Alexander Hamilton was a central figure in early American history, known for his multifaceted contributions as a Founding Father, military leader, and statesman.
Born in the West Indies, Hamilton rose from humble beginnings to play a pivotal role in shaping the United States.
His legacy is defined by his involvement in the American Revolution, his advocacy for a strong federal government, his economic reforms as the first Secretary of the Treasury, and his tragic duel with Vice President Aaron Burr.
This brief overview highlights key aspects of Alexander Hamilton’s remarkable life and enduring impact on American governance and finance.
|1755 or 1757
|Alexander Hamilton is born on the island of Nevis in the West Indies.
|Hamilton’s father abandons the family.
|Hamilton starts working at the trading company Beekman and Cruger.
|Hamilton’s mother dies, and he becomes an orphan.
|Hamilton travels to the mainland American colonies to pursue his education.
|Hamilton enrolls at King’s College (now Columbia University) but leaves to join the American Revolutionary War.
|Hamilton becomes a captain in the Continental Army.
|He marries Elizabeth Schuyler.
|Hamilton serves with distinction in the Battle of Yorktown.
|Hamilton is admitted to the bar in New York.
|Hamilton plays a crucial role in the writing and advocacy of the Federalist Papers.
|Hamilton serves as the first Secretary of the Treasury.
|Hamilton’s economic plan leads to the creation of the First Bank of the United States.
|Hamilton resigns as Secretary of the Treasury.
|Hamilton’s son, Philip Hamilton, dies in a duel.
|Hamilton is fatally wounded in a duel with Aaron Burr.
|Alexander Hamilton dies in Weehawken, New Jersey, and is buried in the Trinity Churchyard in New York City.
Timeline of Alexander Hamilton
1755 or 1757: Alexander Hamilton is born on the island of Nevis in the West Indies.
The exact year of Alexander Hamilton’s birth remains a subject of debate among historians. While Hamilton himself stated that he was born in 1757, there is evidence that suggests he might have been born in 1755. He was born on the Caribbean island of Nevis, which was a British colony at the time.
Hamilton was born out of wedlock to Rachel Faucett Lavien and James A. Hamilton. His parents’ relationship was tumultuous, and they were not married at the time of his birth. This fact would later become a source of criticism and controversy in Hamilton’s political career.
1765: Hamilton’s father abandons the family.
In 1765, when Alexander Hamilton was still a child, his father, James A. Hamilton, abandoned the family, leaving them in difficult financial circumstances. This event had a profound impact on Hamilton’s early life, as he and his mother faced economic hardship and struggled to make ends meet.
With the absence of his father and the death of his mother in 1772, Hamilton became effectively orphaned and had to rely on the support of relatives and benefactors to continue his education and pursue opportunities on the American mainland.
1772: Hamilton starts working at the trading company Beekman and Cruger.
After the death of his mother, Alexander Hamilton sought employment and began working at the trading firm of Beekman and Cruger, which was located on the island of St. Croix, part of the Danish West Indies.
Hamilton’s experience at Beekman and Cruger exposed him to various aspects of trade, finance, and commerce. It provided him with practical knowledge and skills that would prove valuable in his later career, particularly in his role as the first Secretary of the Treasury of the United States.
While working at the trading company, Hamilton’s intelligence and potential were recognized by his employers, who helped raise funds to send him to the American colonies for his education, ultimately setting him on the path to becoming one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.
1773: Hamilton’s mother dies, and he becomes an orphan.
In 1773, when Hamilton was just a teenager, his mother, Rachel Faucett Lavien, passed away on the island of St. Croix in the West Indies. Her death left him without any immediate family, as his father had previously abandoned them.
Following his mother’s death, Hamilton’s situation became even more challenging. He was effectively orphaned and faced an uncertain future. Despite these hardships, Hamilton’s determination and ambition would drive him to seek opportunities for self-improvement and education.
1774: Hamilton travels to the mainland American colonies to pursue his education.
In the aftermath of his mother’s death and with a desire for a better life, Alexander Hamilton set out for the American colonies in 1774. He believed that the American colonies offered greater opportunities for personal and professional advancement.
Hamilton initially settled in Elizabethtown, New Jersey, where he enrolled in Elizabethtown Academy. There, he continued his education, further developing his intellectual and rhetorical skills. This period marked the beginning of his journey toward becoming a prominent figure in American history.
