Juliana Pilon, Senior Fellow, The Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization, pays tribute to Alexander Hamilton in her review of Andrew Porwancher’s The Jewish World of Alexander Hamilton (2023). A strategic thinker, canny lawyer, and financial genius, Hamilton stands right below George Washington, whom he served as aide-de-camp during the Revolutionary War, as one of America’s most important founding fathers. Talleyrand, Napoleon’s foreign minister, had high acclaim for Hamilton’s diplomacy: “He divined Europe.”
Born out of wedlock in the tiny island of Nevis in the British Caribbean, he came to New York City in his teenage years through the patronage of merchants to receive an education. Philosophical principles guided his schooling, and he emerged with a genuinely nationalist vision of the United States. He had also witnessed firsthand, Dr. Pilon observes in her “Founding Philosemitism” for the October 3rd issue of Law & Liberty, the twin evils of “racism and antisemitism while growing up poor on the periphery of civilization.”
A Jewish community had existed in Nevis since the mid-seventeenth century. In the port city of Charlestown, conservationists have mapped out about twenty Jewish graves. In Nevis and nearby St. Croix in the Danish Virgin Islands, Hamilton circulated among Jewish mentors and friends. He carried with him a spirit of tolerance to the United States, with respect to Jews quite unlike the mixed messaging in that regard of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin. Thanks to Washington and Hamilton, David Salisbury Franks was appointed “the first Jewish diplomat in American history.” Hamilton also worked to have Gershom Seixas, a Jew, named to Columbia’s board of trustees. Not until 1928, maintains Porwancher, did Columbia University have a second Jew serving on the board.
A providential mission informed Hamilton’s world view. He admired “‘the progress of the Jews, [who] from their earliest history to the present time has been & is, entirely [sic] out of the ordinary course of human affairs. Is it not then a fair conclusion that the cause also is an extraordinary one—in other words that it is the effect of some great providential plan? The man who will draw this Conclusion will look for the solution in the Bible. He who will not draw it ought to give us another fair solution.’”
Along with Abraham Lincoln, comments Dr. Pilon, Hamilton stands out for his belief “that the same providential protection that kept the small Jewish world alive, while so many other civilizations became extinct, would embrace his own extraordinary nation, despite great challenges.” Hamilton was truly an exceptional man in extraordinary times.