11 Life Lessons From Alexander Hamilton

If you’re looking to the Founding Fathers for a role model, you could do worse than Alexander Hamilton, the self-taught orphan from the Virgin Islands who went on to create the U.S. financial system, the Coast Guard, and, in a break from politics, The New York Post. Inspired by the hit musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda—which will premiere on the streaming service Disney+ July 3—author Jeff Wilser dug through the prolific Hamilton’s documents and letters, as well as those of his colleagues and biographers, to create Alexander Hamilton’s Guide to Life, a tome full of wisdom from everyone’s favorite treasury secretary.

Here are 11 life lessons you can learn from Alexander Hamilton (excluding the best advice of all, which is “don’t duel”):

1. Genius comes from hard work.

“Men give me some credit for genius,” Hamilton once told a friend (at least according to later reports). “All the genius I have lies in this, when I have a subject in hand I study it profoundly. Day and night it is before me. I explore it in all its bearings. My mind becomes pervaded with it. Then the effort I have made is what people are pleased to call the fruit of genius. It is the fruit of labor and thought.”

Hamilton’s absurd work ethic was a theme throughout his life—over the course of a few months, he wrote 51 essays included in The Federalist Papers (compared to James Madison’s 29 and John Jay’s five). He did it all while keeping his day job, working full time as a lawyer.

2. Don't procrastinate.

A prolific writer, Hamilton didn’t let little things like sleep get in his way. In 1791, Congress was in an uproar over whether a national bank would be constitutional. George Washington had only 10 days to decide whether to veto the controversial bill that came before him. Hamilton—with the help of his wife, Elizabeth (often called Eliza)—stayed up all night and dashed off some 40 pages in favor of the bill, rebutting anti-bank arguments from men like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Hamilton could always be counted on to get his work done on time, if not early. “I hate procrastination,” he wrote in a letter in 1795.

Indeed, when Congress demanded a complete audit of his books in 1792 to check for corruption, Hamilton was required to present a detailed survey of the financial system he created, including balances between the government and the central bank and a tally of purchases of government debt. He was given a deadline just four months away, but he managed to whip up a 21,000-word report that he turned in two weeks early. (The numbers checked out.)

3. Marry rich.

In a letter to his friend John Laurens written when he was 22, Hamilton shows more than a passing interest in landing a sugar mama. Discussing what he would require in a future spouse, he mentions money multiple times, saying in one instance, “as to fortune, the larger stock of that the better … money is an essential ingredient to happiness in this world—as I have not much of my own and I am very little calculated to get more either by my address or industry—it must needs be that my wife, if i get one, bring at least a sufficiency to administer to her own extravagancies.” Though he may have been joking around a bit, the man was pragmatic to a fault.

4. Don't fight for a cause you don't believe in.

As a lawyer, Hamilton was occasionally asked to defend behavior he didn’t really condone. He took no issue with defending British soldiers who were prosecuted for crimes they committed during the Revolutionary War's occupation of New York City because he felt that the law was on their side. But in a case early on in his career, he defended someone he knew to be guilty and came to regret it: He successfully defended a woman who had stolen a fan. “I will never again take up a cause in which I was convinced I ought not to prevail,” he later decided.

5. Don't take on debt you can't pay.

Despite being a crusader for the national debt, Alexander Hamilton wasn’t always a proponent of borrowing money. “The creation of debt should always be accompanied by the means of extinguishment,” he argued in 1790 during his campaign to have the U.S. federal government assume states’ debt from the war. In other words, debt is all good and fine—as long as you have a way to pay it back.

6. Look sharp.

Alexander Hamilton wouldn’t have been caught dead in athleisure. “A smart dress is essential,” he declared in a 1799 letter. He was talking about soldiers—he raised America’s first standing army and personally designed George Washington’s uniform during the Quasi-War between the U.S. and France from 1798 and 1800—but the advice applies to any endeavor. As a self-made man, Hamilton was all about dressing for the job you want.

7. Don't forget to spend time with your family.

While he was busy helping a fledgling nation come into its own, Hamilton still found time to be a family man. (He and his wife, Eliza, had eight children.) “Experience more and more convinces me that true happiness is only to be found in the bosom of one’s own family,” he wrote to Eliza in 1801. According to his family doctor, in the midst of his business as a statesman, whenever someone in his family got sick, Hamilton rushed home to nurse them back to health—literally; he insisted on administering all the medicine himself.

