Alexander Hamilton was born as an illegitimate child in Nevis, a small island in the British West Indies. Growing up as an orphan in a time where family and honor were of utmost importance, his situation should have led Hamilton into a downward spiral. Instead, it inspired Hamilton to seek fame, in the form of great achievement. With tragedy and misfortune surrounding Hamilton’s early life, his situation toughened him up, with fame and honor playing a huge role in shaping his life.
Alexander Hamilton was born out of wedlock in 1757 in Nevis, British West Indies. Alexander Hamilton’s father was James A. Hamilton, a man descended from Scottish nobility, who moved to the British West Indies in hopes of making a fortune in the sugar trade. Hamilton’s father was unsuccessful and left the family shortly after moving the family to Saint Croix. Two years later, Hamilton’s mother Rachel Faucette died of yellow fever when he was around the age of thirteen. His mother’s first husband gained most of the estate left behind his mother, leaving Hamilton as an orphan with no inheritance, except for a few books. He would later be taken in by an older cousin, who ended up committing suicide. Tragedy after tragedy, the odds of Alexander Hamilton amounting to anything was very low.
Hamilton’s strongest attribute was his intellect. He was an extraordinarily gifted individual who spent hours and hours reading the books left behind by his mother. These books were mostly of stories about Ancient Greek and Roman history, which featured prominent leaders and statesmen. He did not view fame as simply the condition of being well known by the masses, he saw it as achieving something great in the manner of leading a new nation and being a great statesmen. This idea of fame was buoyed by his sense of honor, which his family situation and the circumstances of his birth did not provide. He had written in his journal that he hoped a war would break out so he could become a soldier and prove his worth. Achieving something great and honorable became a primary goal of his life very early on in his adolescence.
Hamilton became a clerk at Beekman and Kruger, a major American trading company in Saint Croix, an island that had made more money trading tobacco and sugar than all thirteen American colonies combined. At age 14, Hamilton was keeping the books at Beekman and Kruger, having to learn all of the different currencies that the crops were being traded in, while also performing appraisal and evaluator duties. After his boss becomes sick, Hamilton is tasked with running the entire company at the age of 14. During his time running Beekman and Kruger, Hamilton witnesses the humiliating and brutal treatment of the slaves who work on the plantations. He is disgusted by what he sees as not only inhumane, but a great waste of human potential. As a result, he would later become the most ardent abolitionist of the founding fathers. At the same time as running a major company, Hamilton was regularly publishing poems and sermons in the island’s papers, which caught the attention of prominent colonists on the island, who set up a fund to send Hamilton to the American colonies to receive an education.
As an illegitimate child and later an orphan, there were very little expectations for Alexander Hamilton. His intellect and determination would lead him to become a child prodigy who was running a major trading company at the age of 14. His brilliance and talent would grab the attention of prominent colonists in St Croix, who would end up funding an education for Hamilton in the American colonies. Hamilton’s early life and his circumstances that made it so unlikely for him to eventually become a founding father of a nation is what built and drove the type of person he became.