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Alexander Hamilton
Timeline: Alexander Hamilton chronology

1755-1787 | 1788-1854


A 1788 copy Vol. I of The Federalist, inscribed by Elizabeth Hamilton. April: A fourth child, James Alexander, is born to the Hamiltons.

June: New York convenes a ratification convention at which Hamilton and his Federalist delegates are outnumbered nearly three to one. Hamilton takes a leading role in the debates, defending the proposed Constitution with eloquence and force. His position is strengthened when the convention receives news that the influential state of Virginia has become the tenth state to ratify. On July 26, New York becomes the eleventh state to ratify the Constitution, guaranteeing that the Constitution will become the new nation's form of government and that New York will remain the new nation's capital at least for a time. In the last of The Federalist, Hamilton anticipates the end result: "The establishment of a Constitution, in time of profound peace, by the voluntary consent of a whole people, is a PRODIGY, to the completion of which I look forward with trembling anxiety."


George Washington becomes the nation's first president and nominates Hamilton to be the first Secretary of the Treasury. The Senate swiftly confirms him without debate; Hamilton's father-in-law, General Philip Schuyler, one of New York's senators, votes for his son-in-law's confirmation. A confirmed Anglophile, Hamilton watches the start of the French Revolution with trepidation.

September: The House of Representatives directs Hamilton to submit a plan for the support of the public credit when Congress reconvenes in January 1790. Hamilton works to organize chaotic national finances, collecting information, establishing standards and procedures, and devising a plan for restoring the financial health of the near bankrupt American republic.


A 1913 print of George Washington's inauguration at Congress Hall in Philadelphia, March 4, 1793. January 14: Hamilton, submitting his "First Report on the Public Credit," argues for a federal assumption of all state debts to stimulate the economy and strengthen the Union.

June 20: With his plan under heavy attack in Congress, Hamilton dines at the New York home of Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson and there strikes a deal with Madison which will ensure Virginia's support for federal assumption of state debts in exchange for Hamilton's agreement to encourage northern members of Congress to move the nation's capital to Philadelphia for 10 years, and then to a Southern site on the banks of the Potomac River.

July 10: The House passes a bill making Philadelphia the nation's temporary capital, to be moved later to a site selected on the Potomac. Later that month, Hamilton's assumption plan is narrowly approved.

December: Hamilton submits a report to the House calling for the chartering of a national bank, which he argues will increase the circulation of currency and assist the financial operations of the national government.


February: Madison, Jefferson and Attorney General Edmund Randolph object to Hamilton's plan for a national bank, declaring it an unconstitutional extension of the powers of the federal government. Washington asks Hamilton to defend the proposal, which he does in a lengthy treatise arguing that the Constitution gives Congress "implied powers." Washington signs the bill into law.

Convinced that the strong central government Hamilton advocates is a threat to both state and individual liberty, Jefferson and Madison form the Republicans, a partisan alliance that becomes the nation's first opposition political party.

Portrait of Aaron Burr. In an election for the New York Senate seat, an ambitious -- and many would say unscrupulous -- Republican, Aaron Burr, defeats incumbent Philip Schuyler, beginning a political rivalry between Burr and Hamilton. Meanwhile, the Secretary of the Treasury continues to churn out reports, advocating a federal mint and promoting manufacturing. That summer he begins an affair with Maria Reynolds, whose swindler husband will eventually extort some $1,000 (well over $10,000 in 2006 dollars) in hush money from Hamilton.


Republicans accuse Hamilton of financial impropriety and investigate him.

May 26: In a letter Hamilton declares himself "unequivocally convinced of the following truth: That Mr. Madison cooperating with Mr. Jefferson is at the head of a faction decidedly hostile to me and my administration, and actuated by views in my judgment subversive of the principles of good government and dangerous to the union, peace and happiness of the Country." Bitter partisan wrangling between Hamilton and his allies and Jefferson, Madison and their allies will dominate the national press and convulse the president's cabinet.

August: A fifth child, John Church, is born to the Hamiltons.


April: Washington issues a proclamation of neutrality towards France, refusing to join France in its declaration of war on Great Britain. Hamilton defends the decision in seven newspaper essays signed "Pacificus." Madison responds in a series of essays under the name "Helvidius."

August: A yellow fever outbreak begins in Philadelphia, causing most of its residents, including Washington and Hamilton, to flee the city. By the time the epidemic subsides in late October, about 5,000 people will have died. Both Hamilton and his wife Elizabeth contract the disease but eventually recover. Jefferson resigns as Secretary of State and returns to Virginia, leaving Hamilton in a commanding position in Washington's cabinet.


Hamilton assists in the suppression of a "Whiskey Rebellion" in Western Pennsylvania over his imposition of a federal excise tax on the drink. He joins Washington at the head of a large military force organized to crush the supposed "rebellion," but the insurrection collapses.


January 19: Hamilton submits his final financial report to Congress and resigns as Treasury Secretary soon afterward. He and his family leave Philadelphia in February and return to New York, where Hamilton, whose government salary has never matched his expenses, returns to the law.


