The Life and Legacy of Alexander Hamilton

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Part 9: A Powerful Legacy

The legacy of Alexander Hamilton is immense. The massive amount of work that he did to protect the fledgling American government and to make sure that it established and maintained national and international credibility gained him everlasting fame. His economic system is, in many cases, remained intact for many, many years; in fact, some of today's banking and other economic systems are directly modeled on plans that he drew up and/or implemented.

He believed in a strong national government, above all else, to protect the people of the country from the whims of the states and of military leaders. Despite his opponents' claims to the contrary, he early abandoned his love for the monarchy and treasured the role that the elected President played in American government and society.

He believed in the doctrine of implied powers: the idea that the Constitution, which really, for a form of government, has very few words in it, suggests certain powers that a President or the Federal Government has, to act in cases of necessity and national security. A perfect example of this is a very ironic one: Thomas Jefferson, long a bitter political rival of Hamilton, endorsed the latter's implied powers doctrine to justify the Louisiana Purchase, which was an executive act, approved by Congress after the fact.

He was the founder of one of the nation's first two political parties. As such, he began a legacy that lives on in today's American society, dominated by Democratic and Republican parties.

He believed passionately in the right of the media (in this case really on the press—newspapers and pamphlets) to be a check on the powers and excesses of government. He did indulge in slanderous writing and speaking, of course. And he did work very hard to destroy the political careers of more than one prominent statesman. But he also believed that the press had a duty to print the truth and that the American people had the right to know all about their elected officials, so they could better judge whether those officials should be re-elected or, perhaps, recalled.

He was an eyewitness to history. He was present at the bitterly cold winter of Valley Forge. He was at George Washington's side for much of the rest of the Revolutionary War, including the surrender at Yorktown. He was Washington's staunchest ally in the first years of the young nation's Government. He was Washington's political sounding board, providing opinions and advice on any and all issues of the day, not just economic ones.

He was a dynamic public speaker and an extraordinarily lucid writer. His Federalist Papers are proof of this. He also wrote a good many things that Washington uttered in public, including his famous Farewell Address.

The poor young man who made a name for himself in America was never able to escape his upbringing, however. His political opponents—and even many of his friends—referenced these shortcomings even in the days surrounding his funeral (which was attended by thousands and which shut down New York City for a day).

Still, in the Land of Opportunity, he, more than any other of the Founding Fathers, rose from obscurity to be one of the most recognizable names in American History.

First page > Poor Beginnings > Page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

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David White