“Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.”
— Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton was born on this day in Charlestown, Nevis, British West Indies in 1755 (or 1757). It is the 258th (255th) anniversary of his birth.
Hamilton was born to humble beginnings. He was conceived during an extramarital affair between Rachel Fawcett Lavine and James Hamilton. When Lavine’s husband threw mother and son out of the house she moved in with James Hamilton. But he abandoned the little family to return to Scotland for financial reasons. Lavine relied on the kindness of family members and friends to help raise the boy.
Because he was illegitimate he was not allowed to enroll at the Church of England school, however he was given some tutoring and private lessons, and had the family library at his disposal to read both Greek and Latin.
Around the age of ten the family moved to the nearby island of St. Croix where his mother died soon after. Friends and relatives took an interest in the future of the young Hamilton by encouraging him to work as a mercantile clerk and to read and write, activities at which he excelled despite his lack of proper schooling. [Brandywide Battlefield Historic Site — Alexander Hamilton]
He wrote an essay about a hurricane that had hit the island in the summer 1772 for the local paper. Influential readers of the paper were so impressed with the essay that the started a fund to send Hamilton to America for formal education. By late 1773 he was enrolled in King’s College (now Columbia) in New York City. While at King’s College he wrote his first political essays.
With war pending, Hamilton immersed himself in the study of artillery tactics and military maneuvers. In March of 1776, he joined the New York Artillery, and was recommended for an officer’s commission by General Alexander McDougall. He was thereby given the title “Captain of the Provincial Company of Artillery.” [Ibid]
He proved “a conscientious and business-like leader.” After distinguishing himself at the Battle of Trenton Hamilton was appointed as an aide to George Washington. He was a close advisor to the general for the rest of the war.
He wrote Washington’s critical letters, and composed numerous reports on the strategic reform and restructuring of the Continental Army….While serving as an adviser for George Washington, Hamilton had come to realize Congress’ weaknesses, including jealousy and resentment between states, which, Hamilton believed, stemmed from the Articles of Confederation. … Hamilton left his adviser post in 1782, convinced that establishing a strong central government was the key to achieving America’s independence… [Biography.com]
Hamilton worked as part of the New York delegation to fix the Articles of Confederation. Among other things, he was a strong advocate for a central source of revenue. Although he didn’t help write the Constitution he did help get it ratified. He wrote 51 of the 85 Federalist Paper.
He was appointed Secretary of the Treasury when George Washington was elected President. Hamilton served in that post from 1789-1795.
Hamilton was fatally wounded in a duel with Aaron Burr on July 11, 1804. He died the next day in New York City.