Alexander Hamilton Biography

(American Revolutionary and Founding Father of the United States)

Birthday: January 11, 1755 (Capricorn)

Born In: Charlestown, Saint Kitts and Nevis

Alexander Hamilton was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States; he was also a well-respected statesman and a successful military leader. Born out of wedlock in the mid-eighteenth century, he spent his childhood among the lowest rung of the white society in St. Croix. Starting to work at the age of nine, he later received informal education from his mentors before being sent to the King’s College, New York to be trained as a doctor. Here, he was quickly drawn into politics, writing his first published article at the age of seventeen. Later he joined the War of Independence and came close to General Washington, who on becoming President of the United States made him the first Secretary of Treasury. In this new avatar, Hamilton founded the nation’s financial policy, helping the government to tide over the chaos it had inherited from the revolution. A supporter of a strong federal government, he also played a significant role in the ratification of the new constitution and held slavery morally wrong.

Quick Facts

Died At Age: 49


Spouse/Ex-: Elizabeth Schuyler (m. 1780; his death 1804)

children: Alexander Hamilton Jr., Angelica Hamilton, James Alexander Hamilton, John Church Hamilton, Philip Hamilton, William S. Hamilton Elizabeth Hamilton

Born Country: Saint Kitts And Nevis

Quotes By Alexander Hamilton Military Leaders

Died on: July 12, 1804

place of death: Greenwich Village, New York, United States

Ancestry: Kittian and Nevisian American, British American

Notable Alumni: King's College

Cause of Death: Gunshot Wound

More Facts

education: Columbia University, King's College

Childhood & Early Years

Alexander Hamilton was born out of wedlock in Charlestown, the capital of the island of Nevis, in the British West Indies. His father, James Hamilton, was a Scottish trader and his mother, Rachel Fawcett Lavien, was a married woman of British and French Huguenot descent.

There is an ambiguity about the year of Alexander’s birth. Although he himself listed his birthday as January 11, 1757, a probate paper drafted after his mother’s death in 1768, listed him as 13 years old, making 1755 the year of his birth.

Younger of his parents' two sons; he had an elder brother called James Hamilton. He also had a half-brother called Peter, born out of his mother’s marriage to John Michael Lavien.

In 1765, as Alexander turned eleven, the family moved to St. Croix. Very soon their father abandoned the family, ostensibly to save Rachel from a charge of bigamy. Living in the lowest rung of white society, Rachel began to run a store in Christiansted while Alexander took up a job.

By then, Lavien had posted a public summons for her to appear before a divorce court. In it, he declared her a whore who had given birth to illegitimate children. It made them subject to malicious gossip and made life all the more difficult.

In early 1768, Rachel contracted a severe fever and died on February 19, 1768, leaving her children orphaned. Her husband then came forward to take control of her assets, thus depriving the two brothers, whom he called ‘sons of a whore’ of their inheritance.

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On His Own

Soon after Rachel’s death, Alexander Hamilton found a home with Thomas Stevens, a merchant. According to many, Stevens might have been Hamilton’s biological father because Hamilton had a striking resemblance with Stevenson’s son, Edward. That only Alexander was given a home, not James, could be another reason for this assumption.

Sometime now, Alexander found employment with Beekman and Cruger, an import-export firm owned by a New Yorker called Nicholas Cruger, while his brother, James, became an apprentice with a local carpenter. Eventually, the two brothers separated and never met again.

Cruger instantly took a liking to young Hamilton and began to give him instruction in global finance. Very soon, the young boy was inspecting cargoes, preparing bills of lading, and advising captains. As the company also dealt with slaves, he also came in contact with the darker side of life.

After work, Hamilton spent his time reading in the library of Reverend Hugh Knox, gaining extensive knowledge in literature, history, and science. Concurrently, he also started publishing an occasional poem in the local paper. In 1772, he impressed his readers with a vivid account of the hurricane.

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In Mainland America

In October 1772, Cruger and Knox pulled in their resources to send young Hamilton to Elizabethtown, New Jersey. Here, living with William Livingston, at that time a leading intellectual, he enrolled at Elizabethtown Academy and concentrated on filling the gaps in his education.

In 1773, Hamilton was sent to New York City, where he enrolled at King’s College to study medicine as a private student, officially matriculating in May 1774. Although his mentors had hoped that he would return to St. Croix to set up his own practice, it was not to be.

In September 1774, as the First Continental Congress was being held in Philadelphia, Hamilton began to take interest in its proceedings. Very soon he started supporting the Patriots against the Loyalists, convinced that they had valid grudges against England.

In December 1774, 17-year-old Hamilton wrote his first published article in support of the Patriots’ cause against Samuel Seabury’s pamphlets supporting the Loyalist viewpoints. Entitled ‘A Full Vindication of the Measures of Congress’, it consisted of 35 pages.

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His second article, ‘The Farmer Refuted’ was published in February 1775. He also wrote two articles attacking the Quebec Act of 1774. Fifteen installments of ‘The Monitor’, published anonymously in the New York Journal, might have also been written by him.

Although he supported the revolutionary cause, he was against attacking the Loyalists. On May 10, 1775, as an angry mob came to attack Myles Cooper, the then President of King's College, Hamilton is believed to have helped him to escape by keeping the mob engaged with his talk.

