That face on the $10 bill is full of history. Founding Father Alexander Hamilton might have been born 1,300 miles away on the Caribbean island of Nevis, but he would go on to become the quintessential New Yorker.
How did New York become the commercial capital of the world? Alexander Hamilton.
He grew up in St. Croix, but by the time he arrived in the United States at age 17, he was already good at making money.
He became President George Washington’s aide and later the U.S. secretary of the treasury and a Founding Father of the young nation.
He opened his own law office after passing the bar exam in just three months. Next, he organized the city’s first bank — The Bank of New York — which is still in business today.
For a while, New York was the nation’s capital. The federal government began meeting in lower Manhattan. President Washington was sworn in on the balcony of Federal Hall and named Hamilton secretary of the treasury.
Hamilton quickly began laying the groundwork for the country’s commercial future.
Until then, most of the country’s money came from agriculture and was fueled by slave labor, but Hamilton foresaw that bigger money could be made through banking, sales, goods and immigrant labor. Hamilton was opposed to chattel slavery.
The first step in his plan was cleaning up the nation’s debt. While most Southern states had paid the debts that built up during the Revolutionary War, many Northern states, including NewYork, had not. Hamilton proposed that the federal government pay them off.
Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson listened as Hamilton passionately made his case. Jefferson agreed to the plan only if Hamilton agreed to support Jefferson’s plan to move the nation’s capital from New York to an area near Virginia, which would become Washington, D.C. Hamilton reluctantly agreed.
Never again would New York City represent the country’s political interests. Instead, it would dedicate itself to making money — and make more of it than any other place on earth.
Among Hamilton’s lasting monuments was his newspaper, The New-York Evening Post, which would later become the paper you are reading right now — the New York Post. At more than 200 years old, it’s the oldest continuously published newspaper in the country. Hamilton and his associates started the paper at Gracie Mansion.
Hamilton ran his law practice and his newspaper and watched the success of the city from his home in upper Manhattan. This would become the historic Hamilton Grange neighborhood in Harlem.
By 1804, New York City was thriving, and for the first time, with 80,000 residents, more people lived here than in Philadelphia.
But Hamilton’s brilliant life was about to end.
Hamilton accepted a challenge to a duel from Vice President Aaron Burr and the two men went to Weehawken, N.J. to settle the score. Dueling was illegal in New York.
It is believed that Hamilton could not pull the trigger, since his own son had been killed in a duel. Burr had no such problem and shot Hamilton in the stomach on July 11, 1804. Hamilton died 31 hours later in a house on Jane Street in what is now Greenwich Village.
New York’s Caribbean son is buried in the cemetery grounds of Trinity Church.
Today’s lesson fulfills the following New York standards: E1c, E2d, E3c, E3d, D4a, D5a; Social Studies Standard 1; Art Standards 2,3,4.
New York Post Activities
Plan a trip to Harlem’s Hamilton Grange at 142nd St. and Convent Avenue.
Write an essay on how you think life would have been different in New York City if it had remained the nation’s capital.
Visit Trinity Church’s Web site at http://www.trinitywall street.org to learn more about this historic church and the famous people buried in its graveyard.
Look through today’s paper for ideas on creating your own newspaper. Include current news stories and things in your neighborhood. Your sports section could talk about games at your school or at your local park. Be sure to use pictures or drawings.