Alexander Hamilton, one of America’s greatest statesmen, was born January 11, 1757. Although his achievements are too vast to summarize in a short blog post, here are five highlights:
- He became George Washington’s most able and trusted aid during the Revolutionary War. Hamilton joined the war at age eighteen. Two years later, General Washington, having observed his competence and leadership skills, promoted him to aide-de-camp. Washington entrusted Hamilton to attend high-level meetings and to help draft letters to governors, generals, and Congress. Later Hamilton issued orders on behalf of Washington. At Yorktown he commanded an infantry, eluded enemy fire, captured soldiers, and helped force the British to surrender.
- Hamilton wrote most of the Federalist Papers, which ensured ratification of the Constitution. Before it was ratified, the Constitution faced tremendous opposition. Hamilton’s essays—part of a series of newspaper articles outlining how the republican form of government would function—demonstrated the advantages of a central government with built-in checks to prevent abuses of power.
- Hamilton served as first Treasury Secretary and stabilized the economy. When George Washington became president, the economy was in shambles. Hamilton spearheaded the establishment of a gold-based dollar, ensured that the war debt was paid, and stated that, in justice, the purchasers (instead of the original holders) of war bonds would be paid their current value. This demonstrated that the federal government respected property rights and the sanctity of contract. A group of merchants admired Hamilton so much that they paid for a fifteen-foot marble statue of him—a statue that stood on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange before it was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1835.
- Hamilton helped shape Washington’s foreign policy based on American self-interest. In 1793, when England and France were once again at war, both nations demanded America’s support. Hamilton advised Washington on the Neutrality Proclamation, which declared that America would not become entangled in foreign affairs but would be friendly to both nations and impartial in their dispute. Hamilton advocated a paid military, founded the U.S. Coast Guard, and introduced a bill to establish West Point Military Academy.
- Hamilton opposed slavery. He grew up in the slave-based Caribbean and was disgusted with the brutality and rights violations he observed. He wanted slavery eradicated. Most people believe the abolition movement began in the 1830s, but in 1785 Hamilton formed the New York Manumission Society, an organization dedicated to abolishing slavery in New York and instrumental in doing so.
Happy birthday, Alexander Hamilton! We liberty-loving Americans will never forget your vital achievements.
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