The Young Hamilton: A Biography

The Young Hamilton: A Biography

The Young Hamilton: A Biography

The Young Hamilton: A Biography


Written as a character study, Young Hamilton, explores the first twenty-six years of Alexander Hamilton's life and is designed to reveal how Hamilton's early years shaped him into the statesman he became.


When, in 1972, I had come to the end of my fifteen-year labor concerning George Washington—the four-volume biography and one-volume condensation—I was only sixty-four and needed a new biographical subject. My Washington volumes having been a great success—Special Pulitzer Prize Citation and National Book Award, etc.—I felt encouraged to undertake some other of America's major founding fathers. If I were not to reach too far down, there were only four possibilities: Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Alexander Hamilton.

To a considerable extent, Franklin belonged to a previous generation, and Carl Van Doren had written an excellent life which I had praised in a foreword to a reprint edition.

Jefferson? Dumas Malone was bringing out a succession of excellent volumes, and he had become my good friend and staunch supporter. Furthermore, Jefferson did not come into full flower until after the death of Washington. Thus, I would have been drawn into a later epoch which I would have had to master more or less from the ground up.

I had so little kinship with John Adams that, when subsequently I undertook the project, I was forced to abandon it after a year of labor.

Alexander Hamilton? I quickly discovered that I had come upon a biographical gold mine.

Hamilton's early years in the West Indian island of St. Croix, where he was born and raised, had been traumatic to an extreme—a fact which his eulogistic biographers had failed to recognize. His mother was wayward. She had been jailed by her legal husband for adultery. As soon as she was released, she fled to another Caribbean island. She was to have two illegitimate children, one named Alexander, to an upper-class Scotsman who had somehow been cast adrift from his family and position in Britain and who was, with great difficulty and great humiliation, scratching out a meager living in the Virgin Islands.

When Alexander's mother managed to return to St. Croix, where she had prosperous relatives, she discarded Hamilton's father and returned to her . . .

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