Alexander Hamilton's Dying Wish, Holy Communion

Sunday, April 18, AD 2010

Like many intellectual men in Revolutionary America and Western Europe, Alexander Hamilton bought into the Deist ideas of a Creator, but certainly not a Creator who needed a Son to rise from the dead or perform miracles, and certainly not the continuous miracle of the Eucharist. Most leaders of the American Revolution were baptized Anglicans who later in life rarely attended Sunday services, the exception being George Washington.  The first President was the rare exception of a Founding Father who often attended Anglican-Episcopal Services, though he occasionally did leave before Holy Communion, which many intellectuals in the colonies (and most of England) decried as “popery.”

Hamilton was a unique man, who unlike many of the Revolution was not born in the colonies, but in the Caribbean and was born into poverty at that. He was practically an orphan as his father left his mother and she subsequently died from an epidemic. At a young age Hamilton showed so much promise that the residents of Christiansted, St Croix (now the American Virgin Islands) took up a collection to send him to school in New England. As a child, Hamilton excelled at informal learning picking up on what he could from passersby and those who took the time to help him. In August of 1772,  a great hurricane hit the Caribbean. Hamilton wrote about it in such vivid detail that it wound up being published in New York.

It was at this point that the residents of Christiansted answered the local Anglican pastor’s request and enough money was raised to send Hamilton to school in the colonies. While in school, Hamilton would excel and wound up in the Revolutionary Army as a young officer. By the time of Yorktown, General Washington thought enough of the 24 year old to have him lead a charge on one of the redoubts of Yorktown. It was here that the “Young Americans” and their French counterparts on land and sea, overwhelmed the British and the world turned upside down.

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12 Responses to Alexander Hamilton's Dying Wish, Holy Communion

  • Thanks for an excellent and engrossing essay, Dave. There’s always something new to be learned from history, especially when written from a Catholic perspective.

  • Very interesting.

    A few minor points:

    Hamilton is the only non-President on US currency

    Franklin, Sacagawea, Susan B. Anthony, and Salmon Chase.

    Hamilton was a self made man.

    The local community paid for his college education then he married into wealth.

    I disagree with your point about money:

    Hamilton was a strong advocate of agriculture and manufacturing subsidies. Of course the vast majority of people don’t like taxes. But Hamilton and others understood that taxes used for the general welfare were necessary. Those who understand it best often come from disadvantaged childhoods. Hamilton, Obama, Clinton. People from relatively more advantaged backgrounds like the Tea Partiers have a more difficult time comprehending the struggles of the poor.

  • As Thomas DiLorenzo in his book Hamilton’s Curse points out:

    “Hamilton complained to George Washington that “we need a government of more energy” and expressed disgust over “an excessive concern for liberty in public men” like Jefferson. Hamilton “had perhaps the highest respect for government of any important American political thinker who ever lived,” wrote Hamilton biographer Clinton Rossiter.

    Hamilton and his political compatriots, the Federalists, understood that a mercantilist empire is a very bad thing if you are on the paying end, as the colonists were. But if you are on the receiving end, that’s altogether different. It’s good to be the king, as Mel Brooks would say.

    Hamilton was neither the inventor of capitalism in America nor “the prophet of the capitalist revolution in America,” as biographer Ron Chernow ludicrously asserts. He was the instigator of “crony capitalism,” or government primarily for the benefit of the well-connected business class. Far from advocating capitalism, Hamilton was “befogged in the mists of mercantilism” according to the great late nineteenth century sociologist William Graham Sumner.”

    Hamilton the first of the “Rockefeller Republicans” or “Big Government Conservatives.”

  • Sorry for the monetary error Restrained Radical, I mede the necessary correction.

  • Sorry for the monetary error Restrained Radical, I made the necessary correction (it is awful early in the morning!)

  • Far better for the world if Hamilton had stayed in it and Burr, a true blackguard, had departed it.

  • Thanks Dave great stuff as always!

  • Speaking of Hamilton and Burr, the Creative Minority Report posted a funny account that mentions them in response to the news that George Washington, Hamilton and others failed to return library books: http://www.creativeminorityreport.com/2010/04/george-washington-and-i.html

    “Dueling for Dummies”: what a hoot!

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  • Given that Obama’s grandmother was a bank president and he attended a prestigious private school in Hawaii, I have a difficult time seeing his upbringing as “disadvantaged,” unless you wish to argue that simply being of mixed race automatically places one in the ranks of the disadvantaged.

    People from relatively more advantaged backgrounds like the Tea Partiers have a more difficult time comprehending the struggles of the poor.

    My, tea party haters really need to get their memes straight. One day we’re being characterized as ignorant trailer trash, and the next we’re folks with all sorts of advantages and no sympathy for the poor. It might behoove you to simply attend one yourself and take a good look at the country instead of mindlessly repeating whatever the media line du jour is about the tea partiers. When I went to one, the great majority of people struck me as utterly ordinary; neither toothless hicks nor BMW-driving swells.

    I did not know the details of Hamilton’s last hours. Thank you for a very interesting and informative post, Dave.

  • Donna, thank you for your kind words. I think you succinctly described the way critics of Big Government are described in the Mainstream Media. It does appear critics are either described as the toothless characters one saw chasing Ned Beatty in Deliverance, or a modern version of Mr Howell, upset that more taxes are being heeped upon Lovie and him.

    In truth the alternative “Coffee Party,” that the mainstream media seems to smitten with is indeed the new elite. Gone are Mr & Mrs Howell and their Polo Club Membership. Instead the new elite holds Cocktail Party fundraisers in cosmopolitian neighborhoods in spring, or a large Cape Code home in Marth’a Vineyard in the summer. For the Heinz-Kerry Yachting crowd, maybe a little gnosh in Monaco for the fall.

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