The objects to be attained are: To justify and preserve the confidence of the most enlightened friends of good government; to promote the increasing respectability of the American name; to answer the calls of justice; to restore landed property to its due value; to furnish new sources both to agriculture and to commerce; to cement more closely the union of the States; to add to their security against foreign attack; to establish public order on the basis of an upright and liberal policy: these are the great and invaluable ends to be secured by a proper and adequate provision, at the present period, for the support of public credit.
—Report to Congress
We do not know the name of the mother of Alexander Hamilton: we do not know the given name of his father. But from letters, a diary and pieced-out reports, allowing fancy to bridge from fact to fact, we get a patchwork history of the events preceding the birth of this wonderful man.
Every strong man has had a splendid mother. Hamilton’s mother was a woman of wit, beauty and education. While very young, through the machinations of her elders, she had been married to a man much older than herself–rich, wilful and dissipated. The man’s name was Lavine, but his first name we do not know, so hidden were the times in a maze of obscurity. The young wife very soon discovered the depravity of this man whom she had vowed to love and obey; divorce was impossible; and rather than endure a lifelong existence of legalized shame, she packed up her scanty effects and sought to hide herself from society and kinsmen by going to the West Indies.
There she hoped to find employment as a governess in the family of one of the rich planters; or if this plan were not successful she would start a school on her own account, and thus benefit her kind and make for herself an honorable living. Arriving at the island of Nevis, she found that the natives did not especially desire education, certainly not enough to pay for it, and there was no family requiring a governess. But a certain Scotch planter by the name of Hamilton, who was consulted, thought in time that a school could be built up, and he offered to meet the expense of it until such a time as it could be put on a paying basis. Unmarried women who accept friendly loans from men stand in dangerous places. With all good women, heart-whole gratitude and a friendship that seems unselfish ripen easily into love. They did so here. Perhaps, in a warm, ardent temperament, sore grief and biting disappointment and crouching want obscure the judgment and give a show of reason to actions that a colder intellect would disapprove.
On the frontiers of civilization man is greater than law–all ceremonies are looked upon lightly. In a few months Mrs. Lavine was called by the little world of Nevis, Mrs. Hamilton, and Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton regarded themselves as man and wife.
The planter Hamilton was a hard-headed, busy individual, who was quite unable to sympathize with his wife’s finer aspirations. Her first husband had been clever and dissipated; this one was worthy and dull. And thus deprived of congenial friendships, without books or art or that social home life which goes to make up a woman’s world, and longing for the safety of close sympathy and tender love, with no one on whom her intellect could strike a spark, she keenly felt the bitterness of exile.
In a city where society ebbs and flows, an intellectual woman married to a commerce-grubbing man is not especially to be pitied. She can find intellectual affinities that will ease the irksomeness of her situation. But to be cast on a desert isle with a being, no matter how good, who is incapable of feeling with you the eternal mystery of the encircling tides; who can only stare when you speak of the moaning lullaby of the restless sea; who knows not the glory of the sunrise, and feels no thrill when the breakers dash themselves into foam, or the moonlight dances on the phosphorescent waves–ah, that is indeed exile! Loneliness is not in being alone, for then ministering spirits come to soothe and bless–loneliness is to endure the presence of one who does not understand.