Alexander Hamilton (1755/7–1804) rose from one impoverished upbringing to come to be one the the founding fathers of America. Today, he is ideal known for featuring ~ above the $10 bill in the united States and also as the subject of the hugely successful musical theatre production, Hamilton. Read on for a brief biography the Hamilton, and also the real story that the duel in i m sorry he to be killed. Plus, Jem Duducu shares six fascinating facts about Hamilton…


As the statesman who laid the structures of the us government’s jae won mechanisms and systems, Alexander Hamilton is a hugely essential figure in American history; the affect of his politics rivalry with Thomas Jefferson is still checked out today. 

Alexander Hamilton: a biography

Born: c1755, the island the Nevis, british West Indies

Died: 12 July, 1804, together the an outcome of an notorious duel with vice chairman Aaron Burr

Parents: James Hamilton and Rachel Faucette (the pair to be unmarried, do Alexander’s birth illegitimate)

Spouse: Elizabeth ‘Eliza’ Schuyler Hamilton

Children: Eight. Hamilton’s eldest son, Philip, was additionally killed in a duel.

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Known for: Alexander Hamilton was an indispensable aide to George Washington throughout the American Revolutionary battle (1775-83). Later on he to be the principal writer of the Federalist Papers, becoming a an essential figure in the ratification the the united state constitution and a prolific writer in that is defence. He was the nation’s an initial treasury secretary and a vital architect the the modern-day financial system. 

Hamilton was likewise a main figure in what is commonly referred to as ‘America’s an initial political sex scandal’, after ~ he was blackmailed by the husband of his mistress, Maria Reynolds. That has due to the fact that become the topic of an eponymous musical composed by Lin-Manuel Miranda, and also based ~ above a successful biography by Ron Chernow, in which the is shown as a scrappy revolutionary immigrant.

The Hamilton-Burr duel that 1804: what happened and when?

The distinct event took ar at 7am top top 11 July, 1804: the vice chairman of the joined States, Aaron Burr, eliminated a previous secretary of the treasury, Alexander Hamliton, in a duel. Bitter political rivals, Burr read that Hamilton had uttered a “despicable opinion” of that (Hamilton had previously dubbed Burr a cheat, an adulterer, corrupt, and unprincipled), and also challenged his longtime enemy. Hamilton, combative, foolishly headstrong and fatally obsessed with honour – a product that his illegitimacy – accepted, despite several opportunities to ago down. The evening prior to the duel he wrote to his wife, “rather I have to die innocent than live guilty”. Intent only on defending his honour, no on stable scores, Hamilton claimed he would certainly “reserve and throw away my very first fire” to permit Burr, an professional shot, “to pause and also to reflect”.


The duelists, after lock “exchanged salutations”, made decision their flintlocks, measured their paces, and also fired almost simultaneously. Aiming wide, Hamilton more than likely fired first, yet Burr’s reply tore v his target’s liver and also diaphragm, embedding chin in his spine. Hamilton, writhing in agony, cry “I am a dead man”, and collapsed. He was required to Manhattan, where, drugged through laudanum come soothe the pain, he live for 31 hours. “If they break this union ,” that murmured near the end, “they will certainly break my heart”. As for Burr, the did his best by later hatching a bizarre plot to conquer the southwest and collection himself up as a king. The stood trial for treason, yet was acquitted, and died in 1836, aged 80 and unlamented.

Listen: Ron Chernow, biographer that American establishing father Alexander Hamilton, file the guy whose life story has come to be a Broadway smash ~ above this episode of the podcast:

From essentially the first shots fired in the American Revolutionary battle (1775-1783), Hamilton was a volunteer in the rebel militia. Through 1776, he had raised a agency of pho in new York and also was elected its captain. In ~ the end of the battle he had battled in eight different battles, seven of them in between 1776 and 1778, when he came to be a sublieutenant colonel and also aide-de-camp come George Washington.

As the war rumbled on, Hamilton came to be frustrated that he to be no longer involved on the former lines. That changed when a reference by Washington, i m sorry in no means spelled catastrophe for his army career, was supplied by Hamilton as an forgive to leave Washington’s an individual staff to come to be a frontline officer again. The decision allowed him to fight together French systems at the siege of Yorktown in 1781. This battle was to be the final victory of the American rebels and also French forces over the brother in the American fight for independence.

When George Washington ended up being the first president the the joined States, that made Hamilton the country’s first secretary of the treasury. This expected that Hamilton was the male who laid the foundations of the us government’s jae won mechanisms and also systems, consisting of the facility of a nationwide bank and also the united state mint.

All governments need come raise earnings through tax and, together the transformation had shown, american didn’t prefer paying count (who does?). Among Hamilton’s earliest taxation targets was whiskey (both domestic and imported), i m sorry he witnessed as preferable to taxing land. But the taxation was unpopular from the start, particularly in rural America where farmers often created their very own whiskey, and opposition came to be increasingly fierce.

