Alexander Hamilton distinguished himself as a young captain of the New York Provincial Company of Artillery during the early years of the Revolution. In late 1776, he earned the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and became an aide to General Washington. After the war, Hamilton remained one of Washington's most trusted military and political advisors. When a national army was created in 1798 during the Quasi-War with France, it was only with the condition that Hamilton serve as his second-in-command that Washington accepted the rank of Commander-in-Chief. This portrait most likely depicts Hamilton at this moment of the height of his military career.
Paul D. Schweizer, a recognized expert on the work of William J. Weaver, notes that the known Hamilton portraits by Weaver can be grouped according to certain stylistic patterns. This particular painting, he observes, is most like the Weaver portraits of Hamilton in the collection of Mead Art Museum at Amherst College, New York State Historical Association in Cooperstown, the Museum of the City of New York, the New-York Historical Society, the one sold at Freeman's in Philadelphia (December, 2004) and the one illustrated in The Old Print Shop Portfolio (January, 1960), p. 120. In all of these works, including the portrait offered here, the treatment of the half-button under the lapel is identical (Conversation with Paul D. Schweizer, Director, Museum of Art at the Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, 2005).
According to Schweizer, this portrait was most likely created after Hamilton's death in 1804 as the earliest located references to Weaver's portraits of Hamilton appeared in January of 1806. The Weaver portraits depict Hamilton in a uniform bearing an epaulet with a single star, indicating the rank of brigadier general. Schweizer points out that Hamilton never held this rank; he was given the two-star rank of major general in 1798. It is unlikely, Schweizer adds, "that at the height of his military career Hamilton would have allowed himself to be portrayed with only one star instead of the two that would correctly denote his hard-won role as the country's senior-ranking major general" (Paul D. Schweizer, "William J. Weaver and his 'Chymical and Mechanical' Portraits of Alexander Hamilton," American Art Journal (Spring-Fall 1999), p. 87). Too, the Weaver portraits depict Hamilton in a blue vest, which was never part of the Army's uniform. Hamilton, in advising Washington on the design, color and insignia of the army's uniforms, had recommended buff or white vests.