Alexander Hamilton’s Grandfather and the French Invasion of Nevis in 1706

© Posted on December 4, 2017, by Michael E. Newton.

In March 1706, a fleet of about fifty French ships with three to five thousand soldiers descended upon the island of Nevis. With a mere three or four hundred men of fighting age, the vastly outnumbered Nevisians fled into the mountains and the following day capitulated. In violation of the terms of surrender, the French burned down most of the dwelling houses on the estates, many of their boiling houses as well, and about half of Charlestown before they absconded with 3,187 of the island’s 6,023 blacks, in addition to “the greatest parts of our mills and coppers with other rich merchandizes, to the value of a great many scores of thousand pounds.” As a result, “Nevis, which formerly seemed to be the Garden of the Caribbees,” was in “a deplorable spectacle of ruin, her forts demolished, plantations burnt, as well canes as houses, their negroes, some taken, the rest fled to the mountains.” Many inhabitants left the island, “some to New England, Pennsylvania, etc.” According to a petition by the merchants and planters of Nevis and St. Kitts, “The damage done to Nevis, by a modest computation, amounts to a million of money.”[1]

The proprietors and merchants of St. Kitts and Nevis requested half a million pounds sterling from the home government “for the relief of the islands.”[2] Over the next few years, Britain sent “considerable quantities of stores and provisions” to Nevis.[3] In the meantime, “Her Majesty was graciously pleased to appoint commissioners in those islands to compute their losses,” which the commissioners calculated to be £356,926, 10 shillings, and 1 pence. In April 1709, Parliament voted £103,203 11s 4d “for the use of such proprietors or inhabitants only of Nevis and St. Christophers who were sufferers by the late French invasion there and who shall resettle or cause to be resettled their plantations in the said islands.”[4]

Six hundred sixty-nine people submitted claims for the recovery of “one third of [their] losses” and took “oaths to prove” their “re-settlement” on Nevis and St. Kitts.[5] Among the group was Alexander Hamilton’s grandfather, John Faucett, spelled “Fauset” and “Fausset” in these records, who submitted a claim for a loss of £1,088 12s 1d, more than double the average and about ten times the median claim.[6] In 1713, the Commission for Trade and Plantations started paying these claims and many received their relief funds that year.[7] On April 1, 1713, more than seven years after the French invasion, the Commission for Trade and Plantations issued a debenture, a monetary claim on the government, to John Faucett for £362 17s 4d.[8]

Note: In the first image, John Faucett (“Jno Fausset”) appears in the last line:

* I would like to thank Rhiannon Markless (www.legalarchiveresearch.com) for locating and photographing at my request the above documents within the collections of the U.K. National Archives.

Even with this substantial relief, John Faucett suffered a large loss of £725 14s 9d, by his estimate, more than fifty times the average annual wage of an Englishman.[9] A loss of this magnitude could not easily be recovered.

To be continued…

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[1] Calendar of State Papers, Colonial Series, America and West Indies, 1706 – June 1708 102, 108–110, 118, 141, 142–144, 146, 147, 180, and 184–185; ibid. June 1708 – 1709 8; ibid. March 1720 – December 1721 119–123. See also “The Case of the Poor Distressed Planters, and other Inhabitants of the Islands of Nevis, and St. Christophers, in America,” published in London, 1709.

[2] Calendar of State Papers, Colonial Series, America and West Indies, 1706 – June 1708 396.

[3] Calendar of State Papers, Colonial Series, America and West Indies, 1706 – June 1708 411; ibid. June 1708 – 1709 91 and 92.

[4] “The Case of the Poor Distressed Planters, and other Inhabitants of the Islands of Nevis, and St. Christophers, in America,” published in London, 1709; The History and Proceedings of the House of Commons from the Restoration to the Present Time 4:63 and 129.

[5] Journal of the Commissioners for Trade and Plantations, February 1709 – March 1715 383–386, 387–388, 292–393, 394–395, etc.; and unpublished documents from the U.K. National Archives not cited for reasons previously explained.

[6] See first image included above.

The 669 claims averaged £439 but the median claim was closer to £100. Most of the claims were for small losses of about £100 or less, but a few very large claims (the largest was for £8,525) skews the average upward.

