Alexander Hamilton

Before earning such a glowing acclamation from the French statesman, Alexander Hamilton would have a rocky road to travel. He was most likely born on the island of Nevis in the British West Indies in 1755. The exact date of his birth is unknown, and even his year of birth is an item of dispute among scholars. The youngest of two illegitimate sons born to Rachel Faucett Lavien, a Huguenot, and James Hamilton, an irresponsible but charming Scottish merchant, Alexander had no birth certificate nor baptismal record to track his early journey. What remains in print is a single document stating his age at 13 in 1768 when his mother died. What is known, however, is that Alexander, his brother James, and their mother, who had been abandoned by their undependable father in 1765 on St. Croix, lived on the bottom rung of white society on the mercilessly stratified island.
Having to fend for herself and her two children after James left, Rachel opened a store, and employed her youngest son as clerk and bookkeeper. It was in his mother\'s store that Hamilton got his first taste of finance; it was also in that high-visibility capacity that he probably became the target of malicious whispers, or perhaps even outward disdain from the townspeople he encountered. Rachel\'s husband, who had had her imprisoned in Christiansted some years before for adultery, had posted a public summons for her to appear before a divorce court, declaring her a whore who had given birth to illegitimate children. After Rachel\'s death from yellow fever, her husband then sued for all her assets, depriving her "whore children" of any benefit her meager belongings might bring.
That Hamilton frowned upon as a youngster can be reasonably assumed by his behavior later in life: primarily his preoccupation with matters of honor and character, and his often visceral reactions to criticism aimed at him. He was also painfully aware that, having no money, family connections, or inherited prestige, nothing would be handed to him. He would have to work harder and excel beyond everyone else in order to make a name for himself, which is what he resolved to do early on. However, the harsh and shameful circumstances of his childhood haunted Hamilton throughout his life; and even long after he had proved himself a brave soldier and a brilliant statesman, the whispering would continue. Oddly, after his family situation had disintegrated, Alexander\'s life seemed to improve immensely. His experience as bookkeeper in his mother\'s store landed him a job as a clerk with the international trading firm of Nicholas Cruger, a New Yorker whose business hub was on St. Croix.
The boy\'s exceptional skills and endless learning capacity soon saw him running the firm upon the owner\'s absence. As a teenager, Hamilton was inspecting cargoes, advising ships\' captains, and preparing bills of lading. Under Cruger\'s tutelage, Hamilton mastered the intricacies of global finance and experienced first hand how the material interests of peoples and countries interwove in the complicated fabric of international trade. The bustling port of St. Croix, which was a melting pot of residents and visitors from all over the world, early formed a picture of a global village in Hamilton\'s mind. He also saw the darker side of international dealings, as the island was a center for the slave trade. Hamilton came away with a deep hatred of slavery, and he eventually co-founded an abolitionist society in New York. In the meantime, the youngster drank in everything he saw. Nothing Hamilton experienced ever went unused.
Whereas Nicholas Cruger exposed Alexander Hamilton to material realities, the Reverend Hugh Knox provided him with a strong spiritual and intellectual grounding. Knox--who took Hamilton under his wing shortly after Rachel\'s death--was a Scottish Presbyterian minister at odds with the mainstream of his faith because of his firm belief in free will over the Calvinist doctrine of Predestination. For someone like Hamilton who was otherwise predestined to a life of obscurity, we can see how Knox\'s philosophy would have appealed to him. The Reverend\'s encouragement and influence undoubtedly led Hamilton to dream big dreams. Knox, a brilliant sermon-writer and occasional doctor, took the young orphan under his wing and tutored him in the humanities and