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Alexander Hamilton | Article

Who was Alexander Hamilton?


Find out more about the character of founding father Alexander Hamilton, and see aspects of the astute mind behind the face on the ten dollar bill. 

Hamilton was a foreigner with a different perspective, and something of a misfit among his peers. Born in the Caribbean, he was the only founder without a deep attachment to one particular state. He thought in terms of the entire United States and lived his life for the country; for example, he foresaw at the end of the Revolutionary War that the federal government should assume states' debts to establish the nation's credit for the future.

Hamilton envisioned a union of states under a constitution, which he outlined in the  Federalist Papers. He worked for a national currency. He saw a future without slavery. He founded the opposition Federalist Party. Ultimately, Hamilton foresaw the United States as the global power stabilized by capitalism that it would become. 

Born illegitimate, Hamilton strove to be a gentleman. Traditionalist in manners, he was a proud father and husband, although not without his mistakes. The adultery he committed greatly hurt his wife Elizabeth. For Hamilton, honor came before family embarrassment, causing him to admit his affair with honesty and candor. This same adherence to honor led to his eventual death in a duel. 

Secretary & Statesman...
...but never president. An overbearing orator and politically tactless, Hamilton made fast enemies. He is often remembered less fondly in the American psyche despite being a founding father and a great scholar of government. It was Hamilton's political naïveté that led him astray and made it easy for those around him to exploit his failings. 

Hamilton was driven by an ambition to achieve something remarkable and become famous. At times antagonistic in his speech and stubborn in his beliefs, he became a master of winning people over -- and wearing people down. 

A economist with a strong vision for the young nation's future, Hamilton developed a keen understanding of international commerce in his first job as a trading-house clerk on the Caribbean island of St. Croix. Hamilton is best remembered for his advocacy of a central bank. His home on Wall Street was to become the site of the American stock market and the nation's remarkable prosperity. A futurist dream to the people of his era, Hamilton saw the industrial economy as achievable.

Quintessential American
From humble beginnings as an orphan and then an immigrant, Hamilton's swift upward path through society made him an unlikely member of the American aristocracy. His life represented an early version of the American Dream of achieving success by merit, not by birth. 

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