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Alexander Hamilton

(1755 - 1804)

Alexander Hamilton was born on the British island of Nevis, in the West Indies, on January 11, 1755. His mother, Rachel Levine, was born Christian, and his father, James Hamilton, was a non-Jewish Scotsman descended from the House of Hamilton in Ayrshire, Scotland. She was previously married to Johan Levine who most biographers do not believe was Jewish. Andrew Porwancher, however, argues that he may have been Jewish. 

“His surname, his profession as a merchant, his description as a “rich Danish Jew” by Hamilton’s own grandson,” Porwancher argues, “is consistent with a Jewish identity.” If he was Jewish, Porwancher speculates, Rachel may have converted to Judaism. He cites as evidence that her son Peter was not baptized until he was an adult, which would only have been necessary if he was converting to Christianity.

Rachel never divorced Johan, making Alexander illegitimate. He, too, was apparently never baptized.

In the 1760s, Alexander attended a Jewish school in Nevis, which was housed in a synagogue in Charleston, the island’s capital. The local Anglican school was not an option for Alexander, because he was a bastard in the eyes of the church. Porwancher argues, however, that “uneasy Jewish-Christian relations make it improbable that a Christian child could attend a Jewish school,” which supports his contention that Hamilton may have been Jewish.

After completing his education in Nevis, Alexander moved to Charleston, South Carolina in search of a better life and career. He became George Washington’s aide during the American Revolution, was the principal author of the Federalist Papers, and served as the United States’ first Secretary of the Treasury. Throughout the rest of his life, he had no affiliation with Judaism. Nevertheless, Porwancher says “no other Founding Father did more than Hamilton to realize the promise of the Declaration of Independence for American Jewry.”

Alexander Hamilton was killed in 1804 while dueling with Vice President Aaron Burr.

Today, Hamilton's portrait can be seen on the ten-dollar bill.

Source: Andrew Porwancher, “Was Alexander Hamilton Jewish?” Wall Street Journal, (October 7, 2021).