Alexander Hamilton has been dead for over 200 years, but he’s still on the move.
He was born on Nevis as the bastard son of a Scottish laird, who abandoned the family. Denied entry to the Church of England academy, he attended a Jewish school. His mother died when he was 13, leaving him an orphan, and her belongings passed to his half-brother, leaving him a pauper. He was adopted by a cousin, who soon after committed suicide. He clerked in an import-export company, and spent his free time reading Greek and Roman texts. His account of a hurricane that devastated Nevis was published in the local paper. The locals were impressed, and they took up a collection to send him to America to get an education.
He arrived in Elizabethtown, New Jersey in 1772. Princeton University rejected him, so he headed for King’s College (now Columbia). Two years later, when the Revolution broke out, Hamilton enlisted in the Hearts of Oak militia. He distinguished himself in the battles of New York City and White Plains, and was named Captain of the New York Artillery. When George Washington turned the tide of the Revolution at Trenton in 1776, Hamilton oversaw the shelling of the town. When the United States finally defeated the British at Yorktown, Hamilton oversaw the shelling of General Cornwallis’ reputation.
He married Elizabeth Schuyler, from one of New York’s wealthiest families; he was elected to the Congress of the Confederation; he started his own law practice; he founded the Bank of New York; he was the first New York delegate chosen to the Continental Convention. Hamilton advocated a strong central government and was ridiculed as a monarchist by many of the other Founding Fathers. But with John Jay and James Madison, he wrote The Federalist Papers which convinced Americans to approve the Constitution. He founded the US Treasury, and established how the U.S. would do business for the next 200 years. He started the New York Post, the oldest continually published daily in the country. His influence prevented Aaron Burr from becoming president in 1800, and from becoming governor of New York in 1804. For this, Hamilton was shot dead in a duel at the age of 49.
Hamilton had only one permanent home, built in 1802, on 33 acres in Harlem. By 1889, the house was threatened by development, so it was moved to what is now known as Hamilton Heights. But New York keeps growing, and this week, “The Grange” was moved a second time, to St. Nicholas Park. Perhaps it will stay there permanently.
But you never know. It seems that Hamilton Grange, like Hamilton himself, just can’t sit still.