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Alexander Hamilton

by Florence Lewisoh, 1963
from "Divers Information on the Romantic History of St. Croix"

Some two hundred years ago there was born on Nevis in the British islands a somewhat small, frail and intense boy with blue eyes and red hair. He was the son of an impecunious third son of a Scottish Laird, and of Rachel Lavien. The date of his birth is now set at 1755 by newly discovered Danish documents. This makes Alexander Hamilton two years older than was thought.

His mother, Rachel, had been married some years before in St. Croix at Estate Grange to a much older and cruel husband, John Michael Lavien, who owned a small sugar plantation here. After five years of marriage and the bearing of one son to Lavien, Rachel left him when she was 21. With her mother she moved back to her old home on Nevis where she met James Hamilton. The two fell in love and moved to St. Kitts to live together. Lavien refused Rachel a divorce.

Times were bad financially in parts of the Caribbean and James Hamilton found it hard to make a living for his family. He was sent to St. Croix on a legal mission and Rachel came with him, bringing their two sons. After some months, Hamilton returned to the British islands and Rachel stayed on here with relatives, opening a small shop where the boy Alexander helped out.

When Alexander was eleven he was recognized as being unusually precocious despite lack of much schooling, and he was given work by a hardware merchant, Nicholas Cruger, in his store.

Meanwhile, Lavien had divorced Rachel but Danish law forbade her to remarry. She died on St. Croix when Alexander was thirteen and her gravestone can be visited today at Estate Grange. All her property was claimed by her divorced husband.

Alexander worked hard and read incessantly. He taught himself French, which came in handy later when as aide-de-camp to George Washington he became friends with Generals Lafayette and Rochambeau.

St. Croix was devastated by a major hurricane which destroyed or damaged some 500 buildings in 1772 and Alexander wrote a long and vivid letter to his father on St. Vincent island describing the horror. The letter was published in the Royal Danish-American Gazette, and so impressed friends and others that they scraped together enough money to send him on his way to school in the British Colonies in North America.

Young Hamilton left in mid-summer for Boston on the ship 'Thunderbolt" enroute for New York. On the way the ship caught fire and he helped to battle it for twenty-four hours until it was under control. On his arrival, Alexander went to a boarding school for one year and then entered the already famous King's College (now Columbia University) which at the time had a faculty of only three persons.

In a few short years the ambitious boy became a leader in the Revolution and played a major part in the formation of the original thirteen United States of which he became the first Secretary of the Treasury.

Royal Danish American Gazette Honored Sir. I take up my pen just to give you an imperfect account of the most dreadful hurricane that memory or any records whatever can trace, which happened here on the 31st ultimo at night. It began about dusk, at North, and raged very violently till ten o'clock. Then ensued a sudden and unexpected interval, which lasted about an hour. Meanwhile, the wind was shifting round to the South West point, from whence it returned with redoubled fury and continued so till near three o'clock in the morning. Good God! what horror and destruction — it's impossible for me to describe — or you to form any idea of it. It seemed as if a total dissolution of nature was taking place. The roaring of the sea and wind-fiery meteors flying about in the air — the prodigious glare of almost perpetual lightning — the crash of the falling houses — and the earpiercing shrieks of the distressed, were sufficient to strike astonishment into Angels. A great part of the buildings throughout the Island are leveled to the ground —almost all the rest was very shattered - several persons killed and numbers utterly ruined — whole families running about the streets unknowing where to find a place of shelter - the sick exposed to the keenness of water and air — without a bed to lie upon — or a dry covering to their bodies - our harbour is entirely bare. In a word, misery in all its most hideous shapes spread over the whole face of the country — a strong smell of gunpowder added somewhat to the terrors of the night; and it was observed that the rain was surprisingly salt. Indeed, the water is so brackish and full of sulphur that there is hardly any drinking it. My reflections and feelings on this frightful and melancholy occasion are set forth in following self-discourse. Where now OH! Vile worm, is all thy boasted fortitude and sufficiency? — why dost thou tremble and stand aghast? how humble — how helpless — how contemptible you now appear. And for why? the jarring of the elements — the discord of clouds? Oh, impotent presumptuous fool! How darest thou offend that omnipotence, whose nod alone were sufficient to quell the destruction that hovers over thee, or crush thee into atoms? See thy wretched helpless state and learn to know thyself . . . Hark! ruin and confusion on every side. — 'Tis thy turn next: but one short moment — even now — Oh Lord help — Jesus be merciful! Thus did I reflect, and thus at every gust of the wind did I conclude. — till it pleased the Almighty to allay it. I am afraid, sir, you will think this description more the effort of imagination than a true picture of realities. But I can affirm with the greatest truth, that there is not a single circumstance touched upon which I have not absolutely been an eyewitness to. Letter Written By Alexander Hamilton To His Father After The St. Croix Hurricane of 1772
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