Alexander Hamilton's American Revolution
March 15 — September 16, 2018
Alexander Hamilton arrived in America in 1772 at the age of fifteen—a poor, self-taught, ambitious immigrant from the West Indies. He settled in New York City in the midst of the colonial crisis, when oppressive taxes and other policies pushed Americans to question British rule. Hamilton soon befriended prominent patriots and embraced the cause for independence in his adopted country.
The American Revolution was a defining event in Alexander Hamilton's life and influenced his vision for the nation. He fought the Revolutionary War as an energetic but inexperienced private in a volunteer militia unit, a battle-tested commander in the Continental Army, and the principal aide-de-camp to General George Washington. These experiences convinced Hamilton that the new nation needed a strong central government and national institutions in order for the union of states to survive. Hamilton was an important and unwavering force in the political revolution that produced the U.S. Constitution and the American form of government, ensuring that the ideals he had fought for would endure.
After the war, Hamilton became an original member of the Society of the Cincinnati, an organization of veteran officers founded in 1783 to ensure that the principles of the Revolution and the sacrifices required to win American independence would not be forgotten. He believed that the Society—one of the few national organizations in the young country—was a valuable force for ensuring that the American republic would survive. Hamilton led the Society as its second president general—an office first held by Washington—until his untimely death in 1804.
The exhibition tells these stories through nearly forty manuscripts, rare books, artifacts, and works of art drawn primarily from the Society's collections. Alexander Hamilton's American Revolution also includes important loans from Georgetown University, Hamilton College, and several private collections.