Faculty of foreign languages and area studiesAuthor: Andrey Kuznetsov second year student of 1st English group
Alexander Hamilton - a revolutionary, politician, and statesman Hamilton, Alexander (1755-1804), as a lawyer, politician, and statesman, left an enduring impression on U.S. government. Hamilton, who fought in the American Revolution as an aide-de-camp to George Washington, was a driving figure in the Federalist movement and the first secretaryof the treasury. In his public and private lifehe combined nationalist commitment, elitistpolitics, and a vision of dynamic capitalistdevelopment. His interpretation of freedom put him at odds with other Founders, especially Thomas Jeffersons Democrats. His birth was humble, his death was tragic. His professional life was spent forming basic political and economic institutions for a stronger nation.
From naissance to school. Hamilton was born on January 11, 1755, on Nevis Island, in the West Indies. His parents never married. His father, the son of a minor Scottish noble, drifted to the West Indies early in his life and worked odd jobs throughout the Caribbean. His mother died in the Indies when he was eleven. Hamilton spent his early years inpoverty, traveling to different islands with hisfather. At the age of fourteen, while visitingthe island of St.Croix, he met a New York trader who recognized his natural intelligence and feisty spirit. The trader made it possible for Hamilton to go to New York in pursuit of an education. Hamilton attended a preparatory school in New Jersey and developed contacts with men who had created a movement seeking colonial independence. When he later entered Kings College (now Columbia University), he became active in the local patriot movement.
Hamilton as a revolutionary and a soldier By 1774 he was speaking at public meetings and writing revolutionary essays and he became active in the local patriot movement. The American Revolution had been brewing in the background, and Hamilton took a keen interest in the battles that flared between the colonists and the British around Boston in 1775. Instead of graduating from college, he opted to join a volunteer militia company. He reported for orders to General George Washingtons chief of artillery, ColonelHenry Knox. In his duties, Hamilton assisted in the famous crossing of the ice-jammed Delaware River on Christmas Night, 1776. Knox called Hamilton to Washingtons attention. In March 1777, Hamilton was appointed aide to the commander in chief. With Washington, Hamilton learned his first lessons on the need for central administration in dealing with crises.
Hamilton as a revolutionary and a soldier Hamiltons ability was apparent, and he became one of Washingtons mosttrusted advisers. Although he played no role in major military decisions,Hamiltons position was one of great responsibility. He drafted many ofWashingtons letters to high-ranking Army officers, the Continental Congress,and the states. He also was sent on important military missions and draftedmajor reports on the reorganization and reform of the Army. Despite thedemands of his position, he found time for reading and reflection and expressedhis ideas on economic policy and governmental debility in newspaper articlesand in letters to influential public figures. In February 1781, in a display of pique at a minor reprimand by Gen.Washington, Hamilton resigned his position. In July 1781 Hamiltons persistentsearch for active military service was rewarded when Washington gave himcommand of a battalion of light infantry in the Marquis de Lafayettes corps.After the Battle of Yorktown, Hamilton returned to New York. In 1782, followinga hasty apprenticeship, he was admitted to the bar. During the Revolution, Hamiltons ideas on government, society, andeconomic matured. These were conditioned by his foreign birth, which obviated astrong attachment to a particular state or locality, and by his presence atWashingtons headquarters, where he could see the war as a whole. Like thegeneral himself, Hamilton was deeply disturbed that the conduct of the war wasimpeded by the weakness of Congress and by state and local jealousies. It wasthis experience rather than any theoretical commitment to a particular form ofgovernment that structured Hamiltons later advocacy of a strong centralgovernment.
The beginning of a political career In 1780 he married Elizabeth Schuyler, daughter of the major general and Hudson Valley landlord Philip Schuyler. He was already close to the Livingston family, and the marriage cemented his social position and his political, elitist point of view. From the end of the Revolution to the inauguration of the first government under the Constitution, Hamilton tirelessly opposed what he described as the "dangerous prejudices in the particular states opposed to those measures which alone can give stability and prosperity to the Union."Though his extensive law practice won him recognition as one of New Yorks mostdistinguished attorneys, public affairs were his major concern. Attending the Continental Congress as a New York delegate from November 1782through July 1783, he unsuccessfully labored, along with James Madison and other nationalists, to invest the Confederation with powers equal to the needs of postrevolutionary America. Convinced that the pervasive commitment to states rights obviated reform of the Articles of Confederation, Hamilton began to advocate a stronger and more efficient central government. As one of the 12 delegates to the Annapolis Convention of 1786, he drafted its resolution calling for a Constitutional Convention "to devise such further provisions as shall appear … necessary to render the Constitution of the Federal Government adequate to the exigencies of the Union. … " Similarly, as a member of the New York Legislature in 1787, he was the eloquent spokesman for continental interests as opposed to state and local ones.
