To die a tragic death by the hand of another man- to carve ones way through destiny and shape one’s future from the humblest of beginnings- to forge a legacy by a medium only those heralded as our countries “Forefathers” have per chanced to meddle with- these are the makings and the foundations for which great men and the dreams of our country rely upon. Everyone has heard the name Alexander Hamilton, but few are familiar with his views and actions regarding the survival of the young American republic.
He could be recognized for anything from serving our fledgling country by fighting in the New York militia; to serving his community as a lawyer and as a national tax agent; to beginning his political career as a representative for New York at the National Congress. Though most would agree his most important contribution to our struggling republic was to spearhead the project which formed the doctrine helping to establish the foundation in which modern democracy is based, the Articles of Confederation.
Alexanders family history along with his life story is almost as rich as the countrys who he helped to build. “[Alexander’s] maternal grandfather, one John Faucette, … emigrated from France to the West Indies sometime before 1700, … moved to Nevis, became a planter and took a wife- Mary, [with whom he had children]. Confusion reigns as to whether there were one or two Mary Faucettes or two Faucette couples” (Emery 52).
There was a “deed of gift”(Emery 54) between John Faucette and Mary Faucette in 1714 and another record of marriage between John Faucette and Mary Uppington of Nevis on August 21, 1718, leading to the possible conclusions either John had multiple lovers of the same first name at or around the same time, or it is uncertain beyond this point in history as to what is truly known about Alexander Hamiltons past. Either way, Mary Faucette (Alexanders grandmother) has been thought to have been plagued with poor luck, so much so that it is even referred to as an “extraordinarily stormy passage” (Emery 54) of a life.
Though she appeared to have weathered well- “John Church Hamilton, Alexander’s fourth son and first biographer, leaves this record of Rachel’s impact on her son: ‘He spoke of her as vividly impressed upon his memory’ as a woman of intelligence, culture and elegance of form… ” (Emery 55) which must have exuded itself when having experienced much financial difficulty, along with domestic abuse from her husband, John. She was forced to file for separation in February of 1740. John and Mary had at least one daughter, Rachel Faucette.
The exact date of Alexander’s mother’s birth is not on record; however it has been speculated to be the year 1729. Her parents having separated when she was eleven years old, Rachel’s life was not going to get any better. John fought the separation, he had made Rachel his sole beneficiary and the inheritor of his will. This is the extent to which Rachel knew domestic stability for her life from this point on is a story of erratic stress (Emery 55). Forced into marriage at the age of sixteen, she moved with her wealthy husband, Johan Michael Levein, to St. Croix. Johan knew she didnt want him, however, attracted by her beauty received her hand against her will (Emery 62).
Having children only made a poor situation worse, and fighting among the two increased in severity and frequency, though, theres no way to tell what the subject of these confrontations were about. Most speculate that Rachels stubborn nature ran against Johans desire to dominate and control his wife. What is known is that in 1749 Levein had jailed his wife in the fort at Christiansted; perhaps his idea of discipline, surely his idea of right.
Whatever his intentions, the results were disastrous. (Emery 69) Rachel, leaving her son who she had birthed for Levein, ran away from this poor situation and fled to the island of St. Kitts, where her mother still lived. Levein didnt divorce his wife for nine years after she left him. The terms of the divorce read that she had been shameless, rude and ungodly forgotten her duty let her husband and child alone [and] given herself up to whoring with everyone (Emery 71). Though while still married she had only had two children with one other man.
The comments on the divorce papers were most likely nothing more than the last words of scorn from a bitter, burned man. Apparently her childhood would have an affect on her because all three of her children all grew up with only one parent. Alexander happened to lose his father around the same age his mother lost hers. Alexander Hamilton, born to James Hamilton and Rachel Faucette, was assumed to be born in 1755 or 1757, it is still unknown the exact year of his birth, though most lean toward 55.
Other than adding to the mystery and intrigue of Alexander Hamiltons story, this really has no bearing on his life. Emery, in his account, describes the young Hamilton as an early and voracious reader, and that he was a passionate devotee of books. (Emery 132) Though apparently his familys lack of financial depth and illegitimate status prevented him from attending public schools regularly. Emery notes that he does fondly recall an experience at a Jewish school in which he was frequently called upon to rattle off the Decalogue in Hebrew, standing on a table because he was so small.