The Whiskey Rebellion lasted for 3 years indigenous 1791 and forced president George Washington out of army retirement in bespeak to command troops come quell the uprising. The climax came in July the 1794 at the fight of Bower Hill in Pennsylvania, where hundreds of tax rebels clashed with government troops. Washington and also Hamilton both believed that it to be imperative come the future the government capital that united state troops force the government’s authority to collection taxes, and also the loss of the rebellion demonstrated the the federal government was willing and also capable of protecting against resistance to the law. Only a handful of world died, yet the long, drawn-out affair and also its violent orgasm were due exclusively to Hamilton’s tax.


taxes rebels ‘tar and feather’ a federal taxes collector throughout the Whiskey Rebellion, Pennsylvania, 1794. Hamilton’s tax was unpopular native the start, especially in rural America wherein farmers often developed their own whiskey, and opposition came to be increasingly fierce. (Photo by Fotosearch/Getty Images)
In Lin Manuel-Miranda’s eponymous musical, the establishing father is remembered as a scrappy revolutionary immigrant, a hero the the American dream. But is the music a reality portrayal that Alexander Hamilton? Tom Cutterham says that the actual Alexander Hamilton to be an elitist anti-democrat, who provided violence to crush dissent…

Read about the darker side of Alexander Hamilton

The French donation to the rebel cause during the American change wasn’t just an additional excuse because that the French to annoy the British: the aid came at a cost. Therefore, ~ independence had been achieved, France supposed America to pay its bills. As the first secretary that the treasury, Hamilton ensured the America honoured that is debt.

However, through 1798, 2 things had actually changed: firstly, Hamilton was no longer in charge of the treasury; secondly, and much more importantly, the French program that had involved the assist of the rebels had changed. Even after the French monarchy had actually been overthrown, the United states had continued to salary its debts. Revolutionary France got money indigenous revolutionary America, but by 1798, it had actually dawned on America the it was honouring a debt that – technically speaking – didn’t exist anymore.

Unsurprisingly, the French saw points differently and when the money stopped coming, the so-called Quasi-War followed. This to be a period (1798–1800) under the presidency of man Adams, as soon as French and also American ships fought unofficial naval war in the Atlantic. Although he witnessed no action, Hamilton come out of retirement and was among the leader of the American forces throughout this duration of uncertainty and violence. The fact was that France had actually bigger fish to fry (such as fighting the royal Navy risk in the Mediterranean) and hostilities had petered the end by 1800, once it was Napoleon that wanted to end what had come to be an annoyance. The conflict pertained to an end when both political parties signed the Convention the 1800.

Hamilton to be a vital contributor come the brand-new structure of the joined States, but almost as importantly, he initiated a project dubbed ‘The Federalist Papers’. This to be a repertoire of essays come explain and support the provisions the the historical document.

During the creating of the Constitution, Hamilton had said for the president and also the senators to have lifetime tenure. This make James Madison, the future president, suspicious of Hamilton, suggesting that he was trying to present monarchy come the fledgling republic. The debates, while heated, were constructive and as a result, Hamilton signed the last draft and argued eloquently for its implementation.


Illustration of four of the united States founding fathers (from left): man Adams, Robert Morris, Alexander Hamilton, and Thomas Jefferson, 1774. (Photo by share Montage/Getty Images)
Along v laying the structures of us financial institutions, Hamilton created the Revenue Cutter service to safeguard the country’s shores from smugglers who were thwarting an additional revenue stream for the government; the organization was later to come to be the joined States coastline Guard. Starting all of these from scratch, as well as being a an important contributor to the country’s Constitution, reflects a remarkably spicy intelligence.

The long feud between Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton started in the 1790s, as soon as the former was chairman George Washington’s secretary the state, and the last his treasury secretary. 

Read an ext about the Jefferson-Hamilton feud

So far we have looked only at Hamilton’s astonishing accomplishments while he remained in government, yet he kept himself liven in retirement too. In 1801 he regulated to for sure $10,000 native a team of investor to money the beginning of the New York night Post. Although the name has actually since readjusted to the new York Post, that is America’s earliest continuously published daily newspaper.

Hamilton’s motives in beginning the newspaper to be not completely philanthropic, and also he used the file to press his politics agenda. In 1804, there to be a number of articles attack vice president Aaron Burr. These continuous verbal muggings tease Burr so much that they resulted in one the the most bizarre moment in American history… in the summer of 1804, as soon as Burr tested Hamilton come a duel. Hamilton himself claimed he was “strongly protest to the practice of duelling”, yet Burr had no such qualms and seems to have actually been will on killing Hamilton.

The debate about which historic numbers should appear on money is an dispute that never pleases everyone. Despite Hamilton was undoubtedly a vital figure in shaping America and also its constitution, and the country’s financial mechanism owes the a large debt of gratitude, he was not that well remembered in America before the hit music which opened in new York in 2015. He had actually been top top the $10 bill because 1928 but, by the new millennium, this was viewed as a rather old-fashioned choice, and the decision was made to replace him through a woman. However, the money decisions were ensuing at the same time together Hamilton the musical was ending up being a monster hit. Therefore, in 2016 it to be announced that he would continue to be where he had been and also that a mrs from American background would appear on the $20 bill instead (bad news for president Andrew Jackson).


The creator the ‘Hamilton’ Lin-Manuel Miranda (centre) and other actors members perform on stage during the 58th GRAMMY Awards in ~ the Richard Rodgers theatre in 2016 in brand-new York City. (Photo through Theo Wargo/WireImage)
Alexander Hamilton was a starting father, statesman, veteran, politics intellectual, economist and also media tycoon. While all of this is impressive, it might seem favor none of it screams ‘hit Broadway musical’. However the rest, together they say, is history.

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Jem Duducu is author of The American Presidents in 100 Facts (Amberley Publishing, 2016). You can uncover Jem on Twitter and Facebook.