Published on August 25, 2017, at 2:01 p.m.
by Eliza Sheffield.
Alexander Hamilton. You may have seen him hanging around on a $10 bill in your wallet. Or maybe you vaguely remember his name from the founding fathers unit in your 8th grade American History class (Hint: Hamilton was never a U.S. president).
In 2015, Hamilton’s legacy hit Broadway with a hip-hop musical that shares his name and follows his journey as an influential immigrant who was key in establishing our national infrastructure.
The musical’s soundtrack is a game changer, and so was Hamilton himself.
Although he is known for his role in national finance, Hamilton was also a brilliant communicator. He started working as an assistant bookkeeper at age 11 and went on to attend what would become Columbia University. Using his skills of persuasion, Hamilton wrote Gen. George Washington’s letters, asking for much-needed supplies for the Revolutionary Army.
Hamilton is famous for defending the Constitution as one of the writers of the Federalist Papers, which were a series of newspaper articles that encouraged the states to support a strong, central state. Without Hamilton’s persuasion, the Constitution would never have been ratified and the United States of America may have just been the Individual States of America. Once the state delegates ratified the Constitution, Hamilton stepped into his role as first secretary of treasury under President Washington, where he created the national bank and a system to collect taxes. He also worked as a lawyer and established the New York Post.
While he steered and unified American national identity, Hamilton’s personal image was fractured after he was involved in what some call the country’s first political affair scandal. However, he handled it more transparently than many do today.
Hamilton actually confessed to the allegations and released evidence of the affair in the form of letters he had kept. Of course, he still cheated on his wife, but you have to give the guy credit for pumping the brakes on deception and telling the truth once it came out,especially without any precedent for how to handle sex scandals.
As a result of the affair, his oldest son fought a duel to defend Hamilton’s honor and died. Three years later, Hamilton himself died in a duel with Aaron Burr after aligning with the presidential campaign of Burr’s opponent, Thomas Jefferson.
Maybe if Hamilton had survived the duel he’d have said, “Sticks and stones will break your bones, and words will get you into a gunfight.”
Fortunately, Hamilton’s words also brought about national unity; all in all, he helped secure a unified collection of states and left behind a legacy as a powerful communicator. (It’s also good news that duels are out of vogue.)
Impressed by Alexander Hamilton? Get in line to see “Hamilton” on Broadway.