In August 1772, a hurricane ravaged St Croix and a young Alexander Hamilton picked up a pen to write about it. The resulting letter would inspire the residents of the island where Hamilton lived to pool their money for a scholarship to send him to the future United States of America … and into the history books.
It was a week after the hurricane when the future secretary of the Treasury, who was working as a clerk on St. Croix, wrote the life-altering letter. The 17-year-old had just attended a sermon by Hugh Knox, a Presbyterian minister who had arrived in St. Croix earlier that year and had taken the young man under his wing. Inspired, Hamilton picked up a pen and wrote of the hurricane's disastrous effects. He intended only to send it to his father, James A. Hamilton, who was living on St. Kitts after abandoning his illegitimate family more than six years earlier. But when Hamilton showed Knox what he'd written, the minister had other ideas. He persuaded Hamilton—who had already written a few poems that had appeared, without a byline, in the paper—to publish the letter. It appeared in the October 3 local paper.
The businessmen Of St Croix were so moved by his account of the tragedy that they demanded to know his identity and took up a collection to send him to America to be educated. Sometime in the late 1772 he boarded a ship to New York.
Miranda used the essay to create one of the most dramatic moments in Hamilton. In “Hurricane,” the titular character sings,
“When I was 17 a hurricane destroyed my town/I didn’t drown/I couldn’t seem to die/I wrote my way out/Wrote everything down far as I could see/I wrote my way out/I looked up and the town had its eyes on me/They passed a plate around, Total strangers/Moved to kindness by my story/Raised enough for me to book passage on a ship that was New York bound…”
Come learn on the tour more details of this account and so many more interesting facts.