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IPFS News Link • American History

Living in the World Hamilton Designed

•, by Dave Benner

Born out of wedlock on the British isle of Nevis, Hamilton would become one of the most influential political forces of his time.

As a 14-year-old, Hamilton expressed interest in joining a military force to achieve prestige through warfare. "My ambition is prevalent that I contemn the groveling conditions of a clerk," he wrote. "I shall conclude saying I wish there was a war," he dreamed. As a young man in St. Croix, he was given sole responsibility of his firm's property as a shipping clerk when its owner had left. After writing a poem that captivated some of the locals, a contribution was taken to send Hamilton to college in the British colonies.

After joining the Continental Army, Hamilton served as Washington's aide-de-camp, where he befriended the general. Even as the war raged on, he scolded the lack of power in Congress. A chief organizer of the Annapolis Convention of 1786, Hamilton's efforts to empower the central government proved fruitless. After leading a bayonet charge at night during the Battle of Yorktown, Hamilton achieved the fame he desired.

In New York, he studied law independently, became a lawyer, and defended British loyalists whose property was subjected to New York's confiscation laws. In the case of Rutgers v. Waddington, he won a momentous case that voided a controversial act allowing confiscation.

As his notoriety grew, Hamilton involved himself in New York politics. Elected to New York's state assembly, he led a faction of politicians against the popular New York governor, George Clinton, whose vision for the state ran contrary to Hamilton's aims. After playing a lead role in organizing the relatively unsuccessful Annapolis Convention of 1786, he was selected as one of three delegates to the Philadelphia Convention of 1787, along with Clintonites Robert Yates and John Lansing.