Hamilton, Alexander

Hamilton, Alexander (1757-1804) Statesman: Hamilton entered what is now Columbia College (New York) in 1773. In 1774 and 1775, he wrote pamphlets supporting the patriotic cause, and joined the army in 1776. Hamilton became General Washington's secretary and aide-de-camp in 1777, demonstrating his administrative ability. In anonymous "Continentalist" letters of 1781-2, he supported a more powerful central government and a broad program of economic development. After the war, he planned and wrote a great deal of The Federalist, in an attempt to help the ratification of the new Constitution. In 1789, Washington appointed Hamilton Secretary of the Treasury. In this post, he converted revolutionary debt to long-term bonds, established a national bank, and proposed tariffs which were adopted. Hamilton admired Britain, and supported policies which made attempts at reconciliation with the former Mother Country. He was criticized for such policies, as well as for exercising federal powers beyond the limits of the Constitution.
Hamilton retired to a lucrative New York legal practice in 1795, but remained involved in public affairs. He became second in command of the army when war with France seemed imminent in 1798. He plotted against the election of John Adams in 1796 and 1800, and tried to influence members of Adams' cabinet behind his back. In 1800, he used his political power to deter the election of Aaron Burr. This, along with other unfriendly actions, caused Burr to challenge Hamilton to a duel in July 1804, which left Hamilton dead.