Alexander Hamilton (1757–1804)
From The Essential Hamilton: Letters & Other Writings
245 years ago a devastating hurricane barreled through the Caribbean, making its first landfall in the same group of islands menaced today by Hurricane Irma. The storm is so widely associated with our first Secretary of the Treasury that the meteorologist and hurricane historian Wayne Neely refers to it simply as the “Alexander Hamilton hurricane of 1772.”
Seventeen years old and a native of Saint Croix, Hamilton experienced the awesome power of the tempest firsthand—and the course of his life was dramatically changed by the letter he sent afterward to his father (a ne’er-do-well who had abandoned the family years earlier). Hugh Knox, a local minister, was impressed by the letter and its theological underpinnings—which were inspired, not coincidentally, by a sermon delivered by Knox himself. In addition to being a Presbyterian minister, Knox worked for the local newspaper and decided to publish the letter, which brought the young man to the attention of a wider public for the first time. Local businessmen took up a collection to send Hamilton to Boston to further his education—and the rest, as we all know, is a musical.