Hardships, trials, abandonment, sex scandals, and death are hardly the things that are thought about when our founding fathers are thought of. The great things that they did, the war that they fought, and the constitution are things that normally come to mind. Often it is hard to imagine an of these great men going through tough times. Alexander Hamilton, however, had to overcome all of these things are more.
Alexander Hamilton’s rough life started long before he was born. His mother Rachel Faucett, was wed to a man that she did not love at the age of 16. According to Michael Gerson, author of Overcoming adversity: The Childhood of Alexander Hamilton, Rachel’s husband was abusive and controlling. Rachel fled from her marriage to the island of St. Kitts, leaving behind her first born son, Peter.
While on St. Kitts Rachel met John Hamilton, Alexanders father and they fell in love and began living together. They were unable to get married because Rachel was still legally married. During this time Rachel gave birth to Alexander and his older brother John. Rachel’s husband eventually fell in love with another woman and sued Rachel for a divorce. During the divorce he told the courts all about Rachel’s shameful acts of adultery and the bastard children she had born. As a part of the divorce decree the courts ruled that Rachel was not to return to St. Croix and when she died all of her estate will belong to her only legitimate child Peter, whom she had not seen since she left her husband.
When Alexander was about 8 years old, his father was required to move to St. Croix for work (Overcoming Adversity). Even though Rachel was not supposed to return, she packed up Alexander and his brother and they moved with their father to St. Croix. Here Alexander was known to be a bastard and was treated by the locals as lower than dirt. Shortly after arriving at St. Croix Alexanders father abandon them. Even though Alexander had a very close relationship with his father, he was never to see him again.
Alexanders mother, alone and jobless took out a loan and opened her own local grocery store (overcoming Adversity). There Alexander and his older brother worked for their mother and learned how to run a business. Things seemed to be looking up for the family and when Alexander was about ten years old he was able to get a job working for one of the distributes for his mothers store. There it became apparent that he was a very bright and a fast learner. His employers enjoyed him and taught him everything he could learn.
When Alexander was eleven tragedy struck and both Alexander and his mother. They became very ill with high fevers. His mother would not recover and would leave Alexander and his brother as orphans. Because of the past court ruling, Alexander and John would not see a dime of their mothers estate. They went to live with his mothers cousin who committed suicide a year later leaving the two boys all alone to fend for themselves.
Alexander’s older brother John would become an apprentice carpenter and Alexander would go live with a friend’s family. The only good thing he had going for him was that he was still working for Cruger Wholesale Export Firm. He took on more responsibility and advanced very quickly. He learned about business and finance and by the age of fourteen he was making complex business decisions, and running the entire operation (Overcoming Adversity).
Education was very important to Alexander, and every spare minute he had he spend teaching himself reading, writing, and arithmetic. One person was especially impressed with his self directed reading program, the Minister of his Church, Reverend Hugh Knox. Reverend Knox, and Alexanders’ employer, Nicholas Cruger, arranged for Alexander to go to the new country to attend a university. Reverend Knox wrote letters of introduction to friends in America, who would take Alexander under their wing when he arrived (overcoming adversity).
At age sixteen Alexander would arrive in America to begin his formal education. His mentors felt that he was not quite ready to attend college. For a year Alexander would attend Presbyterian Academy in Elizabethtown, a prep school that was sponsored by College of New Jersey, currently known as Princeton. Regardless of this Alexander would fall in love with New York City and despite the wishes of his mentors and sponsors would attend Kings College, currently known as Columbia University.
Alexander Hamilton’s military career started in 1775 according to the army historical Series, Soldier-Statesmen of the Constitution by Robert K Wright Jr., and Morris J. MacGregor Jr. He joined a volunteer militia group called Hearts of Oak. There he trained under a former British officer and was commissioned a Captain in 1776. Shortly after receiving his commission he was called to duty by orders from Colonel Henry Knox. Knox was so impressed with Alexander that he recommended him to Washington’s personal attention (Soldier-Statement of the Constitution). In March he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and received the position of Commander in Chief. He resigned form his duties under Washington after a minor reprimanded in April of 1781.
In December of 1780 Alexander married Elizabeth Schuyler, daughter of Major General Philip Schuyler. In 1782 he took up the study of law and he and Elizabeth lived in New York. Alexander completed an apprenticeship in three months that normally would take three years and was admitted to the bar in July. With in six months he was representing New York in the Continental Congress. In 1789 he was appointed to be the nations first Secretary of the Treasury (Soldier-Statesman of the Constitution).
Alexander Hamilton understood public finance and helped to shape the future of the America. According to John Steel Gordon in An Empire of Wealth, “Hamilton’s most pressing problem was to deal with the federal tax”. In January of 1790 Hamilton submitted his first report on public credit. He suggested that bonds be issued backed by the new tariff that had just been placed on foreign vessels. Also in order to help the hold on Union Hamilton insisted that the government take on the debts that had been incurred by the state while fighting the revolution (Empire of Wealth). The bonds were such a success that by 1794 the United States had an excellent credit rating in France and the bonds were often selling above par. Hamilton also established the first central bank. He insisted that the bank be owned privately so that the government would not be able to print money when ever they wanted it.
Alexander Hamilton is also on of the first political figures in America to have a public sex scandal. Which caused him to step down from office just five years after obtaining the position.
Like most of his unique life Hamilton also had a unique death. He was killed in a gun dual by Arron Burr in July of 1804. Arron Burr was later accused of murder however the charges were dropped. Alexander Hamilton is the picture of the American dream. He grew up in poverty and was still able to create a wealth for himself and become one of the founding fathers and most famous men in American history.
“Alexander Hamilton – Mini Biography .” You Tube. BIO., Sept. Web. 16 Nov. 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NP2a1xkbLgU>.
Gerson, Michael J. Overcoming Adversity: The Childhood of Alexander Hamilton. Archiving Early America®. , n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2014. <http://www.earlyamerica.com/review/2002_winter_spring/hamilton.html>.
Gordon, John S. En Empire of Wealth. New York: Harper Perennial, 2004. 68-81. Print.
Wright, Jr., Robert K., and Morris J. MacGregor, Jr. Soldier-Statesmen of the Constitution. N.p., 11 Aug. 2000. Web. 29 Nov. 2014. <http://www.history.army.mil/books/RevWar/ss/ss-fm.htm>.