Born in the British West Indies in 1757, Alexander Hamilton was forced to go to work at the age of twelve because of his father's business failures. In 1772, generous relatives sent young Hamilton to college in New York, but he soon dropped his studies to join the growing American colonial liberation movement as a talented pamphleteer.
In 1776 Hamilton commanded an artillery company and fought with George Washington in several battles; the next year Hamilton became one of the general's valued aides, was promoted to lieutenant-colonel, and worked hard to systematize the American war effort.
After a quarrel with Washington in 1781, Hamilton headed an infantry regiment in Lafayette's corps. From 1782 to 1783, Hamilton served a term in the Continental Congress, then began a law practice in New York.