This shows us that even at a young age Hamilton was considered to have delicate features and a bit of a frail frame. This just contributes to the depth of the beginnings from which he is to later rise and take his place among our countries many great leaders. Alexanders childhood only declined after his grade school years. His father left unable to withstand the shame of the status his family had procured. After that his mother stooped to borrowing from Alexanders Aunt, who had married into the Lytton family, or better put, into money.
Unfortunately, the Lytton family as well, after having loaned Rachel money to provide for her children, suddenly lost their wealth and the next generation of heirs would lose their share of the fortune. Besides that, Alexanders cousin killed himself in 1769. To put proverbial icing on the cake, Rachel ended up back in the fort in which she was once imprisoned, Christiansted, running a shop selling goods bought from her landlord as well as others to support herself and her two children. In or around the year 1768 both Alexander and Rachel became very ill.
Alexander, most likely had a bad case of influenza. Alexander finally came around to defeating his illness, however to compound all his troubles when things are finally looking a little less bleak, Rachel, thirteen year old Alexanders mother, died of Typhoid fever. Alexander Hamilton shows us that even from the worse set of circumstances, people can make the best of what lies ahead of them, as opposed to focusing on the past, in a way, perpetuates an aspect of the modern American dream.
How desolate a background a person can have, and nonetheless, persevere into a person who helps to shape the world for future generations. Meanwhile his brother James was sent to a carpenter, and he was offered to a merchant, and an importer. He was to learn the role of a clerk, as an apprentice to a man named Nicholas Cruger, where his skills in reading, and subsequently, arithmetic, afforded him the opportunity through responsibility to prove his determination to succeed. In one instance, around the age sixteen, Hamilton was left in charge of monetary affairs while Mr. Cruger was away on business.
Where Alexander showed an amazing grasp of business, sending off complete if breathless letters mingling accounts of staves, mules and caskets of vinegar with grim warnings of the Guardas Costas (privateers). (Hendrickson 201) Eventually a preacher in the Presbyterian church by the name of Hugh Knox taken in with Hamiltons talent and skill in the medium of verse and among other things scales and figures, and pulled his resources to send Hamilton to college at Francis Barbers a Presbyterian academy near Elizabethtown, in New Jersey, and later at Kings College (now Columbia), in New York City.
And this path in Hamiltons life brings us to the beginnings of Hamilton as the Rebel. At the time Hamilton was attending Kings; terrible news ran through Kings Liberty Hall that Boston had come under military garrison. The year was 1773, the date, December 16. Boston was the staging area for one of Americas earliest and most common known defiances in the face of this world of oppression which Britain was perpetually trying to dominate. The Boston Tea Party was a reaction to the Tea tax, which the English parliament passed in May 1773.
The prices of this import were to undercut local American merchants and help to prop up the East India Company, whose profits had been previously falling through the roof. The colonies fell into political agitation that did not end until ten years later [where] overlapping loyalties were not easily resolved (Morris 32). Because he wasnt from America, His classmates werent sure what Alexander would do in the event of an ever brewing conflict. To be quite honest with himself, Alexander wasnt one hundred percent sure himself as to what he felt about the conflict.
He had no real emotional ties, to England or the colonies. However, he did have instincts that put into effect another form of power and introduced obstacles of their own. Hendricks, in his account of Hamilton, writes that He loathed disorder, hated breakage, and the thought of rupture from what was often referred to as the mother country held profound implications for him that he did not care to face, And then continues on to write about how torn Hamilton was because of this clash of these views that his affiliations to the people who were important to him, his friends his patrons.
And from all this, we see how his distaste for disruption, and for uprisings against order were to follow him all his life. He started his injection into the American-British conflict with nothing more than well timed, well versed Pamphlets. He wrote A full vindication of the measures of Congress in 1774, and The Farmer Refuted in 1775, the latter being an answer to a slanderous attack by a clergyman, in February 1775.
These two pieces contributed largely to George Washington taking Hamilton on as a writing aide two years later. We also see the light shed on a man becoming a rebel who originally didnt intend to be one, a man who remained conservative at heart. (Hendrickson 241) What had pushed Hamilton to stray from his comfortable, uninvolved path? The British constitution had made it a mans right to be taxed only by members of a legislature that said man had voted for, either the House of Commons, or the colonial assemblies overseas.
