Alexander Hamilton, Revolutionary Summary & Study Guide

Brockenbrough, Martha
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Alexander Hamilton, Revolutionary Summary & Study Guide Description

Alexander Hamilton, Revolutionary Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion on Alexander Hamilton, Revolutionary by Brockenbrough, Martha.

The following version of this book was used to create this study guide: Brockenbrough, Martha. Alexander Hamilton: Revolutionary. Macmillan Publishing Group, 2017. Hardcover.

The biography begins with a short introduction by the author who claims that Alexander Hamilton was a complicated, and commonly misunderstood man. Then, the author moves back in time to a hurricane that a young Alexander survived through. After the devastating storm, Alexander wrote a letter to his missing father. The story then moves back another 17 years to the first marriage of Rachel, Alexander’s mother. Rachel was unhappy in her marriage, and eventually escaped her husband by fleeing to Saint Kitts. There, she met James Hamilton and had two children; Alexander and James. However, Rachel’s first husband had her unfairly tried for adultery so he could officially divorce her and marry his new love. Rachel was banned from marrying again and James left her and the children. After running a grocery store for many years, Rachel died, leaving Alexander and James with nothing thanks to her first husband’s greed. Alexander, determined to make something of himself, pursued his own education, and impressed employers at a trading company, as well as an influential priest named Hugh Knox. Knox had Alexander's letter published anonymously, and set up a fund to send Alexander to the colonies. The public donated, and Alexander made his way to New York.

Once there, Alexander used Knox’ connections to make powerful friends in the political scene. He quickly finished prep school and attended New York City’s King’s College. While he was there, Britain approved the highly controversial Stamp Act. In response, the group called the Sons of Liberty dressed up as Indians, and threw thousands of pounds worth of Tea into the Boston Harbor. Alexander encouraged New Yorkers to support the people of Boston as the British cracked down on any rebellion and closed all their ports. After the Boston Massacre in 1770, Alexander joined the Continental Army, led by George Washington. He became the leader of an artillery company at the age of 21, and trained his men better than most seasoned generals. Congress declared independence and King George declared war. The Continental Army was forced to flee, as many of the soldiers were untrained or too drunk to fight. After victories at Trenton and Princeton months later, Alexander was invited to join Washington's staff. There, he handled all correspondence and became friends with Washington. However, after the British took Fort Ticonderoga, Alexander was proclaimed dead after falling into a river while being fired upon.

Alexander reappeared, alive, and continued his work. He was able to raise funds and gather supplies for the army without angering the citizens. In the middle of October, a British general surrendered around 6,000 troops to General Horatio in New York. However, when pressed to send his men to Washington, both Horatio and a second general refused, forcing Alexander to demand the troops without Washington’s approval (though the commander appreciated his enthusiasm). Then, the army began it's miserable six months at Valley Forge. Here, Alexander studied finance and worked with Washington and Nathanael Greene to improve the supplies and morale of the troops.

Soon after, Baron von Steuben volunteered for the army, and trained all of Washington’s men better than any other general before. On February 6th, France recognized America’s independence and joined as an ally. Washington planned to intercept an English militia force, but many generals disagreed with him. One of these men, Charles Lee, demanded that he be put in charge after it was decided that Washington should attack. This ended in disaster, as Charles Lee fled the fight despite having more men. Lee was court martialed, and suspended from the army. Eventually, Alexander’s friend Laurens challenged Lee to a duel over Washington’s honor. The duel ended with no bloodshed and Lee apologized before being banned from the army entirely.

Later, Alexander asked congress to form a battalion of slaves with the condition that they be freed once they completed five years of military service. Many disagreed, but Alexander and Laurens eventually convinced Congress to approve it. In the army’s second and more successful winter camp Morristown, Alexander met his future wife, Elizabeth (Eliza) Schuyler. They married in December of 1780. However, the Continental Army continued to suffer losses due to poor leadership and a betrayal by Benedict Arnold. Washington, angry at Arnold’s treasonous actions, ordered a British man named Andre to be hanged. Alexander fought against this, believing Andre should die an honorable death, but Alexander was ignored. Months later, Washington accused Alexander of disrespecting him, despite Alexander having shown nothing but respect for the commander since they met. Alexander quit his job and resolved to return home to his wife.

