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American politician and national founding father, Alexander Hamilton, was in foster care as a child. 

Alexander Hamilton was born in the West Indies on the small island of Nevis. His parents were Rachael Fawcett, also born on the island, and James Hamilton, a recent migrant to the West Indies from Scotland.  

Rachael and James had two sons during their fifteen year relationship; Alexander was the younger by two years. 

Because her sons were ‘illegitimate’, Rachael couldn’t send them to the public school. She did, however, home-school Alexander, teaching him to read and write in French before enrolling him in a Hebrew school when he was 5 where he also learned some Hebrew. 

When Alexander was eight, his father abandoned the family. By then they were living on the island of St Croix (now one of the United States Virgin Islands) and to support herself and her sons, Rachael set up a store in the town of Christiansted. There she sold dry goods such as rice and flour and Alexander helped in the store, as well as working as a clerk for a shipping business, Beckman & Cruger. 

Three years later, Rachael died. Eleven-year-old Alexander and his brother James became the guardians of Rachael’s brother-in-law and nephew, James and Peter Lytton. Alexander went to live with his friend, Edward Stevens, whose father, Thomas worked for a trading company. Alexander continued to work for Beckman & Cruger, now full time. It is thought the thirty-four books he received from his mother’s estate was the extent of his education outside of the workplace. 

Alexander knew the goings on of St Croix intimately through his work as an apprentice clerk. His work also meant he participated in the slave trade, through which experience “he developed a sense of moral repugnance of the institution of slavery and in later life he was an outspoken opponent” (Murray). 

At fifteen, Alexander had the opportunity to go to New York and was taken in by the family of William Livingston. While with the Livingstons he was able to attend the Elizabethtown Academy where he learned enough of the required Greek to pass the entrance exams for the College of New Jersey and Kings College (now Columbia University). 

It was at Kings College that Alexander Hamilton became involved in politics. He endorsed the proposed insurrection against Britain and led an artillery during the Revolutionary War. In 1777 he was appointed aide-de-camp by General George Washington.  

Hamilton studied law after the war and began practicing in New York City in 1783. In 1787, he was chosen as a delegate to a federal convention to establish the Constitution of the United States. Although he didn’t influence development of the Constitution, he was influential in the document being ratified. 

In 1789 President George Washington appointed Alexander Hamilton as the first Secretary of the US treasury. Despite intense opposition, Hamilton was successful in establishing the First Bank of the United States, which in turn fuelled economic growth in the country. 

Alexander Hamilton is today featured on the US $10 note and in the highly acclaimed musical, Hamilton the Musical, created by Lin-Manuel Miranda 


“Alexander Hamilton”. History.Com, 1998. 

Mah, Ann. “The West Indian Island That Shaped Alexander Hamilton”. The New York Times, 3 May 2017. 

Murray, Joseph. Alexander HamiltonAmerica’s Forgotten Founder. Algora Publishing, 2007. 

Image available here