Alexander Hamilton: A Founding Father's Struggle Against Thomas Jefferson And The Republican Party

Hamilton and other Federalists clash with Jefferson's Republican Party over the future of the new democracy.


Timeline of Alexander Hamilton's Life:

January 11: Alexander Hamilton is born on the British island of Nevis in the West Indies, the second of two boys. His father James is a Scottish trader of noble ancestry. His mother Rachel Faucett, of French descent, is still married to another man at the time. Several biographical accounts will put the year of Hamilton's birth as 1757.

The Hamiltons move to the Danish island of St. Croix, but James soon leaves his family, and Alexander never sees his father again.

Britain passes the Stamp Act to raise revenue from the American colonists to help pay Britain's war debts. The law touches off a decade-long dispute over British authority in America.

Alexander begins clerking at a St. Croix counting house and so impresses owner Nicholas Cruger that Cruger will later provide money for Hamilton's education.

February 19: Alexander's mother Rachel Faucett dies of yellow fever. Alexander nearly dies at this time.

November 11: Chafing at a clerk's existence and anxious to prove himself, 14-year-old Alexander writes to a friend: "I wish there was a War."

March 5: The killing of civilians by British soldiers, quickly dubbed the Boston Massacre, inflames tensions already simmering in England's American colonies. The soldiers are put on trial; local lawyer John Adams undertakes their defense.

Cruger and a small group of local people provide funds to send Hamilton away to a grammar school in New Jersey.

Hamilton goes to New York to begin studies at King's College (which will become Columbia University).

Hamilton writes his first political pamphlet, "A Full Vindication of the Measures of Congress," supporting the right of the First Continental Congress to authorize a trade boycott of England. Hamilton signs himself, "A Friend to America."

April 19: The first shots of the American Revolution are fired at the battles of Lexington and Concord. Hamilton soon joins the New York State provincial militia.

May 10: Despite supporting the revolutionary cause, Hamilton, who detests mob violence, tries to talk a group out of attacking King's College president (and loyalist) Myles Cooper. Hamilton delays the mob long enough for Cooper to escape. King's College closes, and Hamilton is unable to complete his degree.

March 14: Hamilton becomes captain of the 1st Battalion, 5th Field Artillery Unit. (Today, the unit is the oldest still existing in the United States Army and the only one remaining from the Revolution.) Hamilton conducts himself with skill during General George Washington's subsequent retreat through New York, and draws the Continental Army commander's attention.

July 9: The Declaration of Independence is read for the first time in New York, having been adopted by the Second Continental Congress on July 4.

December 26: Hamilton's artillery unit takes part in Washington's successful capture of Trenton, New Jersey.

January 3: Hamilton participates in the battle of Princeton.

March 1: Washington promotes Hamilton to lieutenant colonel and makes him aide-de-camp. The two men become close as Hamilton aids Washington in the complex administrative task of running a war.

June 28: Hamilton fights in the battle of Monmouth and has his horse shot out from under him.

March 14: In a letter to Continental Congress president John Jay, Hamilton proposes an idea initiated by fellow aide John Laurens of recruiting slaves for the Continental Army and offering them freedom in exchange for their service. Hamilton detests slavery, considering it a terrible waste of human potential.

February: Hamilton renews his acquaintance with Elizabeth Schuyler, daughter of wealthy General Philip Schuyler, whom he had met briefly in 1777. They fall deeply in love and will become engaged in March.

October 5: "I love you too much," Alexander writes Elizabeth. "You engross my thoughts too [e]ntirely to allow me to think of any thing else." They will marry on December 14.

February 16: Hamilton and Washington quarrel following the general's accusation that Hamilton has shown disrespect. Hamilton resigns from Washington's staff, writing, "The Great man and I have come to an open rupture." But after Hamilton refuses Washington's apology, a reconciliation follows.

April 27: Ever eager for action, Hamilton requests a field command, but Washington turns him down.

October 14: Hamilton rides down to Yorktown from New York, desperate for his last chance to earn glory on the battlefield. He ultimately leads combined American and French soldiers in a successful charge against a fortified British position at Yorktown in Virginia. English commander Lord Cornwallis surrenders five days later.

November: Hamilton leaves active military service.

January 22: Elizabeth gives birth to the first of the couple's eight children, a son named Philip.

March 1: Hamilton writes to Washington, declining any future military pay for his services and refusing a pension. He embraces civilian life and later in the year is admitted to the New York bar. (New York State has temporarily suspended its normal rules and allows people whose legal training has been interrupted by the war to forego the requirement of a three-year term as clerk.)

July: Hamilton is made receiver of continental taxes for New York.

November: Hamilton arrives in Philadelphia as an elected representative to the Continental Congress.

March: New York enacts the Trespass Act, allowing patriots whose homes had been seized by Tories during the Revolution to recover damages. This statute violates a provision of the Treaty of Paris, which will ban state laws interfering with debts and contracts between Patriots and Tories.

September: The Treaty of Paris officially ends the American Revolution; the last British troops will leave New York City two months later. By year's end the Hamiltons will have taken up residence at 57 Wall Street in New York.

May 12: Against a backdrop of rising violence towards Tories who have remained in New York, the legislature strips most of them of the vote for two years. Hamilton argues against these sort of punitive measures, writing, "The world has its eye on America." He has also taken up the defense of Tories fighting claims under the Trespass Act.

June 9: The Bank of New York, which Hamilton has helped establish, opens its doors.

June 29: Hamilton argues his first Trespass Act case, Rutgers v. Waddington, in the Mayor's Court of the City of New York. He urges the judges to strike down the law as a violation of the law of nations and secures a favorable settlement for his Tory client. Although harshly criticized for his actions, Hamilton eventually takes 45 more Trespass Act cases and gains notice for his skilled advocacy.

September: Angelica, the Hamiltons' second child, is born.

February 4: At a meeting in New York, Hamilton and 31 others set forth the guiding principles for an anti-slavery group, the New York Society for Promoting the Manumission of Slaves. The society pledges not only to show compassion towards those held in captivity but also to work towards their freedom.

April: Hamilton is elected to the New York legislature. The next month he will be appointed a delegate to a convention in Annapolis, Maryland, called to establish regulations governing interstate trade.

September: Delegates at the Annapolis Convention issue a report drafted by Hamilton to all 13 states recommending that a general convention be called to meet in Philadelphia to render an American government adequate to the needs of the Union. Hamilton, with his friend James Madison of Virginia, becomes a key leader of the movement to strengthen the general government of the United States.

May: A third child, Alexander, is born to Alexander and Elizabeth Hamilton.

May: The Constitutional Convention convenes in Philadelphia. Hamilton is one of three New York delegates, but the only one who supports the creation of a strong new federal government. He serves on the committee that writes rules for the convention, but has little to do with the drafting of the new Constitution itself. Hamilton's own proposal, in which senators and a national governor would serve "during good behavior," attracts almost no support. Hamilton, frustrated at being outvoted in his delegation and needing to raise money to support his family, will leave the Convention in late June to practice law in New York. He only returns to the Convention in its last weeks.

September: After working through the summer, the Convention's delegates, including Hamilton, approve and sign the proposed Constitution and send it to Congress, which in turn sends it to the states. Nine of the 13 must ratify it for the document to take effect. The first three states will do so by the end of the year.

October: Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay begin writing The Federalist, more popularly known as The Federalist Papers. These 85 essays supporting ratification of the Constitution appear in various New York newspapers starting this month and continuing until May 1788. Each essay is signed "Publius." Hamilton writes 51 essays, Jay five, and Madison 29. In Federalist Number 1, Hamilton describes the stakes: Americans will decide "whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force."