214 Years After His Death, Alexander Hamilton Is Finally Getting a Law Degree

Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images

Alexander Hamilton accomplished many great things. He was one of America's founding fathers. He was the nation's first treasury secretary. He was a lawyer. He even inspired an award-winning Broadway musical whose tickets are still among the hardest to score.

He seemed to have it all, except for one thing: a college degree. That will change on May 18, when Albany Law School in New York awards Hamilton an honorary law degree. His fifth great-grandson, Douglas Hamilton, will travel from his home in Columbus, Ohio, to accept the degree on his ancestor's behalf.

The announcement comes 214 years after Hamilton was killed in a duel with Vice President Aaron Burr.

Hamilton studied at King's College (now Columbia University) but never finished for one key reason: He dropped out and formed his own militia unit to fight in the Revolutionary War. In the chaos that ensued, the college shut its doors in 1776 and didn't reopen until eight years later.

Despite having no formal higher education, Hamilton later passed the bar exam. This is only one reason why Albany Law School's offer is symbolic, school officials say.

"Alexander Hamilton's ties to the Albany area are significant. Hamilton studied law and practiced law in Albany,” Alicia Ouellette, the school's president and dean, tells USA Today. "By conferring this degree, we are acknowledging his impact on the Capital Region and New York's legal community."

Hamilton came to Albany for the first time in 1777 on an important errand from George Washington. The general had asked Hamilton to persuade General Horatio Gates to send extra troops to defend the Philadelphia area during the war. Hamilton succeeded.

Two years later, Hamilton married Elizabeth Schuyler in her home city of Albany. And while traveling between Albany and New York City, he penned "Federalist No. 1"—the first installment of The Federalist Papers, which helped persuade the 13 states to vote in favor of ratifying the United States Constitution.

[h/t USA Today]

Benjamin Franklin and History's Most Dangerous Musical Instrument

In 1761, Benjamin Franklin attended a London concert and heard a musician play a set of water-tuned wine glasses. A mellow tone washed over the hall, leaving Franklin enchanted—and a little dismayed. The instrument sounded beautiful but looked unwieldy. One wrong move and all the glasses would topple. Inspired to improve the design, Franklin invented an alternative: a rod of rotating glass bowls called the "glass armonica." The instrument would sweep Europe by storm; Mozart even composed music for it.

Then it started killing people.

That's what doctors said, anyway. Decades earlier, anatomists had discovered how auditory nerves worked, and they began warning that too much music—like too much coffee or tea—could affect the nerves, causing headaches, fainting spells, and other medical problems.

These fears weren't totally new. Centuries earlier, Plato suggested banning certain musical modes, arguing that "novel fashions in music … [were] endangering the whole fabric of society." The Roman rhetorician Quintilian once argued that the timbre of some instruments could "emasculate the soul of all its vigor," driving men mad. By the arrival of the 19th century, wonky science helped this musical fear-mongering go mainstream—music was blamed for hysteria, premature menstruation, homosexuality, and even death. (In 1837, the controversial Penny Satirist magazine would report that a 28-year-old woman had died from listening to too much music.)

During this burgeoning period of anti-music mania, no instrument would be feared as much as Franklin's armonica. Critics said it overstimulated the brain; performers blamed it for dizziness, hallucinations, and palsy. In 1799, doctor Anthony Willich argued that the instrument deserved to be condemned, saying it caused "a great degree of nervous weakness." In 1808, people attributed the death of armonica virtuoso Marianne Kirchgessner to the instrument's eerie tones. Some psychiatrists went so far to say it drove listeners to suicide.

To say the least, the assault was a PR nightmare. Within decades, the feared instrument was relegated to the great big concert hall in the sky.

The 'Diagrammed Declaration of Independence' Combines U.S. History With Graphic Design

Pop Chart Lab
Pop Chart Lab

The Declaration of Independence is one of the most important documents in our nation's history, but most Americans have probably never sat down and read it from beginning to end. This poster from Pop Chart Lab makes the 242-year-old document a lot less daunting.

In the Diagrammed Declaration of Independence, the text is broken down section by section. The most important phrases, like "all men are created equal," "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," and "let facts be submitted to a candid world," are highlighted in big, bold lettering. Arrows show how the different ideas in the document connect, and colorful pictographs illustrate various points, like the three branches of government.

Like the original Declaration, the poster starts with the preamble up top and ends with the 56 signatures at the bottom. In this version, the signing delegates have been organized by state.

The Diagrammed Declaration will be ready to ship out on Monday, October 15. You can preorder a 24-by-36-inch poster from Pop Chart Lab today for $37.

Chart of declaration of independence.
Pop Chart Lab

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