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ABOUT the year 1730, “Alexander Hamilton, of Grange," in Ayrshire, Scotland, married Elizabeth, the eldest daughter of Sir Robert Pollock, by whom he had several children. James, the father of the subject of the present sketch, was the fourth son. Being bred a inerchant, he emigrated to the West Indies in search of fortune; but, through a too liberal and “casy temper," met with severe reverses, and subsequently lived in pecuniary dependence. He married a daughter of Faucette, one of the Huguenots who fled from France on the revocation of the edict of Nantes, and had several sons, of whom Alexander was the youngest.
Alexander Hamilton was born in Nevis, one of the British West Indian islands, on the eleventh of January, 1757. On the decease of his mother, which occurred while he was quite young, he was placed with one of her relatives, who resided at Santa Cruz. Here he acquired the rudiments of the French and English languages, the former of which he afterwards wrote and spoke with the ease and fluency of a native. He early displayed an ardent fondness for literary pursuits, became a lover of books, and devoted his hours to miscellaneous reading, under the guidance of Doctor Knox, a respectablo Presbyterian clergyman, “who, delighted with the unfolding of his mind, took a deep interest in his welfare."
In 1769 he was placed in the counting-room of Mr. Nicholas Cruger, a wealthy and most worthy merchant of Santa Cruz. In this capacity he manifested the greatest fidelity and attention, which soon attracted the attention of his patron. But he aspired to a loftier position. The "inward promptings of his mind” looked far beyond the details of his avocation. In a letter to one of his schoolfellows, written about this period, he said, “I contemn the grovelling condition of a clerk, or the like, to which my fortune condemns me, and would willingly risk my life, though not my character, to exalt my station, I am confident that my youth excludes me from any hopes of immediate preferment, nor do I desire it; but I mean to prepare the way for futurity." Such was the purpose of Hamilton at the age of twelve years. He continued his studies during the few leisure hours he could command from his laborious mercantile duties, perfecting himself in mathematics, ethics, and general biography. Among his favorite authors were Pope and Plutarch, on the last of which he prepared several curious notes and observations. He also often exercised his powers in composition on various subjects. On the occasion of the terrific hurricane which swept over the Leeward Islands, in the autumn of 1772, before its effects had passed away, he prepared a description of the scene, which was published in the neighboring island of St. Christopher's, where it excited universal attention, and finally led to his future preferment. His friends and patrons, on learning that he was the author of the "elegant and precise description,” determined to send him to New York for the purpose of acquiring a more thorough education. He left the West Indies a short time after, and arrived at Boston in the month of October, 1772. From thence he proceeded to New York, where he at once entered into the society of its most learned and distinguished families.
Soon after he was placed in the celebrated grammar school at Elizabethtown, New Jersey, which was then under the patronage of Governor Livingston and Elias Boudinot, and the immediate supervision and instruction of Francis Barber, afterwards a distinguished and accomplished