Alexander Hamilton, one of the founding fathers of the United States of America, was born in 1755, on the Caribbean island of Nevis, at that time, a tropical hellhole by all accounts.
In 1727, a minister of the Anglican Church wrote an account of his experiences with the Islanders. He scolded them for “their laziness, stealing, stubbornness, murdering, treachery, lying, drunkenness and the like.” The populace, according to the minister, was composed of “whole shiploads of pickpockets, whores, rogues, vagrants, thieves, sodomites and other filth and cutthroats of the society.” That was the society in which Alexander Hamilton was born.
Alexander’s father was a Scot, James A. Hamilton, and the fourth son of Scottish laird Alexander Hamilton of Grange, Ayrshire. James Hamilton ruthlessly imprisoned his wife, Rachel, for adultery and after divorcing her abandoned her and his son.
Hamilton’s mother, Rachel was partly black, making Alexander a quadroon or an octoroon, a low social status in the obsessively race-conscious Caribbean society. After the divorce, Rachel with her children, Alexander, and his brother moved to St. Croix, to start all over again. But the next ten years were no cakewalk for the young Hamiltons either.
By 1765, Hamilton’s father had disappeared, his mother had died, his cousin and legal guardian committed suicide and his aunt, uncle and grandmother all died. As the son of a divorced woman, Alexander was illegitimate, disowned from all inheritances and barred from formal education. Nevertheless, as a self-taught clerk, Alexander made it to New York City, where he attended King’s College (Columbia University) and became one of the leading and most influential men of his era.
Psychologists characterize a person by his phenotype, the composite of environment and genotype, genetic makeup. Great weight is given to the environment in which a person grows up. One hundred and sixty years---that is eight generations--- after the abolition of 1863, many in the Caribbean still blame everything that goes wrong in their lives, on the period of slavery. Over the years, it seems that little progress was made, and the development of population and wealth lags behind.
Alexander Hamilton, became an American statesman and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, in spite of all the adversity in his young life.
He was the founder of the nation's financial system, the Federalist Party, the United States Coast Guard, and The New York Post newspaper. As the first Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton was the author of the economic policies of the George Washington administration.
Hamilton, the American Musical about the life of Alexander Hamilton, with music, lyrics, and a book by Lin-Manuel Miranda., is drawing thousands of theater-goers every night, ever since it opened in 2015. For sold-out audiences, who eagerly pay US$ 400-600 for a ticket, the casted Alexander Hamilton is the ultimate hero and role model, whose inspiring story resonates with millions. Let us hope that there will be many Caribbeans amongst his admirers.
By Jacob Gelt Dekker
Columnist for Curaçao Chronicle