Alexander Hamilton was born on January 11th, 1755 or 1757 in the west British Indies. His parents were Rachel Lavien and James Hamilton who was a Scottish trader. After they moved to St. Croix, Hamilton’s father, James, abandoned them leaving them with little to no money. Before becoming Secretary of Treasury, Hamilton was both a soldier and a lawyer. Hamilton was appointed Secretary of Treasury I 1789 when Washington was elected president.
Hamilton died during a duel with Aaron Burr on July 11th, 1804. During his time, Alexander Hamilton was considered the second most powerful man in the country, second only to President George Washington and was considered one of the founding fathers of America. He helped write the U.S. Constitution, established the First National Bank, and helped America get out of major debt. After being born out of wedlock and orphaned as a young child, what kept you motivated to become one of the most influential men in history despite being up against nearly impossible odds? Well during the time in which I did have a family, when I was eight years old my brother and I would walk the streets of St. Croix and we would have to endure the taunts of other children, the stares, and the whispered comments of passing adults and would call me an obscene child. Shortly after, my mother and father separated, and I was devastated.
My father and I had a very close relationship and to see him leave was harder than any professional challenge I faced. I thought that if I were to make something of myself that it would make father proud somehow. Even at a young age though I sought glory. I can remember being a fourteen year old working as a clerk in the Caribbean and wishing there was a war for me to fight in. Due to not coming from a wealthy family, how did you manage to become so knowledgeable about business, government, economics, etc.? Even though my father was not present, my mother was still very intelligent and a truly gifted business woman.
When I was young, she took out a small loan to open a grocery store and had my brother, three of our slaves, and myself work for her. I learned a lot from working alongside her, she utilized sophisticated business techniques, bought goods on credit, kept accurate books, and always paid her creditors promptly. As her business stabilized mother encouraged me to branch out and seek other employment to help get another form of revenue for the family. I ended up getting a job at the firm of Beckman and Cruger. From the first day I started work, I was fascinated by everything I was surrounded by and was eager to learn everything they could teach me. Due to my tenacity, they quickly gave me some of the responsibilities of an experienced business manager.
By the time I was twelve I sought education but had no time to spare to attend school due to the fact that I was working full time at an export business. I began a self-directed reading program which included biographies, poetry, mathematics, and chemistry. Needless to say, anytime that was not occupied by work was devoted to my studies. What was the greatest challenge you faced in your career? The greatest challenge I faced in my career was paying off the national debt. President Washington had recently appointed me as secretary of treasury and I had exactly 110 days to come up with a plan and between foreign, domestic, and state debts America owed nearly $80 million but most of that was due to the pay and supply of the Continental Army.
Most of the solutions I came up with had roadblocks, and if I was to fail at coming up with a way to pay off the debt no lender would ever loan money to the United States again it would remain agricultural appendage of Europe. Eventually I came up with a plan which allowed the central government to assume the debt of the states through war bonds bought from the rich with a 4% interest rate, created a national bank to borrow money in order to pay off foreign debts, taxed whiskey and other luxury items to finance the federal government, and imposed tariffs to allow manufacturing to grow. This put America on strong financial footing and helped America remain a strong nation during a difficult period. Why did you duel Burr if you knew you would die?
As to Burr, there is nothing in his favor, his public principles have no other spring or aim than his own aggrandizement, I take it he is for or against nothing but as it suits his interest or ambition, Burr loves nothing but himself. Burr was a dangerous and despicable man, but to kill him would only immortalize his ideals. At that time, I was doing all I could to keep Burr out of office, but I knew that the only surefire way to do that was for him to commit political suicide. In the spring of 1804, I decided to publicly humiliate Burr, knowing that he would send his protege, William Van Ness, to demand a duel. I reluctantly accepted and then decided to do all I could to assure Burr would be depicted as the villain, so I decided not to fire at Burr. On the day of the duel, Burr arrived with a gloomy manner and fell silent, but I was acting in a gleeful manner and even went as far as to jump atop a table to lead everyone in a rousing song about soldiers bravely facing death. Burr was notoriously an excellent shot, I wore no form of protection, and I stood facing the sun leaving the best position to Burr.
