Which Founding Father Was Born in the Caribbean?

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Which Founding Father Was Born in the Caribbean?

Hint: “How does a […] Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten
Spot in the Caribbean by providence, impoverished, in squalor
Grow up to be a hero and a scholar?”*

Alexander Hamilton, Revolutionary War hero, Federalist Papers author, founder and chief of the United States financial system, lawyer, and founding father of the United States was born in the West Indies. 

Before he did any of the things that would put him into the history books, Alexander Hamilton was an orphan struggling to survive on the Caribbean Island of Saint Croix. This upbringing went on to shape his views – the very ones he would use in his later roles. 

Alexander Hamilton was born to Rachel Fawcett Lavien in Charlestown, Nevis. Charlestown is the capital of the island of Nevis, in the West Indies Leeward Islands. The Leeward Islands are a group in the northwestern Caribbean Sea, where the sea meets the Atlantic Ocean. Other islands in this chain include Dominica Anguilla, and Barbuda. 

Rachel was originally married to John Lavien, an older merchant she had been wed to as a teen at her parents’ behest. She had a son, Peter, with him. Lavien was an abusive husband and spent nearly all of the money she inherited. He had her imprisoned for adultery for months. When released, she abandoned her son and husband and fled to St. Croix, where she moved in with James Hamilton.

James Hamilton was a Scottish merchant. Soon, Alexander’s older brother, James was born, followed by Alexander. However, while the boys were still young, James senior abandoned them. This left Rachel and her sons to live a life of poverty. After living a life of struggle, Rachel passed away in 1768, leaving Alexander and his brother to be orphans. 

By the time he was 12, Hamilton was working as a clerk in a general store. His aunts, seeing that he held a lot of intellectual promise and had ambitious goals put together as much money as they could so that they could send him to New York so he could receive a formal education. By the time 1773 rolled around, he was enrolled at King’s College – now Columbia University. He was 17.

Hamilton’s early experiences and early employment exposed him to the world of commerce and international commerce. This made him well-suited for the later roles he would go on to have in the founding of the United States.  

*Lyrics Excerpted from song “Alexander Hamilton” from Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda