July 9, 2004 – The celebration of Alexander Hamilton's years on St. Croix fittingly comes on the heels of the island's celebration of Emancipation Day.
Hamilton was a staunch abolitionist. Speakers at the symposium that began Friday morning at Government House in Christiansted emphasized that point.
After welcoming remarks by Myron Jackson, director of the Historic Preservation Office; Joel Tuetin, superintendent of the St. Croix National Park Group; and Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards, it was the scholars' turn.
William Cissel, historian with the National Park Service, started off with the topic "Alexander Hamilton: The West Indian Founding Father."
He said the first U.S. Secretary of Treasury had a unique experience among the Founding Fathers. He said Hamilton saw first hand how cruel the practice of slavery in the West Indies was.
During the American Revolutionary War, Hamilton championed an idea to make a battalion of slaves and then reward them with their freedom. According to Cissel, those who had "vested interests" vetoed the idea.
Cissel also said that Hamilton wrote John Jay during the Constitutional Convention that blacks and whites were equal. He said, "Hamilton went as far as he could in the political climate of his day."
The second scholar, Vincent Hubbard, spoke on "Hamilton's Childhood in Nevis: Its Lasting Impression."
The building on Nevis that is advertised as Hamilton's birthplace is a stately stone structure now made into a museum. Hubbard questions if that was really the home of Hamilton's family, because economically the family was not well off. He stated the actual home might have been a modest timber structure next to the large building.
In either case, he said, Hamilton's home would have been right on the sea and just 75 yards from the pier. And so the young Hamilton would have had to see the unloading of the slave ships, with the men and women shackled together and herded to the end of the pier.
"A child could not help but see the apparent cruelty of this," Hubbard said
Hamilton lived on Nevis from his birth in 1755 to 1765, when he moved to St. Croix. He left St. Croix for the United States and world fame in 1772.
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