[7] Unpublished documents from the U.K. National Archives not cited for reasons previously explained; Calendar of State Papers, Colonial Series, America and West Indies, July 1712 – July 1714 283; Journal of the Commissioners for Trade and Plantations, February 1709 – March 1715 406, 408, 410, etc.

[8] See both images included above.

[9] “The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain,” https://www.measuringworth.com/ukearncpi/.

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Alexander Hamilton’s Grandfather’s Deposition Regarding the French Invasion of Nevis in 1706

© Posted on December 11, 2017, by Michael E. Newton.

Many years after the French invasion of Nevis in March 1706, the British and French governments were still arguing about whether the residents of Nevis owed France what they had agreed to in their terms of surrender or whether France owed the Nevisians for the illegal seizure and destruction of their property. To make their case, a number of Nevisians in 1720 provided accounts of what had happened to them back in March 1706. One such deposition was provided by John Faucett, Alexander Hamilton’s grandfather.

The Deposition of John Faucet Planter aged about six and thirty years taken before the Honourable John Pinney Esqr Chief Justice of the Court of Kings Bench and Common Pleas, and John Dasent Esqr one other judge of said courts, and members of the committee appointed to answer the memorial of the French envoy Monsieur D’Iberville relating to the invasion of this island in the year seventeen hundred and six.

Who being duely sworn, to the second article saith, that this deponent contrary to the said article was stripped of all his wearing apparel to his shirt, shoes and stockings, some days after the surrender of the island at the Dodan; To the fifth article this deponent saith, that some few days before the departure of the French under the command of Monsieur D’Iberville, his own dwelling house, boyling house, with about eight or ten thousand pounds of sugar therein was burned together with all his outhouses and negro houses (excepting one) by the French and did also see the Lower boyling house of John Choppin Esqr and the boyling house of Isaac Evans deceased burned by the French after the surrender of the Dodan, And as to that part of the memorial setting forth the French their putting themselves in a posture to force the Dodan a second time, This deponent saith, that the inhabitants of this island being unarmed and guarded as prisoners of war it was impossible for them to get to the Dodan to make any opposition against the French nor did this deponent ever hear that there was any such thing in agitation and further saith not.

John Faucett

Sworn before us the 31st day of May 1720

John Pinney

John Dasent

* I would like to thank Susan Moore (www.susanmooreresearch.co.uk) for locating and photographing at my request the above document within the collections of the U.K. National Archives.

This deposition tells us much about Alexander Hamilton’s grandfather, John Faucett, that previously was not known.

According to this deposition, John Faucett was “aged about six and thirty years” in May 1720. This means that he was born in “about” 1683 or 1684. It also means that he was “about” twenty-two years old when the French invaded Nevis in March 1706.

The deposition also tells us that the “about” twenty-two-year-old John Faucett was already a “planter” on the island of Nevis in 1706, owning a sugar plantation complete with a “dwelling house,” “outhouses,” “negro houses” for his slaves, and a “boiling house” for converting the juice extracted from the raw sugar cane into molasses and crystallized sugar. The French, according to Faucett’s statement, “burned” all this down, save for one negro house, plus “eight or ten thousand pounds of sugar.” They also “stripped” him “of all his wearing apparel to his shirt, shoes and stockings.” Even though the French absconded with 3,187 of the island’s 6,023 blacks, John Faucett did not say how many of his slaves were seized by the French. Perhaps none of them were taken, or, more likely, they were seized prior to or as part of the surrender and therefore their loss was not in violation of the terms of surrender and thus not the subject of this deposition. According to the census of 1708 taken just two years after the French invasion, John Faucett is found with two white females, presumably a wife and a daughter, and seven slaves.[1] This paltry number of slaves was far too few to run a sugar plantation of any size, suggesting that the French had confiscated some or all of his slaves during their invasion.

John Faucett’s deposition also mentions John Choppin and Isaac Evans as his close neighbors in 1706. Although it does not state where they lived at the time, all three would later be found in St. George’s Parish.[2] This suggests that John Faucett in 1706 almost certainly owned a plantation and lived in St. George’s Parish.

