A Jewish Founding Father? Alexander Hamilton’s Hidden Life

Andrew Porwancher
Andrew Porwancher
University of Oklahoma

Andrew Porwancher is the Wick Cary Professor at the University of Oklahoma, where he teaches constitutional history. Professor Porwancher previously held the May Fellowship at Harvard, the Horne Fellowship at Oxford, and the Garwood Fellowship at Princeton. Porwancher also is the recipient of the Longmire Prize for innovative teaching. His newest book, The Jewish World of Alexander Hamilton, was published by Princeton University Press and won the Journal of the American Revolution Book-of-the Year Award.

 

Overview

Thousands of miles from the Old World, on a sun-kissed island in the West Indies, a young boy named Alexander Hamilton began a most unlikely journey in the 1750s. His meteoric rise from Caribbean obscurity to American founder has long captivated historians and, more recently, Broadway audiences. Yet one crucial aspect of Hamilton’s life has remained submerged for centuries: the weight of the evidence suggests that he was in fact Jewish.

Drawing on untapped sources in the West Indies, Professor Porwancher makes the case for Hamilton’s Jewish ancestry and explores his ongoing relationships with Jews throughout his lifetime. Although he cast off any Jewish identity in his adulthood in the United States, Hamilton never forgot his origins. He emerged as a singular champion of American Jewry against the forces of anti-Semitism. Hamilton fought for Jewish rights in the courts, collaborated with Jewish merchants, and secured a position for the first Jew on the board of an American college. Alexander Hamilton may in fact have been the Jewish Founding Father.

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