John Adams, second president of the United States of America. Hamilton works closely with Washington on successive drafts of Washington's farewell address; John Adams, who has served as vice president for two terms, is elected Washington's successor in the first contested presidential election in U.S. history, receiving 71 electoral votes to Jefferson's 68. At the time, votes for president and vice president are not made separately; the person receiving the most electoral votes takes the higher office, and the runner-up takes the vice presidency. Hamilton, who has developed a strong dislike for Adams, has been secretly maneuvering to drop the candidate's electoral total below that of fellow candidate Thomas Pinckney of South Carolina. But the plan backfires when several Federalists in New England learn of it and refuse to vote for Pinckney at all, leaving him in third place and ensuring that Adams' chief electoral rival, Thomas Jefferson, becomes his vice president. Burr, running as a Republican, places a distant fourth.


Schuyler defeats Burr and is re-elected to the U.S. Senate. Meanwhile, a pamphlet published by James Callender accuses Hamilton of financial and marital improprieties with Maria Reynolds, leading Hamilton to make a stunning printed confession. In his "Observations on Certain Documents," published on August 25, Hamilton angrily denies that the money paid to Maria's husband was for financial speculation or that he used his position as Treasury secretary for any personal gain or corrupt purpose. "My real crime," Hamilton admits, "is an amorous connection with his wife for a considerable time," and he prints many love letters detailing the adultery. While candid, Hamilton's confession humiliates his wife, disheartens his supporters, and delights his foes. "It is worth all that fifty of the best pens in America could have said [against] him," one opponent writes to Jefferson. But Washington, now in retirement at Mount Vernon, stands by Hamilton.

August: A sixth child, William Stephen, is born to the Hamiltons.


As French-American relations disintegrate due to the French rebuff of an American peace mission, President John Adams names Washington head of the U.S. Army, and the former president insists that Hamilton be made inspector general and second in command. Adams' repeated efforts to avoid open war infuriate Hamilton, who is horrified at the excesses of the French Revolution and believes that Great Britain is America's real ally.


June 3: Hamilton's father James dies.

November: A seventh child, Eliza, is born to the Hamiltons.

Painting of George Washington on his death bed in 1799 attended by family and friends, by Junius Brutus Stearns, 1853. December 14: Hamilton's longtime patron George Washington passes away. "Perhaps no friend of his has more cause to lament on personal account than myself," Hamilton writes.


Portrait of Thomas Jefferson, by Rembrandt Peale. As the result of a secret peace mission to France launched by President John Adams, Congress directs Hamilton to disband the army that Washington and he have assembled; his military service officially concludes in July. The election of 1800 pits Adams against Jefferson again, with Burr once more running as a Republican, supposedly for the vice presidency. Hamilton cannot support his enemy Adams, whom he terms in a private letter "unfit ... for the office of chief magistrate." Hamilton pens a pamphlet for private distribution to leading Federalists making the case that they should switch their support from Adams to his running-mate, South Carolinian Charles C. Pinckney. Burr discovers the pamphlet and makes it public; the furor splits Federalist ranks and helps to ensure that the next president will be a Republican. Jefferson and Burr each receive 73 electoral votes, requiring the House to choose America's third president. Hamilton writes, "If there is a man in the world I ought to hate, it is Jefferson. With Burr I have always been personally well." But Hamilton considers Burr to be immoral, animated solely by personal ambition, and dangerous, so he sides with Jefferson, unleashing a flurry of letters that claim Burr "has no principle, public or private," and is in fact "one of the most unprincipled men in the United States."

Hamilton begins constructing a country house in upper Manhattan, naming it "The Grange."


Newspaper headline: Jefferson's Elected!!! February 17: After months of political intrigue and a week of deliberation, the House makes Jefferson president on the 36th ballot. With some Federalist acquiescence, ten state delegations back Jefferson, while four support Burr and two abstain. Republicans will hold the presidency for the next 24 years.

November 16: The New York Evening Post, a newspaper Hamilton and a number of other leading Federalists has founded, publishes its first issue.

November 23: Philip Hamilton, who in an attempt to defend his father's honor challenges George Eacker to a duel, is mortally wounded at Weehawken, New Jersey, and dies the next day. Hamilton, who has unwittingly encouraged his son's actions, is devastated, and grief drives Philip's sister Angelica insane.


The Grange, Kingsbridge Road, N.Y., residence of Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton and his family move into the Grange. Maintaining the home will prove financially burdensome.

June: An eighth child, Philip, is born to the Hamiltons.


March: Dropped by Jefferson and his allies from the Republican re-election ticket, after four years of distrust Burr decides to run for New York governor. Both Jefferson and Hamilton oppose him, and Burr loses by a wide margin.

April: A published letter asserts that Hamilton has expressed a "despicable opinion" of Burr without providing specifics.

June 18: Burr writes to Hamilton demanding an explanation, which Hamilton does not provide. Hamilton wants to respond to a specific insult -- which Burr cannot provide. A series of letters over the next few days escalate tensions until arrangements are made for a duel on July 11, to be held at Weehawken.

Depiction of duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. July 11: Hamilton is mortally wounded by Burr and dies the next day after suffering considerable physical agony.

July 14: Hamilton's body, accompanied by enormous crowds, is the centerpiece of a massive funeral procession, ending with Hamilton's burial at Trinity Church in lower Manhattan. Elizabeth, now widowed and with her youngest child just two years old, is left in desperate financial straits, a situation somewhat ameliorated by the death of her father four months later. Despite her own financial difficulties, she takes part in many charitable activities throughout her widowhood.


Elizabeth persuades Congress to restore the military pension that Hamilton had declined.


Mrs. Alexander Hamilton, 1825. November 9: Elizabeth, who has outlived her husband by five decades, dies at the age of 97.

1755-1787 | 1788-1854

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Alexander Hamilton American Experience

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