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Alexander Hamilton

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Hamilton's Final Years and Fatal Duel: 1797–1804

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Study Questions

How did Hamilton's education prepare him for his work later in his life?

Although Hamilton had very little formal education while growing up in the Caribbean, he did receive practical business experience as a clerk for the merchant Nicholas Cruger. While Cruger was away on business, Hamilton would often run the company's day-to-day operations and conduct business with the local government and other merchants. This greatly improved Hamilton's business sense and administrative ability, which he would later use in the government, especially as Secretary of the Treasury. When Hamilton attended King's College in New York, he studied mathematics, history, politics, and philosophy, which helped him as a government employee and cabinet member. The practical leadership experience he gained under General George Washington proved to be invaluable as well. Finally, Hamilton's training as a lawyer helped him as a legislator and politician.

What role did Hamilton play in the drafting and ratification of the Constitution?

Hamilton played a significant role in amending the Articles of Confederation and subsequently creating the Constitution. In 1786, Hamilton attended the convention in Annapolis, Maryland to amend the Articles. He was one of only a few delegates to actually arrive in Annapolis, and he later called upon the states to send more delegates to the Philadelphia Convention in 1787. Ironically, Hamilton played a very minor role at the convention in Philadelphia. Most of the other delegates respected him, but believed he was far too radical and an extremist. Hamilton did, however, play a vital role in the ratification of the new Constitution by publishing the Federalist Papers, which he co- authored with James Madison and John Jay. The Federalist Papers were written to convince the people of New York and of the rest of the United States to ratify the Constitution, and many historians believe that Hamilton's efforts were essential to having the Constitution ratified.

Why is Hamilton regarded as the most influential Secretary of the Treasury?

Hamilton is regarded as the most influential Secretary of the Treasury because he laid out many of the groundbreaking rules that established American economic policy. Hamilton wrote five major reports during his five years as Secretary. His first report, the first of two Reports on the Public Credit, encouraged the United States government to assume the debt accumulated by all thirteen states, and to pay the interest owed to creditors as well as the principle sum. In his report On the Establishment of a Mint, Hamilton argued that a single national currency should be created to replace all the state and private bank currencies circulating throughout the country. Hamilton also wrote a report titled On the Subject of Manufactures that predicted that manufacturing would eventually replace agriculture as America's primary industry. For this reason, and because manufactured goods generated more income than agricultural goods, Hamilton encouraged Congress to promote manufacturing within the United States. Hamilton also asked Congress to create a national bank to help stabilize the economy as well.

Essay Topics

How did Hamilton's experiences as a military aide help his career?

How did Hamilton help shape early American foreign policy?

What were Hamilton's political ideologies? How do his achievements reflect these philosophies?

Why were the Federalist Papers so important?

What disappointments and misfortunes did Hamilton cope with during his later life from 1797 to 1804?

How did Hamilton view his various experiences in the military?

What are the similarities and differences between Hamilton's proposed form of American Government and the actual American Government under the Constitution?

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