Hamilton and his older brother were the illegitimate sons of James Hamilton, a Scottish trader, and Rachel Faucett Lavien, who was married to another man. He was born on the Caribbean island of Nevis. His father abandoned the family (or his mother left him) on St. Croix when he was young and he and his mother lived with her relatives. She died in 1768, but he and his older brother were left destitute after her legal husband successfully sued for all of their mother's estate. The boys were made wards of their cousin, but he died very soon afterwards.
The boys were separated, with Alexander going to live with his best friend's family until he sailed for the American colonies in 1772. He soon became part of the colonists' struggle for independence and wrote revolutionary pamphlets, including part of The Federalist. He joined the colonial army in 1775 or 6 and quickly became George Washington's aide. He was elected to the Continental Congress in 1782 but resigned in 1783 and became a lawyer in New York, although he continued in politics until his death in 1804 in a duel with Aaron Burr.
He reorganized the US financial system in the 1790s, after Washington appointed him the country's first secretary of the treasury (1789-95). There are counties in eight US states named for him.
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