Alexander Hamilton was born on January 11 about 1754* on the island of Nevis in the British West Indies. His father had left home, and his mother died when he was about fourteen. For several years, he worked for the mercantile firm of Beekman and Cruger on St. Croix. With the financial support of his cousin, he traveled to the American Colonies in 1772 to study. After preparing for college in Elizabethtown, New Jersey, he attended King’s College in Manhattan.

The precocious young man encouraged the increasing resistance to British rule in pamphlets he published in late 1774 and early 1775. When hostilities broke out in April 1775, he quickly joined a militia company and then the American army as an artillery officer. After serving with bravery and distinction in several early engagements in New York and New Jersey, Hamilton joined General Washington’s staff at headquarters. Late in the war, Hamilton again commanded a combat unit and played a major role in the victory at Yorktown.

Due in part to the deprivations America suffered during the war - a battered economy and a weak government under the Articles of Confederation - Hamilton wanted to forge a stronger central government and a more vital economy. He was a founder of the Bank of New York in 1784, practiced law, and took part in the Annapolis Convention. Thanks in large part to his efforts, a constitutional convention met in Philadelphia. Hamilton, a delegate from New York, served on several notable committees, including the one which drafted the final wording of the Constitution. As the main author of The Federalist Papers, he helped to ensure its ratification.

With Washington's new administration, Hamilton helped to implement the Constitution by serving as the nation’s first Treasury Secretary. During his term in office, Hamilton’s policies restored the national credit, created an import fee-based revenue system, and jump-started the development of America’s capital markets. After leaving office, Hamilton continued practicing law and remained an advisor to Washington, the Treasury, and the Federalist Party. He also became a major general and acting commander-in-chief during the Quasi-War. Hamilton died after a duel, shot by Vice President Aaron Burr in July 1804. He is buried in the Trinity Church cemetery at Wall Street and Broadway in Manhattan.

*Until recently, some scholars have argued that Hamilton was born in 1757, while others have argued for 1755. However, recent evidence, uncovered by Michael E. Newton, points to a probable earlier year of birth.