Thursday, March 3, 2011

Alexander Hamilton, First Secretary of Treasury Dies in a Duel as Does His Oldest Son

Alexander Hamilton was one of America’s early administrative geniuses. He did perhaps as much as anyone to weld the young nation into a cohesive national unit. Historians say his most enduring memorial is the American Union. Statesman and founding father, Alexander Hamilton was born on the isle of Nevis in the British West Indies. His father was the fourth son of the Laird of Cambuskeith in Ayrshire, Scotland. He entered King’s College in New York in 1773 and was soon embroiled doctrinally on the colonial side with his writings in the dispute with Britain.

When war come, Hamilton was given a field command and was cited for conspicuous bravery in several military campaigns. General Washington made Hamilton his aide de camp with the rank of lieutenant colonel. Fluent in French, he became Washington’s liaison with French officers.

With the war over, Hamilton became a lawyer. He went to the constitutional convention of 1787 as a delegate from New York, and aroused considerable controversy because of his disagreements with the wording of the proposed Constitution.

Later, he did much writing publicly on finance and economics and was soon to become the nation’s first secretary of the treasury. He fought for a strong centralized government and thus incurred the enmity of political figures like Jefferson, Adams, and Aaron Burr.

When Hamilton expressed a low opinion of Burr in public, Burr demanded satisfaction in a gun duel. Though he despised the practice of dueling, Hamilton met Burr on the morning of July 11, 1804, at Weehawken, New Jersey.  Mortally wounded in the exchange, Hamilton died the next day.

(Alexander Hamilton is in the Scottish American Hall of Fame maintained by the Illinois St. Andrew’s Society. The above was written by James C. Thomson)

Alexander Hamilton was a member of the Saint Andrew's Society of the State of New York, est. 1756.

Wayne Rethford, Historian
Scottish American History Club
Illinois St. Andrews Society

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