1775: Hamilton enrolls at King’s College (now Columbia University) but leaves to join the American Revolutionary War.
In 1775, Alexander Hamilton enrolled at King’s College in New York City (now known as Columbia University). At the time, King’s College was affiliated with the Church of England, and it was one of the few higher education institutions in the American colonies.
However, Hamilton’s time at King’s College was short-lived. As tensions between the American colonies and Great Britain escalated into the American Revolutionary War, Hamilton became increasingly involved in the revolutionary cause.
He joined a militia unit known as the Hearts of Oak and quickly demonstrated leadership qualities and a commitment to the patriot cause.
Hamilton’s decision to leave college and join the Continental Army was a pivotal moment in his life. It marked the beginning of his military service during the American Revolution, where he would distinguish himself and eventually rise through the ranks to become a trusted aide-de-camp to General George Washington.
1776: Hamilton becomes a captain in the Continental Army and serves in various capacities, including as an aide-de-camp to General George Washington.
In 1776, at the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War, Alexander Hamilton joined the Continental Army. His intelligence, leadership abilities, and commitment to the American cause quickly became apparent to his superiors.
Hamilton’s military career advanced rapidly. He was promoted to the rank of captain and then served as an artillery commander, playing a crucial role in various battles of the Revolutionary War.
One of the most significant developments during this time was his appointment as an aide-de-camp to General George Washington, the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army. As Washington’s close aide, Hamilton had direct access to the highest levels of military strategy and decision-making.
1780: He marries Elizabeth Schuyler, a member of a prominent New York family.
In 1780, Alexander Hamilton married Elizabeth Schuyler, commonly known as Eliza. She was a member of the influential and wealthy Schuyler family in New York.
The marriage to Eliza not only brought personal happiness to Hamilton but also solidified his social and political connections. The Schuyler family was well-connected in New York and played a significant role in the political and social life of the state.
Alexander and Eliza Hamilton would go on to have several children together, and their marriage was marked by both love and shared dedication to the American cause.
1781: Hamilton serves with distinction in the Battle of Yorktown, a significant turning point in the American Revolution.
In 1781, Alexander Hamilton played a vital role in the Siege of Yorktown, which proved to be a decisive moment in the American Revolutionary War. As a trusted aide to General Washington, he played a key role in planning and executing the siege.
Hamilton’s military leadership and strategic acumen were on full display during the Battle of Yorktown. His forces successfully executed a surprise attack on the British lines, leading to the surrender of British General Cornwallis and his army. This victory effectively signaled the end of major hostilities in the Revolutionary War.
The Battle of Yorktown is often regarded as the culmination of the American Revolution, and Hamilton’s contributions in this campaign further solidified his reputation as a capable military leader.
1782: Hamilton is admitted to the bar in New York and begins his legal career.
After the American Revolutionary War, Alexander Hamilton shifted his focus from military service to the study and practice of law. He pursued legal studies and was admitted to the bar in the state of New York in 1782.
Hamilton’s legal career quickly gained momentum, and he became known for his legal prowess and persuasive arguments in court. His legal practice helped establish his financial stability and set the stage for his later involvement in politics and government.
Hamilton’s combination of legal expertise, military experience, and political acumen made him a prominent figure in the post-war years, as he became increasingly involved in shaping the future of the newly formed United States.
1787-1788: Hamilton plays a crucial role in the writing and advocacy of the Federalist Papers, a series of essays supporting the ratification of the U.S. Constitution.
From 1787 to 1788, Alexander Hamilton, along with James Madison and John Jay, co-authored a series of essays known as the Federalist Papers. These essays were written under the pseudonym “Publius” and were published in newspapers to promote the ratification of the newly proposed United States Constitution.
Hamilton’s contributions to the Federalist Papers are considered some of the most influential and persuasive. In particular, his essays on the powers of the federal government, the need for a strong executive branch, and the advantages of a national banking system played a critical role in shaping public opinion in favor of the Constitution.
The Federalist Papers are still widely studied today as a foundational source for understanding the intentions of the framers of the Constitution and the principles of American government.
1789-1795: George Washington appoints Hamilton as the first Secretary of the Treasury in his administration.
In 1789, Alexander Hamilton was appointed by President George Washington as the first Secretary of the Treasury. In this role, he was responsible for managing the nation’s finances and establishing a sound economic system for the newly formed United States.
