Essay About Alexander Hamilton

[Note from the Editor: In last week's issue, Katia Dunn stupidly referred to Alexander Hamilton as "President Alexander Hamilton," when the average fourth grader knows he never attained this high office. To teach Katia a valuable lesson, she has been instructed to write a 700-word essay on Alexander Hamilton. Our thanks to Tony San Marco for alerting us to Katia's embarrassing mistake (see "Letters," page 3), and we hope this in some way serves as recompense for Katia's lack of respect for American history.]

Though Alexander Hamilton was never President of the United States, his social and political significance within American history has been just as great--if not greater--than that of President. In fact, his impact is so great, that in reflecting on American history, it is easy to see how any intelligent historian might think Hamilton served a tenure as president. And while, by the letter of the law, he was never actually president, practically speaking, he might as well have been.

Hamilton was born in 1755, in the British West Indies. He died at the age of 49, on July 11, 1804, in a battle in Weehawken, New Jersey. During those 49 years, he served in the Revolutionary Army as Lieutenant Colonel, fought endlessly and bravely for ratification of the Constitution, was significant in establishing the first governmental tools for managing the national economy, and of course, served as an aide, friend, advisor, and most likely, lover to George Washington.*

However, despite this perfectly understandable confusion, it is generally accepted, in historical retrospect, that Hamilton was way, way smarter than Washington and probably should have been President, even though he was technically never elected as such. The most compelling piece of evidence for this argument is Hamilton's economic foresight and intelligence. He is occasionally remembered as the economic wizard of his time, a title which Washington, due to his complete stupidity, was never afforded. It was Hamilton's genius that lay the financial groundwork for today's sophisticated economy, and it was also Hamilton's deep mistrust of the American populace that established the advanced systems of checks and balances that today's economy relies on.

Though many people scorned poor Hamilton for this belief, he persevered, continuing his work because of a deep, abiding love of America. In one particularly heroic story, it is said that Hamilton sat at his desk, his face streaming with tears--due to the the rocks people were throwing at him--and continued to compose the very economic policy that is in place today. Meanwhile, several people were offering libations and oral sex to a jealous Washington, who was at the time sitting by, scoffing and leading the pack of insults being hurled at Hamilton.

Nevertheless, Hamilton never begrudged Washington, or the American people, for their misunderstanding of his genius. Presently, in the wake of economic catastrophes such as Enron, it is Hamilton's policy that has helped to quell America's great greed and selfishness.

I ask you, ladies and gentleman, what makes a president in the United States of America? Is it a title? Is it a vote? Is it a chair in the White House? Or is it the dedication that one individual has to the land of the free and the home of the brave? To serving a people, while the individuals belonging to that body do not even have one tiny ounce of appreciation for him? Isn't Alexander Hamilton the very definition of patriotism, of an individual who rose to the occasion in a time when rising was the hardest possible choice?

Today, the sad truth about the institution of academic history is that anyone, even the moronic, believe they can intelligently comment on historical events. Some such people have suggested that Hamilton's significance can be measured in his title. In fact, one such audacious critic actually suggested that, by confusing Hamilton with Washington, I had not "even bothered to research it." It is extremely likely that this critic can be only one of two things: a descendant of Washington himself, or mentally retarded.

Either way, it is clear that my understanding of Alexander Hamilton is enormous, and it is these types of critics that add to America's great misunderstanding of one of the most brilliant men who ever lived, a man who most certainly should have been President. As stated, Hamilton basically was President, or at least should have been, if not for a bunch of idiots, whose misguided thinking still exists today. I beg of you, the American people, stop the unjust reputation that clings to the memory of Alexander Hamilton and see him for the patriot he was. A smart, beautiful man, who asked for nothing more than to serve a people who hated him.

God bless you, Hamilton. And God bless AMERICA!