As you can see in the above images, the deposition is signed by “John ffaucett,” or “John Faucett” as the “ff” was at that time a common way to write a capital “F” (see the “ffrench” and “ffifth” in the deposition). A close analysis shows that this is an original signature.[3] For years, there has been a debate over how to spell “Faucett.” In my research, I have found twenty different spellings of this name in the records: Facet, Facett, Facit, Facy, Fassett, Fassit, Fatzieth, Faucet, Faucett, Faucette, Faucit, Fauscett, Fauset, Fausset, Faussett, Faust, Fawcett, Fawsett, Fosseet, and Fossett. As this deposition includes the only known signature of anyone using this name, the “Faucett” spelling used here must be considered the most authentic.[4]

Prior to the discoveries shared last week and the discovery of this deposition, little had been known about John Faucett’s early life, i.e., his life prior to 1714. In fact, the only records available were the abovementioned census of 1708[5] and a statement by Alexander Hamilton that “my Grandfather by the mothers side of the name of Faucette was a French Huguenot who emigrated to the West Indies in consequence of the revocation of the Edict of Nantz and settled in the Island of Nevis and there acquired a pretty fortune. I have been assured by persons who knew him that he was a man of letters and much of a gentleman. He practiced a⟨s⟩ a Physician, whether that was his original profession, or one assumed for livelihood after his emigration is not to me ascertained.”

With the discovery of this deposition, we now know that:

  • John Faucett, Alexander Hamilton’s grandfather, was born in “about” 1683 or 1684.
  • By the age of just twenty two, John Faucett was a wealthy planter on Nevis, owning a plantation that included a dwelling house, outhouses, slaves, negro houses, and a boiling house.
  • By 1706, John Faucett was living in St. George’s Parish alongside John Choppin and Isaac Evans.
  • The last name of Alexander Hamilton’s mother and grandfather was spelled “Faucett.”

These discoveries help fill in the gaps of John Faucett’s biography. Nevertheless, most of John Faucett’s story remains a mystery. When did he move from France to Nevis? Did he come by himself as a young adult or as a child with his parents? How did he come to own a plantation at such a young age? Did he purchase it or inherit it from his father or another relative? Was he a doctor before he became a planter or did he take up this profession afterwards?

Perhaps there is more to be discovered in the records located on Nevis and in the U.K. National Archives. But that would be a substantial project requiring considerable amounts of time and money…

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[1] Caribbeana 3:179.

[2] Caribbeana 2:267–272 and 3:218–221.

[3] A comparison of the three signatures and the text of the document reveals four different hands. Compare, for instance, the “J” in all three signatures; the letter “n” in all three signatures and in the text; the “t” in Faucett, in Dasent, and in the text; the “ff” in Faucett versus the “ff” in the text; and the “a” in Faucett against those in Dasent and in the text. Susan Moore, who located and photographed this document at my request, also commented, “Yes, I am sure that the document is an original and that therefore the signature must be original as well.” Mariana Oller, the Associate Curator of Special Collections at Wellesley College and Chair of the Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society, also inspected the photographs of these documents and concluded that the document “is written in a skilled secretary hand, so it was prepared by someone whose job was to issue such documents, and it was then signed by the various parties.”

[4] In Alexander Hamilton: The Formative Years, I concluded, “Based on the available evidence, it appears that the name in the original French was Faucette and that it was anglicized to Fawcett upon arrival in the West Indies. It also appears that Fawcett was the spelling favored by those who bore the name. Accordingly, Fawcett is the spelling used in this book.” Obviously, the newly discovered document presented here disproves my previous conclusion.

[5] A “John Fawcett, Junr” and a “Mr. John Fossett” resided on Nevis in 1678, but Alexander Hamilton’s grandfather had not yet been born and, according to Hamilton, his ancestors did not leave France until after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685.

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The Will of John Lytton, Father of Alexander Hamilton’s Uncle and Guardian

© Posted on December 18, 2017, by Michael E. Newton.

