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Alexander Hamilton


Alexander Hamilton by Charles Willson Peale, from life, c. 1790-95. Used by the permission of Independence National Historic Park
Alexander Hamilton by Charles Willson Peale, from life, c. 1790-95. Used by the permission of Independence National Historic Park
The chief debater in the convention which framed the federal constitution, and the chief advocate of that instrument after its completion, was Alexander Hamilton. He was a native of the Island of St. Croix, and was born in 1757. His father was the younger son of an English family, and his mother was an American. At the age of sixteen he accompanied his mother to New York, and entered a student of Columbia college, in which he continued about three years While a member of this institution the first buddings of his intellect gave presages of his future eminence. The contest with Great Britain called forth the first talents on each side, and his juvenile pen asserted the claims of the colonies against very respectable writers. His papers exhibited such evidence of intellect and wisdom, that they were ascribed to Mr. Jay, and when the truth was discovered, America saw with astonishment a lad of seventeen in the list of her able advocates. At the age of eighteen he entered the American army as an officer of artillery. The first sound of war awakened his martial spirit, and as a soldier he soon conciliated the regard of his. brethren in arms. It was not long before he attracted the notice of Washington, who in 1777 selected him as an aid, with the rank of lieutenant colonel. His sound understanding, comprehensive views, application and promptitude soon gained him the entire confidence of his patron. In such a school, it was impossible but that his genius should be nourished. By intercourse with Washington, by surveying his plans, observing his consummate prudence, and by a minute inspection of the springs of national operations, he became fitted for command. Throughout the campaign, which terminated in the capture of Lord Cornwallis, Colonel Hamilton commanded a battalion of light infantry. At the siege of York, in 1781, when the second parallel was opened, two redoubts, which flanked it and were advanced three hundred yards in front of the British works, very much annoyed the men in the trenches. It was resolved to possess them, and, to prevent jealousies, the attack of the one was committed to the Americans and of the other to the French. The detachment of the Americans was commanded by the marquis de la Fayette, and Colonel Hamilton, at his own earnest request, led the advanced corps, consisting of two battalions. Toward the close of the day, on the 14th of October, the troops rushed to the charge without firing a single gun. The works were assaulted with irresistible impetuosity, and carried with but little loss. Eight of the enemy fell in the action; but notwithstanding the irritation lately produced by the infamous slaughter in Fort Griswold, not a man was killed who had ceased to resist.

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Last modified June 4, 2004