Born in Charlestown, Nevis, Alexander Hamilton (1755 – 1804) was one of the Founding Father of the United States. Among other things, he served as a commanding officer in the military, a legal representative, an economist and a politician. During the American Revolutionary War, Hamilton made numerous contributions including serving as the chief staff aide of General George Washington. After the war, Hamilton became the first Secretary of the Treasury of the United States. In this position, he was the primary author of the economic policies of President George Washington’s administration. Among other things, Hamilton founded the nation’s financial system, the first national bank, the United States Coast Guard and the United States Mint. His other contributions include authoring a majority of the Federalist Papers and successfully handling the Rutgers v. Waddington case as a lawyer. Know more through the 10 major accomplishments of Alexander Hamilton.

 

#1 He led New York Provincial Artillery Company during the American Revolution

The American Revolutionary War was a conflict between Great Britain and its thirteen colonies in North America, what would become the United States. When it began in 1775, Alexander Hamilton joined the war effort as part of the a New York volunteer militia company called the Corsicans. This company was later renamed the Hearts of Oak. In 1776, the Revolutionary Government commissioned Alexander Hamilton to raise and be captain of the New York Provincial Company of Artillery. The Hearts of Oak members formed the core of this new company. The company saw action in the Battle of White Plains and the Battle of Trenton, among others. Alexander Hamilton also took part in the Battle of Princeton. Some British soldiers took refuge in Nassau Hall after the successful attack by American General George Washington. It was Hamilton who blew away Nassau Hall leading to the surrender of 194 British soldiers.

Alexander Hamilton during American Revolutionary War
Alexander Hamilton in the Uniform of the New York Artillery Company

 

#2 He was a principal figure in the decisive Battle of Yorktown

Due to his excellence in commanding the New York Provincial Company of Artillery, Alexander Hamilton came to the attention of many high-ranking officers in the Continental Army. Ultimately he accepted the offer to become the chief staff aide of General Washington, with the rank of lieutenant colonel. Hamilton served for four years in this position from 1777 to 1781, performing numerous high-level duties including intelligence, diplomacy and negotiations. However, Hamilton desired field command and his wish was accepted when he was made a commander of a battalion of light infantry companies. In the Siege of Yorktown in October 1781, Hamilton was given command of three battalions, which were to fight alongside French troops. He and his battalions fought bravely playing a key role in the surrender of an entire British army at Yorktown. The Battle of Yorktown was the last major land battle of the American Revolutionary War. The defeat led the British government to negotiate an end to the conflict.

Battle of Yorktown Painting
Storming of a British Redoubt by American Troops at Yorktown

 

#3 Hamilton successfully fought the Rutgers v. Waddington case

In July 1782, Hamilton was appointed to the Congress of the Confederation as a representative from New York. In 1783, he resigned from Continental Congress, passed the bar and opened a law office in New York. After the Revolutionary War, New York’s legislature enacted a series of laws that stripped the British Loyalists of their property and privilege. As a lawyer, Hamilton defended the Loyalists against the rebels who had taken over their property or businesses. In 1784, Hamilton took on one of the biggest cases in American history, Rutgers v. Waddington. Hamilton was able to successfully defeat the claim for damages done to a brewery by an Englishmen who held it during British occupation of New York. He pleaded that the judgment should be consistent with the 1783 Treaty of Paris, which had ended the Revolutionary War. The Rutgers v. Waddington case was important as it set a precedent for the legal authority of the Congress over the states.

Rutgers v Waddington
A book on the Rutgers v Waddington case

 

#4 He was the leading contributor to the Federalist Papers

After the Philadelphia or Constitutional Convention in 1787, each state was asked to hold a convention to determine whether or not to ratify the Constitution. This led to an intense battle between the ones who supported the Constitution, the Federalists; and the ones who opposed it, the Anti-Federalists. Under the pseudonym “Publius”, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay wrote a collection of 85 articles and essays to promote the ratification of the constitution known as The Federalist Papers. Hamilton made the largest contribution to the effort, writing 51 of the 85 published essays. He also supervised the project and oversaw the publication. The Federalist Papers have been called “the most important work in political science that ever has been written, or is likely ever to be written, in the United States.” They have also been frequently cited by the Supreme Court as an authoritative contemporary interpretation of the meaning of the provisions of the United States Constitution.