* Many Friends and acquaintances of the two men often got them confused. It is even rumored that Martha Washington, after mistaking Alexander for George in the dark one night, went on to have a lengthy affair with Alexander. There is also some speculation that Martha's children were fathered by Alexander, though George was given the credit.

Alexander Hamilton 1755(?)-1804

American statesman and essayist.

One of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America, Alexander Hamilton is best known as the principal author of the classic work on constitutional government, The Federalist (1787-88). However, his enduring influence on American matters of state lies equally with his reports to Congress on the financial affairs of the Federal government. Hamilton is chiefly responsible for the design and establishment of Federal institutions, and above all for the financial system which helped consolidate the states into a nation, and then put that nation on its path toward an industrial economy. Hamilton is often considered the rival of Thomas Jefferson, for while Jefferson promoted a democratic agrarian society, and sided with France in matters of foreign policy, Hamilton foresaw a manufacturing economy founded on secure financial principles, and he sought for the United States a government closer to the British model.

Biographical Information

Hamilton was born on the island of Nevis in 1755, the illegitimate son of Rachel Faucett Lavien and James Hamilton. Orphaned early, Hamilton worked for a merchant on the island of St. Croix. His precocity and business acumen were quickly noted, and he was sent to the American colonies to be educated. Hamilton enrolled at King's College in New York (now Columbia University) but his studies were cut short by war with the British; he was appointed captain of an artillery company, and in 1777 was appointed aide-de-camp to General George Washington. In 1782 Hamilton was admitted to the New York Bar and appointed a New York delegate to the Continental Congress. He attended the Federal Constitutional Convention of 1787, and his essay-writing campaign for ratification of the Constitution resulted in The Federalist, which also contained essays by John Jay and James Madison. Hamilton's appointment as Secretary of the Treasury in 1789 prompted the reports on finance and manufacturing which Jacob E. Cooke has called Hamilton's "enduring claim to fame." Following his resignation in 1795, Hamilton practised law in New York City and continued his interest in New York and national politics. His attacks on political rival Aaron Burr resulted in the latter's challenge to a duel. He reluctantly accepted, and he met Burr on the morning of July 11, 1804 in Weehauken, New Jersey. Hamilton was mortally wounded and died the following day.

Major Works

Hamilton's most enduring work is The Federalist (1788), the series of political essays he wrote with Madison and Jay. Hamilton was responsible for two thirds of the papers, which were written under the pseudonym "Publius" to support ratification of the Constitution, but now provide a contemporary commentary on the intentions of the Founders. Taken as a whole, The Federalist is considered a classic treatise on constitutional government; it provides a theoretical foundation for the United States Constitution. In addition, in his capacity as Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton wrote a series of important and influential reports. His Report on Manufactures (1791) argued that only by establishing an industrial economy would the United States be free of reliance on foreign markets. This work, and others such as the Report on a National Bank (1790) and the Report on the Public Credit (1795), sought to expand the powers of central government. Throughout his life Hamilton was a prolific pamphleteer; under a variety of pseudonyms—Publius, Phocion, Catullus, Tully, Pacificus, Lucius Crassus—he used the press to engage in vigorous political argument. These essays, along with his legal writings, attest to Hamilton's faith in the written word as both a guarantor of civil order and a spur to action.

Critical Reception

Hamilton's writing sought and often resulted in political change. From the outset he engaged in a polemical dialog with his political rivals, and his ideas prompted strong partisan reactions of acceptance and rejection. Hamilton's success as a rhetorician is measured less in critical reviews than in the shape of American government during his lifetime and since, for the acceptance of his arguments brought on practical remedies. The success of Hamilton's ideas and the persuasiveness of his rhetoric determined, in large measure, the industrialized capitalist character of the United States, and spawned the judicial, governmental and financial institutions which sustain it. Hamilton's conservatism, his attachment to monarchy and aristocracy, and his claim that self-interest is a political constant have made him a clear target for criticism, but the widespread implementation of his ideas is testament to his capacity for compromise.

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