8. Don't let the haters get to you.

Hamilton was a famously divisive figure. While he was a beloved adviser to George Washington, he was loathed by some other Founding Fathers. In 1790, he encouraged George Washington to raise a militia to stamp out the Whiskey Rebellion—ultimately a peaceful end to the tax conflict—but it wasn’t a popular stance. “The very existence of government demands this course,” he maintained. Taxes were the only way to pay off the government’s then-$54.1 million federal debt.

He was right, but that didn’t mean the public or his fellow politicians agreed. Thomas Jefferson called the whole thing “Hamilton’s Insurrection.” Luckily, he never treated government like a popularity contest (even if he did have that dueling problem). “I have learned to hold popular opinion of no value,” he wrote to Washington in 1794.

9. Embrace adversity.

Alexander Hamilton was never too far from conflict, as the Whiskey Rebellion incident underscores. His greatest accomplishments—the creation of the U.S. banking system, founding what would become the U.S. Coast Guard, encouraging the manufacturing industry—turned out to be visionary, but weren’t readily accepted by contemporaries like Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and John Adams. But he saw conflict as a time to shine: “A man of real merit is never seen in so favorable a light as through the medium of adversity; the clouds that surround him are shades that set off his good qualities,” he wrote in a letter to a friend in 1780.

10. Honor your commitments.

Hamilton considered his word his bond, in both politics and his personal life. In a letter to his then-9-year-old son, Philip, in 1791, he wrote that “a promise must never be broken, and I will never make you one, which I will not fulfill as I am able.”

11. Forgive your enemies.

Following his ultimately fatal duel with Aaron Burr, Hamilton lay in bed in intense pain for several hours before he finally passed away. As Wilser tells it, he took one of his final moments to absolve his opponent. “In one of Hamilton’s final lucid moments, he said, ‘I have no ill will against Colonel Burr … I met him with a fixed resolution to do him no harm. I forgive all that happened.’” Even in moments of great pain, he maintained his integrity.

10 of the Best Indoor and Outdoor Heaters on Amazon

Mr. Heater/Amazon
Mr. Heater/Amazon

With the colder months just around the corner, you might want to start thinking about investing in an indoor or outdoor heater. Indoor heaters not only provide a boost of heat for drafty spaces, but they can also be a money-saver, allowing you to actively control the heat based on the rooms you’re using. Outdoor heaters, meanwhile, can help you take advantage of cold-weather activities like camping or tailgating without having to call it quits because your extremities have gone numb. Check out this list of some of Amazon’s highest-rated indoor and outdoor heaters so you can spend less time shivering this winter and more time enjoying what the season has to offer.

Indoor Heaters

1. Lasko Ceramic Portable Heater; $20

Lasko/Amazon

This 1500-watt heater from Lasko may only be nine inches tall, but it can heat up to 300 square feet of space. With 11 temperature settings and three quiet settings—for high heat, low heat, and fan only—it’s a dynamic powerhouse that’ll keep you toasty all season long.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Alrocket Oscillating Space Heater; $25

Alrocket/Amazon

Alrocket’s oscillating space heater is an excellent addition to any desk or nightstand. Using energy-saving ceramic technology, this heater is made of fire-resistant material, and its special “tip-over” safety feature forces it to turn off if it falls over (making it a reliable choice for homes with kids or pets). It’s extremely quiet, too—at only 45 dB, it’s just a touch louder than a whisper. According to one reviewer, this an ideal option for a “very quiet but powerful” heater.

Buy it: Amazon

3. De’Longhi Oil-Filled Radiator Space Heather; $79

De’Longhi/Amazon

If you prefer a space heater with a more old-fashioned vibe, this radiator heater from De’Longhi gives you 2020 technology with a vintage feel. De’Longhi’s heater automatically turns itself on when the temperatures drops below 44°F, and it will also automatically turn itself off if it starts to overheat. Another smart safety feature? The oil system is permanently sealed, so you won’t have to worry about accidental spills.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Aikoper Ceramic Tower Heater; $70

Aikoper/Amazon

Whether your room needs a little extra warmth or its own heat source, Aikoper’s incredibly precise space heater has got you covered. With a range of 40-95°F, it adjusts by one-degree intervals, giving you the specific level of heat you want. It also has an option for running on an eight-hour timer, ensuring that it will only run when you need it.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Isiler Space Heater; $37

Isiler/Amazon

For a space heater that adds a fun pop of color to any room, check out this yellow unit from Isiler. Made from fire-resistant ceramic, Isiler’s heater can start warming up a space within seconds. It’s positioned on a triangular stand that creates an optimal angle for hot air to start circulating, rendering it so effective that, as one reviewer put it, “This heater needs to say ‘mighty’ in its description.”

