The Truth About Alexander Hamilton's Parents

Rachel Faucette Lavien and James Hamilton probably never expected their son Alexander to become one of America's founding fathers. The couple met in the early 1750s on the island of St. Kitts, according to the biography Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. Faucette Lavien, born on Nevis, had moved to St. Croix with her mother. Her mother practically forced her into a disastrous marriage to Johann Michael Lavien in 1745. He was more interested in gaining access to her small inheritance than he was interested in her. She was only 16 years old when she married Lavien, who was much older than she.

After about five years of this unhappy union, Faucette Lavien reached her breaking point. She left her husband, and her husband used the courts to punish her, claiming that she had committed adultery (via The New York Times). She spent several months in a jail cell at Fort Christiansvaern. After her release, Faucette Lavien made her way to St. Kitts, leaving her husband and son behind.

The son of a Scottish laird, James Hamilton had come to the West Indies in 1741. He tried his hand at being a merchant, but his business ventures didn't really pay off. Hamilton and Faucette Lavien welcomed their first son, James, in 1753, and their second son, Alexander, on January 11, 1755 (though some sources say that he was born in 1757). The family resided in Nevis at this time.

Alexander Hamilton's parents never legally wed

Hamilton's parents never married, and the issue of being an illegitimate child haunted Alexander for much of his life. Being born out of wedlock was a huge faux pas for the times. According to Chernow, they did present themselves as husband and wife when they lived on Nevis, but they couldn't keep up the charade when they moved to St. Croix, where Faucette Lavien had lived with her first and only legal husband. Still, they went to St. Croix hoping to improve their financial situation. But James Hamilton only stayed on the island a short time, abandoning the family in 1765 (via the New-York Historical Society).

After James Hamilton's departure, Rachel Faucette Lavien worked to support the family. She ran a small shop selling food to the island's planters, and she hired out her slaves. But in early 1768, Faucette Lavien became terribly ill. Her son, Alexander, contracted the same unknown disease. She died on February 19 from her illness, leaving her sons orphaned for all practical purposes.