A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.


Alexander Hamilton

11 January 1757 - 12 July 1804

Alexander Hamilton was born in the West Indies on 11 January 1757. At 15, Hamilton sailed to the American colonies and attended King's College in New York. By 17, he had published two political tracts and been commissioned a captain in the Continental Army. He served as George Washington's aide-de-camp. In 1782, he taught himself law by compiling legal tracts into one book, which he then memorized to pass the New York bar exam. In 1782 he represented New York at the Continental Congress, and in 1786 won a seat in the state legislature. When controversy over ratification of the federal Constitution arose, Hamilton helped write 56 essays of The Federalist Papers. As the first Secretary of Treasury, Hamilton's most contested act was his proposal to create a national bank. In 1795, he returned to private law practice. Hamilton was killed in 1804 in a duel with presidential candidate Aaron Burr.