This biographical drama shows the efforts of the first Treasury Secretary of the United States to put the nation's finances on a sound basis.
The film begins with General Washington (Alan Mowbray) saying farewell to his army troops in 1783. Alexander Hamilton (George Arliss) tells Washington that he will work to see that the United States pay their debts at home and abroad. A few years pass, because next people are complaining about the policies of Treasury Secretary Hamilton. Thomas Jefferson (Montague Love) opposes Hamilton's ideas for a more centralized government and a national bank. Hamilton wants a bill for the assumption of debts incurred during the war for independence. Jefferson and James Monroe want the capital to be located in the south. Both sides are adamant, but they decide to compromise by agreeing to both.
While Hamilton's wife Betsy (Doris Kenyon) is away in England, Maria Reynolds asks Hamilton for money so that she can leave her abusive husband, and he gives her $50. After she has pretended to faint, he sees her home. At a party for the returning Mrs. Hamilton, Mr. Reynolds demands to have his job back at the Treasury. Hamilton refuses, but Reynolds as Maria's husband is able to blackmail him and get $100. Later Senator Roberts, Jefferson, and Monroe ask Hamilton why he paid this man money, which he used to buy bonds cheap so that he could sell them at full value after the assumption bill passes. Hamilton swears that this affair was a private matter and has no public importance. This satisfies Jefferson and Monroe, but Roberts asks him to withdraw the assumption bill and reveals the story to Betsy. Hamilton refuses to "barter America's honor" for his own, and the scandal hits the newspapers. Betsy stands by her husband, and Jefferson and members of both parties come to tell Hamilton that his bill passed. Finally President Washington arrives to express his confidence in the integrity of Hamilton, who has placed the nation above the man.
This story is essentially true, although the compromise on the assumption bill and the new capital occurred in 1790, while the Reynolds blackmail scandal only began in December 1791. Nonetheless this dramatization of the founding fathers, showing their human weaknesses, is quite educational. Roberts seems to be a fictional character, who is contrasted to the more discreet Jefferson and Monroe. Nonetheless the point that Hamilton is willing to tarnish his own personal reputation rather than sacrifice the best interests of his country is valid and important.