Military Career

In 1775, Alexander Hamilton, along with fellow students, formed a volunteer militia company called the Corsicans, renamed later as Hearts of Oak. Before classes, they would practice drills in the graveyard of St. Paul’s Chapel. Hamilton, always an avid reader, also studied military history and tactics.

In August 1775, Hamilton’s militia company took part in its first expedition when it successfully raided the British cannons in the Battery, the southern tip of Manhattan Island in New York City. After this, the volunteer company was made an artillery company.

In 1776, Hamilton was commissioned as Captain and instructed to raise the New York Provincial Company of Artillery to protect Manhattan Island. He quickly raised a troop of 60 men and began to take part in different campaigns around the city.

On 27 August 1776, the Battle of Long Island broke out and Hamilton’s troops fought side by side with Washington’s Army. Later they took part in the Battle of the White Plain (October 28, 1776), the Battle of Trenton (December 26, 1776), and the Battle of Princeton (January 3, 1777).

In March 1777, Hamilton was made a lieutenant colonel in the Continental Army and appointed aides-de-camp to General Washington. He spent four years drafting Washington’s letters, composing reports on reforms, restructuring the Continental Army, and also undertook various intelligence as well as diplomatic duties.

Eager to return to the battlefield, he was assigned to a New York light infantry battalion as its Commander on July 31, 1781. In October, he led a victorious charge in the Battle of Yorktown, which effectively finished off the War of Independence.

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In the Congress of the Confederation

After the war, Alexander Hamilton resigned his commission and in 1782 entered the Congress of the Confederation as a representative from New York. It was a tough period for the newly born state and he now proceeded to solve its teething problems.

By now, he had already been vocal about the decentralized nature of the Congress, which had no right to tax and was dependent upon the states not only for voluntary financial support but on various other matters.

Hamilton drafted a resolution to revise the Articles of Confederation. It contained many features that were later included in the U.S. Constitution, created in 1787 and ratified in 1788. It included a strong federal government with the power to collect taxes and raise an army. It also proposed separation of powers into Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary.


Alexander Hamilton was always for a strong federal government and throughout the 1780s he continued to work in that direction, writing a number of essays on it. Later as the new constitution was ready for ratification, he used his power of oratory to turn the tide of anti-federalism and have the constitution approved.

In 1789, as George Washington became the President of the United States, he appointed Hamilton as the first Secretary of the Treasury. At that time, the financial condition of the federal government was in bad shape. He now crafted a number of policies that saved the new-bon country from financial doom.

On January 31, 1795, Hamilton resigned from his position as First Secretary, leaving the federal government economically more stable. He now returned to New York to continue his legal practice. However, he remained close to President Washington, writing drafts for the latter’s letters and addresses.

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During this period, he clashed repeatedly with several influential leaders like Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Aaron Burr. In spite of that, when the quasi-war broke out in 1798, John Adams, the then President of the United States, appointed him a Major General.

From July 18, 1798, to June 15, 1800, Hamilton served as Inspector General; but was effectively the head of the United States Army. Then after Washington’s death, he became the Senior Officer of the United States Army, holding the position from December 14, 1799, to June 15, 1800.

Major Works

Alexander Hamilton is best remembered as the builder of national infrastructure under a very difficult condition. He not only worked hard to create a strong federal government, but as the first Secretary of the Treasury, he also contributed significantly to improving the financial condition of his country.

During his tenure as the Secretary of the Treasury, he submitted various financial reports to Congress. Among these, most significant are the First Report on the Public Credit, Operations of the Act Laying Duties on Imports, Report on a National Bank, On the Establishment of a Mint, Report on Manufactures, and the Report on a Plan for the Further Support of Public Credit.

Awards & Achievements

In 1791, Alexander Hamilton was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Personal Life & Legacy

On December 14, 1780, Alexander Hamilton married Elizabeth Schuyler, the daughter of Revolutionary War general Philip Schuyler. They enjoyed a very close relationship, and had eight children; Philip, Angelica, Alexander, James, John, William, Eliza, and Philip.

In the summer of 1791, Hamilton met Maria Reynolds, who was married to James Reynolds. Eventually, the two began an illicit affair that lasted until June 1792. The incident did not have any impact on his marriage, but many believe it robbed him of his chance to become the next US President.

On June 27, 1804, Hamilton was challenged in a duel by Aaron Burr, who felt the other man had insulted him. After a series of attempts to reconcile failed, Hamilton decided to accept the offer but throw away the shots.

The duel began at dawn on July 11, 1804, on the bank of the Hudson River in New Jersey. While Hamilton’s shot hit branches above his opponent’s head, Burr’s shot wounded him fatally and he died from it on July 12, 1804. He was later buried in the Trinity Churchyard Cemetery in Manhattan.

Hamilton’s portrait has been depicted on the front of the U.S. $10 bill since 1928. His statues, erected in different parts of the country, as well as buildings and geographic sites named after him, continue to carry his legacy.


Hamilton’s affair with Maria Reynolds, which came to light in 1797, makes him the first American politician to become involved in a sex scandal.

See the events in life of Alexander Hamilton in Chronological Order

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