Lifetime & Contribution To The US History Of Alexander Hamilton
Several influential men and women can be accredited as figures that help set up the United States and the pillars for the government it has today. Some, such as John Locke and Aristotle, are known as foreign figures with great ideas that transcended into American society while others, namely the founding fathers, are revered as the men who led the country to freedom in the American Revolution and built up its remains after victory. And while the names of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and widely recognized as founding figures, the name of Alexander Hamilton is less common.
Arguably, today Hamilton’s claims to fame are the hit broadway play, Hamilton: An American Musical, which documents his life and death through musical numbers and the portrait of his face on the ten dollar bill, but Hamilton throughout America’s history and government, is given credit for much more than his face on the front of money and refusing on numerous occasions to throw away his shot (My Shot, Miranda).
Much of Alexander Hamilton’s early life was so illicit and inscrutable, it is quite ironic that he is even considered an American founding father. Hamilton was born an illegitimate child on the British colony Caribbean island of Nevis on January 11, 1755 to an adultress, Rachel Faucette, and John A. Hamilton, who later abandoned his family when Alexander was ten. Alexander’s mother died soon after due to yellow fever and Hamilton moved in with his cousin who later committed suicide.
Hamilton and his older brother were effectively orphaned and left to fend for themselves and in that time Alexander took up reading and writing as a serious hobby and passion. He read many articles and treatises of the time and worked as a clerk for his mother’s former landlord. His intellect did not go unnoticed and distant relatives, along with the rest of the townspeople put up money to send Alexander to the mainland to get his education.
It is said by historians, that when Hamilton got to the New York mainland colony, he started to lie about his age to make himself a better candidate for educational opportunities and attended King’s College (Columbia University). While he was there, he immersed himself in mainland politics and became increasingly interested in the idea of a revolution. He published his well written ideas in a series of pamphlets so mature they were attributed to John Jay (Historic Valley Forge).
His ideas gained traction and Hamilton dropped out of King’s College to form a militia with other revolutionary upstarts met at his former college. Hamilton’s career took off from that starting point and his love life blossomed, while his list of enemies was born. He married Elizabeth Schuyler, the daughter of affluent New York Senator, Philip Schuyler but it is said he secretly loved his wife’s older sister, Angelica. Old letters that expressed intimate love between Hamilton and his close friend, John Laurens, hint that Hamilton might have been bisexual or open to same-sex attraction, although a relationship with Laurens cannot to date be confirmed.
Hamilton also had an affair with a woman named Mariah Reynolds and paid her husband to stay silent after he found out. Transcripts of the hush money later became public and rumors spurred that Hamilton used the government’s money to pay off private affairs. This resulted in the infamous Reynolds Pamphlet that Hamilton publicly published to come clean about the affair and clear his reputation, but the news of his affair only further disparaged his image and disgraced his wife.
Hamilton later died on July 12, 1804 at the hands of a bullet shot by Aaron Burr, sitting vice president at the time to Thomas Jefferson, during their duel. Hamilton died strangely near the same place his son Philip died just a few years before also during a duel that was brought about while Philip was trying to preserve his father’s honor.
Though the contents of his personal life are quite messy and dishonorable, Hamilton arguably finds substantial redemption in his accomplishments to American law, finances and government. Shortly after forming his militia, Hamilton’s impeccable writing and leadership skills caught the eye of not only major general Nathaniel Greene, but also president to be, George Washington.
Hamilton became Washington’s aide de camp and Washington entrusted Hamilton with leading some commands, including a command at the Battle of Yorktown in which the British surrendered and the colonies defeated their colonial masters. His participation there set up his fame as a war hero but Hamilton’s way with words went past the battlefield. Hamilton is one of the writers of the Federalist Papers, a collection of articles in which Hamilton, together with John Jay and James Madison, explain why the constitution that was written up should be ratified since it was the replacement for the weak Articles of Confederation.
Perhaps, the biggest contributions Hamilton gave the United States government was during his time as the first secretary of the treasury. As a federalist, he advocated for the strong central government we still have today. As secretary of the treasury, he designed the country’s treasury department and made it the treasury’s role to collect and disperse money (History.com) and he played a critical role in lowering the national debt.
Today, Hamilton’s greatest work includes the creation of America’s first national bank and the foundation of the nation’s strong centralized government, where more authority can be assumed by the federal government but tyranny like the one seen in the colonies under British rule does not ever ensue.The legacy of Alexander Hamilton is in fact convoluted because of the stark difference in his personal and professional life. His contributions to American government and economy cannot be denied although his narcissism and concern for only his legacy in particular make it hard to distinguish whether he was doing the the things he did for the American society or for the personal glory of being the figure he is today.
He made enemies in other founding fathers and influences of the time, most notably Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr, and possibly could not get as much done in his position of power due to this. Jefferson and other politicians of the time wanted to keep Hamilton from rising to higher offices such as the presidency and Hamilton himself was famous for using his words and writing ability to stagger the growth of others politically; Hamilton did this to his later killer Aaron Burr in the election of 1800 when he endorsed Jefferson over Burr and convinced other federalists to vote for Jefferson for president even though it was well known that Jefferson and Hamilton despised each other.
Of course Hamilton’s intricate and selfish attitude does not erase all of his contributions to America, but it does materialize the idea that in the pursuit of selfish gains, Hamilton both helped and hurt America simultaneously in the same fashion.
The life and legacy of Alexander Hamilton is uncharacteristically unique. America had never before seen an immigrant with as much vigor and spirit to help a place where he was not a native. He was unwavering is his ideas though he met fierce opposition and that is the most admirable thing about him. He used his knowledge to rise from poverty and created financial systems where there were virtually no precursors. He believed in the model of government that he thought would do the most justice and now American society proudly benefits from his contributions daily, giving him the heartwarming ode he deserves in musicals and on the ten dollar bill, the Treasury department standing tall and sturdy on the bill’s backside.