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Alexander Hamilton and His 21st-Century Popularity

Alexander Hamilton, writer of many of the Federalist Papers, believed in a strong federal government. We are reminded of his legacy, as an American Founding Father, every time we look at an American $10 bill. **

But ... what do we really know about Hamilton, the man (other than the notorious way his life ended in a duel with Aaron Burr)? Here are a few interesting facts:

  • He was born on Nevis, a Caribbean island, in 1755 (or 1757)
  • His parents never married
  • He worked as a clerk on the Caribbean island of St. Croix (which, at the time, was controlled by Denmark) and spoke French fluently
  • In 1772, while still a teenager, he wrote a story about the massive destruction St. Croix endured after a hurricane hit the island
  • His essay was published in the Royal Danish-American Gazette
  • Local leaders were so impressed by the young man’s thoughtful writing that they raised enough funds to send him to school in pre-revolutionary America
  • In the fall of 1772, he became a student at Elizabethtown Academy (in New Jersey)
  • About five years later, Hamilton became an aide to General George Washington
  • He was slender, good-looking, fair-skinned, quick-tempered and had beautiful eyes
  • A persuasive writer, he penned many of the Federalist Papers
  • Known as the “Father of American Finance,” he became the new country’s first Secretary of the Treasury  
  • After the duel with Aaron Burr, *** Eliza Hamilton (his wife) wore the black clothes of a mourning widow for fifty years
  • His image on the $10 bill was updated, in 2005

His life story is the subject of this work by rap-artist Lin-Manuel Miranda.

In short ... an American Founding Father, who’s been gone more than two centuries, has a modern fan club. And his words, about a deadlocked vote for President (in 1800), sound like they could have been spoken in 2016:

In a choice of Evils . . . take the least — Jefferson is in every view less dangerous than Burr . . . Mr. Jefferson, though too revolutionary in his notions, is yet a lover a liberty and will be desirous of something like orderly Government — Mr. Burr loves nothing but himself — thinks of nothing but his own aggrandizement . . . No compact, that he should make with any passion in his breast except Ambition, could be relied upon by himself — How then, would we be able to rely upon any agreement with him? (See History of the Republic of the United States of America, as Traced in the Writings of Alexander Hamilton and of His Contemporaries, edited by John Church Hamilton, Volume VII, at page 438.) 

 

**  On September 2, 1789, Congress created a permanent institution for the management of government finances.  President Washington appointed Alexander Hamilton as the country’s first Secretary of the Treasury on September 11, 1789. Hamilton held that position until January 31, 1795.

*** Aaron Burr, the sitting U.S. Vice President when he mortally wounded Hamilton in the duel, thought he'd benefit his career by the event.  He was wrong.  The two men had longstanding political disagreements and shared personal animosity, but the duel (then an outlawed-in-New-York way of resolving differences with pistols) ended badly for both.  Burr was charged with murder; Hamilton died the next day.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5123stories and lessons created

Original Release: Jan 15, 2014

Updated Last Revision: Nov 08, 2016


Media Credits

Writer and star of the Broadway musical “In the Heights,” Lin-Manuel Miranda performs "The Hamilton Mixtape" at the White House Evening of Poetry, Music, and the Spoken Word on May 12, 2009. He is accompanied by Alex Lacamoire.

 

PD

 

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