However, Alexander was pulled back into the war when General Clinton assigned Charles Cornwallis to defend Yorktown. Washington and Alexander knew this was their only chance to win the war. Washington gave him one of two infantries and, under Alexander’s leadership, they charged into Yorktown, leading to a British surrender on October 17th. Then, he officially quit the army to return to his family. In New York, Alexander became a respected lawyer who represented the poor and former crown sympathizers that were being persecuted. At this time, Aaron Burr also became a lawyer, but he charged exorbitant prices and cared little for people’s well being. Alexander was asked to serve in Congress, where he pushed to have the Articles of Confederation revised. After months of arguments, compromises, and hundreds of pages written by Alexander and his friend, James Madison, the Constitution was ratified. Alexander encouraged Washington to run for president, and helped secure his victory over John Adams. Washington made Alexander Treasury Secretary, Thomas Jefferson Secretary of State, and Hugh Knox the Secretary of War.

When Alexander revealed his plan to fix the nation’s debt, however, Madison, Jefferson and anti-federalists turned on him. Congress eventually compromised on his debt plan, and allowed him to build a Bank of America, something that angered Jefferson and Madison. The public bought so much stock that Alexander had the government buy some to keep the market from crashing. While Alexander worked tirelessly to fix the nation’s finances, he was enticed by a young woman, Maria Reynolds, who claimed she was being abused by her husband. He entered an affair with her, and was eventually blackmailed by her husband until Alexander stopped paying him and cut off the affair. He continued to be at odds with Jefferson and Madison, who believed Alexander was trying to remove slave labor and replace it with manufacturing. Meanwhile, Maria’s husband was under investigation for fraud, and said he had information on someone in the Treasury. Three congressman approached Alexander, who revealed his affair, but claimed he was innocent of the fraud accusations.

Meanwhile, a rebellion in France was threatening to trickle over to America, when the capital, Philadelphia, was stuck by Yellow Fever. Alexander and Eliza caught the disease themselves, but were saved by an old friend from St. Croix named Ned Stevens. The House of Representatives performed an investigation on Alexander, and found that he had done nothing wrong. However, a violent revolt began after his controversial whisky tax, forcing Alexander and Washington to form a militia and stop the rebellion. Afterwards, Alexander quit his job, but continued to advise Washington. America was forced to create a treaty with the British to avoid a war they could not fight. In 1796, Washington stepped down as president. Alexander tried to sway the public to vote for Thomas Pinckney, but failed as Adams won. It was then Alexander found a book written specifically to criticize all of his ideas, as well as reveal leaked documents about his affair with Maria. He fought against the charges of fraud once again, and learned that one of the congressmen had leaked the files. Eliza, despite public humiliation, remained devoted to her husband.

During a second presidential election, Alexander’s criticism against Adams was leaked, and Jefferson won the presidency with Burr as his vice president. Alexander removed himself from the public eye and created a Federalist Newspaper, which earned much praise. Months later, his son Philip was killed in a duel against George Eacker, who had accused Alexander of secretly building an army to put down anti-federalist opposition. A year later, Alexander and Burr’s rivalry reached its’ climax. Alexander wrote many truthful accusations about Burr’s corrupted and selfish nature, causing Burr to challenge him to a duel. After writing Eliza two farewell letters, Alexander met Burr on July 11th. He never intended to hurt Burr, and purposefully missed his first shot. Burr, however, aimed to kill, and shot Alexander right through the abdomen, paralyzing him and eventually leading to his death. All of New York mourned at his funeral, and Eliza learned that he felt he could not back down from the duel because he wanted to be worthy of her love. She went on to form the first orphanage in New York and serve the people for more than years, while Burr suffered a lonely and miserable life.

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