Posted by: Ray Brescia | May 21, 2018

Alexander Hamilton and Albany Law School


On Friday, May 18th, at Albany Law School’s commencement, Alexander Hamilton was awarded an honorary degree, posthumously, of course.  If you are wondering about Hamilton’s relationship to Albany that might merit the granting of this award, those connections are actually quite deep.  After the British surrendered at Yorktown, where Hamilton was finally given a battlefield command, he moved to Albany and lived with his in-laws (the Schuylers — a prominent family in the area at the time).  He studied for admission to the bar while staying in Albany, learning perhaps the only way he knew how: by writing a treatise on New York Law that was used for decades after among the practicing bar.  New York law at the time required that aspiring attorneys had to spend time as an apprentice with a practicing lawyer before they could be admitted to practice themselves.  Hamilton petitioned the court to waive this requirement, saying that he had been a little busy the last few years, you know, winning the War for Independence.  The court granted his request.  After months of study, all carried out in Albany, Hamilton was admitted to practice.  If there had been law schools at the time, it’s safe to say  that Hamilton would have likely attended Albany Law School. This honorary degree is an effort to recognize this history.

For further reading on this period of Hamilton’s life, read Chapter 9 in Ron Chernow’s definitive biography.

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