All the Founding Fathers of the United States of America, played integral parts in America’s independence and the establishment and design of this country. They were the writers of the Continental Association, Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation and the United States Constitution. My favorite of them is Alexander Hamilton. From his beginnings in the British West Indies to his death at the hands of Aaron Burr, his impact during the forming of this country should never be forgotten.
Alexander Hamilton was born in Charlestown, Nevis in the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean. Today Nevis is one half of a Confederation of Independent Islands with the other being Saint Christopher or St. Kitts. St. Kitts is my birthplace and during my youth I spent a lot of time on both islands. Having been to the “Hamilton House” in Nevis when I was a child, I never quite understood its importance until I came to America and learned about the formation of this country. Since finding out that Hamilton and I had so much in common in our early years, even though we lived 225 years apart, he is a person of interest to me.
Alexander Hamilton was born in 1757, but in recent years 1755 is being more accepted by historians. His father, James Hamilton, a Scottish man who was the fourth son of Alexander Hamilton the Laird of Grange, Ayrsrhire. He moved to the West Indian sugar islands to amass fortune as planters or merchants, then return to Europe with money and buy property and get married. This was not the case for James as he had some failed business ventures and was then stuck in the Caribbean. Hamilton’s mother was Rachel Faucette Lavien who while still married to Johann Michael Lavien, left her husband and moved from St. Croix to St. Kitts where she met James Hamilton. Together they had two sons, James and Alexander, but were never married and eventually separated when Hamilton was nine years old. Rachel then moved back to St. Croix with her two children and ran a small dry goods shop. He learned French, Hebrew, and accounting from his mother who homeschooled him, because of his illegitimate birth he could not attend formal schooling. His mother later died of yellow fever when he was 13.
After his mother’s death, Hamilton worked as a clerk in an import-export house where his employer, and the minister of the first Presbyterian Church put together a scholarship to send Alexander to the United Stated for his education. He went to the Elizabethtown Academy in New Jersey, a preparatory school, finishing three years of schooling in only one year. Then he attended King’s College in New York City in the fall of 1773. At the age of 20 Hamilton then dropped out of college and formed his militia to fight in the revolution, where he met George Washington and had his life saved by Major Aaron Burr. Hamilton was later asked to join Washington’s staff which led to a relationship that was highly beneficial for both men. One of his duties was as the inspector general of the U.S. Army, where he oversaw the establishment of the U.S. Navy. He spent the majority of the war as one of Washington’s aide but was allowed to command three battalions during the assault on Yorktown. The battle ended in the British surrendering their army and Yorktown, Virginia being returned to colonial hands.
At the end of the war, the Articles of Confederation were passed, Hamilton was not fond of how the country was governed. He would refer to it as defective and needing to be changed. He was exceptionally vocal of how Congress can “declare everything but do nothing.” Hamilton served as an assemblyman in the New York State Legislature and was involved as a delegate for the new Constitutional Convention. Along with James Madison and John Jay, Hamilton wrote a series of essays, the Federalist Papers, calling for a change in the way that America was governed. Although Hamilton was part of the writing of the United States Constitution, and many ideas coming directly from his Federalist Papers, he was not fond of all that was in the Constitution but signed it anyway.
After serving as a delegate for New York, Hamilton was appointed by George Washington to become the first Secretary of the Treasury. One of his first tasks was to deliver a report on ways to improve the public credit. This report was call the “Report on Public Credit.” Additionally he was a driving force behind the creation of the U.S. Mint, and the stock and bond markets.
After the death of George Washington in 1799, Hamilton did not stay in the public’s eye but decided to work behind the scenes to help this new republic. During his overt dealings, he opposed Aaron Burr’s run to replace Governor George Clinton in the 1804 New York race, leading to Clinton winning the campaign. Burr was furious, especially after hearing that Hamilton referred to him as “a dangerous man, and one who ought not to be trusted with the reins of government.” Burr demanded a written apology or a satisfaction in a duel. On the day of the duel, both men took their places, turned and fired. Hamilton fired into the air, not wanting bloodshed especially with the man who previously saved his life, but Burr shot Hamilton in his side mortally wounding him. The following day he died of his wound.
Historians view on Hamilton has changed as time passed. Most progressive intellectuals over the years had very little regard for him. Many showed him in a poor light primarily due to his differing views with Thomas Jefferson. He has been greatly misunderstood and as time goes on, he finally is being viewed in a more realistic light. He was not without flaw or error, but he was a soldier, public servant, and political servant who had a love for this country and had what he thought to be its best interest in mind. His role in early American government helped to establish this country and set it as an international power.
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