Buy it: Amazon

Outdoor Heaters

6. Mr. Heater Portable Buddy; $104

Mr. Heater/Amazon

Make outdoor activities like camping and grilling last longer with Mr. Heater’s indoor/outdoor portable heater. This heater can connect to a propane tank or to a disposable cylinder, allowing you to keep it in one place or take it on the go. With such a versatile range of uses, this heater will—true to its name—become your best buddy when the temperature starts to drop.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiland Pyramid Patio Propane Heater; Various

Hiland/Amazon

The cold’s got nothing on this powerful outdoor heater. Hiland’s patio heater has a whopping 40,000 BTU output, which runs for eight to 10 hours on high heat. Simply open the heater’s bottom door to insert a propane tank, power it on, and sit back to let it warm up your backyard. The bright, contained flame from the propane doubles as an outdoor light.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Solo Stove Bonfire Pit; $345

Solo Stove/Amazon

This one is a slight cheat since it’s a bonfire pit and not a traditional outdoor heater, but the Solo Stove has a 4.7-star rating on Amazon for a reason. Everything about this portable fire pit is meticulously crafted to maximize airflow while it's lit, from its double-wall construction to its bottom air vents. These features all work together to help the logs burn more completely while emitting far less smoke than other pits. It’s the best choice for anyone who wants both warmth and ambiance on their patio.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Dr. Infrared Garage Shop Heater; $119

Dr. Infrared/Amazon

You’ll be able to use your garage or basement workshop all season long with this durable heater from Dr. Infrared. It’s unique in that it includes a built-in fan to keep warm air flowing—something that’s especially handy if you need to work without wearing gloves. The fan is overlaid with heat and finger-protectant grills, keeping you safe while it’s powered on.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Mr. Heater 540 Degree Tank Top; $86

Mr. Heater/Amazon

Mr. Heater’s clever propane tank top automatically connects to its fuel source, saving you from having to bring any extra attachments with you on the road. With three heat settings that can get up to 45,000 BTU, the top can rotate 360 degrees to give you the perfect angle of heat you need to stay cozy. According to a reviewer, for a no-fuss outdoor heater, “This baby is super easy to light, comes fully assembled … and man, does it put out the heat.”

Buy it: Amazon

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How a 200-Year-Old Gift From Benjamin Franklin Made Boston and Philadelphia a Fortune

Benjamin Franklin left instructions in his will that had to be followed for 200 years.
Benjamin Franklin left instructions in his will that had to be followed for 200 years.
Bill Oxford/iStock via Getty Images

Less than a year before his death on April 17, 1790, Benjamin Franklin added a codicil, or addendum, to his will. In it, he bequeathed 1000 pounds sterling, or what would have been the equivalent of $4000, to the cities of Boston and Philadelphia. (Franklin had been born and raised in Boston but left for Philadelphia when he was 17, making both cities near to his heart.)

The money, he wrote, was to be handled in a very particular way. For the first 100 years, each of the 1000 pounds sterling would accrue interest and be used to fund loans for young tradesmen starting out in business. Franklin, who had become a printer as the result of a loan given to him, valued resources for apprentices.

At the end of the 100 years, the cities could take 75 percent of the principal and spend it in public works. Boston, he suggested, should invest in a trade school. Philadelphia could possibly pay for water pipes connected to Wissahickon Creek. The remaining 25 percent would be left until another century had passed, at which point the cities and their respective states could spend the funds in whatever way they wished. But after 200 years, would the economic needs of the modern world match up with Franklin’s wishes?