Anyone who has read a biography of Alexander Hamilton has heard of James Lytton. James Lytton married Ann Faucett, the sister of Alexander Hamilton’s mother Rachel Faucett. When the Hamiltons arrived on St. Croix, James Lytton helped them by giving Rachel Faucett “six walnut chairs with leather seats.” When Rachel Faucett died, Alexander Hamilton and his brother were taken in by Peter Lytton, James Lytton’s son, and then by James Lytton when Peter Lytton died. We know all about James Lytton’s life: his purchase of a plantation on St. Croix, his successful management of it, his selling the plantation, his death, and the deaths of his family members (the best coverage of this topic to date is H. U. Ramsing’s 1939 essay, but I have found additional information which hopefully will be shared in future blog posts and/or a forthcoming book).

But what about James Lytton’s past? Who were his parents? Did he have any siblings?

On May 1, 1709, a “John Lytton of the island aforesaid [Nevis] planter being sick & weak in body but of ⟨sound and perfect?⟩ memory” made out his will. According to his will, John Lytton left his “loving wife” Sarah Lytton one-third of his estate. He also provided for the schooling of his five daughters—Sarah, Ann, Mary, Frances, and Parnal—and their maintenance until they married, at which time each would receive “one hundred pounds current money.” John Lytton bequeathed “all the rest and residue of my Estate reall & personal Goods & Chattells in what nature or kind forever it be…to my son James Lytton.” John Lytton also appointed a “Capt. John Brown of Figtree [Nevis] to be Guardian to my children.”

* Courtesy of the U.K. National Archives.

Leaving five hundred pounds for his daughters, providing for their maintenance and education, giving one-third of his estate to his wife, and yet having enough to bequeath the largest share of his estate to his only son, it is clear that John Lytton was quite wealthy and that James Lytton’s inheritance must have been in the hundreds and probably thousands or tens of thousands of pounds.

A power of attorney accompanied the above will. In it, “John Browne & Sarah Lytton Guardians of the Bodys and Estate of James, Sarah, Anne, Mary, Parnall & Francis Lytton, Orphans of John Lytton of the Island aforesaid [Nevis] Planter lately deceased” appoint “John Mills of the City of London Merchant” to be their “True and Lawfull Attorney” to collect any relief funds that may be issued “for payment of the Damage done the said John Lytton by the French Invasion” of Nevis. This document was dated the “Twelfth Day of June in the Thirteenth Day [Year] of the Regime of our Sovereign Anne,” i.e., June 12, 1714, and executed July 28, 1714. Thus, John Lytton passed away shortly before June 12, 1714.

* Courtesy of the U.K. National Archives.

A few months later, on September 17, 1714, John Lytton’s will was executed (see last image of will above).

In the same set of documents regarding the French invasion of Nevis that I presented two weeks ago, John Lytton claimed a loss of £972 17s and in August 1713 was granted £324 5s 8d in relief, more than double the average and about ten times the median of all those submitting claims for losses, making him one of Nevis’s most prominent citizens. The relief funds were received in September 1714 by the abovementioned John Mills, the attorney of Sarah Lytton and John Browne, guardians to the Lytton children.

* I would like to thank Rhiannon Markless (www.legalarchiveresearch.com) for locating and photographing at my request the above documents within the collections of the U.K. National Archives.

Thus, when the pre-teen James Lytton[1] inherited his father in 1714, he suddenly became one of Nevis’s wealthiest citizens. And when Ann Faucett, Alexander Hamilton’s aunt, married James Lytton “around 1729 or even earlier,” it represented the combination of two of Nevis’s leading families—the Faucetts and the Lyttons.

NB  In his will, John Lytton writes “my daughter,” “my son,” and “my six children.” He never refers to his wife, Sarah Lytton, as the mother of these children. The power of attorney refers to Sarah Lytton as a guardian to the children, but not their mother. It would seem that the Lytton children were the offspring of John Lytton but not of Sarah, but it is possible that the document’s use of legal terminology merely conceals Sarah Lytton’s motherhood.

PS  With the upcoming Christmas and New Year’s holidays, the next blog post is scheduled for January 2, 2018.

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[1] According to James Lytton’s burial record of August 12, 1769, he was 67 years old and thus born in 1701 or 1702.

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The Early Business Career of Alexander Hamilton’s Father

© Posted on January 2, 2018, by Michael E. Newton.