Ratification of Constitution Hamilton was one of the New York delegates to the Constitutional Convention, which sat in Philadelphia from May to September 1787. Although he served on several important committees, his performance was disappointing, particularly when measured against his previous (and subsequent) accomplishments. His most important speech called for a government close to the English model, one so high-toned that it was unacceptable to most of the delegates. Hamiltons contribution to the ratification ofthe Constitution was far more important. In October 1787 he determined to write a series of essays on behalf of the proposed Constitution. At the New York ratifying convention in 1788, Hamilton led in defending the proposed Constitution, which, owing measurably to Hamiltons labors, New York ratified.
Hamilton as federalist By 1780 Hamilton had outlined a plan of government with a strong central authority to replace the weak system of the Articles of Confederation, and as delegate (1782-83) to the Continental Congress he pressed continually for strengthening of the national government. It was Hamilton who proposed at the successful Annapolis convention (1786) that a constitutional convention be called at Philadelphia in May, 1787, and he was one of New Yorks three delegates when it was convened. Although he believed the Constitution to be deficient in the powers that it gave the national government, he did much to get it ratified, particularly by means of his contributions to The Federalist. In New York, Hamilton was a powerful constitutional supporter, fighting vigorously against theopposition of George Clinton and becoming perhaps the strongest advocate of the new instrument ofgovernment aside from James Madison. First published in New York City newspapers under the pseudonym "Publius" and collectivelydesignated The Federalist, these essays were designed to persuade the people of New York to ratify the Constitution. Though The Federalist was written in collaboration with John Jay and James Madison, Hamilton wrote 51 of the 85 essays. First published in book form in 1788, the Federalist essays have been republished in many editions and languages. They constitute one of Americas most original and important contributions to political philosophy and remain today the authoritative contemporary exposition of the meaning of the cryptic clauses of the U.S. Constitution.
Hamilton as a secretary of Treasury On September 11, 1789, some 6 months after the new government was inaugurated, Hamilton was commissioned the nations first secretary of the Treasury. This was the most important of the executive departments because the new governments most pressing problem was to devise ways of paying the national debt – domestic and foreign – incurred during the Revolution. Hamiltons program, his single most brilliant achievement, also created the most bitter controversy of the first decade of American national history. It was spelled out betweenJanuary 1790 and December 1791 in three major reports onthe American economy: "Report on the Public Credit"; "Report on a National Bank"; and "Report on Manufactures." In the first report Hamilton recommended payment of both the principal and interest of the public debt at par and the assumption of state debts incurred during the American Revolution.Both the funding and assumption measures became law in 1791 substantially as Hamilton had proposed them.
Hamilton as a secretary of Treasury Hamiltons "Report on a National Bank" was designed to facilitate the establishment of public credit and to enhance the powers of the new national government. Although some members of Congress doubted this bodys power to charter such a great quasi-public institution, the majority accepted Hamiltons argument and passed legislation establishing the First Bank of the United States. Before signing the measure, President Washington requested his principal Cabinet officers, Jefferson and Hamilton, to submit opinions on its constitutionality. Arguing that Congress had exceeded its powers,Jefferson submitted a classic defense of a strict construction of the Constitution; affirming the Banksconstitutionality, Hamilton submitted the best argument in American political literature for a broadinterpretation of the Constitution. The "Report on Manufactures, " his only major report which Congress rejected, was perhaps Hamiltonsmost important state paper. The culmination of his economic program, it is the clearest statement of hiseconomic philosophy. The protection and encouragement of infant industries, he argued, would produce abetter balance between agriculture and manufacturing, promote national self-sufficiency, and enhance thenations wealth and power. Hamilton also submitted other significant reports which Congress accepted. Hamiltons economic programwas not original (it drew heavily, for example, upon British practice), but it was an innovative and creativeapplication of European precedent and American experience to thepractical needs of the new country. Hamilton developed a fiscal andeconomic system based on a national coinage, a national banking system,a revenue program to provide for the repayment of the national debt, andmeasures to encourage industrial and commercial development. He sought a vigorous, diversified economy that would also provide the nation withthe means to defend itself. He stirred a considerable amount of controversywith certain proposals, such as the need for tariffs on imports, several kinds of excise taxes, the development of natural resources, a friendshipwith England, and opposition to France during the French Revolution.
First Political party Hamiltons importance during this period was not confined to his work as finance minister. As the virtual "prime minister" of Washingtons administration, he was consulted on a wide range of problems, foreign and domestic. He deserves to be ranked, moreover, as the leader of the countrys first political party, the Federalist party. Hamilton himself, like most of his contemporaries, railed against parties and "factions", but when the debate over his fiscal policies revealed a deep political division among the members of Congress, Hamilton boldly assumed leadership of the proadministrationgroup, the Federalists, just as Jefferson provided leadership for the DemocraticRepublicans. Because of Hamiltons decisive stance on some issues, a split occurred between, and even within, political parties. Hamilton and John Adams spoke the ideas of the Federalists. Madison joined Jefferson in the Democratic-Republican party. Even though Hamilton had previously worked alongside Secretary of State Jefferson, the two were now, as Washington noted, "daily pitted in the cabinet like two cocks." Hamilton stressed the need for a strong central government, while Jefferson emphasized individuals rights. Their rivalry, among the most famous political clashes in U.S. history, led to a significant and ongoing level of frustration for both sides. Because of the deadlock, Hamilton retired from his secretarial position in 1795.
