Alexander Hamilton was born out of wedlock in 1757 in Nevis, British West Indies. Soon after birth, his mother and father moved with the young Hamilton to St. Croix in the Virgin Islands. Hamilton's father abandoned the family shortly thereafter.
Because Hamilton's parents were never legally married, the Church of England denied him membership and education in the church school, and he was educated at home by his mother.
When Hamilton was 13, Hamilton's mother contracted a fever and died, leaving Hamilton an orphan.
Hamilton was adopted briefly by a cousin, but the cousin committed suicide, again leaving Hamilton an orphan.
He was adopted as a teenager by a Nevis merchant, and worked as a clerk in a store that traded with New England. While working as a clerk, he became an avid reader and developed an interest in writing. He wrote an essay published in a local newspaper about a destructive hurricane that impressed and caught the attention of community leaders, who decided to collect a fund to send Hamilton to the North American colonies to further his education.
In the North American colonies, Hamilton was attending Kings College in New York (now Columbia University), when the American Revolutionary War began. At the start of the war, he organized an artillery company and was chosen as its captain. His abilities and talent were quuckly noticed by General George Washington, the American Commander-in-Chief.
Hamilton, a born out of wedlock immigrant orphan, soon became a member of Washington's inner circle, rising to Washington's Chief of Staff. As Washington's closest confidandt, Hamilton penned many of General Washington's messages.
After the war, Hamilton was appointed by New York to serve in the Congress of the Confederation. Hamilton was an active participant at the Philadelphia convention for a new constitution and helped achieve ratification by writing 51 of the 85 "Federalist Papers" which supported the new constitution and to this day is the single most important source for U.S. constitutional interpretation.
In the new government under President George Washington, Hamilton was appointed the Secretary of the Treasury, where he organized and founded the new nation's financial system and established the U.S. Mint. He also established the Cutter Revenue Service (now the U.S. Coast Guard). He later also founded the first American political party (the Federalist party), and founded the Bank of New York.
In 1804, Vice President Aaron Burr took offense to some of Hamilton's comments, and Burr challenged him to a duel at the same site where Hamilton's eldest son had died in a duel three years earlier. Burr mortally wounded Hamilton, who died the next day.
The story of the orphan from the West Indies who overcame all odds to shape and inspire a newborn America is told in the biography "Alexander Hamilton" by Ron Chernow.