In his award-winning, best-selling Hamilton biography, Ron Chernow presents a captivating narrative of how James Hamilton, Alexander Hamilton’s father, apprenticed for a businessman in Glasgow, moved to St. Kitts as a merchant, failed in this career, and consequently found other employment.[1] Although Chernow’s is probably the best and most complete discussion of the topic to date, there is at least one error in his narrative and a number of omitted details. Additionally, now that the Library of Congress has made the Alexander Hamilton Papers available online, I can share with you the original documents that reveal the early business career of Alexander Hamilton’s father.

According to an agreement dated November 11, 1737, on “the fifth day of February last,” i.e., February 5, 1737, “with the special advice and consent” of his brother John, James Hamilton entered into a four-year apprenticeship with Richard Allan, the Glasgow businessman who owned the Haarlem Linen and Dye Manufactory. James was to serve as Allan’s “apprentice and servant” while receiving room and board and being taught about manufacturing and commerce. For this education, John Hamilton paid Allan the agreed upon sum of forty-five pounds.[2]

James Hamilton Indenture 1

James Hamilton Indenture 2

James Hamilton Indenture 3

* Courtesy of the Library of Congress: https://www.loc.gov/resource/mss24612.029_0621_0640/?sp=2 and https://www.loc.gov/resource/mss24612.029_0621_0640/?sp=3.

On February 18, 1741, four years and thirteen days after starting his apprenticeship, James Hamilton was “discharged” by Richard Allan of his “indentures” after having “dutifully, faithfully, and assiduously implemented, fulfilled, and . . . performed” his “whole obligations.”

James Hamilton Discharge

* Courtesy of the Library of Congress: https://www.loc.gov/resource/mss24612.029_0621_0640/?sp=4.

An addendum to the above indenture notes that John Hamilton gave Richard Allan an additional “five Guineas” at the end of the apprenticeship as a “compliment” to Allan’s wife, presumably in gratitude for her taking care of James during his apprenticeship.

James Hamilton Indenture Addendum

* Courtesy of the Library of Congress: https://www.loc.gov/resource/mss24612.029_0621_0640/?sp=3.

Uninterested in continuing to work in the textile industry in Scotland and noticing Glasgow’s burgeoning trade with the West Indian sugar islands, James Hamilton decided to move to the Caribbean as a merchant.[3]

In March and April 1741, still in Glasgow, James Hamilton made numerous purchases on credit, presumably of goods to resell in the West Indies and necessities for his new home.

James Hamilton Bill 1

James Hamilton Bill 2

James Hamilton Bill 3

* Courtesy of the Library of Congress: https://www.loc.gov/resource/mss24612.029_0621_0640/?sp=5 https://www.loc.gov/resource/mss24612.029_0621_0640/?sp=6 https://www.loc.gov/resource/mss24612.029_0621_0640/?sp=9.

Soon afterwards, James Hamilton departed Scotland and sailed to the British-controlled West Indian island of St. Kitts.[4]

In August 1744, James Hamilton was still operating as a merchant on St. Kitts and had his brother John “purchase goods” on credit in Glasgow “to the extent of fifty pounds Sterling,” with John acting as guarantor for the debt.

John Hamilton 1744

* Courtesy of the Library of Congress: https://www.loc.gov/resource/mss24612.029_0621_0640/?sp=11.

Sometime in the next four years, James Hamilton either abandoned his mercantile business or required additional income to make ends meet. In July 1748, he took a job as a watchman or weighman at the port of Basseterre, St. Kitts.[5]

Around this time,[6] James Hamilton’s creditors back in Scotland were pestering John Hamilton about the money owed to them. John Hamilton wrote to one creditor:

I think the only way will be for you to write a letter to my brother acquainting him that the Gentlemen from whom he had his goods wanted payment. I would not have given you this trouble but my brother does not know I am engaged for him. Likewise, I desired the favour you’ll write to the Gentlemen at Glasgow that you had wrote to my brother, hoping they would have patience till you had an answer. The last letter his mother had from him was some time ago where he writes he had bills but at that time they were not due.

John Hamilton 1749

* Courtesy of the Library of Congress: https://www.loc.gov/resource/mss24612.029_0621_0640/?sp=13.

