Things To Know About Alexander Hamilton and Why He is on $10 Bill

Alexander Hamilton, who is one of America’s founding fathers, was a strong opponent of slavery and was an early member of the New York Manumission Society, an abolitionist group that organized boycotts against merchants connected to the slave trade and lobbied for legislation abolishing the institution. Alexander Hamilton was a founding father, statesman, veteran, political intellectual, economist and a media tycoon. He encouraged the use of the dollar bill as the basic unit of currency and called for a series of coins broken into smaller values, a new concept in an age when bartering was the preferred method of transaction.

While growing up in the Caribbean, Hamilton saw the effects of slavery first-hand. When he met John Laurens in the American colonies, the two furiously wrote essays and pamphlets demanding the abolition of slavery. Alexander Hamilton assisted Laurens in spreading the word about Laurens’ dream to have battalions of African Americans, who would all be given automatic freedom upon their enlistment in the army. After both Hamilton’s and Laurens’ deaths, Hamilton’s wife became a strong public advocate for the abolition of slavery.

Born on the remote Caribbean island of Nevis, Alexander Hamilton rose from an impoverished upbringing to become one of the founding fathers of America. He lived in poverty during his early life on the island of Saint Kitts and Nevis and later on the island of St. Croix. Hamilton took a job as a clerk at an import/export mercantile on Saint Croix. His employers and other citizens of Saint Croix soon realized that Hamilton needed a mainland education, so his employers and a few others raised enough money to send Hamilton to Boston, and after arriving in Boston, he traveled to New York City and began studying at King’s College which eventually became Columbia University.

While at King’s College, Hamilton joined a New York militia. Eventually, he joined the Continental line and became a captain of an artillery company. Hamilton distinguished himself several times especially during the Battle of Princeton. His achievements caught the eye of many important military leaders including William Alexander, Lord Stirling, and Nathanael Greene.

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Things to Know About Alexander Hamilton

1. Alexander Hamilton is only one of three non-Presidents to currently grace American paper money; the others being Benjamin Franklin and Salmon P. Chase.

2. He was not without his quirks. He was once thought to have died in a battle and while everyone was mourning him, he showed up soaking wet. He once threatened to quit work because Washington pointed out he was late.

3. Towards the end of his life, Alexander Hamilton overspent on his new home in upper Manhattan and was nearly broke.

4. During the American Revolutionary War (1775-83), Alexander Hamilton became aide-de-camp to George Washington before gaining military glory at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781, a final victory for the American colonies over the British.

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5. He was the man who laid the foundations of the US government’s financial mechanisms and systems, including the establishment of a national bank and the US mint.

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6. Alexander Hamilton’s plan to tax whiskey was so unpopular that The Whiskey Rebellion as they were known lasted for three years from 1791 and forced President George Washington out of military retirement in order to lead troops to quell the uprising.

7. Hamilton was a sound intellectual. He initiated a project called The Federalist Papers. This was a collection of essays to explain and support the provisions of a brand-new American constitution.

8. Alexander Hamilton established the Revenue Cutter Service to protect the country’s coasts from smugglers who were thwarting another revenue stream for the government. The service was later to become the United States Coast Guard.

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9. In 1801, he managed to secure $10,000 from a group of investors to fund the launch of the New York Evening Post. Although the name has since changed to the New York Post, it is America’s oldest continuously published daily newspaper.

10. The source of the portrait on the $10 bill is John Trumbull’s 1805 painting of Hamilton that belongs to the portrait collection of New York City Hall. The $10 bill is unique in that it is the only denomination in circulation in which the portrait faces to the left.

Why He is on $10 Bill

Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill

The $10 bill has gone through two stages – First it was in a large note size which was used from 1861 to 1929 and then it was a small note size from 1929 to present. The large note size was issued during the first year of the Civil War, with Abraham Lincoln’s portrait on it. During the large note size era, many different famous Americans appeared on it, including Salmon P. Chase, the 6th U.S. Chief Justice, Daniel Webster, Secretary of State and Senator, Pocahontas, Robert Morris, and Benjamin Franklin.

Starting in 1929, the small note size era began. This occurred for all paper currency. The dimensions were 156 x 66 mm. Alexander Hamilton was chosen for the bill. One would expect that he was chosen in order to recognize his contributions as the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury, but we were unable to find any source to substantiate that claim. In addition, he united America by having the federal government write off state debts from the Revolutionary War and establish a national banking system.

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