Alexander Hamilton


Join Active Minds as we journey back to our nation’s early history and visit the life and times of Alexander Hamilton, his friends, his enemies, and the principles he fought (and perhaps died) for. 

Key Lecture Points

  • Alexander Hamilton was born in the Dutch colony of Nevis on January 11, 1755 or 1757. His parents Rachel Faucett and James Hamilton never married and Hamilton carried the stigma of illegitimacy throughout his childhood.
  • Hamilton largely educated himself through his family’s library of 34 books as well as his experience working as a clerk at his mother’s dry goods store.
  • After he published a description of a devastating hurricane, wealthy community members raised the money to send Hamilton to New York.
  • Hamilton joined the Revolutionary cause soon after the Boston Tea Party. During the Revolutionary War, he served as George Washington’s aide-de-camp and eventually became one of Washington’s most trusted advisors.
  • When Washington became president, Hamilton served as his Treasury Secretary. As a cabinet member, Hamilton helped negotiate the Compromise of 1790.
  • In 1804, Hamilton died in a duel fought with Vice President Aaron Burr.
  • Hamilton’s wife Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton spent 50 years working to preserve his writing and political legacy. Their son, John Church Hamilton, wrote Hamilton’s first biography.
  • Hamilton: An American Musical was a runaway smash hit on Broadway that has brought Hamilton back into public awareness. The musical has also become culturally and politically important.
  • The last few decades have seen a reconsideration and renewed appreciation for Hamilton’s contributions to early America.

Exploration Questions

  • How did Hamilton’s early life experiences shape him as an adult?
  • What does Hamilton have in common with other Founding Fathers? In what ways is he different?
  • What are some differences between Hamilton’s life and the way Lin Manuel Miranda portrayed it in the musical?

Reflective Questions

  • What do you think was Hamilton’s most lasting or important contribution to the United States?
  • Do you have a “favorite” Founding Father? What do you admire about him? How does he compare to Hamilton?
  • How might American history be different if Hamilton hadn’t died in 1804?
  • Have you seen or listened to Hamilton: An American Musical? What did you think of its portrayal of American history? What do you think about the musical’s use of multiracial cast members to portray white historical figures?

More to Explore

Books For Further Reading

  • Chernow, Ron. Alexander Hamilton. Penguin Books, 2005. 832 pages. Now regarded as the premier biography of Alexander Hamilton, Chernow’s highly-regarded, comprehensive volume also inspired Hamilton: An American Musical.
    Click here to order
  • Miranda, Lin-Manuel and Jeremy McCarter. Hamilton: The Revolution. Grand Central Publishing, 2016. 288 pages. This authoritative guide to the musical also includes the musical’s complete libretto.
    Click here to order
  • Knott, Stephen F. and Tony Williams. Washington and Hamilton: The Alliance that Forged America. Sourcebook, 2016. 352 pages. This book provides vivid character sketches of both men as well as insights into the way they collaborated.
    Click here to order
  • Hamilton, Alexander. The Hamilton Collection: The Wisdom and Writings of the Founding Father. Black Dog & Leventhal, 2016. This volume collects Hamilton’s correspondence with some of the most influential people in his life, including his wife Elizabeth, Aaron Burr and George Washington.
    Click here to order
  • Sedgwick, John. War of Two: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and the Duel That Stunned the Nation. Berkley, 2015.480 pages. Sedgwick provides a penetrating investigation into the rivalry between Hamilton and Burr as well as their fatal duel.
    Click here to order