A "vain of fancy"

Franklin had been a lifelong philanthropist, gifting Philadelphia with its first public library, its first hospital, its first volunteer fire department, and even its first streetlight. His Academy of Philadelphia became the University of Pennsylvania in 1750. The funds for his trusts were accumulated from his salary as governor of Pennsylvania from 1785 to 1788, a move informed by the belief that public servants shouldn’t be paid. It was an edict he even tried to include in the Constitution.

Franklin’s desire for the trusts was to bolster the careers and opportunities for young tradesmen looking to start their own businesses. It was a lofty ambition that assumed that need would endure for the next two centuries. Even Franklin was unsure his wishes could be adhered to without dissent. “Considering the accidents to which all human Affairs and Projects are subject in such a length of Time, I have perhaps too much flattered myself with a vain Fancy that these Dispositions will be continued without interruption and have the Effects proposed,” he wrote in his will.

Benjamin Franklin left small fortunes to Boston and Philadelphia. Pleasureofart/iStock via Getty Images

There was wisdom in his words, though it would take some time for them to materialize. For the first 100 years, the funds were used as Franklin intended, subsidizing the pursuits of apprentices hoping to perform their skilled trade. Franklin was very specific about the demographic of loan recipients: They had to be male, a mechanic who had undertaken an apprenticeship, under the age of 25, and married.

As time went on and the concept of apprenticeships fell by the wayside, critics of Franklin’s rigid parameters began to emerge. In 1884, shortly before the 100th anniversary of the funds, The Boston Globe deemed the trusts “inflexible” and irrelevant to a world in which only three people were using Boston’s trust funds for their intended trade purpose. In response, trustees soon removed the apprenticeship requirement, though the other elements remained.

discourse turns disagreeable

If Boston was vocal about how to best use the money, it was because they had more of it. In 1887, Philadelphia’s investments had left them with a total of just $70,800 compared to Boston’s $327,799.45. With 75 percent of the money to be made available for public works in 1890, Philadelphia opted to open a museum named the Franklin Institute. In Boston, a debate began about how best to spend it. Some suggested it could help reduce Boston’s debt. Others wanted to build a public bath house. A recreation hall for Boston Public Garden was discussed.

As Franklin predicted, the discourse eventually turned acrimonious. From 1890 to 1904, no one could agree on how to spend the money, and controversy surrounded a group of Boston aldermen who were accused of misappropriating the funds for junkets. Finally, it was decided that opening a school would honor Franklin’s original intentions of supporting skilled trades. Wealthy philanthropist Andrew Carnegie agreed to donate money if Boston donated land and used the trust to build a trade school. The Franklin Union—later renamed the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology—opened in 1908 and eventually became a two-year technical school.

The Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology in Boston, Massachusetts. Paul Marotta, Getty Images

As the 20th century continued, restrictions on the trusts were loosened further. In Boston, more than 7000 medical students received loans between 1960 and 1990.

The way to wealth—and litigation

As the second century of Franklin’s trust drew to a close, both cities were looking to benefit greatly from his generosity. Boston’s trust fund was worth $4.5 million; Philadelphia’s was worth $2 million. Most of the money—roughly 76 percent in the case of Massachusetts—would go toward the state. Just as they had 100 years prior, discussions were had about how the funds should be spent.

In Philadelphia, advocates for low-income housing lobbied for the money. So did those who believed education should be paramount. Philadelphia City Hall argued for elaborate annual parties to draw tourists. Mayor Wilson Goode appointed a committee of Franklin experts to try and adhere to his wishes. The city’s share, roughly $520,000, was ultimately used for grants for high school students looking to learn a trade, with the state giving their share of roughly $1.5 million to the existing Franklin Institute museum.

While Boston saw arguments over the best use of the funds, it also grappled with a claim. The Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology argued they were owed the $4.5 million due to a 1958 law that terminated the trust and gave it over to the school. The state’s Supreme Court, however, ruled at the time that the trust couldn’t end prematurely. The school argued the law was still valid, however. After several years of court dates, the school was finally awarded the $4.5 million—the total of the funds due both Boston and Massachusetts—in 1994.

Inspired by Franklin’s philanthropy, in 1936 multimillionaire Jonathan Holden used $2.8 million to fund a series of trusts, some of which weren't due to be released for up to 1000 years. Before the idea was leveled in court and converted to trusts that paid out yearly instead of disrupting an economy in the distant future, his donation to the state of Pennsylvania alone would have been worth $424 trillion.