Alexander Hamilton Essay, Research Paper
Alexander Hamilton is among a group of men extolled as the founders of America. These framers, as they are best known, tend to be grouped, by modern Americans, into a single, homogeneous aggregate of people, with identical beliefs, political tactics, and goals. This generalization is far from reality, however. This is demonstrated in Forrest McDonald’s book, Alexander Hamilton: A Biography. Perhaps the most interesting part of the life of Alexander Hamilton was its first half. During this time, Hamilton formed many of the beliefs and practices that would guide the rest of his life and our nation, first, as the Secretary of the Treasury, and, later, as President of the United States of America. Hamilton’s early life can be divided into three main sections: his childhood, his education, and his public service.
Hamilton was the son of a respectable French woman, Rachel Faucett, and a Scottish nobleman, James Hamilton. Alexander’s parents separated when he was two. His mother took custody of himself and his brother. Living in a single parent home, truly a rarity in the 18th century, young Hamilton was forced to labor tirelessly as a child to help support the family. It was this hard work, however, that gave Hamilton the work ethic that he would later so frequently employ. His mother died nine years later. Hamilton, thus, continued his pattern of self-reliance. Most revealingly, the boy longed for fame. This lust, a direct result of his romanticism, would act as the motivation for Hamilton’s later political work.
Hamilton’s formal education began at King’s College in New York, which would later become Columbia University. There, he nearly completed nearly all of the necessary courses in less than two and a half years. Despite all of his toil, and reflective of his romantic nature, Hamilton never took a degree from the university. This marked the end of his establishmentarian education. He gained the rest of his expertise, the vast majority of which would be used to guide him through the weighty affairs of his later life, independently. His education in politics, law, and philosophy of government came from the writings of many intellectual giants, the most impacting of which were Hume, Locke, Blackstone, and Necker. Hamilton also learned a great deal by interpreting the many events he saw taking place around him and deriving complex conclusions from these situations. This education provided him with the understanding of life on which he would base the personal philosophical beliefs that would one day be applied to the nation at large.
Though still young, up to and including his participation in the Constitutional Convention, Alexander Hamilton had a long and distinguished record of public service. Much of his service can be characterized as either military or political. His first venture into public service tended to blur that line, however. He spoke and wrote, quite frequently for the cause of the revolution, thereby encouraging military action in a political way. He prepared himself to fight also as he was doing this. Hamilton’s first truly definable act of public service was with the army. There he started as the commander of an artillery company. General George Washington, who would woo him into an administrative position, soon recognized his talents. After serving under Washington, he was given command of a light infantry battalion, which played a pivotal part in the battle of Yorktown. As ended the war, so ended his military service. Hamilton’s first venture into politics was as Receiver of Continental Taxes for New York. Later, Hamilton joined the Assembly, representing the City and County of New York. Soon afterwards, Hamilton helped organize and participated in the constitutional convention. This political experience would grant Hamilton the political knowledge that he would later use to set his governmental plans into action.
Without a doubt, our nation would not be what it is if it wasn’t for the work of Alexander Hamilton. Likewise, Hamilton’s work in his later stages of life, which had such valuable and lasting impact on the nation, would not have been what it was if not for his experiences in early life. Alexander Hamilton is an enduring figure, who, though he may be but rarely credited for his work, shaped the philosophy of an entire nation. He created the system that would one day be known as capitalism, and on which the nation has relied since its inception. Hamilton was a brilliant man who led a brilliant life. Understanding that life, and just how it came to be in its earlier years, can help one learn about their nation, their beliefs, and even their selves.