James Alexander Hamilton

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James Alexander Hamilton
United States Secretary of State
Acting
In office
March 4, 1829 – March 27, 1829
President Andrew Jackson
Preceded by Henry Clay
Succeeded by Martin Van Buren
Personal details
Born (1788-04-14)April 14, 1788
Died September 24, 1878(1878-09-24) (aged 90)
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Mary Morris
(m. 1810; her death 1869)
Children 6, including Alexander Hamilton Jr.
Parents
Relatives See Hamilton family
Education Columbia University
Profession Lawyer
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Army
New York State Militia
Rank Major
Battles/wars War of 1812

James Alexander Hamilton (April 14, 1788 – September 24, 1878)[1] was an American soldier, acting Secretary of State, and the third son of Alexander Hamilton, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. He entered politics as a Democrat and supporter of Andrew Jackson.

Early life and education[edit]

Hamilton was born on April 14, 1788,[1] the fourth child of American founding father Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton.[2] Hamilton later wrote of his childhood:

[Alexander] Hamilton's gentle nature rendered his house a joyous one to his children... His intercourse with his children was always affectionate and confiding, which excited in them a corresponding confidence and devotion. I distinctly recollect the scene at breakfast in the front room of the house in Broadway. My dear mother, seated as was her wont at the head of the table with a napkin in her lap, cutting slices of bread and spreading them with butter for the younger boys... When the lessons were finished the father and the elder children were called to breakfast, after which the boys were packed off to school.[3]

When he was sixteen, his father was killed in a duel with Vice President Aaron Burr. Along with his mother and siblings, Hamilton was present in the room, sitting at his father's bedside, when he died a few hours after the duel.[2] Hamilton graduated from Columbia University in 1805 at the age of seventeen. He later studied law, and in 1809, he was admitted to the bar, and practiced law for a year in Waterford, New York.[3]

Career[edit]

In 1810, Hamilton moved to Hudson, New York, and practiced law there for several years.[2][3] During the War of 1812, Hamilton served as a Brigade Major and Inspector in the New York State Militia.

In March 1829, Hamilton served as acting Secretary of State to President Andrew Jackson, surrendering the office on the regular appointment of Martin Van Buren.[2] That same year he was appointed U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Curiously, he sided with Jackson in opposing the Second Bank of the United States, the successor to the bank which had originally been invented by his father.[4] In an 1830 letter to Jackson, Hamilton proposed that a substitute be created for the Bank, and articulated several supposed deficiencies with the present Bank. His arguments made against the institution were quite similar to those of Jackson. He claimed that the Bank was subversive to liberty and that it exerted unfair influence on the election process. The stock, he claimed, was owned mostly by foreigners, and thus the Bank could be controlled by forces hostile to the United States. Hamilton declared that the very institution was "unconstitutional" because Congress did not have the power to create it.[5]

In 1867, he published a book of memoirs. In the book's preface, he writes that he was "induced to undertake this work by a desire to do justice" to his father "against the aspersions of Mr. Jefferson, and more recently of Martin Van Buren." His father's life and career, friends and rivals, are discussed at length in Hamilton's memoirs.[3]

Personal life[edit]

On October 17, 1810, Hamilton married Mary Morris (d. 1869), the daughter of Robert Morris (1762–1851) and Frances Ludlam (1766–1852).[2][3] Mary was older sister of Lewis Gouverneur Morris (1808–1900), the granddaughter of Richard Morris (1730–1810), Chief Justice of the New York Supreme Court,[6] the great-granddaughter of Lewis Morris, an early colonial governor of New Jersey, and the grandniece of Lewis Morris (1726–1798), a signer of the Declaration of Independence.[7][8] Hamilton later recalled their first years of marriage:

"Both I and my wife were without means – our parents not being in a situation to do much for us. This I have always considered the most fortunate event of my life. I realized the embarrassments of my situation, and met them with the determination to overcome them. Nor did my resolution fail of its reward. Our self-denials were great, indeed, but our faith in the future was greater... Our poverty was so extreme that during our first year we boarded at four dollars per week for each. I now look back upon this event as not only the happiest, but the most fortunate occurrence of my long and eventful life. My poverty, with its burdens and responsibilities, nerved me to exertion, and necessity taught me the value of economy and self-denial."[3]

Together, Hamilton and his wife had six children, five of whom lived to maturity:[3][8][9][10][11]

  • Elizabeth "Eliza" Hamilton (1811–1863), who married George Lee Schuyler (1811–1890), the son of Philip Jeremiah Schuyler.
  • Frances "Fanny" Hamilton (1813–1887), who married George Russel James Bowdoin (1809–1870).
  • Alexander Hamilton, Jr. (1816–1889), who married Angelica Livingston (1820–1896), the daughter of Maturin Livingston.
  • Alexander Hamilton (1848–1849), who died young.
  • Mary Morris Hamilton (1818–1877), who married George Lee Schuyler (1811–1890).
  • Angelica Hamilton (1819–1868), who married Richard Milford Blatchford (1798–1875).

James Alexander Hamilton died on September 24, 1878,[1] in Irvington, New York.

Residence[edit]

Hamilton built a large home in the Ardsley-on-Hudson section of Irvington, New York, which he named "Nevis" in honor of his father's birthplace in the British West Indies. It was originally "a simple Greek revival building with Doric columns", but in 1889 it was "extensively remodeled" by famed architect Stanford White. In 1934, Mrs. T. Coleman DuPont gave Nevis to Columbia University for the "establishment of a horticultural and landscape architecture center."[12] Today the Nevis estate is a physics and biological research facility operated by Columbia University.[13]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Tucker, Dan (2016). The Hamilton Collection. Hachette Books. p. 189. ISBN 9780316503686. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Fell, A. London (1983). Origins of Legislative Sovereignty and the Legislative State, Volume 1. Greenwood Publishing Co. p. 395. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Hamilton, James Alexander (1869). Reminiscences of James A. Hamilton: or, Men and events, at home and abroad, during three quarters of a century. New York: C. Scribner & Co. 
  4. ^ Fowler, Dorothy Ganfield (1943). The cabinet politician; the postmasters general, 1829–1909. Columbia University Press. 
  5. ^ "James Alexander Hamilton to Andrew Jackson, January 4, 1830". Jackson Papers, LOC. Retrieved September 15, 2017. 
  6. ^ "Richard Morris (1730-1810)". www.nyhistory.org. New-York Historical Society. Retrieved 15 August 2017. 
  7. ^ Van Deusen, Mary S. (2002). "Descendants of Grandson Richard Morris". The Morris Family. Archived from the original on 2014-04-07. 
  8. ^ a b Spooner, W.W. (1906). "The Morris Family of Morrisania". The American Historical Magazine. New York: The Publishing Society of New York. 1 (1): 327. 
  9. ^ Reynolds, Cuyler (1914). Genealogical and Family History of Southern New York and the Hudson River Valley: A Record of the Achievements of Her People in the Making of a Commonwealth and the Building of a Nation. Volume 3. Lewis Historical Publishing Co. p. 1380. 
  10. ^ Christoph, Florence (1992). Schuyler Genealogy. 2. Friends of Schuyler Mansion. p. 146. 
  11. ^ "Finding aid for Hamilton-Schuyler Family Papers, 1820-1924". University of Michigan. 
  12. ^ Adams, Arthur G. (1999). The Hudson River Guidebook. New York: Fordham University Press. p. 128. 
  13. ^ "Nevis Labs" (official website). Columbia University. Retrieved March 28, 2013.