Creating the Legal Foundations

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New York Harbor, late 18th century

Restoring the Country

In 1783, Hamilton continued to help rebuild New York by establishing a law practice on Wall Street that specialized in protecting the rights of former Loyalists. In early 1784, Hamilton played a leading role in the creation of the Bank of New York, the first of many joint-stock commercial banks established in the burgeoning commercial metropolis at the southern tip of the island of Manhattan (pictured here). In 1785, Hamilton helped found the New York Society for Promoting the Manumission of Slaves. But even as he worked hard to improve New York, Hamilton realized that the United States of America, his adopted country, would not last long under the Articles of Confederation, a frame of government so weak that it had failed to properly equip American troops during the Revolution or to manage the nation’s finances after it.

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Convention in Philadelphia, 1787

Creating a Constitution

In 1786, Hamilton served as a delegate to the Annapolis Convention, where he drafted a resolution that led to the Constitutional Convention held in Philadelphia in 1787 (pictured here). Hamilton advocated passionately for the new Constitution, delivering a major speech that helped break an impasse that could have deadlocked the Convention. New York’s other two delegates, both of whom were strongly against adoption of a new constitution, opposed him at every step, but Hamilton made sure to affix his signature to the document.

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The Works of Alexander Hamilton,

New York, 1810

Father of the Federalist Papers

Alexander Hamilton is the Father of The Federalist, also known as the Federalist Papers, the most important and influential commentary on the Constitution from the time it was written until today. Hamilton conceived The Federalist as a series of essays that would offer an interpretation and explanation of the U.S. Constitution, and thus convince the citizens of the State of New York, who were heavily against it, of the benefits of ratifying it. Hamilton solicited the help of several other writers, two of whom—James Madison and John Jay—took on the task and participated in the project. Of the 85 essays, Hamilton is credited with writing 51, Madison 29, and Jay 5. As the essays were being produced, they were quickly reprinted throughout the States, thus reaching a much wider audience than originally intended.

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Ship on parade float drawn by

horses past Bowling Green in New York

by Alfred Fredericks

Ratification of the US Constitution in New York State

As the originator and major contributor to the Federalist Papers, and a leading delegate in New York’s ratification convention in Poughkeepsie, Hamilton did more than perhaps any other person to ensure that the new frame of government would be adopted. Contemporary New Yorkers well understood his contributions and thanked him by naming after him the 1788 parade float pictured here, representing the “ship of state.”