Last Updated: Nov 20th, 2009 - 07:06:39 |
President George Washington appointed Alexander Hamilton to be the first Secretary of the Treasury when the first Congress passed an Act establishing the Treasury Department. He served as Secretary of the Treasury from September 11, 1789 until January 31, 1795.
Alexander Hamilton was born on the West Indies Island of Nevis on January 11, 1757. He went to New York in 1772 for his formal education, beginning with grammar school. Later he attended King's College, which is now Columbia University.
|US Department of the Treasury|
Hamilton's great qualities of mind and spirit revealed themselves early. While in his teens, he took a firm stand on the side of the patriots, and became a leader in the movement advocating independence. Before he was 20 years of age, Hamilton commanded artillery troops in several important battles, and from 1777 to 1781, served as aide-de-camp to General Washington.
He left Washington to take command of an infantry regiment that took part in the siege of Yorktown. At the age of 25, he served as a member of the Continental Congress from 1782-1783, then retired to open his own law office in New York City. His public career continued when he attended the Annapolis Convention as a delegate in 1786.
He also served in the New York State Legislature and attended the Philadelphia Convention in 1787. That convention studied and subsequently adopted the Constitution of the United States on September 2, 1789.
Hamilton served another term in 1788 in what proved to be the last time the Continental Congress met under the old Articles of Confederation.
At the inauguration of the constitutional government in 1789 Alexander Hamilton (1757-1804), George Washington's former military aide and a renowned financier, was appointed the first Secretary of the Treasury and thus he became the architect of the structure of the Department. Desirous of a strong, centrally controlled Treasury, Hamilton did constant battle with Thomas Jefferson, then Secretary of State, and Albert Gallatin, then a Congressman, over the amount of power the Department of the Treasury should be allowed to wield. He designed a Treasury Department for the collection and disbursing of public revenue, but also for the promotion of the economic development of the country.
Facing a chaotic treasury burdened by the heavy debt of the Revolutionary War, Hamilton's first interest when he took office was the repayment of the war debt in full. "The debt of the United States ... was the price of liberty,'' he affirmed, and he then put into effect, during 1790 and 1791, a revenue system based on customs duties and excise taxes. Hamilton's attack on the debt helped secure the confidence and respect of foreign nations. He introduced plans for the First Bank of the United States, established in 1791 which was designed to be the financial agent of the Treasury Department. The bank served as a depository for public funds and assisted the government in its' financial transactions. The First Bank issued paper currency, used to pay taxes and debts owed to the federal government.
As Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton's term was marked by bold innovation, statesmanlike planning, and masterful reports. His financial program provided public credit where there was none before, and gave the infant Nation a circulating medium and financial machinery.
After being in office for barely one month, he proposed the idea of a seagoing branch of the military to secure the revenue against contraband. The following summer, the Congress authorized a Revenue Marine force of ten cutters. The Revenue Marine is now the United States Coast Guard. He also played a crucial role in creating the United States Navy (the Naval Act of 1794). Hamilton also proposed the creation of a Naval Academy, an idea ahead of his time.
He published "Report on the Public Credit" on January 14, 1790, (although some reports put the date at January 9, 1790), which amounted to a watershed in American history, marking the end of an era of bankruptcy and repudiation. The plan provided for assumption of both the domestic and the foreign debts. Both James Madison and Thomas Jefferson strongly opposed Hamilton's plan, but it passed overwhelmingly. He advocated assumption by the Federal Government of the debts of the States. Madison and Jefferson also opposed this plan, but they settled the contest in a private meeting on July 21, 1790. During this meeting, Hamilton agreed to the future location of the Nation's Capital on the Potomac River, in return for Jefferson's support of assumption.
Hamilton's perceptive and creative mind coupled with his driving ambition to set his ideas in motion resulted many proposals to the Congress. His proposals included a plan including import duties and excise taxes for raising revenue, funding of the revolutionary debt, and suggestions on naval laws. He also developed plans for a Congressional charter for the first Bank of the United States, and for placing the revenues on firm ground.
Strong opposition to collection efforts of his excise tax on spirits erupted into the "Whiskey Rebellion" in Western Pennsylvania and Virginia in 1794. Hamilton felt that compliance with the laws was very urgent. He accompanied General Henry Lee and his troops part of the way in an advisory capacity to help put down the insurrection.
Hamilton also introduced plans for a United States Mint. Though he wanted the Mint to be a structural part of the Treasury, he lost the battle to Jefferson and it was established in 1792 within the State Department. The Mint became an independent agency in 1797 and was eventually transferred to Treasury in 1873.
Under personal financial pressure, his office paying only $3500 a year, Hamilton resigned in 1795 and joined the New York bar. He kept in close contact with President Washington, however, and continued to give financial advice to his successor, Oliver Wolcott. Hamilton was fatally wounded during a duel with Aaron Burr on July 11, 1804 over a political dispute. He died in New York City the following day.
Alexander Hamilton: The Man Who Made Modern America
Take a look at the man on the ten dollar bill, through this interesting site devoted to Alexander Hamilton. You can even take a quick quiz to see how much you really know about this unique individual from American History.
Source: The New York Historical Society
Act of Congress Establishing the Treasury Department
Read the Act that established the Treasury Department that Alexander Hamilton sculpted into a financial force within world politics.
Source: Founding Fathers
Federalist Papers Authored by Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton authored 85 Federalist Papers. Read these ground-breaking political papers to learn more about the opinions of this important Founding Father.
Find more information on Alexander Hamilton with help from Google.
FOR TEENS & ADULTS
© Copyright 2004-2009 by ClassBrain.com
Top of Page