American patriot and statesman Alexander Hamilton, the illegitimate son of a Scottish merchant, was born on St. Croix probably on January 11, 1755. After showing remarkable promise in finance, the young Hamilton was sent by a benefactor to King’s College in New York. In 1776, Hamilton joined the Continental Army, where he soon joined George Washington’s staff. After the war, Hamilton became active in New York politics, gaining a reputation as a supporter of a strong central government. In the struggle for the ratification of the Constitution, Hamilton collaborated with James Madison and John Jay in writing the Federalist Papers, which were instrumental in the passage of the Constitution. In 1789, newly elected President George Washington named Hamilton secretary of the treasury. During his tenure, Hamilton established the National Bank, introduced an excise tax, suppressed the Whiskey Rebellion and spearheaded the effort for the federal government to assume the debts of the states. In the presidential election of 1800, Hamilton broke the deadlock between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr by supporting Jefferson. The enmity between Hamilton and his longtime political enemy Burr grew worse during the 1804 campaign for governor of New York. Finally, on July 11, at Weehawken, N.J., the two men fought a duel. Hamilton was shot and died the next day of his injuries.
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