During the summer of 1772 a young 17-year-old clerk was toiling in the West Indies on the Island of St. Croix. He had been born in poverty, but even at his young age had risen to be given responsibilities of management at the firm he clerked for. On August 31, 1772 as a powerful hurricane roared through the region. The clerk wrote a letter describing the storm that said in part: “It’s impossible for me to describe, or you to form any idea of it. It seemed as if a total dissolution of nature was taking place. The roaring of the sea and wind, fiery meteors flying about it in the air, the prodigious glare of almost perpetual lightning, the crash of the falling houses, and the ear-piercing shrieks of the distressed, were sufficient to strike astonishment into Angels. A great part of the buildings throughout the Island are levelled to the ground, almost all the rest very much shattered; several persons killed and numbers utterly ruined; whole families running about the streets, unknowing where to find a place of shelter; the sick exposed to the keenness of water and air without a bed to lie upon, or a dry covering to their bodies; and our harbors entirely bare. In a word, misery, in all its most hideous shapes, spread over the whole face of the country.” Once the letter was published in the British Colonies of North America the businessmen of St. Croix were so moved by account of the tragedy that they demanded to know who wrote the letter and took up a collection to send him to America to be educated. This was incredible given the state of the island, which was ravaged by the storm and wouldn’t recover for years. Sometime in late 1772 or early 1773, the clerk boarded a ship to the Colonies, never to return to the West Indies. That clerk was Alexander Hamilton. He would enter Columbia University in New York and then, at the start of the Revolution, become an officer in the Continental army. He helped turn the tide in the battle of Trenton, was on the general staff of Washington and led the final assault on Yorktown that all but ended the Revolutionary War. He was one of the authors of the Federalist papers that helped turn opinion to adopt the Constitution and then served as the first Secretary of the Treasury producing a brilliant plan to stabilize the new American Currency and thus set the nation on firm financial footing. Recognized as one the founding fathers Alexander Hamilton may never have come to the Colonies had it not been for the hurricane that struck St. Croix and his description of it from August 31, 1772 and who knows was impact that might have had on the future of the United States.
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