Monday, August 27, 2012

Alexander Hamilton's Family Tree

Nowadays, what most people know about Alexander Hamilton is that his portrait appears on the ten dollar bill.  Some may have learned that he was killed in a duel by Aaron Burr.  Others might even be aware that Hamilton was the first Secretary of the Treasury.

Here's some more detailed information from Wikipedia:
Alexander Hamilton (January 11, 1755 or 1757 – July 12, 1804) was a Founding Father, soldier, economist, political philosopher, one of America's first constitutional lawyers and the first United States Secretary of the Treasury.
As Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton was the primary author of the economic policies of the George Washington administration, especially the funding of the state debts by the Federal government, the establishment of a national bank, a system of tariffs, and friendly trade relations with Britain. He became the leader of the Federalist Party, created largely in support of his views, and was opposed by the Democratic-Republican Party, led by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.
 Hamilton served in the American Revolutionary War. At the start of the war, he organized an artillery company and was chosen as its captain. He later became the senior aide-de-camp and confidant to General George Washington, the American commander-in-chief.
Born out of wedlock and raised in the West Indies, Hamilton was effectively orphaned at about the age of 11. Recognized for his abilities and talent, he was sponsored by people from his community to go to the North American mainland for his education. He attended King's College (now Columbia University), in New York City. After the American Revolutionary War, Hamilton was elected to the Continental Congress from New York. He resigned to practice law and founded the Bank of New York.

A 20th century artistic rendering of the July 11, 1804 duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton by J. Mund
What most of us don't know, is that Alexander Hamilton was of African Ancestry!  According to Julie Carter over at RootsWeb:

The first mothers of Nevis were African slave women who lived on the
island with the mulatto offspring of their white slave masters.
Rachel Fawcett Lavain, a woman said to be of "mixed blood" and the
daugther of a Nevisian doctor, was the mother the First Secretary of
the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton. Alexander Hamilton's father, James
Hamilton, Sr., the 4th son of a Scottish Duke (History Writer NOTE: I
believe this is incorrect, and Alexander Hamilton's actual grandfather
has been identified as an untitled Scot. End NOTE.) did not marry his
mother. Their relationship lasted 15 years. John Fawcett, Rachel's
grandfather, was listed in an early census as having 4 black females.
The surest proof that Alexander Hamilton was of African ancestry was
that Alexander's older brother, James, by the same mother and father,
was of dark complexion with dark hair. James Hamilton, Jr. migrated
to the United States and was treated like a Negro once being refused a
seat on a Broadway coach because of his color.

Alexander Hamilton also migrated to the United States to be educated.
He got involved in the American revolution and later appointed the
chief military aide to George Washington then Secretary of the
Treasury. Alexander's father was invited to come to the United States
but not his mother because "her presence would have ruined his
prospects. Her features were too pronounced. She was too typically
Negro. Her dark skin would create as much trouble as a colored
delegate at a white convention." (History Writer NOTE: Rachel
Fawcett died when Alexander Hamilton was 13, before Hamilton ever
moved to what became the United States, so I am not sure where the
author got this quote. End NOTE.)

Alexander Hamilton's papers of ancestry were burned after his death in
order to hide his alleged African strain. When harassed about his
birth Hamilton stated, "My blood is as good as those who plume
themselves on their ancestry." The real truth regarding Hamilton's
ancestry can be found in the earliest and least known portrait of him
drawn from life by Peale which reflects Hamilton's skin color, nose
and wooly hair. The portraits that we know today have been
caucasianized revealing Hamilton with a more European nose, thinner
lips, light complexion and straight hair. Both pictures are found the
New York Public Library Collection. Information on the life of
Alexander Hamilton can be found in Charlestown, Nevis at the Museum of Nevis History.
Just a little fascinating food for thought! Had you ever heard about Alexander Hamilton's family tree?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

10 comments:

Old Kitty said...

Wonderful and fascinating as always! I know very little of Mr Hamilton so thank you for this most intriguing post! It sad that he had to defend his ancestry when alive but glad that his legacy survives!

Take care
x

The Desert Rocks said...

I often look at the ten dollar bill and think he's a handsome man! Very interesting story Maria!

William Kendall said...

I knew some aspects about his past, but not that.

Poor Hamilton... ill fated to meet a bad end at the hands of a cranky Vice President. That didn't happen again until Cheney.

Maria McKenzie said...

@Old Kitty: He'd be surprised at how times have changed!

@Eve: I think he's handsome too! I'd say his is the most handsome face on currency;).

@William: Ha! You are such a rascal! Only you would think to point that out;)!

Norma Beishir said...

I didn't know!

William never misses a chance to take a shot at Cheney (pun intended).

Maria McKenzie said...

And a clever pun at that, LOL!

Jennette Marie Powell said...

I hadn't heard about this - you always find the most fascinating bits of history!

Maria McKenzie said...

I'd heard it years ago, then my mom mentioned it the other day after learning about it from a friend. She was surprised I knew and thought it might be a fun blog topic. I agreed, as you can see:)!

Trey Greene said...

I'd read th back-and-forths about Hamilton's genealogy and was convinced by th obvious errancy of th story that Hamilton's mother was kept hidden for political expediency, to be evidence of a conspiracy to make him more African than he was!

But *you* are correct - th curly-haired-ness of th 1795 Peale portrait
is th *end* of th dispute as far's I am concerned!!!

lee woo said...

If you're a good person, the goodness will continue through your
descendants. See the link below for more info.

#descendants
www.ufgop.org