the time”. (Frisch, 33) Hamilton’s Military Career In 1775, he discontinued his education, and on March 1776 he founded a volunteer military company.
He was then commissioned as Captain of the Provincial Company on New York Artillery. He demonstrated immense talent and intellect in his duties with artillery that Nathanael Green took notice of him. “He was asked to serve on the staff of Lord Stirling, which he declined, and continued his career with the artillery effectively at Long Island, Harlem Heights, White Plains… as well as seeing action at Trenton and Princeton in the New Jersey campaign”. (Cooke, 71) Hamilton did not study military history and tactics in any institution but developed the military acumen on his own.
Hamilton led a successful raid for British cannon in the Battery, the capture of which resulted in the Hearts of Oak becoming an artillery company thereafter. Through his connections with influential New York patriots like Alexander McDougall and John Jay, he raised his own artillery company of sixty men in 1776, drilling them, selecting and purchasing their uniforms with donated funds, and winning their loyalty; they chose the young man as their captain. Association with George Washington In the campaign of 1776 around New York, Hamilton’s proficiency and bravery got the attention of George Washington.
After Hamilton’s gallantry and heroic accomplishment displayed at the crucial engagement at Trenton, he was appointed an aide to General Washington. In this position his writing skills and keen sense of judgement would prove essential to the highest command in the army. The 1777 winter encampment at Morristown, New Jersey, found Hamilton with an army of well under 10,000. The army, however, was reinforced steadily as the winter progressed into spring. During this time Hamilton recorded, “the many deserters coming in from the enemy showed them to be in desperate straits…
Since the possibility that the French might enter the war in Europe would disincline the British from sending reinforcements overseas”. (Flexner, 77) Hamilton spent the winter of 1777-1778 with Washington and the Continental Army at Valley Forge. Hamilton’s Non-military/Political Career Hamilton began his non-military career soon after the Revolutionary War. 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 York as one of three delegates”. (Goebl,, 127) Rivalry with Jefferson Considering Hamilton in relation to Thomas Jefferson is instructive. During their lives, the two men engaged each other in a titanic struggle over the form of the United States government and its relationship to society. In a directly parallel fashion, the public images of the two men also have been in perpetual contention.
“Yet while Hamilton and the Federalists were able to seize the reins of power in the 1790s and institute many of their programs, it is Jefferson who, in the long run, captured the imagination and love of the American people”. (Syrett, 82) Last Years Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton had been on friendly terms for years, but after fifteen years of having every political aspiration thwarted by Hamilton, Burr was seething with anger and itching for revenge. Burr’s loss in the governor’s race led him to challenge Hamilton to a duel. On July 11, 1804 in Weehawken, New Jersey, Burr exacted his revenge on his nemesis with a single shot.
Alexander Hamilton died from the wound on July 12, 1804 in New York City. Works Cited Cooke, Jacob E. , The Reports of Alexander Hamilton, New York: Harper & Row, 1964. Frisch, Morton J. , Selected Writings and Speeches of Alexander Hamilton, Washington/London: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, 1985. Goebl, Julius, The Law Practice of Alexander Hamilton, Vols. I & II, New York: Columbia University Press, 1964, 1969. Syrett, Harold C. , The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, Vols. 1-27, New York/London: Columbia University Press Flexner, James T. , The Young Hamilton. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1978.