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Alexander Hamilton (January 11, 1757 - July 12, 1804) was an American founding father mostly known for being on the ten dollar bill and for getting into one of the last known gentlemen's duels in the United States.
Hamilton was born in the British West Indies. As a young man, Hamilton emigrated to New York City, where he attended King's College (now Columbia University). He entered the Continental Army in 1776, fighting in the battles of Princeton and Germantown, and commanding an infantry battalion in the climactic battle at Yorktown. Hamilton was also a member of the Continental Congress, New York State assembly, the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention, and also served as the first Treasury Secretary under President Washington.
Hamilton authored 51 of the 85 Federalist Papers, while James Madison and John Jay composed the others. These editorials, published in newspapers throughout the United States, helped turn popular opinion in favor of ratifying the Constitution.
Perhaps Hamilton's greatest contribution to the success of the United States occurred during his tenure as Washington’s Secretary of the Treasury from 1789 to 1795. Through a system of tariffs and excise taxes (some of which, as demonstrated by the Whiskey Rebellion, caused a great deal of resentment), Hamilton placed the United States on sound financial footing with the creation of a national bank. Some taxes were enforced by the Revenue Cutter Service (the precursor to the United States Coast Guard). These actions were among the first policies of the military-industrial complex that the country is currently so well-known for. While Hamilton disliked taxes, he also realized that they were necessary.
Hamilton not only favored close trade ties with Great Britain, the world’s leading commercial power, but he believed that the United States should emulate their economic system. In his "Report on Manufactures", Hamilton envisioned the United States as a nation that would rely on manufacturing and commerce in order to become a great power. In this respect, Hamilton was the first of many pro-bank, pro-rich politicians. This (among other things) put him at odds with Thomas Jefferson, who envisioned the United States as an agrarian republic and had the audacity to affirm that the citizens should guide the path of government.
He was the creator of the Federalist Party which got John Adams the presidency in 1796. Hamilton was appointed by Adams to lead a new army during the XYZ "quasi-war". During this Time, Adams and Hamilton didn't get along so well as Adams, to an extent favoured peace. Hamilton, however, preferred drowning both Europe and America in the blood of Frenchmen. The Federalists also pushed forward the Alien and Sedition Acts, which they then violated when trying to run a candidate against Jefferson in 1800. Hamilton, however, supported his nemesis Jefferson against his estranged friend Aaron Burr, whom he found "unprincipled".
Hamilton was forced to resign from Washington's cabinet after he revealed he was involved in an extra-marital affair with the wife of James Reynolds, who had been arrested for counterfeiting and threatened to tell Hamilton's wife if he didn't succumb to blackmail—thus becoming the Founding Father of a long American tradition of philandering (and possibly gay/bisexual) politicians.
He also started the Christian Constitution Society, which believed that support for Christianity was more important than support for the very same Constitution which his Federalists work so hard to push through, thus beginning the commonly-known fact that the United States was founded as a Christian Nation.
He is also known for "purposely missing" Aaron Burr in a duel over an insult that he could not recall. Hamilton would later die of his injuries, which may have been prevented had he simply apologized for the insult. However it is unlikely he purposely missed since his pistol was tampered with to be more accurate, probably because he believed Burr was too great a threat to the nation to leave alive. Considering Burr would later attempt to start his own country out of parts of US territory, Hamilton may have had something of a point (though Burr was arrested in the early stages of his idiotic plan anyway).
Hamilton, along with Benjamin Franklin, is one of the very few non-presidents to be portrayed on American money. Hamilton's portrait is on the $10 bill, while Franklin is on the $100 bill, thus proving once and for all that Franklin is exactly 10 times better than Hamilton.
He is the subject of a fantastic but questionably accurate Broadway musical by Lin Manuel-Miranda. The play has been praised for its view of the American Revolution through a critical, though not scorning, eye as well for its colourblind casting and fucking incredible soundtrack. However, Miranda does more than occasionally change the events from how they are portrayed in Ron Chernow's biography (on which the play is based). Miranda has also been accused of glorifying Hamilton, exaggerating his opposition to slavery, downplaying his elitism and his role in the nastier parts of the revolution.
- "Gay Alexander Hamilton: Was this Founding Father homosexual?", DeathAndTaxesMag.com
- Though it also proves that you can get 10 times more pictures of Hamilton than you can of Franklin, for the same amount of money.
- Though by this same logic, Jackson is ten times better than Jefferson, so yeah...
- Ferling, John. A Leap in the Dark: The Struggle to Create the American Republic. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
- Ellis, Joseph. Founding Brothers. New York: Vintage, 2000.
- Chernow, Ron. Alexander Hamilton. New York: Penquin, 2005.