It is clear that by this time James Hamilton had become “bankrupt as a Merchant.” Alexander Hamilton later explained that his father “failed in business” and that his “affairs at a very early day went to wreck” because of “too generous and too easy a temper” combined with “too much pride and too large a portion of indolence.” In consequence of his business failure, James “fell into indigent circumstances” and “was supported by his friends in Scotland.” Nevertheless, James Hamilton’s “character,” according to Alexander Hamilton, “was otherwise without reproach and his manners those of a Gentleman.”[7]

© Please cite this blog post and/or the original sources at the Library of Congress when incorporating the above information in your writings.

[1] Chernow, Alexander Hamilton 14–15.

[2] Ron Chernow wrote, “In November 1737, John Hamilton took the affable but feckless James, then nineteen, and steered him into a four-year apprenticeship with an innovative Glasgow businessman named Richard Allan.” Although the agreement between John Hamilton and Richard Allan was dated November 1737, the agreement states that the apprenticeship began nine months earlier in February 1737.

[3] Alexander Hamilton to Robert Troup, July 25, 1795, in PAH 18:505; Alexander Hamilton, addressed to William Jackson but sent to James McHenry, August 26, 1800, in ibid. 25:89.

[4] Alexander Hamilton, addressed to William Jackson but sent to James McHenry, August 26, 1800, in PAH 25:89.

[5] Chernow, Alexander Hamilton 15.

[6] The letter at the bottom reads “Kerelaw 21t 1748” or “1749.” No month is given and it is unclear whether the year is 1748 or 1749.

[7] Alexander Hamilton to Robert Troup, July 25, 1795, in PAH 18:505; Alexander Hamilton to William Hamilton, May 2, 1797, in ibid. 21:77; Alexander Hamilton, addressed to William Jackson but sent to James McHenry, August 26, 1800, in ibid. 25:89.

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The Woman Who Paid for Alexander Hamilton’s Education

© Posted on January 8, 2018, by Michael E. Newton.

In a 1939 essay,[1] H. U. Ramsing shared his discovery of numerous entries in the probate record of a Thomas Lillie of St. Croix relating to the estate of James Lytton, Alexander Hamilton’s uncle. Among the hundreds of entries are dozens pertaining to Ann Lytton Venton, the daughter of James Lytton and Alexander Hamilton’s first cousin. Among these entries for Ann Lytton Venton are four quittances [receipts] “with” Alexander Hamilton for 120 rigsdalers, 1 hogshead of sugar, and 1 hogshead of rum. There is also one “order in favor of Alexander Hamilton” for 15 hogsheads of sugar. These entries are dated May 16 and 23, 1772, May 3 and 26, 1773, and June 3, 1773.[2]

While H. U. Ramsing found these entries in Thomas Lillie’s probate record, which was compiled in 1780, they actually appeared in another volume back in 1776.

As can be seen from the above images and the corresponding entries in The Papers of Alexander Hamilton,[3] the records of these four quittances and one order are mere summaries and are missing information vital to understanding the transactions.

New Records Discovered

Fortunately, these transactions appear in more detail in another location. Overlooked by H. U. Ramsing and others, the probate record of James Lytton contains a list of dozens of debits for “Mrs. Ann Venton, To the Estate of James Lytton Senior.”

On May 16, 1772, Ann Lytton Venton debited 45 rigsdalers from her father’s estate and also debited one hogshead containing 828 pounds of sugar, valued at 45 rigsdalers, 3 reals, and 2 styvers. Both the money and the sugar were “paid [to] Nicolaus Cruger.”

These two transactions match exactly Ann Lytton Venton’s quittance with Hamilton of the same date.[4] Clearly, Nicholas Cruger had acted as Hamilton’s banker in this transaction.

A week later, on May 23, 1772, Ann Lytton Venton debited her father’s estate one hogshead containing 118 gallons of rum “delivered [to] A. Hammilton, on your account per receipt,” with a value of 55rdl 1r 2st.

This transaction also matches Ann Lytton Venton’s quittance with Hamilton of the same date.[5]

The following year, on May 26, 1773, Ann Lytton Venton debited her father’s estate 50 rigsdalers for the “sum paid Alexander Hammelton pr. receipt.” A week later, on June 3, Ann Lytton Venton paid Hamilton another 25 rigsdalers.

