The Green in this spiritual portrait represents Alexander Hamilton's dominant personality trait, his rationality. In Extraverts, the dominant trait is directed outwardly, and spiritual portraits use a long vertical line to represent this, because it is the side of their personality that is most evident. He demonstrated this trait when he used logic to write pamphlets explaining his position on controversial issues, such as the assumption of state debts by the federal government for the Revolutionary War.
The Yellow in this spiritual portrait represents Alexander Hamilton's auxiliary personality trait, his realistic outlook. In Extraverts, the auxiliary trait is directed inwardly, and spiritual portraits use a horizontal line to represent this. He demonstrated this trait in his ongoing insistence that America needed a strong military to protect its borders and presence on the seas.
Founding Father and First Secretary of the Treasury of the USA — Sep. 11, 1789 to Jan. 31, 1795
Alexander Hamilton was born on January 11 of either 1755 or 1757, in Charlestown, the capital of the island of Nevis in the Caribbean Sea. Although no one is sure which year he was born, it is certain he was ....
Although no one is sure which year he was born, it is certain he was illegitimate, the youngest of the seven
key Founding Fathers, and the only one of that group who was born outside of the Thirteen Colonies.
Hamilton, the Decision Maker
Because his parents were unmarried, Alexander Hamilton and his brother James were unable to attend school at the Church of England. He supplemented the tutoring he received at a private school with reading his family's books.
Still a teenager, Hamilton came to America in 1772 and, after a year or so, began studying at King's College (now Columbia) in New York City. He was exposed to and soon joined the patriots' revolutionary cause, and served as one of Washington's aides de camp for four years.
The decisiveness that Alexander Hamilton developed during his youth — represented by the vast amount of Green in his spiritual portrait — served him well during the war, giving him courage and conviction. After the war, his strong will and keen reasoning ability led him to pursue a career in law.
The Inevitable Push-Back
Even as a young man, Hamilton did not find as much satisfaction in his law career. He became interested in the politics of the new nation, and his father-in-law Philip Schuyler chose him to represent New York in the Constitutional Convention in 1787.
Anyone who has ever been among decisive people, whether it be on a playground or in a board room, can certainly confirm
Publius's observation in Federalist No. 70:
Men often oppose a thing, merely because they have had no agency in planning it, or because it may have been planned by those whom they dislike.
— Alexander Hamilton, as Publius in Federalist No. 70, The Executive Department Further Considered, March 18, 1788.
These publications are sometimes mistakenly thought to be Hamilton's alone, because he initiated and managed the series. Ultimately Madison wrote 29 and Jay penned just 5, while the decisive and ambitious Alexander wrote 51 of them.
Hamilton, the Realist
Alexander Hamilton's experiences in the Revolutionary War were a driving force behind his desire for a strong Federal Government. As Washington's aide, he had seen first hand how the lack of essential supplies — food, weapons, uniforms, and even pay for the soldiers — dangerously hampered the war effort.
With Shay's Rebellion in 1786 and 1787, America had already experienced a militant uprising that threatened the lives of law-abiding citizens. However, in the years following the Revolutionary War the country's standing army was miniscule. And with no codified way to repay lingering debt for the war, Hamilton knew it would be very difficult to find new recruits.
Alexander Hamilton's prevailing realism — represented by the Yellow in his spiritual portrait — contrasts quite strongly with the idealism of Thomas Jefferson. Where Jefferson, who lived in the Virginia countryside, envisioned a rural, agrarian society, Hamilton, who lived on the island of Manhattan in New York City, foresaw large, bustling cities.
Hamilton's and Jefferson's different attitudes are especially evident with regards to the idea of a standing army:
Let us recollect that peace or war will not always be left to our option; that however moderate or unambitious we may be, we cannot count upon the moderation, or hope to extinguish the ambition of others.
— Alexander Hamilton, as Publius in Federalist No. 34, The Same Subject Continued: Concerning the General Power of Taxation, January 4, 1788.
While Jefferson thought the United States could remain neutral without a standing military, Hamilton knew this idea was dangerously unrealistic.
Hamilton, the Meta-President
Alexander Hamilton was never president. This is due to a number of reasons, including being illegitimate and foreign-born, his relatively young age, and his unfortunate involvement in the infamous Maria Reynolds scandal.
Alexander Hamilton could rightly be called a meta-president, though:
- As a member of the Constitutional Convention he had a role in creating and defining the presidency.
- His Federalist No. 70, The Executive Department Further Considered, outlines the specific duties of the president in considerable detail.
- As someone with a considerable amount of pull with the presidential electors, he could make or break candidates in the first few elections.
No one dared oppose George Washington in the first two Presidential elections in 1788 and 1792. So those two terms were a done deal, and to this date, Washington has been the only president who did not belong to a political party.
However, when Washington refused to run for a third term, Hamilton worked behind the scenes to help John Adams get elected in 1796. Hamilton also helped Thomas Jefferson get elected President in 1800.
