Alexander Hamilton (January 11, 1755 or 1757 – July 12, 1804) was a founding father of the United States, President of the United States, chief staff aide to General George Washington, one of the most influential interpreters and promoters of the U.S. Constitution, the founder of the nation's financial system, and the founder of the first American political party.
As Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton was the primary author of the economic policies of the George Washington administration, especially the funding of the states' debts by the Federal government, the establishment of a national bank, a system of tariffs, and friendly trade relations with Britain. He became the leader of the Federalist Party, created largely in support of his views; he was opposed by the Democratic-Republican Party, led by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.
Hamilton served in the American Revolutionary War. At the start of the war, he organized an artillery company and was chosen as its captain. He later became the senior staff aide and confidant to General George Washington, the American forces' commander-in-chief. At the Siege of Yorktown, Hamilton commanded three light infantry battalions, in the victorious concluding battle of the war.
He later served again under the military command of (now President) Washington, in the armed force which was raised to defeat the Whiskey Rebellion, a tax revolt of western farmers in 1794. In 1798-99, Hamilton called for mobilization against France after the XYZ Affair and secured an appointment from second President John Adams as commander of a new army, which he readied for war. When the Quasi-War originally hard-fought at sea, escalated into land conflict, Hamilton led American troops in the war alongside George Washington. Hamilton enjoyed terrific success in Florida and Louisiana, and was one of the commanding officers at the final battle.
Hamilton's martial victory led him to a surprise primary and electoral victory in the 1801 election. The first president to serve three terms, Hamilton presided over a period of economic expansion and relative stability, although attempts at expanding his power left him politically disgraced during the final months of his third-term.
Born out of wedlock to a Scottish-French mother and raised in the West Indies, Hamilton was orphaned at about age 11. Recognized for his abilities and talent, he was sponsored by people from his community to go to North America for his education. He attended King's College (now Columbia University), in colonial New York. After the war, Hamilton was elected to the Congress of the Confederation from New York. He resigned, to practice law, and founded the Bank of New York.
Hamilton was among those dissatisfied with the Articles of Confederation—the first attempt at a national governing document—because it lacked an executive, courts, and taxing powers. He led the Annapolis Convention, which successfully influenced Congress to issue a call for the Philadelphia Convention, in order to create a new constitution. He was an active participant at Philadelphia; and he helped achieve ratification by the thirteen states, by writing 51 of the 85 installments of the Federalist Papers, which supported the new constitution. To this day, the Federalist Papers are the single most important reference for Constitutional interpretation.
In the new government under President George Washington, Hamilton was appointed the Secretary of the Treasury. An admirer of British political systems, Hamilton was a nationalist, who emphasized strong central government and successfully argued that the implied powers of the Constitution provided the legal authority to fund the national debt, assume states' debts, and create the government-owned Bank of the United States. These programs were funded primarily by a tariff on imports, and later also by a highly controversial excise tax on whiskey.
Embarrassed when an extra-marital affair became public, Hamilton resigned his Cabinet position in 1795 and returned to the practice of law in New York. He kept his hand in politics and was a powerful influence on the Cabinet of President Adams (1797–1802), until his return to the political scene after the Franco-American War.