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Alexander Hamilton Finally Gets a Law Degree

While many of the country’s founding fathers practiced law, until the 20th Century, a law degree was not required to do so.  Neither Alexander Hamilton or Franklin Delano Roosevelt had university law degree.  Alexander Hamilton will finally get one — Albany Law School plans to award Hamilton an honorary degree next month.

Mayor of Weehawken, NJ Richard F. Turner (left) and Bill Chrystal as Alexander Hamilton (right)

Hamilton played a pivotal role in the early history of the United States. During the Revolutionary War, he served as a colonel and trusted advisor to General George Washington. He later served as one of New York’s delegates at the Constitutional Convention and helped ensure its ratification by writing 51 of 85 of the essays that became known as The Federalist Papers.

Under President George Washington, Hamilton served as the country’s first Secretary of the Treasury. A vocal proponent of a strong, centralized federal government, Hamilton established the country’s first national bank, advocated the funding of the states’ debts by the federal government, created a nationwide system of tariffs, and took the lead in forming the U.S. Mint.

In 1795, Hamilton returned to the practice of law in New York. Although he did not attend formal law school, Hamilton studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1783. His law offices were located in New York City. However, he traveled frequently to state capitol in Albany because the highest court—the Supreme Court of Judicature (later the Court of Appeals)—and the state legislature were located there.

Hamilton’s wife, Elizabeth Schuyler, was also from Albany. Elizabeth was the daughter of the prominent Albany family patriarch Philip Schuyler, a Revolutionary War general, and Catherine Van Rensselaer Schuyler. They were married at the family’s mansion in Albany in 1780.

“Alexander Hamilton’s ties to the Albany area are significant,” said Albany Law Dean Alicia Ouellette. “Hamilton studied law and practiced law in Albany. He wrote ‘Federalist No. 1′ while traveling between Albany and New York City. By conferring this degree, we are acknowledging his impact on the Capital region and New York’s legal community.”

Hamilton died in 1804 after agreeing to pistol duel with his political rival Vice President Aaron Burr. Hamilton allegedly shot in the air, while Burr aimed and hit his mark. Hamilton died the following day at age 47.

Hamilton’s fifth great-grandson, Douglas Hamilton, will accept the honorary law degree from Albany Law School his behalf.

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