It was in this situation that Hamilton started working full-time as a nine year-old boy, in what would eventually be called a General Store. Hamilton so impressed his adult mentors that arrangements were made to send the teenage Hamilton to Princeton to study. Even at that age, Hamilton wrote responses (editorials) in newspapers that were well-received. When the Revolutionary War started, Hamilton volunteered, serving in Henry Knox's artillery regiment at Trenton and Princeton.
Both Washington and Hamilton wanted order; the General wanted things done right, and Hamilton knew he was the man that could do everything the way Washington wanted. Before the Battle at Monmouth (1778), Hamilton's duties were administrative and in the battlefield, but after the battle, his duties became entirely administrative. In short, Hamilton was Washington's main conduit to all the groups outside the army, including the national legislature under the Articles of Confederation. By the end of the Revolutionary War, Hamilton saw pressing problems in the nation, the army, and Congress, and he started to think about how those problems could be solved.
When Hamilton married Betsey Schuyler, he entered Upstate New York high society; people who viewed themselves as equal, or even superior, to any Planter in the South. In was often said in New York that the Clintons had the power, the Livingstons had the numbers, but the Schuylers had Hamilton. While Hamilton married into New York society, he was never really truly embraced, since he was an achiever, while the "Gentlemen" were simply "possessors".
Hamilton developed a reputation in Congress as that of an impatient, impolitic reformer; his desire to achieve solutions to problems ran into a brick wall called "The Status Quo", and after eight months, he returned to New York to continue his law practice (while he was always in demand as a lawyer, he never got rich). Hamilton's desire for law and order was seen as he represented many former Loyalists in court, trying to reclaim their property under the Trespass Act.
Before long, Hamilton was sent back to Congress, and he and Madison organized a convention to be held in Annapolis in 1786; problems over commerce was the stated reason for the convention. When only five of the twelve states convened in Annapolis (no enough for a quorum), Hamilton and Madison issued a statement that there would be another convention the following year in Philadelphia; Madison convinced Hamilton to reword part of that statement to read ". . . and adjust to the federal system."
While Hamilton was in Philadelphia, Madison agreed with him that state debts from the Revolutionary War should be "assumed" by the new government - for political reasons a few years later, Madison will completely change his stand on the issue of "Assumption". Both also agreed that the idea of "Assumption" should stay in the background, and not even be debated on the floor of the convention. Hamilton was the only New Yorker to sign the Constitution on 17 September, 1787; Clinton had basically recalled his two men after getting reports that the national government would likely change.
During the Ratifying Convention in New York, Hamilton employed a Madisonian strategy of analyzing each clause of the Constitution, while arguing it merits. Hamilton's arguments did indeed change some votes; the New York convention voted 30-27 to ratify the Constitution.
SecTreas Hamilton determined that the key to Great Britain's greatness was the Bank of England, which in issuing loans was able to influence the "Velocity of Money", and expand the economy, and their empire. Hamilton also concluded that a nation can thrive if it is in debt, but only if the debt is manageable, and the nation has great standing in terms of credit. As Hamilton would discover, opposition to forming a national bank was based mostly on economic ignorance, and fear of losing state-level control (and a certain standard-of-living).
The Treasury department was by far the largest, and most difficult to run, segment of the Executive Branch in the early years of the Constitution. Hamilton worked FAR harder than Jefferson at his Cabinet post; State was a far more leisurely endeavor. Hamilton needed to establish procedures & precedents for the Treasury; the other three Cabinet level departments had no such dilemma.
In order to repay the domestic debt to veterans, Hamilton proposed to pay fifty cents on the dollar: if a person presented $10 in Continental Dollars, he would receive $5 in new currency. It was impossible to keep word of that plan secret, and hordes of speculators roamed the countryside, offering to buy Continental currency for ten cents on the dollar. At about the same time, Hamilton released his plan of "Assumption", in which the federal government would take over state debts (the vast majority of the states were in deep debt due to the war).
Madison opposed Hamilton on both issues, further stating that only the original holder of the Continental Dollars should be paid, not the unscrupulous speculators (even though in the 1780s he had the opposite position on both issues . . . Virginia politics of the early-1790s was the reason for his reversal). Madison wanted to cripple "Assumption" in the House by including all state debts, those that had been paid, and those that had not (Virginia would be "in the black" as a result), gambling that the amount would be too much for his colleagues to support.
Faced with organized opposition for the first time in his life, Hamilton responded with his best political move of his career. At a very small dinner party, hosted by Jefferson, Hamilton agreed to support a future capital city on the Potomac River. In response, Madison would vote against "Assumption" to save political face, but he and Jefferson would work behind-the-scenes to secure its passage. In effect, Hamilton sacrificed his state of New York (NYC was the current capital) in order to advance his vision of a financially-secure United States.