However, this new attempt to raise ship money was not passed by parliament, but by King Charles I, where this breach of contract was abhorrent to Hamilton, as was another fear from his childhood-the fear of being powerless, in the hands of those whose interests were not his. (Emery 178) Hamiltons appreciation for order and the delegations of power to those in such positions as to enforce order, was quickly finding more cynicism and contempt than ever before.
Pamphlets were the medium he displayed his bubbling rage toward the standards enforced upon a young colonial settlement. However, for all his cynicism, it is written that almost nowhere in his pages was there the resentment of authority, the restlessness, that is thought to typify the young. What was present was as icy, brutal cynicism that was not only brought to bear on the British, but on mankind as a whole. (Emery 179-80) Hamilton was not immature, through all his childhood hardships he advanced on an intellectual level that preceded him in the colonies. Hamilton wrote:
The people of Britain must be an order of superior beings, not cast in the same mold with the common degenerate race of mortals, if the sacrifice of our interest to theirs be not entirely welcome the philanthropy of their representatives will be of a transcendent and matchless nature, should they not gratify the natural propensity of their constituents, in order to ingratiate themselves Parliament would oppress and grind the Americans as much as possible Jealousy would concur with selfishness, and for fear of future greatness of Americaevery method would be taken to drain it of its wealth.
Hamilton didnt want conflict; he wanted for those who had power, and supposedly called upon themselves as the governors and overseers of this colonial nation, to stand up and perform the duties that they were appointed. He had a bit of a belligerent manner to his words, however, given the delicate situation he remained surprisingly respectful to the subjects on which he wrote. Unfortunately, his writing only got that much crueler and explicit as he bashed the British parliament.
At first he wrote his pamphlets anonymously, where most people who read it assumed it was the ranting of William Livingston, considered to be the cynic of the time, at age sixty. In the end it is commonly recognized that in order to get over this rebellious nature that had instilled itself in him, by his own complex reasoning he had to understand that it was Britain that was truly acting the part of the revolutionary, by upsetting respected laws of nature, traditions, and its own constitution to oblige its own interests; in other words, its greed.
And so it was that Hamilton chose his side. He had become a rebel for the cause of consistency of state, to maintain the order in which he had come to love in the land he was beginning to claim. In fact Hamiltons love for military action was said to become the driving force, the passion for which he fueled his ambitions. He was so intense at one point in his life that John Adams referred to him as the Bloody Buoy, due to his unabashed anger on the battlefield. At one point, he even declared that he felt America should go to war with France in the 1790s, needless to say, he was wrong.
There was no way that the rebels could have handled Britain and France, considering France was almost a deciding factor in the revolutionary war. He is also always recalled as having the demeanor of a soldier. It was said he always moved and stood just like a soldier- and that so were the patterns of his mind. Hamilton also judged the people around by the same aspect to which he judged himself. George Washington was considered a great man because he was calm in battle. It was never far from his mind to envision himself as a hero, a conquistador of sorts.
There [was] a persistent feeling in his correspondence as well as in his childrens writings that people like Thomas Jefferson, who shied away form battle, were not completely men. (Hendrickson 342) For Hamilton, it wasnt the blood, the pain, or the anguish of battle that made it appealing to him. He loved it as a stage for him to act on, and to display the qualities of selfless courage that would win him honor, love and the respect of his peers, and moreover, his superiors. Its written that it wasnt the men he killed, but the chances he took in daring other men to kill him that mattered.
He had a romantic view on war, one soldiers written account of Hamilton in the battle for Princeton on January 6, 1776 that wrote I saw mere boy, with small, delicate and slender frame, cocked hat pulled down upon his eyes [who] marched behind his cannon, patting it every now and then as if it were a pet horse or plaything. Hamilton, not unlike todays soldiers, marines, and sailors, led a regiment of artillery, at age 21 was fronting and making a name for himself. He was living his fantasies, as were others of Washingtons troops
While ill in the winter of 1779, Washington himself sent an invitation to Hamilton to join his staff at Headquarters with the rank of lieutenant colonel and the position of aide-de-camp. George Washington and Alexander Hamiltons relationship was never really discussed openly, however, we know from other soldiers accounts in Washingtons care that his intimates as they were referred too, were called son, or child, if young; and brother, if relatively Washingtons peer. We can assume that by this, Washington played the role of father that the young Hamilton missed out on as a child.
