Alexander Hamilton set the newly created United States on solid financial footing, after the American Revolution (1775-1783) left it broke. He also pushed for a strong national government for the United States, when others favored giving strong powers to the states. Hamilton expressed his views in famous political writings known as The Federalist papers.
Hamilton was born in 1757 on the island of Nevis in the Caribbean Sea. When he was 12, he went to work as a clerk in a countinghouse. His mother had died. His father had lost all his money. He learned about money and finance while keeping accounts in the countinghouse.
In 1773, Hamilton entered King’s College (now Columbia University) in New York City.
THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION
Hamilton joined the Continental Army when the American Revolution began in 1775. He impressed others with his bravery and leadership. In 1777, George Washington, the head of the army, named Hamilton as his personal secretary.
LAWYER AND STATESMAN
After the Revolution, Hamilton trained to become a lawyer. He believed that the country’s plan of government was too weak. He pushed for a meeting in 1787 to write a new constitution (plan of government).
After the U.S. Constitution was prepared, Hamilton wrote The Federalist papers along with John Jay and James Madison. These essays defended the new U.S. Constitution. They explained why the new nation needed a strong national government.
SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY
Washington, who became the country’s first president, appointed Hamilton secretary of the treasury in 1789. The country was in debt after years of war. Hamilton made the dollar the official U.S. currency (money). He proposed that the national government pay the war debts of the states. Congress approved this proposal. It also approved his plans for a national bank and for aiding American manufacturing.
Hamilton returned to his law practice in New York City in 1795. He worked to defeat the election of Aaron Burr as U.S. president and later as governor of New York. In 1804, Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel (fight). Burr shot Hamilton in the duel on July 11, 1804. Hamilton died the next day.