Hamilton released his "Report on Manufactures" in December, 1791, which provided another opportunity to communicate his idealized industrial vision for America. Hamilton relied heavily on Tench Coxe, the new Deputy SecTreas (the first, William Duer, had fallen from Hamilton' graces); to Hamilton and Coxe, industry represented national salvation. Hamilton argued that industry would enhance and support agriculture (a win-win), and would also increase individual enterprise and initiative. Money for all this manufacturing would come from domestic banks (especially the National Bank) and foreign investors. Paterson, New Jersey became the test-center for this industrial vision - it was none other than Hamilton's Showcase (a water-powered plant near Monmouth)
On other matters, the SecTreas knew what he was doing. In settling debts by issuing securities, he solidified the nation's credit, which allowed industry to develop. The economy would generate revenue that would fund the pay-back of those securities, with interest. This cycle would be repeated again-and-again, expanding America's economy, and increasing the overall standard of living. While there was significant opposition to Hamilton's "Scheme", the votes were simply not in existence in either house to block his financial/industrial program.
The National Bank was an entirely different matter, in part due to the reality that the Bank could change the national landscape almost immediately to the benefit of some, and to the detriment of others. The debate over the National Bank was the crisis that led to the creation of political parties (Federalists & Republicans). As stated earlier, Hamilton had never experienced this level of organized opposition, as orchestrated by Jefferson and Madison. Hamilton's Economic Plan was to the detriment of the Planters, who were accustomed to living in luxury by running up huge debts that they never really had to pay-off. In short, Southern Planters were afraid that they would lose their power and wealth in their state / region. Some Northerners opposed Hamilton as well, since there was a huge level of inherent distrust with banks in America.
Hamilton's foreign birth also complicated things at this point; Jefferson's minions in the press concluded that only a "Low-Born" (Hamilton) would stoop to corruption in service of the public. As a result, there was no way Hamilton and Jefferson could work together in any meaningful or productive manner, due to their competing ambitions, vision, origin, and base characteristics (e.g. Hamilton was achievement-driven, Jefferson less so).
The year 1792 featured more problems for SecTreas Hamilton. His former Deputy SecTreas, William Duer (corrupt to his core; Hamilton refused to enable him) was sentenced to debtor's prison. Jefferson and Madison pounced on that event, claiming that if Duer was corrupt, then Hamilton must be as well. Jefferson's main newspaper publisher / pitbull, William Freneau, featured constant attacks on Hamilton, to which Hamilton obviously felt the need to respond.
A quote from a personal letter that Jefferson sent to Washington, complaining about Hamilton, was telling: "A man whose history, from the moment history stooped to notice him, is a tissue of machinations against the liberty of the country." This quote is telling, not only showing that Jefferson was a "Virginia Squire Snob", but also that he didn't consider Hamilton a fellow Founding Father, due in part to his Caribbean origin.
In January, 1793, a Congressional investigation commenced, trying to prove that Hamilton had defrauded the Treasury (Jefferson & Madison figured they might as well attack his public life). Congress demanded a full accounting of the Treasury during its first three-and-a-half years of existence. In only four weeks, Hamilton responded in great detail, and exposed the opposition's ignorance of finance, as well as their political bias. Congress kept investigating Hamilton nonetheless; the investigations didn't stop until he resigned as SecTreas in 1795.
The entire political tone in America changed for the worse in 1793, featuring actual conflict on many fronts. The French Revolution divided Americans - there were riots and privateers galore, much of which was caused by the actions of the French Ambassador Edmund Charles Genet. The Federalists supported Britain, while the Republicans supported France; it seemed that any opposition to one's views was tantamount to treason.
President Washington ended the revolt with an offer of amnesty, after leading a few thousand militiamen far enough west to intimidate the rebel leadership; he turned over command to Hamilton, and returned East. Shortly after the Whiskey Rebellion, Hamilton notified Washington that he would resign as SecTreas early in 1795. He felt he had accomplished as much as he possibly could, especially after the Whisky Rebellion established the precedent that the federal government could and would enforce their own laws. Also, his family finances dictated that he return to his profitable law practice in New York City.
Hamilton was assailed (verbally and even physically) at mob protests in New York City against the Jay Treaty; Hamilton never quite figured out that it was impossible to talk some sense into a mob. Hyper-Passion was in fashion, and angry mobs became the norm. In terms of politics, it seemed that everyone had lowered himself after 1793; among the few that hadn't resorted to that "lowering" was Hamilton.
That was the Hamilton as of 1795; a very different Alexander Hamilton would surface in the following years, he was influential in determining the the outcomes of two Presidential elections, and he would be a participant in America's most famous duel . . .