Alexander Hamilton and Adoption

Portrait of Alexander Hamilton by John Trumbull


Hamilton and his older brother were the illegitimate sons of James Hamilton, a Scottish trader, and a married Frenchwoman, Rachel Faucett Lavien. Alexander Hamilton was born on the Caribbean island of Nevis. Not long after his mother moved in with his birth father, James Hamilton abandoned the family on St. Croix. They then went to live with his mother's relatives. She died in 1768, but he and his older brother were left destitute after her legal husband successfully sued for all of their mother's estate. The boys were made wards of their cousin, but he died very soon afterwards. The boys were separated, with Alexander going to live with his best friend's family until he sailed for the American colonies in 1772.

He soon became part of the colonists' struggle for independence and wrote revolutionary pamphlets, including over half of The Federalist Papers. He joined the colonial army in 1775 or 1776 and quickly became George Washington's aide. He was elected to the Continental Congress in 1782 but resigned in 1783 and became a lawyer in New York. He reorganized the US financial system in the 1790s, after Washington appointed him the country's first secretary of the treasury (1789-95).

He continued in politics until his death in 1804 in a duel with Aaron Burr.


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