Being strong virile, responsible and perennially forgiving, would supply much of the parenting he missed. (Hendrickson 342) Fast forwarding a few years toward the end of the war, April 30, 1781 Hamilton had resigned as Washingtons aide and placed in the mail, a letter to Robert Morris, the financier of the office of finance, the highest ranking fiscal officer of the confederation. In this letter was his third essay on the topic of putting the disordered finances of the country on a sound and durable track.
In this plan he formed he did not display the qualities of a social reformer, nor was he a die-hard conservationist who insisted on preserving and increasing the advantages held by the wealthy men. The new nation needed money, and the moneyed men were those whose responsibility it was to ease the countries economic deficiency. Not by leveling the social class system, but by supporting the new country and its finances, lending, and forming an equal system among the states. He felt the need for a national bank.
After assisting to get the Confederations financial situation stable, he then turned to forming an actual, tangible state in which to rely upon for a form of government. He wrote a series of six essays, labeled The Continentalist, in which he focused on one central theme; a centralized power of government not unlike the parliament, to aide in forming continental nationalism. His answer was more power to congress. He insisted that a fatal flaw in the Articles of Confederation was a want of power in Congress.
One of his biggest fears played into an earlier theme- a fear of disorder, the fear that was most present in his mind, was of a state of anarchy, where the members of the confederation would be an overmatch for the common head, as he wrote in a his essays The Continentalist. In order to help ease the fears the public had about another oppressive force, he stated that all powers should be explicit that only those powers granted would be used. He also examined in detail the role that Congress should have in trade of imports and exports, specifically to preserve the balance of trade beyond the resources of private capitol.
He was noted as [quickly adding that] he was utterly opposed to any governmental interference with prices or to any restrictions on private enterprise. (Morris 96) Robert Hendrickson sums up Alexander Hamiltons life in the newly formed states well when he accounts: He was not just the young man who had been a shrew, articulate aide-de-camp to the father of his country nor just the brave officer who had led the final assault in the conclusive battle of the war and not just the pamphleteer of The Continentalist in powerful command of he most sophisticated economic and political ideas of his age.
Nor was he merely a scholar with a seemingly inexhaustible stock of knowledgeBut Hamilton was all of these remarkable young men rolled into one. At twenty-four he stood at the threshold of a public career that seemed to have no limits to the direction or distance it could go. (452) These bounds did truly seem endless; in November 1782 he was elected to Congress. He argued in support of carriage tax in the U. S. Supreme court, in 1796; and in 1800 supported Jefferson over Burr after an electoral tie. Now, this last point was important as to his relations toward a certain Aaron Burr.
We find ourselves four years later in April of 1804 where Aaron Burr, on a steep decline in his political influence, lost what he felt to be his last great effort toward political standing, in an election for New Yorks Governor. In a private dinner with friends, Hamilton made some very critical political comments about Burr. A dinner guest wrote a summary of what was said, and the comments were made public. As a method to exact his revenge, Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel. Before the duel Hamilton confided in his friend, the Rev.
John Mason, that he detested the duel as a method of conflict resolution, and that he sensed that Burr was determined to kill him. Hamiltons son Philip was killed in a duel in 1802. On the Sunday before the duel, Hamilton read the service of Morning Prayer from the Episcopal Church. He did his normal legal duties as a successful New York lawyer through Tuesday. That Wednesday morning, the duel was on as scheduled. Hamilton and Burr met in a secluded spot in New Jersey, because dueling was heavily punished in New York. Burr was a marksman, and he brought his own pistol, while Hamilton borrowed a pistol since he had not owned one for years.
At the word present the two pistols were fired. Hamiltons shot hit a tree. In French, delope, this was throwing away your shot. Burrs shot inflicted a mortal wound. Hamilton raised his pistol once, then lowered it. He reached into his pocket and put his reading glasses on Pendleton gave the word present, and they seemed to their seconds to have fired instantaneously. Burrs bullet struck Hamilton in the right side of the abdomen His own bullet was found to have passed through the limb of a cedar tree four feet to the right and twelve feet high.
Hendrickson 503) We see that Hamilton Even to his dying moments refused to kill a man in cold blood, though the manner of his death defiantly suits the attitude in which we saw that Hamilton wanted to die with honor. He made it commonly known he had no intention to shoot Burr, and was probably in the frame of mind that Burr wasnt truly intending to shoot him, either. He was taken back to his residence, where he made his peace with the Episcopalian church, and was read his last rights.