The Washington, D.C.-based Institute of Caribbean Studies (ICS) has inducted Nevis-born first United States Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton onto its “Wall of Fame” as part of a series of recognitions of Caribbean Americans in commemoration of National Caribbean American Heritage Month.
ICS said that when George Washington became the first President of the United States in 1790, he selected Hamilton to be his first Secretary of the Treasury.
“Although Hamilton served in Washington’s cabinet for only five years, many historians regard him as the greatest and most influential Secretary of the Treasury in U.S. history,” said ICS, whose founder and president is Jamaican Dr. Clare Nelson.
ICS said that Hamilton was born in 1757 in Nevis to Rachel Fawcett and James Hamilton but spent the majority of his youth in St. Croix.
His formal education as a child was minimal, ICS said.
It said that when his mother died in 1768, Hamilton took his first job as a Clerk in the offices of merchant Nicholas Cruger, keeping Cruger’s business records, and coordinating business efforts between the merchant ship captains, government officials and planters.
Cruger and a local Presbyterian Minister, the Rev. Hugh Knox, “recognized Hamilton’s genius and arranged for him to leave St. Croix for New York City,” ICS said.
“Alexander left the island in 1772, never to return again,” it said.
In New York, ICS said Hamilton attended several preparatory academies and schools to prepare himself for college.
It said Alexander enrolled in King’s College, which is now known as Columbia University.
In 1776, Hamilton withdrew from King’s College and joined a local New York militia to fight in the American Revolution against the British, ICS said.
During his first year of service, it said Hamilton served as an artillery captain, but quickly moved up in the ranks and eventually became one of General George Washington’s military aides.
ICS said Hamilton spent four years as Washington’s attaché and participated in several battles, including the Battle of Yorktown and the Battle of Monmouth. Hamilton left the military in 1781.
He married Betsey Schuyler and worked diligently for several months to pass the New York bar exam, said ICS, adding that Hamilton served as one of New York’s most prominent lawyers in the early 1780s.
In the 1870s, ICS said, Hamilton began his political career, serving first as a national tax agent, and then as one of New York’s representatives at the U.S. national Congress in Philadelphia.
In 1786, ICS said Hamilton was chosen to represent New York State at a national convention held in Annapolis, Md., to amend the Articles of Confederation.
“When only a few of the delegates from the other states bothered to attend, Hamilton called for a second convention to be held in Philadelphia in 1787,” ICS said. “This time, the delegates took the invitation more seriously, and created the outline for a new government by drafting the Constitution.
“He believed the Constitution was a step in the right direction, and also believed that, if it was not approved, the entire union could collapse,” ICS added.
With this in mind, it said, Hamilton returned to New York, where he published a series of essays to urge the people of New York to ratify the Constitution.
Hamilton co-authored the essays with John Jay and James Madison under the pseudonym “Publius.” ICS said the collection came to be known as the Federalist Papers.
“The essays succeeded in convincing Americans to ratify the Constitution,” the institute said, adding that as Secretary, Hamilton wrote five key reports that established American economic policy.
He also wrote the prophetic “On the Subject of Manufacture’s,” which argued that the United States should shift the bulk of its economy from agriculture to industry,” ICS said.
In 1804, it said Hamilton wrote a series of essays against another rival, Aaron Burr, which “was partly responsible for Burr’s loss in that year’s New York gubernatorial race,” ICS said.
“Burr blamed Hamilton for his loss and challenged Hamilton to a duel in which he shot Hamilton,” the institute said.
ICS said Hamilton died the next day, July 11, 1804, at 47. He was interred in Trinity Churchyard in New York City.
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