Alexander Hamilton—born at Nevis in the Leeward Islands in either 1755 or 1757—emigrated to New York in 1772. There, he entered King's College (now Columbia University) in 1773 but interrupted his studies to become involved in some of the events which led to the American Revolution by authoring several pamphlets. When the war did come, he was commissioned the captain of an artillery company. Hamilton participated in the Long Island campaign and the retreat through New Jersey before attracting General George Washington's attention and becoming his secretary and aide de camp in March 1777. He served in that capacity, in the rank of lieutenant colonel, until February of 1781 when, as a result of a quarrel with Washington, he resigned his post. Washington, both magnaminous and pragmatic in regard to Hamilton's ability, allowed him to be appointed to head an infantry regiment which he led brilliantly during the Yorktown campaign.
When the war ended, Hamilton read law at Albany, N. Y., and was admitted to the bar. He served a single term in the Continental Congress before returning to private life and beginning the law practice in New York City. However, he remained active in his support for a strong federal government. Hamilton was appointed a delegate from New York to the Constitutional Convention in 1787 though his work at the convention was of little importance. Far more significant was his almost lone struggle in New York to secure ratification of the Constitution. He waged a fierce newspaper war in favor of its adoption and concocted the idea for the Federalist Papers, most of which he wrote alone or in cooperation with James Madison. Though New York at the time was extremely particularist, the sheer force of Hamilton's arguments carried the day and secured the state's adherence to the Constitution at the Poughkeepsie meeting in July 1788. In that year, the young lawyer returned to the Continental Congress and figured prominently in the formation of the new government.
Hamilton was appointed Secretary of the Treasury in September 1789 and immediately set out to establish the nation's credit on a sound basis. On 14 January 1790, he submitted his plan to the House of Representatives; and the document remains one of his lasting contributions to the foundation of the federal government. He argued that the central government should be responsible for all debts contracted during the Revolution—foreign and domestic—including those debts contracted by the individual states. Though the measure encountered fierce opposition, he finally secured its adoption on 4 August 1791.
Hamilton's tenure of office as Secretary of the Treasury lasted until 1795. During that period, the verbal battles with Jefferson— Hamilton's natural antagonist—rose to fever pitch. Both conducted propaganda campaigns in the press, and Jefferson's attacks finally culminated in the introduction of nine resolutions of censure against Hamilton into Congress. The defeat of those resolutions early in 1793 proved a vindication of Hamilton and his policies. Hamilton exercised a great deal of influence over John Jay's negotiations with Great Britain which secured a treaty favorable to the new nation's domestic economy. This meddling in foreign affairs no doubt influenced Jefferson's resignation as Secretary of State at the end of 1793. Jefferson intensified his anti-Hamilton campaign after that because he felt Hamilton to be too speculative at home and pro-British abroad. Domestically, however, Hamilton was secure. He proved that in 1794 when he played a leading role in the suppression of the Whiskey Rebellion. He regarded the Federal action at this time as an outstanding opportunity for the central government to exhibit its strength. Personal financial difficulties forced Hamilton to resign from the cabinet in January 1795 and he never returned to public office. He did, however, continue to support the Federalist cause and remained a close advisor to Washington. Personal antipathy to John Adams minimized Hamilton's influence during that presidency, though he tried to exercise it upon Adams' cabinet nonetheless. His last two great acts came in 1800 and 1804, respectively, and both had Aaron Burr as their target. During the election of 1800, when Jefferson and Burr tied for the Presidency and the election went to the House of Representatives, Hamilton broke with the other Federalists and used his influence to secure Jefferson's election. In 1804, he successfully maneuvered to assure Burr's defeat in his bid to become governor of New York. Burr, it was believed, would probably have joined the secessionist Northern Confederacy had he been elected. As a result, Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel on the pretext that the latter had expressed a "despicable opinion of him." The affair took place at Weehawken, N.J., on 11 July 1804. Burr wounded Hamilton mortally, and the latter died the following day. Hamilton was buried at Trinity Church in New York
(RC: dp. 223; cpl. 38; a. 1 4")
The first Alexander Hamilton—a revenue cutter constructed in 1870 and 1871 at Buffalo, N.Y., by David Bell—was commissioned in the Revenue Cutter Service in October 1871.
Between 1871 and 1898, the cutter operated with the Revenue Cutter Service along the eastern seaboard of the United States between Virginia and Massachusetts. During that service, she operated from various bases including Boston, Mass.; Philadelphia, Pa.; and Norfolk, Va. On 24 March 1898, impending hostilities with Spain over the unresolved instability and oppressive rule in Cuba prompted President McKinley to issue an executive order instructing the Revenue Cutter Service to cooperate with the Navy.
Alexander Hamilton departed Baltimore on 26 March and reported for duty at Norfolk on the 28th. She conducted defensive patrols out of Norfolk until midsummer. By the beginning of August, the cutter was at Key West, Fla., undergoing repairs to her rudder. On 10 August, she departed Key West, bound for the blockade off Havana. She joined the fleet there on the 11th, delivered mail, and took up station with the blockading force. The following day, she came under enemy fire but, rather than return the desultory shots, she hauled off out of range. On 13 August, she completed her brief tour on the blockade and headed, via Key West, to Charleston, S.C., where she arrived on 17 August. That same day, she was returned to the jurisdiction of the Treasury Department.
She resumed service with the Revenue Cutter Service with cruises along the Carolina coast. Later, her area of operations was extended to include portions of the Florida coast. By the spring of 1903, the cutter was operating in the eastern portion of the Gulf of Mexico. In June 1904, her cruising grounds were extended west to Mobile, Ala. That area remained her zone of operations for the remainder of her career. On 31 January 1906, Alexander Hamilton was placed out of commission at Mobile, Ala. She was sold to Mr. Lee Kimball, of Mobile, on 6 March 1906 and was delivered to him on 26 March.