The Life and Legacy of Alexander Hamilton

More of This Feature

• Part 2: Revolution on His Mind
• Part 3: Bigger and Better Things
• Part 4: Making a New Country
• Part 5: Newfound Power and Fame
• Part 6: Wars Inside and Out
• Part 7: Elections and Influence
• Part 8: Last Success and Abrupt End
• Part 9: A Powerful Legacy

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Part 1: Poor Beginnings

Alexander Hamilton, known as America's first Secretary of the Treasury, is arguably one of the people most responsible for both the Constitution and the economic framework of the U.S. Government. Born in obscurity, he enjoyed a meteoric rise to stardom and then suffered an equally surprising death. In between, he gained for himself recognition far beyond his years.

He was born on the island of Nevis, in the British West Indies. No more facts about his birth can be proved. Many historians think he was born in 1755, based a document stating his age at 13 at the time of his mother's death, in 1768. But no record of his birthdate can be found.

Alexander's father left when his two sons were very young, and the boys' mother, Rachel, reared her children on her own. She opened a store, which Alexander helped her run (once he was of a certain age). There, he got his first taste of money and finance.

When his mother died of yellow fever, Alexander took a job as a clerk with an international business on the nearby island of St. Croix. Still a teenager, young Hamilton was doing all the work of an adult, inspecting cargo, meeting directly with captains, and taking care of many financial matters. Ships from many countries came to St. Croix, bringing with them goods from all over the world, including slaves. It was here that Hamilton got his first exposure to slavery

Also on St. Croix, Hamilton met Hugh Knox, a Presbyterian minister who would serve as a father figure for a time to the young businessman. It was in Knox's library that Hamilton took a liking to classical literature and philosophy. Alexander proved himself to be a good writer and wrote an account of a hurricane for the local newspaper that got good reviews.

In 1773, Knox and Nicholas Cruger, who owned the trading company where Hamilton worked, sent young Alexander to America, with enough money for a career in medicine. He accepted the gift and went where they wanted him to go, but he didn't exactly get a medical degree.

Next page > Revolution on His Mind > Page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

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