Alexander Hamilton’s New York

Alexander Hamilton, one of the nation’s founding fathers and the first secretary of treasury. He had a very important impact on New York City, creating The Bank of New York and advising it’s financial situation after the war.

Alexander Hamilton, one of the nation’s founding fathers, was raised in the West Indies, orphaned and sent to the northern colonies in 1773 to obtain an education. He soon enrolled in New York’s very own King’s College, now known as Columbia University, to study law. While studying at King’s College he decided to join a militia company in New York City. After war broke out, he fought in many battles and was soon appointed lieutenant colonel on George Washington’s staff. He fought in the American Revolution and helped lead George Washington to success. In 1782, he was elected to the Continental Congress and soon after the American Revolution ended he returned to pursue a career in law, although he never actually obtained a degree.

He pursued life as a lawyer as well as a civic leader in New York; in 1784 Hamilton helped the founding of the Bank of New York. As he watched the country’s financial and political burdens drown the nation he called for a strengthening of the federal government with himself as one of the leaders along with George Washington and James Madison, fighting for a new Constitution in 1786. Alexander Hamilton believed, “In every civil society there must be a supreme power to which all the members of that society are subject, for otherwise there could be no supremacy or subordination—that is, no government at all.”[1] He attended the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia and contributed to the development of our current day federal constitution and justified its ratification. In 1789 President Washington appointed Hamilton as the first Secretary of the Treasury while the federal government was based in New York City. With this new job title Hamilton consolidated the country’s debts and paid them off equally as well as establishing a very modern financial system.

As the Treasury Secretary he argued for an economy that included a manufacturing system in addition to farming, particularly in New York City. Hamilton says, “It might also be observed, with a contrary view, that the labour employed in Agriculture is in a great periodical and occasional, depending on seasons, liable to various and long intermissions; while that occupied in many manufactures is constant and regular, extending through the year, embracing in some instances night as well as day”. [2] He does not deny the productiveness of agriculture but explains the availability and opportunity that manufacturing has to offer in comparison to farming, there is less uncertainty. In addition to the abundance of opportunities that manufacturing can offer the city, he explains how it could increase employment, “the employment of persons who would otherwise be idle (and in many cases a burthen on the community), either from the byass of temper, habit, infirmity of body, or some other cause, indisposing, or disqualifying them from the toils of the Country”.[3] Women and children are of more use in manufacturing establishments then they would be otherwise, and increase the number of employed people in the city.

 Alexander Hamilton was a supporter of a strong central government; he believed that a single national government would be better than individual, separate states. He argued that a union would encourage commerce and trade enabling the government to collect an abundance of revenue from trade and form the foundation of the American government. He stressed that, “In this country, if the principal part be not drawn from commerce, it must fall with oppressive weight upon land” [4]He stated that a union would be strong and prosperous while separate states would be weak and unsuccessful. Hamilton also defends the constitution and the national government’s right to impose taxes on the people in order to have enough resources and funding to govern the country correctly. His opinion of the government’s job was, “The purpose of Hamilton’s political economy was the preservation of private property and the liberty to pursue it. For him the chief functions of government were to protect property, to enforce a legal framework in which it was secured, and to provide a stable environment for economic activity and growth”. [5] If the revenue cannot be raised the national credit will suffer, they will not be trusted to take out loans, resulting in the inability to borrow money in times of crisis such as wars and unable to protect the country and its citizens. “Money is, with propriety, considered as the vital principle of the body politic; as that which sustains its life and motion, and enables it to perform its most essential function”[6]He supports the government having adequate power and revenue but also understands the power can be taken from granted therefore he is also a supporter of the checks and balances system.

[1] Hamilton, Alexander. 1775. The Farmer Refuted. The Revolutionary Writings of Alexander Hamilton. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/hamilton-the-revolutionary-writings-of-alexander-hamilton

[2] Hamilton, Alexander. 1791. Report on the Manufacturers. Submitted to the U.S. Congress, December 5. At http://www.constitution.org/ah/rpt_manufactures.pdf.

[3] Hamilton, Alexander. 1791. Report on the Manufacturers. Submitted to the U.S. Congress, December 5. At http://www.constitution.org/ah/rpt_manufactures.pdf.

[4] Hamilton,Alexander. 1787. Federalist Paper No. 12.http://www.foundingfathers.info/federalistpapers/fed12.htm

[5] Nelson, John R. “Alexander Hamilton and American Manufacturing: A Reexamination.” The Journal of American History 65, no. 4 (1979): 971-95.

[6] Hamilton, Alexander. 1787. Federalist Paper No. 30.http://www.foundingfathers.info/federalistpapers/fed30.htm

 

Bibliography

Hamilton, Alexander. 1791. Report on the Manufacturers. Submitted to the U.S. Congress, December 5. At http://www.constitution.org/ah/rpt_manufactures.pdf.

Hamilton, Alexander. 1775. The Farmer Refuted. The Revolutionary Writings of Alexander Hamilton. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/hamilton-the-revolutionary-writings-of-alexander-hamilton

Hamilton, Alexander. 1787. Federalist Paper No. 12. http://www.foundingfathers.info/federalistpapers/fed12.htm

Hamilton, Alexander. 1787. Federalist Paper No. 30. http://www.foundingfathers.info/federalistpapers/fed30.htm

Nelson, John R. “Alexander Hamilton and American Manufacturing: A Reexamination.” The Journal of American History 65, no. 4 (1979): 971-95.

Jaffe, Steven H., Museum of the City of New York, and Jessica Lautin. 2014. Capital of Capital : Money, Banking, and Power in New York City. New York: Columbia University Press, 2014. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost)

http://www.alexanderhamiltonexhibition.org/nyc_and_nj.html

http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences-and-law/economics-business-and-labor/businesses-and-occupations/bank-new-york

http://www.frauncestavernmuseum.org/history/

https://www.revolvy.com/main/index.php?s=Fraunces%20Tavern

http://www.columbia.edu/content/history.html

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