Sept. 1, 2004 – Among the Founding Fathers of the United States, few had the business sense of Alexander Hamilton. Trained while clerking in stores on Company Street and bartering on the docks of Christiansted, St. Croix, Hamilton was engaged in the global marketplace before he was a teenager. According to Richard Brookhiser, it was this global understanding that set him apart from the planters and lawyers he worked with as an adult.
Brookhiser, author of "Alexander Hamilton, American," talked about this when he was on St. Croix in July. He attended a book signing at Undercover Books in Gallows Bay on July 8 and then on July 9 took part, along with seven other Hamilton experts in a scholarly conference, "Alexander Hamilton: The Formative Years," at the Government House in Christiansted. See "Hamilton's Abolitionist Views Rooted in Caribbean" ).
Both events drew larger than anticipated crowds, evidence of local interest in Hamilton. Residents who missed the presentation about how Hamilton was influenced later in life by his humble childhood on St. Croix can now hear excerpts of it online at http://www.th-jefferson.org/TheTJHour/CurrentProg/current.html..
Janie Guill recorded the conference for the Thomas Jefferson Hour, a radio show that airs in 40 cities in the United States. The audio excerpts, now available online at Part One of the Hamilton Conference, includes presentations by Brookhiser, and by William Chrystal. Chrystal is author of "Proximity to the Overseer's Whip: The Different Boyhoods of Hamilton, Adams and Jefferson."
Original Hamilton biographies will also be added to the Web site next week.
"Theres a very rich but fragmentary source of information from here in St. Croix. Hamilton never kept a diary or journal of any kind," said Brookhiser, who is a senior editor at the National Review, a conservative magazine. "I think we can infer a lot from what we know about St. Croix and from what we know about Hamiltons life. By putting those together, we can pick up a lot of what he learned while he was here."
"People who attended the conference walked away with a lot of hope that no matter what your circumstances, that you can become great," said Guill. "Alexander Hamilton had a goal to become great. Heres a child born under pretty rotten circumstances, illegitimate, mother dies, father abandons him, and he sought out mentors and he studied."
Hamilton was born on Nevis in 1755, and moved to St. Croix at age 9. He went to New York when he was 17. Hamilton was an aide to George Washington, and then he went on to be the nations first treasury secretary, to found the U.S. Coast Guard. He was one of the principle authors of "The Federalist Papers" which helped set the direction of the early American system of government. His picture is on the ten-dollar bill.
Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards, whose efforts made the conference possible, said, "More and more people are coming to St. Croix and are interested in its history. This is an unexplored part of Hamilton's life. His time in St. Croix provides a piece of the puzzle."
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