Financial History Issue 118 (Summer 2016) | Page 8


“ Man with a Plan ” Exhibit Honors the Legacy of Alexander Hamilton

By Sarah Poole
In commemoration of the 212th anniversary of the death of Alexander Hamilton , the Museum opened a new exhibit in the Alexander Hamilton Room on July 12 . “ Man with a Plan ” honors the legacy of our nation ’ s financial founding father through exclusive documents from the Museum ’ s permanent collection .
The exhibit begins with an explanation of how the nation faced financial difficulties during the American Revolution . In a letter addressed to Captain Richard Varick , Colonel John Nicolson describes the desperate state of his regiment : “ As the men of my regiment are in general without cloaths [ sic ] sufficient to enable them to do duty and many of them almost naked … The major part of the soldiers have had no pay for three months and some of the officers six .”
The Continental Congress and individual states tried to raise money for the war effort in various ways , including holding lotteries , issuing bonds and turning to foreign funders . Nevertheless , the United States faced a significant debt crisis by the end of the war .
As the first US Secretary of the Treasury , appointed by President George Washington , Hamilton was tasked with assessing the debt problem and proposing a solution . He did this in his 1790 Report on Public Credit . In the report , Hamilton argues that it was the responsibility of the federal government to honor the leftover Revolutionary War debt at its full value because “ it was the price of liberty .” All Continental , state and foreign debt was assumed and reissued as United States debt . Original examples of the Report on Public Credit and US bonds are on display in the exhibit .
Hamilton ’ s plan financially unified the nation , strengthened its credit and still serves as the foundation for the American financial system today . The exhibit also explores Hamilton ’ s life outside of his role as financial genius .
For example , a Treasury Circular regarding exports and duties signed by Hamilton represents the daily responsibilities of his department . After leaving the Treasury , Hamilton then served as Major General of the Army , and a pay order he issued during this time represents the later years of his career .
Additionally , the exhibit profiles a number of key figures in Hamilton ’ s life . A display is dedicated to the Marquis de Lafayette , who played a key role in supporting the Revolution and was one of Hamilton ’ s good friends . One report details the money Lafayette personally spent on the American cause .
Another case is dedicated to the rivalry between Hamilton and Vice President Aaron Burr . The notorious Burr is represented by a letter he wrote while serving as a lawyer in New York . Burr shot Hamilton in a famous duel on July 11 , 1804 , and Hamilton died the following day . Other related items on view are historical replicas of the dueling pistols , as well as an original copy of Hamilton ’ s obituary and
The 1880 study of Carl Conrads ’ statue of Alexander Hamilton stands outside the Museum ’ s Alexander Hamilton Room .
a rare 1804 collection of documents pertaining to his death including his last will and testament , the eulogies of his friends and colleagues , and detailed information about his funeral ceremony .
The Museum has seen a recent surge of interest in Hamilton fueled by the hit Broadway musical bearing his name . With this exhibit , it is our hope that we can offer an in-depth study of Hamilton ’ s visionary financial brilliance and show our visitors how his contributions to our young nation benefit our society today .
Sarah Poole is the Museum ’ s Collection Manager and one of the curators of “ Man with a Plan ,” now on view in the Alexander Hamilton Room .
Robert Dinkelmann
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The Treasury Department begins producing US currency in the basement of the Main Treasury Building .
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Daily trading volume on the NYSE exceeds 100 million shares for the first time , as 132,681,120 shares change hands .
6 FINANCIAL HISTORY | Summer 2016 | www . MoAF . org