When Van Ness gave the word to fire, my gun discharged and hit a tree several feet to the right of Burr and Burr’s shot entered my right side, breaking some of my ribs, tearing through my liver and diaphragm, and ended lodged against my spine. My death subsequently left Burr as the most despised American leader at that time. What made you have an affair with Maria Reynolds and why did you continue after her husband caught you? Maria was 23 when the affair started, and she came to me in distress asking to speak to me in private. She informed me that her abusive husband, James Reynolds, had left her and her young daughter to run off with another woman and asked me for money. She came to me indigent and at a time of need, her beauty was intoxicating and something came over me in which I was unable to help myself. I went into her room with a 30-note bill and it was quickly apparent that other than pecuniary consolation would be acceptable. Shortly after, James caught us and demanded $1,000 to keep the affair quiet.
I conceded and continued the affair with James’ blessing. Her conduct made it extremely difficult to disentangle myself. All the appearances of violent attachment, and of agonizing distress at the idea of a relinquishment, were played off with a most imposing art. Why did you admit to the affair in the Reynolds Pamphlet? By the end of 1792 I put an end to the affair and the payments, but shortly after James was arrested for fraud charges. While in custody, James hinted that we had engaged in some crooked financial deals in attempt to get out of serving jail time. By December of 1792, I was confronted by three leading republicans and I explained to them that I was being blackmailed about the affair I had, and they agreed to help keep things quiet.
Roughly five years later, after I was out of the government, a newspaperman named James Callender wrote an expose accusing me of financial corruption and a sexual scandal. I released the Reynolds Pamphlet in response to public attacks in hopes to somewhat set the record straight and to try to drown my accusers with words. As a result, it diminished but scarcely destroyed my career, and I continued to essentially run John Adam’s cabinet from afar. Are you proud or disappointed by what is America today? Frankly I am surprised that America even made it this long, and to see it become one of the world’s superpowers is astounding. I am also in awe of the sheer amount of territory that America covers, considering that the framework that we made was meant for a relatively small country. I am also pleased with the amount of racial equality that the U.S. has accomplished.
While I am proud of the fact that America has come so far on civil rights, maintaining liberties, and social issues but most politicians are corrupt, and George Washington put it best when he said that the two political parties will ruin us if they do not cooperate. Were you ever religious? In my youth I was a devout Christian, and even during my college days I would start every morning by praying. As I matured I started to drift away towards to Deism, which is the belief of a supreme being or creator of the universe, but this was mostly due to Deism becoming a popular intellectual movement around the time of the 18th century. Yet towards the end of my life I returned to my adolescent Christian beliefs and even went as far as asking the Christian Constitutional Society to publicly oppose Jacobinism. Other than your hard work and sheer intelligence, do you give credit to anyone else concerning your success?
My mother was very influential on me, teaching me all she knew about business and whatnot, but the most influential person in my life was George Washington. Although we never became close friends due to our different positions and personalities preventing it, I could not have asked for a better mentor. I first caught his eye following the battles of Trenton and Princeton in which Washington promoted me to lieutenant colonel and brought me a part of a small circle known as Washington’s Family. While Washington believed that I was prone to rashness he also quickly noticed my potential and described me as brilliant and decisive and as a result he provided me with many life-changing opportunities.
During the Revolutionary War I served as Washington’s top military aide and he quickly promoted me to the Secretary of Treasury. Although we seldom got along I grew to know Washington quite well. I remember at a convention, Gouverneur Morris stated that he was as familiar with Washington as any of his friends in which I replied ?If you will, at the next reception evenings, gently slap him on the shoulder and say, My dear General, how happy I am to see you look so well! a supper and wine shall be provided for you and a dozen of your friends.’ Morris in turn accepted the challenge and Washington withdrew his hand, stepped suddenly back, fixed his eye on Morris for several minutes with an angry frown until Morris retreated and sought refuge in the crowd.
I held up my end of the bargain in which Morris replied I have won the bet but paid dearly for it, and nothing could induce me to repeat it. Why did you never run for president? There were many reasons as to why I never attempted to become president. Firstly I had made too many enemies, I was notorious for being blunt and to avoid alleviating as to prevent hurting anyone’s feelings, which as a result made many people rather not particularly fond of me.
I was content though using my power outside of the spotlight and using my influence to further help the federalist party. Secondly I never really got the opportunity to, I would never dare oppose Washington in an election, and by 1796 I retired from working for the federal government in order to spend more time with my family, four years later was my scandal with Maria Reynolds which essentially made me unelectable, and then shortly after my son died during a duel so needless to say running for a place in office was the last thing on my agenda.
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