- NAME: Alexander Hamilton
- OCCUPATION: Economist, Lawyer, Military Leader, Political Scientist, Journalist, Government Official
- BIRTH DATE: c. January 11, 1755
- DEATH DATE: July 12, 1804
- EDUCATION: King's College, Columbia University
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Nevis, British West Indies (Caribbean Islands)
- PLACE OF DEATH: New York, New York
- Full Name: Alexander Hamilton
Best Known For
Alexander Hamilton, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention and major author of the Federalist papers, was the United States' first secretary of the treasury.
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Being a lawyer drew Hamilton further into politics, as he used his profession as a vehicle for achieving his political goals. After serving as secretary of the treasury from 1789 to 1795, he returned to his law practice in Manhattan, distinguishing himself as one of the city's most prestigious attorneys. Throughout his law career,
Hamilton remained actively involved in public and political affairs and ranked among U.S. presidents' most sought-after advisors.
Hamilton's political agenda entailed establishing a stronger federal government under a new Constitution. In 1787, while serving as a New York delegate, he met in Philadelphia with other delegates to discuss how to fix the Articles of Confederation, which were so weak that they could not persist in keeping the Union intact. During the meeting, Hamilton expressed his view that a reliable ongoing source of revenue would be crucial to developing a more powerful and resilient central government.
Hamilton didn't have a strong hand in writing the Constitution, but he did heavily influence its ratification, or approval. In collaboration with James Madison and John Jay, Hamilton wrote 51 of 85 essays under the collective title The Federalist (later known as The Federalist Papers). In the essays, he artfully explained and defended the newly drafted Constitution prior to its approval. In 1788, at the New York Ratification Convention in Poughkeepsie, where two-thirds of delegates opposed the Constitution, Hamilton was a powerful advocate for ratification, effectively arguing against the anti-Federalist sentiment. His efforts succeeded when New York agreed to ratify, and the remaining eight states followed suit.
When George Washington was elected president of the United States in 1789, he appointed Alexander Hamilton as the first secretary of the treasury. At the time, the nation was facing great foreign and domestic debt due to expenses incurred during the American Revolution.
Ever a proponent for a strong central government, during his tenure as treasury secretary, Hamilton butted heads with fellow cabinet members who were fearful of a central government holding so much power. Lacking their state loyalties, Hamilton went so far as to turn down New York’s opportunity to house the nation's capitol in favor of securing backing for his economic program, dubbed the "dinner table bargain."
It was Hamilton's belief that the Constitution gave him the authority to create economic policies that strengthened the central government. His proposed fiscal policies initiated the payment of federal war bonds, had the federal government assume states' debts, instituted a federal system for tax collection and would help the United States establish credit with other nations.
State loyalists were outraged by Hamilton's suggestions, until a compromise was reached during a dinner conversation between Hamilton and Madison on June 20, 1790. Hamilton agreed that a site near the Potomac would be established as the nation's capitol, and Madison would no longer block Congress, particularly its Virginia representatives, from approving policies that promoted a more powerful central government over individual states' rights.
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