While he lived, Alexander Hamilton was more than a president, he was a meta-president.
A Complicated Assumption
State governments were frequently forced to fund the Revolutionary War with notes that were essentially I.O.U.s. Some people — such as farmers who were formerly soldiers and needed to buy seeds, for example — had sold their notes to speculators, often for mere cents on the dollar. And some states, such as Virginia and North Carolina, had paid off most of this debt, while other states, such as Massachusetts and South Carolina, had heavy debts left yet to pay.
Figuring out a way to make everyone happy in this situation was problematic:
- Should the federal government assume the states' debts — rewarding the states that still had massive debts at the expense of the more conscientious ones?
- Should the I.O.U.s be paid off at full face value — rewarding the speculators at the expense of people like the hard-working farmer-soldiers?
Hamilton believed the answer to both questions was
Yes, and as the nation's first Secretary of the Treasury, his opinions mattered more than anyone else's. He set forth the facts and his reasoning about them in the First Report on the Public Credit, and delivered the 40,000 word document to Congress on January 9, 1790.
Alexander Hamilton's Report on the Public Credit, presented to Congress in January of 1790, got a lot of push-back. A stalemate resulted, with House Representative James Madison and Washington's new Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson leading the opposition.
Just a few years prior to this, Hamilton had bemoaned the creation of political parties, and the difficulty inherent in trying to change people's opinions, once they've been formed:
[N]othing could be more ill-judged than that intolerant spirit which has, at all times, characterized political parties. In politics, as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution.
— Alexander Hamilton, as Publius in Federalist No. 1, General Introduction, October 27, 1787.
The stalemate over assumption ended on June 20, 1790, when Alexander Hamilton sat down to dinner with Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and to discuss the situation. During this famous conversation, Jefferson and Madison agreed to acquiesce on the assumption of state debts if Hamilton would agree to move the nation's capitol south from its original home in Manhattan — a city that some of Hamilton's fans actually wanted to call Hamiltonopolis.
The Funding Act called for the assumption of the states' war debts by the Federal Government — and everything that went along with that. And the Residence Act called for temporarily moving the nation's capitol from its current home in New York City to Philadelphia. From there it would move again to a permanent home in Washington, D.C., a new city on the Potomac River between Maryland and Virginia.
A significant side effect of all this was the creation of America's two-party system. The process started with Jefferson's and Madison's informal Anti-Administration Party in 1789.
Two years later, Alexander Hamilton and his supporters formed the Federalist Party. And a year after that the informal Anti-Administration Party evolved into the formal Republican Party — known to some historians as the Democratic-Republican Party, and not to be confused with today's GOP — in 1792.
Some people claim that Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson actually semantics, one might reasonably like to think the Founding Fathers were better than that.
Indeed, some recent accounts of their relationship paint Jefferson as a villain. However, allegations of hatred are a bit exaggerated.
In Thomas Jefferson's Anas he states Alexander Hamilton was
honest, and honorable in all private transactions, amiable in society, and duly valuing virtue in private. This is hardly the language of a
Likewise, when Alexander Hamilton helped Jefferson beat Aaron Burr in the fourth presidential election in 1800, he showed he had at least some respect for Jefferson. Again, this does not sound like something a
hater would do.
No Time for Hate
When Aaron Burr forced Alexander Hamilton into their infamous duel, there is ample evidence that Hamilton intended to throw his shot away. And if Hamilton actually did throw away his shot on that fateful day, then he effectively died for refusing to
hate Burr — someone who fully intended to kill him — and someone who, sadly, was successful.
Hate is an emotion, but Hamilton, Jefferson, and Adams were predominantly logical people. Emotions — such as those that dominated the French Revolution around this time — are the driving force behind mobs.
Although Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson became political rivals, these three were nonetheless strongly united in their contempt for mob violence. It is actually the lack of hatred and predominance of reason that made the American Revolution much less bloody than the one in France.
Saying the Founding Fathers
hated each other sounds shocking because it's hyperbole — essentially fake news — at best, a poor choice of words. If Alexander Hamilton was a more emotional person, and more likely to be a
hater, the tendency to be emotional would show up as more Red in his spiritual portrait.
About This Portrait
This spiritual portrait is based on the biography of Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. There is also an American Experience video about Hamilton's life, but Chernow's book — which inspired the musical about Hamilton — is far more comprehensive.
For a personal review of Ron Chernow's Alexander Hamilton, along with recommendations for books and videos about other Founding Fathers, see Hamilton and Jefferson Were Both Awesome on tomhartung.com.
Chernow's biography of Alexander Hamilton is an excellent work, detailed and informative, well-organized and well-written, and easy to read — despite being over 700 pages long. I highly recommend it for everyone!
Hamilton and Jefferson on ArtsyVisions.com
Hamilton and Jefferson were different in many ways — and these articles put their differences in a new perspective — so check them out today!