Hamilton vs Jefferson Advocate Thomas Jefferson founded Democratic-Republican Party in opposition to the Federalist Party of Alexander Hamilton is a term used to describe one of two dominant political outlooks and movements in the United States from the 1790s to the 1820s. The term was commonly used to refer to the. The Jeffersonians believed in democracy and equality of political opportunity (for male citizens), with a priority for the "yeoman farmer" and the "plain folk". They were antagonistic to the supposed aristocratic elitism of merchants and manufacturers, distrusted factory workers, and were on the watch for supporters of the dreaded British system of government. Above all, the Jeffersonians were devoted to the principles of Republicanism, especially civic duty and opposition to privilege, aristocracy and corruption. Jefferson has been called "the most democratic of the Founding fathers." TheJeffersonians advocated a narrow interpretation of the Constitutions Article I provisions ranting powers to the federal government. They strenuously opposed the Federalist Party, led by Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton. President George Washington generally supported Hamiltons program for a financially strong national government. The election of Jefferson in 1800 -Jefferson called it the "Revolution of 1800"- brought in the Presidency of Thomas Jefferson and the permanent eclipse of the Federalists, apart from the Supreme Court. The Federalist Party especially its leader Alexander Hamilton, was the arch-foe, because of its acceptance of aristocracy and British methods.
After retirement After retirement in 1795, Hamilton went back to practicing law.Thanks to his service in government and his connections with the Schuyler family,Hamilton became a prominent and prosperous lawyer. His practice extended to wealthy clients in New York and in other states, both individuals and partnerships. It resembled the practices of modern corporate lawyers, since he also represented banks and companies. During the presidency of John Adams, however, Hamilton continued to wield considerable national influence, for members of Adamss Cabinet often sought and followed his advice. In 1798 they cooperated with George Washington to secure Hamiltons appointment - over Adamss strong opposition - as inspector general and second in command of the newly augmented U.S. Army, which was preparing for a possible war against France. Since Washington declined active command, organizing and recruiting the "Provisional Army” fell to Hamilton. His military career abruptly came to an end in 1800 after John Adams, in the face of the opposition of his Cabinet and other Federalist leaders (Hamilton among them), sent a peace mission to France that negotiated a settlement of the major issues.
Tragic final of his career Hamiltons role in the presidential campaign of 1800 not only was a disservice to his otherwise distinguished career, but also seriously wounded the Federalist party. Convinced of John Adams ineptitude, Hamilton rashly published a long Philippic which characterized the President as a man possessed by "vanity without bounds, and a jealousy capable of discoloring every object, " with a "disgusting egotism" and an "ungovernable discretion of … temper." Instead of discrediting Adams, the pamphlet promoted election of the Republican candidates, Jefferson and AaronBurr. When the Jefferson-Burr tie went for decision to the House of Representatives,however, Hamilton regained his balance. Convinced that Jefferson wouldnot undermine executive authority, Hamilton also believed that Burr was "themost unfit and dangerous man of the community." He accordingly used his considerable influence to persuade congressional leaders to select Jefferson. Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel. Although Hamilton was reluctant, he believed that his "ability to be in future useful" demanded his acceptance. After putting his personal affairs in order, he met Burr at dawn on July 11, 1804, on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River. The two exchanged shots, and Hamilton fell, mortally wounded. Tradition has it that he deliberately misdirected his fire, leaving himself an open target for Burrs bullet. Hamilton was carried back to New York City, where he died the next afternoon.
Glory after death As the United States evolved in political, legal, and economic dimensions, Hamiltons contributions remained part of its basic structure. His legacy went on to affect the way the rest of the world interpreted the proper role of government. Numerous political experiments took place in the following centuries, but still, Hamiltons notions of a strong central government made other systems appear weak in comparison. In a letter to the Washington Post on January 28, 1991, biographer Robert A. Hendrickson asserted that Hamiltons doctrine lives up to itsmodel status as "a beacon of freedom and financial success in the modern world. It haspeacefully discredited agrarianism, communism, and totalitarianism.” By the time of the American Civil War, Hamiltons portrait began to appear on US currency, including the $2, $5, $10, and $50 notes. His likeness also began to appear on US Postage in 1870. His portrait has continued to appear on US postage and currency, and most notably appears on the modern $10 bill. Hamilton also appears on the$500 Series EE Savings Bond. The source of the face on the $10 bill is John Trumbulls 1805 portrait of Hamilton, in the portrait collection of New York City Hall. On the south side of the Treasury Building in Washington, D.C. is a statue of Hamilton.