Alexander Hamilton, born in the British West Indies, was an outsider from the very beginning. His illegitimate birth drove him to prove his worthiness to others throughout his life. His quest for honor was one of the defining characteristics that colored his decisions. Hamilton was a small man with a large ambition, and this would drive him to greatness and create some powerful enemies in his wake.
Alexander Hamilton’s life was not without its share of tragedy. Before his 15th birthday, his father had abandoned the family and his mother had died of yellow fever. Luckily for young Alexander, a group of benefactors realized his potential and paid to have him sent to the British colony, America, for an education.
After serving as General Washington’s aide-de-camp during the Revolutionary War, Hamilton returned to his law practice and soon entered politics. In 1787, he would help draft the Constitution of the United States and then write a series of critical essays, called the Federalist Papers, which were key to ratification of the Constitution. Hamilton’s position on the role of government was for a strong federal government.
President Washington nominated Hamilton to become the first Secretary of the Treasury. During his tenure as Secretary of the Treasury, he set the nation on a sound fiscal footing, established the first national bank and a mint to produce coinage. Hamilton was a master of setting up institutions within the government and making bitter enemies of powerful men, such as John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Aaron Burr.
One of Hamilton’s political rivalries would turn very personal as Aaron Burr, the sitting vice president of the United States, was seeking retaliation for Hamilton’s disparaging remarks. Hamilton’s honor would not let him decline Burr’s challenge to a duel. The outcome of the duel was fatal for Alexander Hamilton – dead at age 49, leaving behind a wife, seven living children, and a legacy that would survive the centuries.