Alexander Hamilton’s Missing Years
The history of Statia has been thoroughly explored these past few decades. Historians and archaeologists have unearthed a trove of information that shed light on various aspects of the island’s past. However, many gaps in our knowledge still exist.
Every now and then, remarkable new findings come to light, as was recently the case with Statia’s connection to one of the most famous people in American history.
In 2019, historian Michael Newton discovered that the parents of famous American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton spent time on Statia in the 1750s. This means that their young son most likely also spent some time on the island. It was previously thought that Alexander spent a large part of his early childhood on Nevis, but these new discoveries help refute this theory.
Alexander Hamilton is one of the most influential people in American history - there’s a reason he is pictured on the 10 dollar bill. During the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783) he was George Washington’s right hand man.
After the war, he laid the foundation for the financial system of the newly-founded United States and was appointed the first Secretary of the Treasury. He was also the founder of the U.S. Coast Guard, the first central bank of the United States, and the New York Post.
The remarkable story of Alexander and the newly-found information by Michael Newton inspired SECAR archaeologists Alex Hinton and Ruud Stelten to delve deeper into the connection between Alexander Hamilton and St. Eustatius. Until now, nothing was known about Alexander and his family’s whereabouts between 1759 and 1765.
After extensive research in the National Archives in The Hague, Alex and Ruud discovered the name James Hamilton (Alexanders father) in old census records of St. Eustatius. He is listed in the census records for the years 1763, 1764 and 1765 as the head of the household. This household further consisted of his wife (Rachel Faucett), his two sons (Alexander and his older brother James Jr.), and five enslaved people.
These discoveries are important since they shed new light on the early childhood of one of the most influential people in United States history. It is now clear that Alexander and his family spent a lot more time on Statia than previously thought, and even lived on the island for several years before moving to St. Croix in 1765.
The number of enslaved people the family owned gives an indication of their social and economic positions on the island. It seems that the Hamiltons lived a comfortable life within the island’s middle class. They most likely lived in Upper Town.
Young Alexander grew up in a very cosmopolitan society where merchants and sailors from every corner of the Atlantic World came to participate in trading activities. It was a unique place in the Caribbean, where people could become rich very quickly, numerous religious groups lived side by side, and a variety of languages were spoken on a daily basis.
Eighteenth-century St. Eustatius was also a place where people engaged in all vices imaginable: alcohol abuse, prostitution, and violence were every day occurrences. This society undoubtedly left a lasting impression on young Alexander, and might have played a role in his development later in life as an influential politician.
Exactly what the Hamiltons were doing on St. Eustatius is not known. Additional archival research is needed to piece this intriguing puzzle together. These recent finds were published by Alex and Ruud last year in the Journal of the American Revolution.
Their full article can be read here: https://allthingsliberty.com/2020/10/alexander-hamiltons-missing-years-new-discoveries-and-insights-into-the-little-lions-caribbean-childhood/