How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean, by providence impoverished, in squalor, grow up to be a hero and a scholar?
Well, sit right on back and we'll tell you.
Alexander Hamilton (January 11, 1755 or 1757 – July 12, 1804) was one of the major Founding Fathers of the United States. Coming from Nevis, a tiny island in the West Indies/Caribbean, he studied at the New York King's College (today Columbia), before joining the Revolutionary War. Unlike many of his distinguished contemporaries, Hamilton is notable in that he was of very humble beginnings, being an illegitimate child who lost his mother as a young man. He later became an aide-de-camp for General George Washington, note and was one of the main proponents for the United States Constitution, organizing and being the primary writer of The Federalist Papers with John Jay and James Madison. As the first US Secretary of the Treasury, he was a proponent for a strong national government, a national bank, a standing army, and a national debt. He also established the New York Manumission Society with John Jay, the Bank of New York (later merged with Mellon Bank to form BNY Mellon), the oldest operating banking institution in the United States, as well as establishing a college, named Hamilton College, in upstate New York. Was also responsible for the New York Post, the U.S. Coast Guard, and arguably the first sex scandal in American history.
He was bitter enemies with Thomas Jefferson, but the two temporarily became allies during the 1800 presidential election when Aaron Burr, another enemy of Hamilton's, finished in a tie with Jefferson for the presidency. Four years later, Hamilton and Burr would be involved in a duel, resulting in Hamilton's death. As the father of the Treasury, he is memorialized on the U.S. $10 bill. The US constitution's "natural born citizen" clause was written to grandfather in people born outside the US but citizens at independence possibly explicitly to allow people like him a shot at the Presidency note but the aforementioned sex scandal coupled with his premature death ultimately derailed any chance at a (Vice-)presidential career, leading to a lot of What Could Have Been speculation in alternate history fiction.
Hamilton is probably the most polarizing Founding Father, at least among historians and political scientists. His admirers point to his role in creating America's government and financial system, his advocacy for the Constitution and his progressive views on issues like slavery. Others criticize Hamilton for his authoritarian tendencies, including his distrust of democracy, advocating lifetime appointments for Senators, support for restrictions on immigration and the Alien and Sedition Acts under John Adams. Irrespective of his politics, he was also known for his arrogant and confrontational personality, which caused feuds not only with opponents like Jefferson and Burr but even with fellow Federalists like Adams. Still, neither admirers nor detractors would deny that Hamilton ranks among the most important figures in American history.
Alexander Hamilton in fiction and pop culture:
- He's a character in the webcomic The Dreamer by Lora Innes, in which he's a captain of the New York artillery.
- He appears in the cartoon Liberty's Kids.
- On the Mythpunk blog, there's a story centering around him where he battles the God of Economics with Adam Smith's katana.
- The infamous Burr/Hamilton duel was featured in Got Milk? TV commercial.
- Alexander Hamilton was actually a relatively obscure figure until the advent of Lin-Manuel Miranda's smash hit musical Hamilton. Miranda first publicly performed what would become the show's opening number at an evening celebrating poetry and the spoken word at the White House in 2009; that performance can be viewed on YouTube. It's fascinating to see the crowd (including the President!) laugh at the idea at first and then gradually be won over by Miranda's performance. The musical has since gone on to Broadway, becoming massively popular and winning 11 Tony Awards and even a Pulitzer.
- Which got him his very own episode of Drunk History narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda and starring Alia Shawkat as Hamilton and Aubrey Plaza as Aaron Burr.
- Hamilton appears in the HBO miniseries John Adams, portrayed by Rufus Sewell, particularly during the bit on the Washington Administration. Adams doesn't much care for him, despite being allies against Jefferson. Then again, Adams doesn't much care for a whole lot of people. Truth in Television as Adams loathed Hamilton to point of mocking his illegitimate birth publicly and Hamilton publicly attacking him during the Adams administration despite them both belonging to the Federalist Party.
- Hamilton appears in the novel Burr by Gore Vidal where, given the fact that the book features a Historical Hero Upgrade of Aaron Burr into an anti-hero, has a fairly unflattering depiction of Hamilton, unsurprisingly; he's portrayed as a superficially charming egotist who views himself superior to virtually all of his peers, even George Washington, while advocating an openly autocratic government. Vidal also speculates that his duel with Burr was caused by Hamilton accusing Burr of an incestuous relationship with his daughter, though he stops short of endorsing Hamilton's death.
- He gets mentioned twice in "Lazy Sunday".
- He was Cahill from the Ekatrina branch in The 39 Clues. The duel with Burr (a Lucien here) was considered the Madrigals' worst nightmare.
- Hamilton is a key character in Lucia St. Clair Robsons's novel Shadow Patriots.
- Hamilton is the second Lord President of the Empire of North America in Look to the West, and his son Philip is an adventurer in Africa.
- Hamilton is one of the main characters of the I Made America web series.
- Hamilton appears in his capacity as Washington's aide in The Crossing, where he's a bit quiet but thoroughly capable in both staff functions and fighting Hessians.
- In the classic alternate history textbook For Want of A Nail: If Burgoyne Had Won At Saratoga, Hamilton joins other surviving rebels in marching west to establish the new nation of Jefferson in the location of present-day Texas.
- George Arliss played Hamilton in the 1931 biopic Alexander Hamilton, which focuses mostly on his affair with Maria Reynolds.
- Mabel Pines on Gravity Falls has a crush on Hamilton (calling him, naturally, "the guy on the $10 bill") and he appears in hallucination form in "The Love God."
- Alexander Hamilton appears as one of Washington’s aides-de-camp in seasons 3 through 4 of the AMC series TURN: Washington's Spies. Played by Sean Haggerty after he and lead actor Seth Numrich shot a short film and successfully demonstrated how the character could be incorporated into the show.
- He appeared in an episode of Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum, where he helps Yadina get over her fears of starting first grade.
- In Sidney Kingsley's play The Patriots Hamilton is portrayed as a borderline fascist who clashes with Thomas Jefferson due to the latter's fervent trust in democracy while Hamilton himself is seen as rather contemptuous of the voting public, preferring instead to place the power of government into an aristocracy. By the end of the play, though, the two set aside their differences in order to ensure Aaron Burr is not elected President, as both Jefferson and Hamilton see him as too dangerous to trust with the power of the Presidency.
- In Ghosts (US), Isaac Higgintoot had a one-sided rivalry in life with Hamilton and is devastated to learn that Hamilton is well-known centuries later (complete with his own hit musical) while he's barely even a footnote in history.
- He is mentioned by Ichabod in the Sleepy Hollow episode "Dawn's Early Light" when the curator of Paul Revere’s house mentions that the place has more visitors now due to the musical‘s popularity. Astonished, Ichabod makes a statement that he had a voice like a “stuck goat”.
"Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?"