Alexander Hamilton


By Maille Halloran

The “ten-dollar founding father without a father” and the subject of a Broadway musical that took home a bagful of Tony awards, American founder Alexander Hamilton was also a lawyer. Born in the British West Indies, Hamilton began working to support his family at the age of 11. He impressed his Scottish employers with an intelligence beyond his years and was eventually sent to the North American colonies for his formal education. The lure of politics triumphed over Hamilton’s scholarly pursuits, and he left before graduating from King’s College (now Columbia University) in New York City to join the patriots’ cause. In the Revolutionary Army, Hamilton met General George Washington, and become one of General Washington’s trusted advisers. Peace with Great Britain and France meant the end of Hamilton’s military career and he studied law instead. Hamilton opened his own legal practice in New York City, mainly defending British Loyalists and their property rights. Hamilton represented the defendant in the landmark case Rutgers v Waddington, which set the precedent for judicial review. His legal prowess made Hamilton an invaluable adviser to the government of the day, and though he didn’t help write the U.S. Constitution, Hamilton’s advocacy made its ratification possible. When Washington became the first president of the United States, Hamilton was appointed to be the first Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.