Monday, August 26, 2019

Alexander Hamilton's Family Tree

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!

Originally posted 8/27/12

3 comments:

William Kendall said...

Fascinating!

Maria McKenzie said...

A lot of people know more about him now because of the musical Hamilton;).

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