A “bastard, orphan” who grew up to become “a hero and scholar”, the life story of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton is perhaps one of the most compelling rages-to-riches stories, and the focus of the Tony-winning Broadway musical Hamilton.
Created by Lin-Manuel Miranda – who also played the title role in the original cast – Hamilton is full of twists and turns as it follows the Caribbean-born, penniless orphan as he travels to New York – only to rise through the ranks during the American Revolution and become a trusted aide to George Washington.
But who exactly was the real-life Alexander Hamilton, and what happened to him during his lifetime? How did he make a difference to the United States of America?
Read on for everything you need to know – or follow the link for more on the Hamilton true story that inspired the musical.
Who was the real-life Alexander Hamilton?
Alexander Hamilton was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, and the first ever Secretary for the Treasury. He was an orphan from the Caribbean who was sent to New York City to pursue an education.
As a young man, he was an early convert to the American Revolution, fighting in the militia and becoming senior aide to the future first President, George Washington. He later went on to found America’s first central banks.
He married Elizabeth Schuyler, the daughter of a wealthy general, and together they had eight children. Their first son, Philip, died in a duel at just 19 years old.
The first lyrics in the Broadway musical Hamilton describe him as:
How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten
spot in the Caribbean by Providence impoverished in squalor
grow up to be a hero and a scholar?
Where was Alexander Hamilton born?
Hamilton was born out of wedlock (making him legally a “bastard”) in 1755, in in Charlestown, Nevis, a small island in the Caribbean sea.
His early years were marked by tragedy. He was orphaned when only a child and taken in by a wealthy merchant, before working as a clerk. At one stage he lived with his cousin, who then died by suicide, leaving Hamilton homeless once more.
A clear intellectual and avid reader, he was eventually sent to New York to pursue his education, and after the War of Independence he eventually completed his legal studies and practised law.
How did Alexander Hamilton die?
Alexander Hamilton was fatally shot and died in a duel, just three years after his eldest son Philip suffered the same fate.
He was killed by longtime political rival Vice President Aaron Burr (played by Leslie Odom Jr. in the Broadway production of Hamilton, above), whom Hamilton had offended. Hamilton had also previously supported Burr’s rivals for various seats in power.
The duel took place on 11th July 1804 in New Jersey – coincidentally close to where Hamilton’s son Philip had also duelled and died.
Hamilton was paralysed by the bullet wound and died the following afternoon, on 12th July 1804. His wife Elizabeth lived until she was 97, and established the first private orphanage in New York City.
The Hamilton movie is coming to Disney Plus on 3rd July. You can watch it by signing up to Disney Plus for £5.99 a month or £59.99 a year.