These transactions again match two of Ann Lytton Venton’s quittances as found in Thomas Lillie’s probate record.[6]

Two more transactions appear on November 26, 1773. The first transaction, which is backdated to May 6, 1773, is for “14 hogsheads sugar,” holding 13,347 pounds of sugar, and valued at 913rdl 1r 3st. This is followed by another transaction, backdated to May 12, 1773, for “1 hogshead sugar” with 990 more pounds of sugar valued at 69rdl 1r 1st, with an additional note that “this hogshead with the 14 hogsheads delivered the 6th May make the 15 hogsheads which is agreeable to his order in favor of Alexander Hamelton for 15 hogsheads.” The value of these 15 hogsheads of sugar totaled 1001rdl 2r 4st.[7]

These 15 hogsheads of sugar are clearly the same as those mentioned in Ann Lytton Venton’s order in favor of Alexander Hamilton dated May 3, 1773.[8]

Alexander Hamilton’s generous cousin also appears to have paid some or all of the costs of sending the May 1773 sugar to him in New York. An undated record states that Ann Lytton Venton paid “dutys and permissions” of 48 rigsdalers “on 6 hhds sugar shipped to New York by Captain Lightbourn.”

Other records show that Captain William Lightbourn was outbound from Christiansted sailing for New York on May 25–26, 1773, suggesting that the above six hogsheads of sugar may have been part of the fifteen hogsheads sent to Hamilton at this time.

If Ann Lytton Venton did indeed pay the shipping costs on these six hogsheads of sugar, it is likely she paid the costs of the other nine as well and possibly paid for other expenses Hamilton may have incurred during his move from St. Croix to the North American mainland. If so, these additional payments by Ann Lytton Venton were not recorded or the records of those transactions have not yet been found or no longer exist.

Ann Lytton Venton Pays for Alexander Hamilton’s Education

Many have argued that Alexander Hamilton, in receiving the above money, sugar, and rum, had acted as Ann Lytton Venton’s “middleman,” presumably to prevent her husband, from whom she had separated, from collecting her share of the proceeds from the estate of her father James Lytton.[9] The records, however, as displayed above, clearly show that Ann Lytton Venton regularly debited her father’s estate without the need of a “middleman.” Thus, it is clear that the above transactions involving Alexander Hamilton were gifts to him.

As Hamilton by the time of these transactions had a good job working as head clerk for Nicholas Cruger and had lived for many years without apparent financial support from his cousin, he presumably did not need these funds from Ann Lytton Venton for his everyday living. Based on later events, it is clear that these gifts were to help Alexander Hamilton pay for his education on the mainland. Accordingly, the funds given to Hamilton by his cousin in May 1772 are the first indications that Hamilton was planning and even preparing to go to the mainland for school, further dispelling the notion that Hamilton had only been sent to North America for an education as a direct result of the impression left by his account of the great hurricane,[10] which was not written until five months later and not published until after he had already left the island.[11]

Based on the figures provided in these newly discovered records, it is clear that Ann Lytton Venton was Alexander Hamilton’s primary if not sole benefactor. Her gifts of May 1772 consisted of forty-five rigsdalers, a hogshead of sugar, and a hogshead of rum, valued at precisely 145rdl 4r 4st according to the records of the Lytton estate, or approximately £23 sterling. Ann Lytton Venton’s gifts of May and June of 1773 provided Hamilton with another fifteen hogsheads of sugar and seventy-five rigsdalers, worth precisely 1,076rdl 2r 4st, or about  £172 sterling. This brought the total value of Ann Lytton Venton’s gifts to Alexander Hamilton to exactly 1,221rdl 7r 2st, or about £196 sterling, at a time when the average British worker earned just £16 per year.[12]

Ann Lytton Venton’s gifts to Alexander Hamilton were expected to cover all or most of Hamilton’s educational expenses. According to a 1767 advertisement, the grammar school in Elizabethtown, New Jersey, which Hamilton would attend, charged twenty shillings for admission, five pounds per year for tuition, and twenty pounds per year for boarding with a local “reputable” family.

The cost of a year at this grammar school totaled twenty-six pounds New York money, or about £15 sterling. Hamilton, of course, would have additional expenses, such as travel and clothing. Thus, Ann Lytton Venton’s gifts of May 1772 of about £23 sterling was more than enough to get Alexander Hamilton started and was perhaps enough to cover the first year at the grammar school he attended.

