A Reference Resource
Paul Hamilton (1809–1812): Secretary of the Navy
Paul Hamilton was born in St. Paul's Parish, South Carolina, on October 16, 1762. He began his career in public service as a parish tax collector and justice of the peace while living as a "gentleman planter" in St. Paul's Parish, South Carolina. His life as a planter followed several years of military service with local militia and the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.
Hamilton entered state politics in 1787 upon earning a seat to the South Carolina House of Representatives, where he remained until 1789. A member of South Carolina's Federal Constitutional Convention in 1789, Hamilton went on to sit in the state senate for a number of years, serving in 1794 and from 1778 to 1779. By 1800, he had become South Carolina's comptroller of finance. Leaving that office in 1804, Hamilton ascended to the position of governor of South Carolina, serving for a single term (1804-1807). At Hamilton's behest, his home state received its first state college, now the University of South Carolina.
In 1809, newly elected President James Madison appointed Hamilton to his cabinet as secretary of the Navy. Hamilton served until 1812, resigning following the U.S. Navy's poor showing during the first months of the War of 1812. Hamilton subsequently retired from political life and returned to South Carolina. He died in Beaufort, South Carolina, on June 30, 1816.