When Alexander Hamilton was born back in 1755, he was already behind the eight ball. Whispers of illegitimacy plagued him from birth as the product of a common law marriage between James Hamilton and the notorious Rachel Faucette (the only woman imprisoned at St. Croix’s Fort Christiansvaern for committing adultery). His father was no better. Known as the black sheep of the family, James Hamilton deserted his wife and children when Alexander was 10. Several years later, Alexander transitioned from bastard to orphan when his mother died.
In a true rags-to-riches story, Hamilton’s ascent out of poverty and into the political limelight reveals that miracles do happen. Recently, his incredible life has been recounted in the hit musical Hamilton. Inspired by Ron Chernow’s biography on the first treasury secretary, composer Lin-Manuel Miranda brilliantly captures the highs and lows of this orphan boy who became a war hero, architect of America’s financial system, and George Washington’s confidante and indispensable aide. Chernow’s storytelling powers are formidable, and point, perhaps unbeknownst, to the greatest Storyteller of all.
In the hundreds of pages that inspired the musical, a reverberant theme resounds throughout: that God loved this destitute orphan and opened doors for him. His rise parallels the story of a shepherd boy who became king. And like King David, General Alexander Hamilton had his own adulterous affair, political coup, and preventable tragedies. Yet God’s tender heart and longsuffering kindness were woven throughout Hamilton’s 49 years on this earth.
That God loved Alexander Hamilton is undeniable. But did Hamilton love God? Historians of the Revolutionary period are often asked about issues of faith. Did the Founding Fathers believe in God? Were they really Christians? For Alexander Hamilton, the answer was yes. Records indicate that Hugh Knox, a Presbyterian minister in St. Croix, influenced Hamilton at a young age. Knox’s sermons and passion for God seemed to have affected Hamilton on a fundamentally core level. Hamilton’s own desire to pursue godly living was ignited in St. Croix, and he carried this aspiration with him when he set sail for New York to further his education.
As a student at King’s College (Columbia University today), his fellow classmates commented on Hamilton’s sincere heart for worship and that he often went above the prescribed prayers and mandatory chapels. Chernow writes that Robert Troup, Hamilton’s classmate at King’s, confessed he had “often been powerfully affected by the fervor and eloquence of [Hamilton’s] prayers” and that Hamilton “was a zealous believer in the fundamental doctrines of Christianity.”
Like most faith journeys, Hamilton’s ebbed and flowed between skepticism and belief. But at the end, his verdict was clear: “I have examined carefully the evidence of the Christian religion, and if I was sitting as a juror upon its authenticity, I should rather abruptly give my verdict in its favor.”
Hamilton’s analytical mind sought for proofs of religion and not merely emotional satisfaction. He studied A View of the Evidences of Christianity in search of reasonable answers to an elusive faith. As a child of the Enlightenment and relentless pursuer of the truth, Hamilton despised religious fanaticism and searched for “logical proofs.” With the legal mind and intellectual tenacity he applied to the US Constitution and Federalist papers, Hamilton surveyed the Scriptures and religious evidence. “I have studied [Christianity] and I can prove its truth as clearly as any proposition ever submitted to the mind of man,” he concluded.