Hamilton was born in Nevis, British West Indies. He immigrated to America as a child and graduated from King's College (now Columbia). A precocious intellect, Hamilton contributed extensively to the anti-parliamentary pamphlet war in New York. At the beginning of the Revolution, he was commissioned a captain and fought on Long Island and at Trenton and Princeton. He gained Washington's attention and progressed swiftly from a staff secretary to the General's Aide-de-Camp. In 1781, he left Washington's staff for a regimental command and led a successful attack on the British at Yorktown.
After the war, Hamilton studied law and served a year in the Continental Congress. In 1786, he was elected to the New York legislature and the Annapolis Convention. He proposed the idea of a constitutional congress and attended the federal Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. He wrote many of the essays in support of a federal, representative government.
In 1789, Hamilton was appointed United States secretary of the treasury. He implemented a plan to organize the new nation's economic system. He designed the first national bank and planned for the assumption and funding of the wartime debt. The rift between Hamilton and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson led to the resignation of both from office (Hamilton's in 1795). Although no longer in office, he remained a viable political force, particularly in blocking the election of Aaron Burr to the presidency in 1800. Long-simmering hostilities between Hamilton and Vice President Burr led to a duel between them. Hamilton was mortally wounded and died on July 12, 1804.