Between 1789 and 1800, Alexander Hamilton reached the pinnacle of his political and military careers. For the first few months of George Washington’s presidency, Hamilton privately advised him on how to establish an American government under the Constitution. Then, in September 1789, Hamilton formally joined Washington’s cabinet as the first secretary of the treasury. Hamilton became the architect of the country’s financial system, promoting American goods and economic independence, managing government debt, proposing taxes, creating a customs service, and establishing a system of paper money. Upon his resignation in January 1795, Washington offered one of his highest compliments: “In every relation, which you have borne to me, I have found that my confidence in your talents, exertions and integrity, has been well placed.”
Hamilton was pulled back into public service in July 1798 by the Quasi-War, an undeclared conflict with France over America’s neutrality and trade relations. He was commissioned the senior major general in the U.S. Army and second in command to George Washington, who, at sixty-six years old, deferred most of his authority to Hamilton. While organizing this new force, Hamilton attempted to introduce his own reforms, including establishing a permanent national army and a military academy. When tensions with France relaxed in the summer of 1800, he was honorably discharged from the army, bringing his military service to an end.