Founding father Alexander Hamilton was born circa January 11, 1755 or 1757 (the exact date is unknown), on the island of Nevis in the British West Indies. Hamilton’s parents were Rachel Fawcett Lavien, who was of British and French Huguenot descent, and James Hamilton, a Scottish trader. At the time of Alexander’s birth, Rachel was married to John Lavien, a much older merchant whom she had been pressured to wed by her parents when she was a teenager. They had a son, Peter together. Lavien was abusive to Rachel and had spent nearly all the money she had inherited when her father died in 1745. During their tumultuous relationship, by Danish law, he even had her imprisoned for several months for adultery.
When she was released, instead of returning to her husband and son, the independent-minded Rachel fled the troubled marriage and moved to St. Kitts. It was there she met and moved in with James Hamilton, with whom she had another son James, Alexander’s older brother who was born in 1753. After moving back to St. Croix, James Sr. abandoned the family when Alexander was a boy, leaving Rachel and her sons impoverished. John Adams would one day come to characterize Hamilton’s rise from humble beginnings by describing the young Hamilton as “the bastard brat of a Scottish peddler.”
Determined to improve his lot in life, Hamilton took his first job at the tender age of 11, not long after his father left. But the family was soon dealt another sad blow. After working tirelessly to make ends meet, his mother became ill and died in 1768 at the age of 38.
Hamilton left his position as an adviser to George Washington to study law. After completing a short apprenticeship and passing the bar, he established a practice in New York City. The majority of Hamilton’s first clients were the widely unpopular British Loyalists, who continued to pledge their allegiance to the King of England. When British forces took power over New York State in 1776, many New York rebels fled the area, and British Loyalists, many of whom had traveled from other states and were seeking protection during this time, began to occupy the abandoned homes and businesses.
When the Revolutionary War ended, nearly a decade later, many rebels returned to find their homes occupied, and sued Loyalists for compensation (for using and/or damaging their property). Hamilton defended Loyalists against the rebels.
In 1784, Hamilton took on the Rutgers v. Waddington case, which involved the rights of Loyalists. It was a landmark case for the American justice system, as it led to the creation of the judicial review system. He accomplished another history-making feat that same year, when he assisted in founding the Bank of New York. In defending the Loyalists, Hamilton instituted new principles of due process.
Until tomorrow: Faith is an oasis in the heart which will never be reached by the caravan of thinking.