Hamilton’s tenure as Secretary of the Treasury was marked by several key policy initiatives, including the creation of a national bank (the First Bank of the United States), the assumption of state debts by the federal government, and the development of a comprehensive financial plan to stabilize the economy.
Hamilton’s financial policies laid the groundwork for the economic stability and growth of the United States, helping to establish its creditworthiness on the international stage and setting the stage for the development of a modern financial system.
1791: Hamilton’s economic plan leads to the creation of the First Bank of the United States.
One of Alexander Hamilton’s most significant achievements as Secretary of the Treasury was the establishment of the First Bank of the United States in 1791. He proposed the bank as a way to centralize the country’s financial system, promote economic stability, and provide a source of credit for the federal government.
The First Bank of the United States served as a precursor to modern central banking and played a crucial role in managing the nation’s finances, issuing currency, and facilitating economic growth.
Hamilton’s economic vision, which included the national bank, was met with opposition from Thomas Jefferson and others who had a more limited view of federal power. This disagreement contributed to the development of political factions in the early United States, with Hamilton leading the Federalists.
1795: Hamilton resigns as Secretary of the Treasury due to differences with President Washington.
In 1795, Alexander Hamilton resigned from his position as Secretary of the Treasury. His decision to step down was influenced by increasing differences and conflicts with President George Washington, as well as personal and political considerations.
Hamilton had become a divisive figure in American politics due to his financial policies, support for a strong federal government, and involvement in various controversies. These factors, along with his desire to focus on his law practice and business interests, led to his departure from the government.
Despite his resignation, Hamilton continued to be active in political and public life, offering advice and playing a role in shaping the direction of the Federalist Party.
1801: Hamilton’s son, Philip Hamilton, dies in a duel defending his father’s honor.
In 1801, a tragic event occurred in the Hamilton family when Alexander Hamilton’s eldest son, Philip Hamilton, lost his life in a duel. Philip had challenged George Eacker, a political opponent of his father, to a duel after Eacker had publicly criticized Alexander Hamilton.
The duel took place in Weehawken, New Jersey, and tragically resulted in Philip being mortally wounded. He died a day after the duel, on November 24, 1801, at the age of 19.
The loss of his son deeply affected Alexander Hamilton, who blamed himself for the circumstances that led to the duel. This tragic event underscores the personal toll that political conflicts and honor duels could take in the early 19th century.
1804: Hamilton becomes involved in a duel with Vice President Aaron Burr, which results in Hamilton’s death on July 12, 1804.
One of the most infamous events in Alexander Hamilton’s life occurred in 1804 when he became embroiled in a deadly duel with Vice President Aaron Burr. The animosity between Hamilton and Burr had been building for years due to political and personal conflicts.
The duel took place on the morning of July 11, 1804, in Weehawken, New Jersey, the same location where Hamilton’s son had been killed in a duel three years earlier. Hamilton and Burr faced each other with pistols, and Hamilton intentionally fired his shot into the air, aiming to avoid harming Burr.
Tragically, Burr’s shot struck Hamilton in the lower abdomen, damaging his internal organs. Hamilton was transported back to New York City, where he received medical attention, but his injuries proved fatal. He died on July 12, 1804, surrounded by family and friends.
The death of Alexander Hamilton marked the end of a tumultuous chapter in American politics. It also ended the life of one of the most brilliant and influential Founding Fathers of the United States.
1804: Alexander Hamilton dies in Weehawken, New Jersey, as a result of wounds sustained in the duel with Aaron Burr. He dies the following day.
As mentioned, Alexander Hamilton succumbed to his injuries on July 12, 1804, a day after the duel with Aaron Burr. He died at the age of 47.
Hamilton’s death was met with widespread mourning and shock across the young nation. He was widely regarded as a brilliant statesman, a key contributor to the Constitution, and the architect of the nation’s financial system.
His funeral took place in New York City, where he was buried in the Trinity Churchyard Cemetery. His gravesite has since become a historic landmark and a place of reverence for those who appreciate his contributions to American history.
Hamilton’s legacy endured long after his death, with his ideas and principles continuing to shape the United States in the years and centuries that followed. He is also remembered for his eloquent writings, including the Federalist Papers, which remain influential in American political thought.