Cruger and Knox realized that the young Hamilton, who had little formal education, required a crash course to prepare him for the academic rigors of the College of New Jersey. They arranged for Alexander to study Latin and Greek at the Presbyterian Academy in Elizabethtown, New Jersey. There, Hamilton met many prominent individuals and intellectuals, and befriended many of the trustees, and even the headmaster. Hamilton worked hard for several months, and was deemed prepared enough to enter college by the summer of 1773. He was now sixteen years old.

Knox and Cruger obtained for Hamilton an interview with the president of the College of New Jersey, Dr. John Witherspoon, who had acquired a reputation for being one of the most intelligent scholars and clergyman of his time, and would later go on to sign the Declaration of Independence. Hamilton's interview with Witherspoon did not go well. Hamilton asked Witherspoon to admit him to the college as a special student so that he could proceed through the courses of study at a faster pace than was usual. Hamilton's desire to speed through college was due partly to his advanced age and partly to the fact that he believed he could pass through the courses faster than his classmates could. Witherspoon denied his request.

Hamilton began to focus his attention on King's College in New York City, which later changed its name to Columbia University. This college's president, Myles Cooper, granted Hamilton's request for independent study, and Hamilton moved through his courses quickly, often hiring college professors to provide him with personal instruction outside of regular class hours. Like many young college freshmen, Hamilton seriously considered becoming a doctor after graduating, and for a while took as many science courses as he could manage. Hamilton changed his mind, however, when he discovered the joys of history and philosophy. He enjoyed debating immensely and spent many hours writing as well.

Hamilton also jumped into politics with vigor. In 1774, New York was caught up in the final desperate moments before the eruption of the Revolutionary War. Debates and speeches were common, as were pamphlets, newspaper articles, and periodicals arguing both for and against resistance to the British king. In 1774, the first Continental Congress in Philadelphia convened to discuss economic sanctions against Great Britain in order to force Parliament into listening.

Hamilton respected King George III and Parliament, but he also strongly supported the American struggle. Using the pseudonym "A Friend to America", Hamilton published a pamphlet in New York City entitled, A Full Vindication of the Measures of the Congress in 1774. The pamphlet, was written as a rebuttal to a newspaper article signed by "A Westchester Farmer," which had attacked the Continental Congress. Hamilton argued that Britain had no right to violate the liberties of the American colonies and defended the delegates in Philadelphia. He supplemented this pamphlet with another pamphlet entitled A Farmer Refuted, which was published in 1775. Prophetically, Hamilton wrote that violence might be necessary to convince Great Britain to heed the colonies' demands. Despite his exhortations for more American political autonomy, Hamilton was not advocating armed violence against the king, and even defended King's College president Myles Cooper from a mob of angry colonists.

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