Hamilton was a penniless orphan from the Caribbean who was so brilliant — and so good at self-promotion — that he rose through the ranks in the Revolutionary War to become George Washington’s right-hand man.
In 1780, he married Elizabeth Schuyler, the daughter of a wealthy and influential New York landowner and military officer. The couple went on to have eight children. She was a source of loyalty and stability over the years.
Although it does not appear that Hamilton ever directly owned any slaves himself, he did marry into a prominent New York slaveholding family, and managed slave sales for his wife’s family.
It’s believed the Schuyler family owned between between 8 and 13 slaves at their Albany, New York estate over the years with a further 15 at the Saratoga, New York home.
The slaves consisted of a handful of men, several women and their children.
The male slaves would moving materials between the Schuyler’s properties while the women carried out household chores including cooking, washing, and looking after the children.
Born and raised in the West Indies, Hamilton was orphaned in his early teens. Taken in as an apprentice to an international shipping company based on his home island, his talents were recognized by local benefactors who created a fund to provide him with a formal education.
Hamilton came to New York in 1772 at age 17 to study at King’s College (now Columbia University).
While he lived in the city he was exposed to American Patriots became a supporter of their cause. As a student, he wrote defenses of the revolutionary cause and published in local newspapers.
Soon afterwards, Hamilton was commissioned as a Captain of Artillery at the beginning of the Revolutionary War; and later his abilities were again recognized and he was invited to become an aide-de-camp to General George Washington.
After the war, as a member of Congress, Hamilton was instrumental in creating the new Constitution. As co-author of the Federalist Papers, he was indispensable in the effort to get the Constitution adopted.
As the first U.S. Treasury Secretary (1789-95), Hamilton created a modern financial system, funded the national debt, founded a bank and established a mint with the dollar as currency.
He defended the Constitution in the Federalist Papers, a series of 85 essays. They would become his best-known writings.
Hamilton also founded the New York Post, and was even involved in a sex scandal, the Reynolds Affair.
In the infamous ‘Reynolds Pamphlet,’ published in 1797, Hamilton went public about an affair with a married woman, Maria Reynolds.
He did so in order to clear his name from any suspicion of illegal financial speculation involving her husband, James.
It was America’s first prominent sex scandal and ultimately dashed any hopes of achieving higher office.
Hamilton also had a lifelong rivalry with Aaron Burr, the vice president under Thomas Jefferson. Hamilton and Burr had been political opponents since the debate over the Constitution in 1789.
Burr claimed Hamilton insulted him and in July 1804 challenged him to a duel. Each man fired one shot; Hamilton missed, and was killed.