James Alexander Hamilton, acting U.S. Secretary of State

Is your surname Hamilton?

Research the Hamilton family

James Alexander Hamilton, acting U.S. Secretary of State's Geni Profile

Share your family tree and photos with the people you know and love

  • Build your family tree online
  • Share photos and videos
  • Smart Matching™ technology
  • Free!

James Alexander Hamilton

Birthdate:
Birthplace: New York, New York, New York, United States
Death: September 24, 1878 (90)
Irvington, Westchester, New York, United States
Place of Burial: Sleepy Hollow, Westchester County, New York, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Alexander Hamilton, 1st Secretary of the United States Treasury and Elizabeth Hamilton
Husband of Mary Hamilton
Father of Frances Bowdoin; Eliza Schuyler; Mary Morris Schuyler; Alexander Hamilton, Sr. and Angelica Blatchford
Brother of Philip Schuyler Hamilton; Angelica Knott; Col. Alexander Hamilton, Jr.; John Church Hamilton; Col. William Stephen Hamilton and 2 others

Occupation: US District Attorney for the Southern District of New York (1830-1833)
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About James Alexander Hamilton, acting U.S. Secretary of State

James Alexander Hamilton was an American soldier, acting Secretary of State, and the third son of Alexander Hamilton, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. He entered politics as a Democrat and supporter of Andrew Jackson.

Hamilton was born on April 14, 1788, the fourth child of American founding father Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton. Hamilton later wrote of his childhood: [Alexander] Hamilton's gentle nature rendered his house a joyous one to his children... His intercourse with his children was always affectionate and confiding, which excited in them a corresponding confidence and devotion. I distinctly recollect the scene at breakfast in the front room of the house in Broadway. My dear mother, seated as was her wont at the head of the table with a napkin in her lap, cutting slices of bread and spreading them with butter for the younger boys... When the lessons were finished the father and the elder children were called to breakfast, after which the boys were packed off to school.

When he was sixteen, his father was killed in a duel with Vice President Aaron Burr. Along with his mother and siblings, Hamilton was present in the room, sitting at his father's bedside, when he died a few hours after the duel. Hamilton graduated from Columbia University in 1805 at the age of seventeen. He later studied law, and in 1809, he was admitted to the bar, and practiced law for a year in Waterford, New York.

In 1810, Hamilton moved to Hudson, New York, and practiced law there for several years. During the War of 1812, Hamilton served as a Brigade Major and Inspector in the New York State Militia.

In March 1829, Hamilton served as acting Secretary of State to President Andrew Jackson, surrendering the office on the regular appointment of Martin Van Buren. That same year he was appointed U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Curiously, he sided with Jackson in opposing the Second Bank of the United States, the successor to the bank which had originally been invented by his father. In an 1830 letter to Jackson, Hamilton proposed that a substitute be created for the Bank, and articulated several supposed deficiencies with the present Bank. His arguments made against the institution were quite similar to those of Jackson. He claimed that the Bank was subversive to liberty and that it exerted unfair influence on the election process. The stock, he claimed, was owned mostly by foreigners, and thus the Bank could be controlled by forces hostile to the United States. Hamilton declared that the very institution was "unconstitutional" because Congress did not have the power to create it.

In 1867, he published a book of memoirs. In the book's preface, he writes that he was "induced to undertake this work by a desire to do justice" to his father "against the aspersions of Mr. Jefferson, and more recently of Martin Van Buren." His father's life and career, friends and rivals, are discussed at length in Hamilton's memoirs.

On October 17, 1810, Hamilton married Mary Morris (1790–1869), the daughter of Robert Morris (1762–1851) and Frances Ludlam (1766–1852). Mary was older sister of Lewis Gouverneur Morris, the granddaughter of Richard Morris (1730–1810), Chief Justice of the New York Supreme Court, the great-granddaughter of Lewis Morris, an early colonial governor of New Jersey, and the grandniece of Lewis Morris (1726–1798), a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Hamilton later recalled their first years of marriage:

Both I and my wife were without means – our parents not being in a situation to do much for us. This I have always considered the most fortunate event of my life. I realized the embarrassments of my situation, and met them with the determination to overcome them. Nor did my resolution fail of its reward. Our self-denials were great, indeed, but our faith in the future was greater... Our poverty was so extreme that during our first year we boarded at four dollars per week for each. I now look back upon this event as not only the happiest, but the most fortunate occurrence of my long and eventful life. My poverty, with its burdens and responsibilities, nerved me to exertion, and necessity taught me the value of economy and self-denial.

Together, Hamilton and his wife had five children: Elizabeth "Eliza" Hamilton (1811–1863), who married George Lee Schuyler (1811–1890), the son of Philip Jeremiah Schuyler. Frances "Fanny" Hamilton (1813–1887), who married George Russel James Bowdoin (1809–1870). Alexander Hamilton Jr. (1816–1889), who married Angelica Livingston (1820–1896), the daughter of Maturin Livingston. Mary Morris Hamilton (1818–1877), who married George Lee Schuyler (1811–1890). Angelica Hamilton (1819–1868), who married Richard Milford Blatchford (1798–1875). James Alexander Hamilton died on September 24, 1878, in Irvington, New York.

Hamilton built a large home in the Ardsley-on-Hudson section of Irvington, New York, which he named "Nevis" in honor of his father's birthplace in the British West Indies. It was originally "a simple Greek revival building with Doric columns", but in 1889 it was "extensively remodeled" by famed architect Stanford White. In 1934, Mrs. T. Coleman DuPont gave Nevis to Columbia University for the "establishment of a horticultural and landscape architecture center." Today the Nevis estate is a physics and biological research facility operated by Columbia University.

James Alexander Hamilton, lawyer, born in New York city, 14 April, 1788; died in Irvington, New York, 24 September, 1878, was graduated at Columbia in 1805.

He served in the war of 1812 as brigade major and inspector in the New York state militia, and afterward practiced law. He was acting secretary of state under President Jackson in 1829, being appointed ad interim on 4 March, but surrendering the office on the regular appointment of Martin Van Buren, two days later.

On 3 April he was nominated United States district attorney for the southern district of New York. The degree of LL.D. was conferred upon him by Hamilton college, he published "Reminiscences of Hamilton, or Men and Events, at Home and Abroad, during Three Quarters of a Century" (New York, 1869).

view all

James Alexander Hamilton, acting U.S. Secretary of State's Timeline

1788
April 14, 1788
New York, New York, New York, United States
1811
October 8, 1811
Hudson, Columbia County, New York, United States
1813
October 2, 1813
New York, New York, United States
1816
January 26, 1816
New York, New York, United States
1818
January 1, 1818
1819
November 13, 1819
1878
September 24, 1878
Age 90
Irvington, Westchester, New York, United States
????
Sleepy Hollow, Westchester County, New York, United States