Alexander Hamilton has gained new popularity in recent years, in large part due to the 2015 Broadway musical “Hamilton” by Lin-Manuel Miranda.
What’s the real story behind this enigmatic Founding Father?
Birth of Alexander Hamilton
Hamilton was born in Charlestown, Nevis, in the Caribbean, out of wedlock to Rachel Faucette, of British & French Huguenot descent. She had been married to and had a son with Johann Michael Lavien when she fell in love with the Scottish James Hamilton. She left her husband and their son and moved in with James Hamilton, where she lived with him in Nevis and on St. Croix. Alexander took his natural father’s surname.
Though he owned his paternity of Alexander, his Scottish father had abandoned them when Alexander was around ten when he’d learned her original husband intended to divorce her on the grounds of “adultery and desertion,” hoping to “spare her the charge of bigamy.” His mother ran a small provisions shop operated by the five female slaves she owned. When she died of yellow fever when he was 13, she left him 34 books, and he was primarily self-educated.
Education of Alexander Hamilton
He became an accounting clerk with a local import-export firm and later apprenticed with a merchant. He became good enough as a trader to run the firm for five months in 1771. Denied an education in a church school due to his illegitimacy, the young Hamilton had caught the attention of the local Presbyterian minister and occasional doctor, Hugh Knox. The minister noticed his ambition and intelligence and mentored him with a firm intellectual and spiritual grounding, adding classics, literature, and history from his vast library.
With the help of wealthy local citizens, enough money was raised to send him to the mainland, hopefully to study medicine. Though he passed the entrance exams for Princeton, he decided instead to attend King’s College in New York City, now Columbia University.
Hamilton became interested in revolutionary politics, meeting other men with similar sympathies and writing anonymously against Loyalist pamphlets. But his education was cut short when British troops occupied…