Oil portrait of Alexander Hamilton by John Trumbull, after 1804. New-York Historical Society, 1867.305
In conjunction with the success of the Broadway musical Hamilton, the Patricia D. Klingenstein Library at the New-York Historical Society is exhibiting a selection of original manuscript documents and contemporary printed works in the library reading room evoking the remarkable life of America’s first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton (1757?-1804). Like a great number of his contemporaries, Hamilton wore many hats; he was an immigrant, scholar, soldier, statesman, and infamously, duelist. Several of these roles are represented in the documents on display. Here’s a taste!
The Farmer refuted: or, A more impartial and comprehensive view of the dispute between Great-Britain and the colonies… James Rivington: New York, 1775
Alexander Hamilton first ventured into the revolutionary fray with his pen while a student at King’s College, publishing two political tracts in response to “A.W. Farmer.” Shown here is his second effort which provides a glimpse of his evolving political philosophy. This copy contains annotations of Thomas Bradbury Chandler, a fiercely loyalist New Jersey clergyman who fled the colonies for England the year of its publication.
“Pay Roll for the Colony Company of Artillery commanded by Alexander Hamilton from March 1st to April 1st, 1776.” April 4, 1776
Fulfilling an ambition to prove himself on the battlefield, Alexander Hamilton commanded an artillery company in the earliest days of the revolution. He would reluctantly leave the field to join George Washington’s staff as an aide-de-camp but Hamilton’s military exploits would prove an important step in his ascent into the ranks of the new nation’s founders.
“The Federalist. No. 1.” The Independent Journal, October 27, 1787
To orchestrate support for a federal constitution Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison published a series of 85 essays that comprise The Federalist, now regarded as among America’s chief contributions to political thought. The first, by Hamilton, debuted in this issue of the Independent Journal, a semi-weekly New York newspaper. Later essays appeared only in the comprehensive two-volume The Federalist: A Collection of Essays, Written in Favor of the New Constitution, as Agreed Upon by the Federal Convention, September 17, 1787, first published in the spring of 1788.
Letter to Philip Van Brugh Livingston, April 2, 1792
In the spring of 1792, facing a financial panic brought on by the wild speculation of men such as “King of the Alley,” William Duer, an exasperated Hamilton divulges his own remedy:
This [public shaming] must be cultivated among the friends of good government and good principles. The relaxations in a safe system of thinking, which have been produced by an excess of the spirit of speculation must be corrected. And contempt and neglect must attend those who manifest that they have no principle but to get money.
As secretary of the treasury, Hamilton successfully mitigated the panic’s fallout while helping to build his reputation as architect of the nation’s economic system.