Alexander Hamilton (January 11, 1755 or 1757 -- July 12, 1804) was an American politician, leading statesman, financier, intellectual, and military officer. One of America's foremost constitutional lawyers, he was one of those who proposed the U.S. Constitutional Convention in 1787; he was one of the two leading authors of the Federalist Papers, the single most important interpretation of the Constitution.
He was the first Secretary of the Treasury and had much influence over the rest of the government and the formation of policy, including foreign and military policy. He convinced Congress to use an elastic interpretation of the Constitution to pass far-reaching laws. They included the creation of a national debt, federal assumption of the state debts, creation of a national bank, and a system of taxes through a tariff on imports and a tax on whiskey that would pay for it all. He admired the success of the British system, and opposed the early excesses of the French Revolution.
Hamilton created the Federalist party, the first American political party, which he built up using patronage, networks of elite leaders, and aggressive newspaper editors. His great adversary was Thomas Jefferson who, with James Madison, created the opposition Republican party (later named the Democratic-Republican Party) to counter Hamilton's urban, financial, industrial intentions for the United States and promotion of extensive trade with Britain. Hamilton retired from the Treasury in 1795 to practice law but returned to the public arena in December, 1798 as organizer of a new army; if full scale war broke out with France, the army was intended to conquer the colonies of Spain, France's ally. He worked to defeat both John Adams and Jefferson in the election of 1800 ; but when the House of Representatives deadlocked, he helped secure the election of Jefferson over his long-time enemy Aaron Burr.
Hamilton's nationalist, and industrializing vision was rejected in the Jeffersonian "Revolution of 1800" as too elitist and hostile to states and individual rights. However, after the War of 1812 showed the need for strong national institutions, his former opponents, including Madison and Albert Gallatin, came to emulate his programs as they too set up a national bank, tariffs, internal improvements, and a standing army and navy. The later Whig and Republican parties adopted many of Hamilton's ideas regarding the flexible interpretation of the Constitution and using the federal government to build a strong economy and military. However his negative reputation after 1800 did not allow acknowledgment of his role until his style of nationalism became dominant again about 1900, when Progressives such as Theodore Roosevelt and Herbert Croly, as well as conservative Henry Cabot Lodge, revived his reputation.