Amongst the founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton was forever known as The Outsider. Why? Because the fact that he even got to the United States, let alone became a leader here, is a miracle. How did a poor boy born on an island in the West Indies end up leading the United States of America? The answer: hard work, determination, and two hurricanes.
Alexander came to the world out of a scandalous affair between a married French woman and a Scottish trader. Because he was illegitimate, Hamilton wasn’t allowed to attend the local schools. Did that stop him? No. He decided to teach himself using the 34 books that his father owned.
By the time Alexander was 13, his mother had died and his father had abandoned him. Undaunted by the responsibility of taking his life into his own hands, he got himself a job working for Nicholas Cruger, a local merchant. His employer soon recognized his young apprentice’s genius. By the time Alexander was 14, Cruger would leave Hamilton in charge of the entire company while he went on journeys abroad.
But Alexander Hamilton didn’t want to run someone else’s business all his life. He wrote to a good friend, explaining how desperate he was to get out of “the grov’ling condition of a clerk”. All he needed was something he’d never had- a tiny bit of luck. Alexander’s luck came in 1722, in the form of a hurricane.
The first hurricane to blow Hamilton came on August 31, 1772. As the ocean roared seventy feet above its normal height, sweeping hundreds of houses in its greedy grasp, Alexander watched with admiration. He was so affected by the enormousness of the storm, that he wrote a letter describing it to his father: “The roaring of the sea and wind—fiery meteors flying about in the air...the crash of the falling houses... were sufficient to strike astonishment into Angels.”
A friend of Alexander’s was impressed by the literary talent shown in Alexander’s letter and had it printed in a community newspaper. The townsfolk were so captured by this uneducated boy’s gripping descriptions that they decided to pool together a fund to send Hamilton to college in America.
It was during his journey to the U.S. that a second life changing hurricane blew over Hamilton. As they were approaching the coast of North Carolina, Hamilton and the ship crew spent 12 hours fighting a fierce storm. Legend has it that Hamilton swore that night: “if I ever amount to anything in this new land, I will have a lighthouse built on this very spot.”
Alexander Hamilton went on to thrive at his university in New York. In true Hamilton style, he made sure to be fully involved in all the excitement around town, including the growing unrest against the King of England. During the Revolutionary War, Alexander become one of George Washington’s right hand men. After the war, he served as the first ever treasurer for the U.S. government.
Among Alexander Hamilton’s many contributions to the beginnings of our country (influencer of the U.S. Constitution, founder of the nation's financial system and first American political party), lies the unknown fact that he pioneered the Light House Bill. This ninth piece of legislation ever passed by the U.S. government assured that all lighthouses be maintained by the federal government, and made the way for the government to build more lighthouses as needed. He also contributed to the beginning of other maritime safety measures, leading to his title as “Father of the U.S. Coast Guard”- a fitting tribute to the founding father who was blown to the United States on a hurricane.
Although the facts of Alexander’s childhood remain shrouded in legend, his story reminds us that through hard work and determination, we can take even the hurricanes of life as opportunities to blow ourselves forward.
By: Susanna Olson
Courage is a powerful, yet abstract word. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as:
“Mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.”
while the Oxford dictionary explains it as:
“The ability to do something that frightens one.”
I thought it would be interesting to look at courage as defined by some of history’s fearless heroes...
When he arrived, the men in charge tried to convince him to serve as a commander general. In this position he would remain safe from the harm of musket balls. Joseph Warren refused. He was a doctor, not a general. Despite his friend’s pleas, he insisted that a more experienced soldier be placed in charge. He would fight as an ordinary soldier.
...All night long she rode furiously through the countryside, sounding the alarm and rallying the men. A friendly man stopped her and asked if she would like him to accompany her on her dangerous mission. She refused, sending him the opposite direction so that he could help spread the word farther. All in all, Sybil road 40 miles, more than double the amount Paul Revere rode on his famous night ride. She did not weary. She did not give up...