July 8, 2004 – Alexander Hamilton doesn't always get top billing when people are talking about America's Founding Fathers. However, the authors and about three dozen history buffs gathered Thursday for a book signing at Undercover Books in Gallows Bay seemed bent on changing that.
Stephen Knott, author of "Alexander Hamilton and the Persistence of Myth," said it simply: "We live in Hamilton country." No one from the audience or among his fellow authors seemed to disagree.
Several people who turned out for the event said they were there because they wanted to learn more about Hamilton, who spent much of his childhood on the island.
St. Croix resident Robert Lambert said his interest in Hamilton has been growing but he also was there because he is an "admirer of the National Review."
Richard Brookhiser, one of the four authors at the signing, is a senior editor at the National Review, a conservative magazine founded by William F. Buckley Jr.
Brookhiser, whose book is titled "Alexander Hamilton, American," told the gathering how his interest in Hamilton was sparked. He said that during George Washington's presidency at first everyone got along, but then disagreements arose between Thomas Jefferson and Hamilton. The battles became public as Hamilton wrote newspaper articles under pseudonyms and Jefferson paid a writer to attack Hamilton.
When Washington confronted the two men about the articles, according to Brookhiser, Hamilton was honest about what he did, while Jefferson lied saying, "I don't know anything about those articles." And then, Brookhiser said, Jefferson went on to slander Hamilton.
Chris Powers, owner Judi of Croix Car Rentals, said he attended the signing because he is reading a book by another author — Ron Chernow's "Alexander Hamilton" and found the chapters in it concerning Hamilton's time on St. Croix "absolutely fascinating." Chernow's book has been on the New York Times Bestsellers non-fiction list for the last two months.
Vincent Hubbard was the only author present who has not written a book about Hamilton. However, he said his book "Swords, Ships, and Sugar: A History of Nevis" is important to people interested in Hamilton. He said knowing about Nevis, where Hamilton was born and spent his first years, is helpful in "getting a measure of the man."
Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards, whose office spearheaded the observance of Hamilton's years on St. Croix, might disagree with Hubbard about what years were most crucial to Hamilton's development. He told the Source outside the bookstore, "Just imagine how important the years from 9 to 17 were for you."
Joanne Freeman, author of "Affairs of Honor" and "Hamilton: Writings," said Hamilton was brilliant but at times quirky. Sometimes in reading his own writings, she said, she has found herself wondering "Why did he write that?"
She said Hamilton was the star of her chapter on dueling in "Affairs of Honor." He lost his life in a duel with another prominent political figure of the time, Aaron Burr.
This was Freeman's first visit to St. Croix. Brookhiser said he had visited the island a couple of years earlier and had read a paper at the Apothecary Museum.
Hubbard drew laughter when he said it took him only 45 minutes to get to St. Croix from Nevis, but it was his first visit.
The visiting authors and several other experts will present scholarly papers at a conference on "Hamilton: The Formative Years" from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday at Government House in Christiansted. The conference is open to the public.
For a listing of the activities planned to commemorate Hamilton's years on St. Croix through Sunday, see "Alexander Hamilton Events Scheduled for July 8-11".
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