Alexander Hamilton: Founding Father, War Hero, Content Marketer

July 4, 2016

The reputation of Alexander Hamilton, the Founding Father on the 10-dollar bill, is enjoying a resurgence of late. His life is such an amazing tale that I will go out on a limb and predict that if someone created a musical about his operatic life, it would be a smash hit.

Here are just a few of the accomplishments that Hamilton — who was born out of wedlock on the West Indies island of Nevis, rose to prominence despite being orphaned as a teen-ager, and died in an infamous duel with Thomas Jefferson’s Vice President Aaron Burr — achieved in his short but frenetic life:

  • General Washington’s aide de camp during the Revolutionary War
  • Hero at the Battle of Yorktown, the deciding clash of the Revolutionary War
  • A Founder of the Bank of New York
  • First U.S. Secretary of the Treasury
  • Founder of the U.S. Coast Guard
  • Founder of the New York Post

In addition, Hamilton was a pioneering content marketer. The product he promoted? The Constitution of the United States.

Through The Federalist Papers, a collection of 85 essays promoting the advantages of the Constitution, Hamilton was a driving force in ensuring that the framework for the United States was eventually ratified. Hamilton’s efforts in The Federalist Papers contain five lessons for today’s content marketers:

Be of Use

Hamilton feared that the Articles of Confederation, the agreement that loosely joined the 13 colonies in the years immediately after the Revolutionary War, set the stage for myriad problems for the fledgling country. He believed the fight among the states, which possessed their own standing armies, for economic hegemony could lead to war among the former British colonies. To help ensure that the dangerous Articles of Confederation were replaced, as his biographer Ron Chernow (“Hamilton”) wrote, “Hamilton did what he always did in emergencies: he took up his pen and protested.”

Be Passionate

Hamilton had a deep belief that the Constitution, while imperfect, was a far better alternative to the Articles of Confederation, which had the effect of pitting the states against each other — rather than joining them in a single, strong nation. Hamilton demonstrated his passion by writing 51 of the essays contained in The Federalist Papers in just seven months.

Build a Strong Team

In addition to Hamilton, the other writers who contributed to The Federalist Papers were James Madison and John Jay. The fourth president of the United States and the first Supreme Court Justice. Not bad. Hamilton was unafraid to work with top-notch talent. You shouldn’t be either.

Quantity and Quality Are Both Important

The 85 essays penned by Hamilton, Madison, and Jay were written in the period of several months. The quantity was prodigious. “The verbal avalanche of Hamilton, Madison, and Jay overwhelmed hapless readers,” Chernow wrote in “Hamilton.” Additionally, the quality endures. Chernow again: “The Federalist has been extolled as both a literary and political masterpiece. Theodore Roosevelt commented ‘that it is on the whole the greatest book’ dealing with practical politics.” The essays continue to be influential: they have been cited more than 200 times in Supreme Court decisions.

Omni-Channel Distribution Is Critical

Like today’s content marketers, Hamilton and the other authors of The Federalist Papers used the media of the day to distribute their content. The individual essays first appeared in newspapers and later as a two-volume book. Additionally, the authors practiced some event-based content marketing, taking their arguments to the states’ ratifying conventions. Hamilton helped urge New York to ratify the Constitution. Writes Chernow, “Hamilton’s performance at the convention was an exhilarating blend of stamina, passion, and oratorical pyrotechnics. … He spoke twenty-six times, far more than any other federalist, and soldiered on for six exhausting weeks.”

The Content Marketing Institute's Joe Pulizzi has identified historic examples of content marketing going back as far as John Deere's The Furrows magazine and Benjamin Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanack. The Federalist Papers, championed by Hamilton, is another example to add to the list. 

For more inspiration on creating enduring and useful content, download The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to Content Marketing today

Photo: Marion Doss