The Federalist Papers (1788)
Title page of the first collection of The Federalist Papers (1788)

 

#5 Hamilton served as the first American Secretary of the Treasury

Alexander Hamilton served as the first Secretary of the Treasury of the United States from September 11, 1789 to January 31, 1795. In this capacity, Hamilton guided the economy of the young nation through his policies. The most important of these include establishing a national bank, a system of tariffs and support for manufacturing. He was first tasked with organizing the pay-off of the $50 million that the country had incurred towards the Revolutionary War. In doing so, he managed to secure the country’s credit-worthiness, making it eligible for foreign direct investments (FDIs) to kick-start the economy so direly affected after the war. He was also tasked with publishing a report on public credit. In this, he noted that resolving the public credit issue would contribute to their objective of independence. His suggestion ensured national-level financial efficiency.

Portrait of Alexander Hamilton
Portrait of Alexander Hamilton by John Trumbull

 

#6 He helped establish the United States Coast Guard

Post revolution, the U.S. government thought that a significant portion of its income would come from tariffs on imports. However, many traders, in order to avoid taxes, found ways to bring in the goods without the knowledge of the government. The most common way was that cargo ships handed over the goods to smaller boats that went out to meet them at sea and then these small boats would secretly bring cargo on land. As Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton proposed to Congress to establish a naval police force. On August 4, 1790, the United States Revenue Cutter Service was established by an Act of Congress. Ten cutters were initially ordered and constructed. A cutter is a term used to refer to any naval ship built for speed and agility. On January 28, 1915, the Revenue Cutter Service was merged with the United States Life-Saving Service to form the United States Coast Guard, which remains one of the country’s seven uniformed services. Thus, Alexander Hamilton is considered the founder of the U.S. Coast Guard.

 

#7 He was instrumental in establishing a national bank in the U.S.

In June 1784, Alexander Hamilton had founded the Bank of New York. It was instrumental in securing the first loan obtained by the United States. As Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton pushed for the establishment of a national bank as he believed that a national bank would stabilize and improve the nation’s credit while also improving the way that financial business was handled by the government. Hamilton thus prepared a Report on a National Bank using his experience in establishing the Bank of New York as well as by studying extensively the theories of Adam Smith and the working of the Bank of England. The First Bank of the United States was chartered for a term of twenty years by the Congress on February 25, 1791. It was the nation’s second de facto national bank after the Bank of North America. Alexander Hamilton hence played a key role in establishing a national bank in the Untied States.

First Bank of the United States
First Bank of the United States

 

#8 Hamilton founded the first political party in the United States

The financial programs of Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasury caused a strong division within the government. In support of his fiscal policies, the Federalist Party came into being and Hamilton is considered its founder. Existing from the early 1790s to the 1820s, the Federalist Party was the first American political party. Hamilton’s vision was however challenged by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, who formed a rival party. This party is now referred to by historians as Democratic-Republican Party. The Federalist Party stood for Hamilton’s policies of a strong national government, passage of excise laws, creation of a central bank and friendly relations with Great Britain as opposed to Revolutionary France. The Democratic-Republicans favored strong state governments based in rural America. They denounced Hamilton as insufficiently devoted to republicanism, too friendly toward corrupt Britain and too oriented toward cities, business and banking. This split in philosophies led to the American two-party system. Hamilton was the key figure around which this split occurred.

Federalist Party symbol
Black and white cockade – Used by the Federalist Party

 

#9 He ensured friendly trade relations with Great Britain

In early 1793, Great Britain went to war against Revolutionary France. The following year America’s policy of neutrality in this war became a major point of contention between the two newly formed parties. Nonetheless, President Washington sent Chief Justice John Jay to negotiate with Great Britain to maintain America’s position of neutrality. This led to the Jay’s Treaty between U.K. and the U.S. It was Hamilton who designed the treaty and mobilized support for it. In 1795, the Jay’s Treaty passed in the Senate by exactly the required two-thirds majority. It is regarded as a major diplomatic success which greatly helped the American economy. Among other things, it averted war; resolved leftover issues between the United States and Britain after the Treaty of Paris of 1783; and facilitated ten years of peaceful trade between the two nation in the midst of the French Revolutionary Wars.

John Jay
John Jay – Chief American negotiator in the Jay’s Treaty

 

#10 He served as the de facto head of the American army from 1798 to 1800

As Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton was responsible for establishing the United States Mint through his Report on the Establishment of a Mint. His principles were adopted by Congress, resulting in the Coinage Act of 1792 and the creation of the United States Mint. After his term as Secretary was over, Hamilton also served as the inspector general of the United States Army from July 18, 1798 to June 15, 1800. This made him the de facto head of the army. He aided in the development of the army. However, the war with France that he was preparing for never took place as the issues were resolved through diplomacy. Other important achievements of Alexander Hamilton include establishing a daily newspaper that is still published, the New York Evening Post; helping restore King’s College as Columbia College; and founding the Bank of New York, one of the oldest still-existing banks in America. As Hamilton was one of the leading figures in guiding America when it had just gained independence, he is regarded as one of the Founding Father of the United States.

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