As for college, tuition at King’s College was six pounds New York currency per annum, rent was four pounds per year, and meals cost eleven shillings per week, or about twenty-five pounds per year.[13] Other expenses would have included tutoring, clothing, books, paper, pencils, firewood, candles, and travel.[14] In total, King’s College cost an estimated £50 to £80 New York currency per year, £200 to £320 for a full four years, or about £112 to £180 sterling.[15] Tuition at the College of New Jersey was one-third less than at King’s College while food and rent were also considerably cheaper.[16] Hamilton hoped to further reduce the cost of his college education by demanding that he be “permitted to advance from class to class with as much rapidity as his exertions would enable him to do.” Although the College of New Jersey rejected these terms, King’s College accepted Hamilton on the same “terms he had proposed at Princeton.”[17]

Thus, the £172 sterling Ann Lytton Venton had given Hamilton in 1773 probably was sufficient to cover any remaining expenses from his year in grammar school plus the cost of four years in college, and she surely offered to provide him with additional funds if these were insufficient. Although others may have contributed to Hamilton’s education fund, it is clear from these records that Ann Lytton Venton was Alexander Hamilton’s primary if not sole benefactor.

In the end, Alexander Hamilton spent just two and a half years at King’s College before “the American Revolution supervened.”[18] He used what remained in his education fund, provided to him entirely or mostly by Ann Lytton Venton, to equip the artillery company he raised in early 1776.[19]

Ever thankful for his cousin’s generosity, Alexander Hamilton wrote in his final letter to his wife that Ann Lytton Venton (by this time known as Ann Mitchell) was “the person in the world to whom as a friend I am under the greatest obligations.”[20] As the person who paid for Alexander Hamilton’s education on mainland North America, thereby launching his American career, the little-known Ann Lytton Venton Mitchell deserves our gratitude, just as she had earned the gratitude of her cousin Alexander Hamilton.

© Please cite this blog post when writing about these new discoveries.

[1] H. U. Ramsing, “Alexander Hamilton og hans Mødrene Slaegt.”

[2] PAH 1:32, 33, 40, and 41.

[3] PAH 1:32, 33, 40, and 41.

[4] PAH 1:32.

[5] PAH 1:33.

[6] PAH 1:40 and 41.

[7] The numbers given in the records don’t add up. Adding 913rdl 1r 3st and 69rdl 1r 1st totals 982rdl 2r 4st, not 1,001rdl 2r 4st. The 69rdl 1r 1st is probably correct because 990 pounds of sugar at the listed 7 rigsdalers per hundredweight totals 69rdl 2r 2st, nearly the same as the amount recorded. However, 13,347 pounds of sugar at 7 rigsdalers per hundredweight would total 934rdl 2r 2st, well above the 913rdl 1r 3st recorded. The 14,337 pounds of sugar at 7 rigsdalers per hundredweight should total 1,003rdl 4r 4st, close to the 1,001rdl 2r 4st given.

[8] PAH 1:40.

[9] H. U. Ramsing, “Alexander Hamilton og hans Mødrene Slaegt”; Chernow, Alexander Hamilton 39.

[10] In Alexander Hamilton: The Formative Years, I asserted that “the hurricane and Hamilton’s account of it may have had nothing to do with his move to the mainland” and that “all that rhetoric about Hamilton riding a whirlwind into history appears to be mistaken.”

[11] Newton, Alexander Hamilton: The Formative Years 57–58 and 59–60.

[12] “The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain.”

[13] A History of Columbia University 27 and 40.

[14] Humphrey, From King’s College to Columbia 252.

[15] Humphrey, From King’s College to Columbia 93–94.

[16] Humphrey, From King’s College to Columbia 91–92.

[17] Hercules Mulligan, “Narrative.”

[18] Alexander Hamilton to William Hamilton, May 2, 1797, in PAH 21:77.

[19] John C. Hamilton, The Life of Alexander Hamilton 1:52; John C. Hamilton, History of the Republic 1:121.

[20] Alexander Hamilton to Elizabeth Hamilton, July 10, 1804, in PAH 26:307.

© Please cite this blog post when writing about these new discoveries.

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