Since it burst onto the Broadway scene in 2015, Hamilton has been at the top of the musical world. It has become so popular that lyrics, references, and especially Alexander Hamilton himself, have become part of the cultural fabric.
With the release of the film edition of the production earlier this month, on Disney+, Hamilton has extended its reach even further.
Days later we’re still humming “The Room Where it Happened” and thinking about the adventurous life and tragic death of Hamilton. Today is the 116th anniversary of Hamilton’s death, so in honor of the revolutionary founding father, let’s take a look back on his life.
Alexander Hamilton was born in the Caribbean island of Nevis on January 11, in either 1755 or 1757, and his father abandoned his family in his early childhood. His mother died when he was a young teenager, and was taken in by a wealthy merchant, who furthered his education. Hamilton demonstrated a great interest and capacity for learning from a young age, despite his early setbacks.
As a late teen, Hamilton made his way to Boston, then to New York City to attend college. He enrolled in King’s College, which has since been renamed Columbia University. Here, he quickly showed his revolutionary leanings, and began to participate in protests and rallies agitating for political independence.
His education was put on hold due to the outbreak of the Revolution, but he eventually returned to the books on his own and passed the bar after the war.
Nassau Hall, Princeton University
Hamilton joined the military to fight for independence, and was an influential leader from the start of his service. During the Battle of Princeton, Hamilton showed exemplary leadership when he helped to force British soldiers holed up in the Nassau Hall at Princeton University to surrender by blasting cannon at the building until they surrendered.
Hamilton became a trusted aide to General George Washington, and was involved in several important battles during the war. During the Battle of Yorktown, he led a battalion of light infantry which played a pivotal role in the British surrender. It helped to cement Hamilton’s reputation as a patriot and leader in the new country.
After the Revolution, Hamilton returned to New York, studied for and passed the bar, and began to practice law. As it became obvious that the Articles of Confederation were failing to govern the new country, Hamilton was tapped to represent New York at the Congress of the Confederation, and later the Constitutional Convention, both in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Although he wasn’t a major contributor at the convention, he wrote a series of articles that became the Federalist Papers, an argument in favor of the Constitution and the radical form of government it entailed.
After the establishment of a new, stronger central government, Hamilton served in various capacities for both George Washington and John Adams, as well as his involvement in politics. However, after the turn of the century, he returned to New York City and began practicing law again. Here, he also advocated against the international slave trade.
He lived with his wife Eliza and their children in a house he named “The Grange”, located on 32 acres in upper Manhattan, back when upper Manhattan was rural. The house has been moved twice within the neighborhood and turned into a National Memorial in 1962. It has been restored and renovated, and outfitted to represent what it would have been like when Hamilton lived there.
Site of the Duel
Despite having left the federal government, Hamilton remained very involved in politics. When his political rival Aaron Burr returned to New York to run for governor, Hamilton publicly backed Burr’s opponent. Burr, feeling slighted, challenged Hamilton to a duel.
As the sun rose over Weehawken, New Jersey, Hamilton and Burr met for the duel. Hamilton either fired and missed intentionally, or fired by reflex after he was shot by Burr. The site has largely been turned into a massive home, but there is a monument on the site where the duel took place.
Buried at Trinity Church
Hamilton was taken to a doctor, but he succumbed to his injuries on July 12, 1804. His funeral was held at Trinity Church in Manhattan, and he was interred in the Trinity Church Cemetery.
His grave includes a white stone pyramid and is prominent within the cemetery, and is befitting the man who fought for his country, served in the government, and worked tirelessly to influence and better the form of government for the United States. Visitors to the church are able to see the memorial from the street.
Hamilton was so often in “the room where it happened” that his legacy has been secured as one of the most important, if not most famous founding fathers of the United States. So on this anniversary of his death, let us all remember Hamilton, and tell his story.