The Top 100 Greatest New Yorkers — #6
Alexander Hamilton (1757 – 1804)
Just as the U.S. is a nation of immigrants, New York is a city of immigrants, and the greatest immigrant story of this city is that of the 16-year old boy of illegitimate birth from the West Indies who grew up to become one of the founding fathers of the nation, Alexander Hamilton. Returning from the American Revolution to become a lawyer and the head of the Society for the Abolition of Slavery, Hamilton also founded the Bank of New York. At age 33, firmly believing New York should remain the political capital of the fledgling nation, he was made Secretary of the Treasury. Bitterly opposed to Thomas Jefferson’s belief in an agrarian nation rather than an urban one, Hamilton eventually capitulated to the Secretary of State’s demand that the capital be moved to the countryside on the banks of the Potomac River. In exchange, New York City’s Revolutionary War debt (more than that of the other 12 colonies combined) was forgiven and money began to flooding into the city. Beginning with Hamilton’s government bonds program, New York began its journey as the commercial and economic capital even as it lost its status as the political capital, leading directly to the 1792 establishment of the New York Stock Exchange. By focusing on commerce over politics, Hamilton’s concentration was on his belief that anyone in America with intelligence and ability could rise, just as he had.
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