History : May-Jun 2016
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC HISTORY 81 him from Anglican instruction—but he seems to have had individual tutoring. Like everyone in the West Indies, Hamilton had extensive early exposure to blacks. In this highly stratified society, with its many grada- tions of caste and color, even poor whites owned slaves and hired them out for extra income. Young Hamilton would regularly have passed the slave-auction blocks at Market Shop and Crosses Alley and beheld barbarous whippings in the public square. The 8,000 captive blacks easily dwarfed in number the 1,000 whites, “a disproportion,” remarked one visitor, “which necessarily converts all such white men as are not exempted by age and decrepitude into a well- regulated militia.” Violence was commonplace in Nevis, as in all the slave-ridden sugar islands. The Carib- bean sugar economy was a system of inimitable savagery. The mortality rate of slaves hacking away at sugarcane under a pitiless tropical sun was simply staggering: Three out of five died within five years of arrival. One Nevis planter, Edward Huggins, set a sinister record when he administered 365 lashes to a male slave and 292 to a female. Evidently unfazed by this sadism, a local jury acquitted him of all wrongdoing. Island life contained enough bloodcurdling scenes to darken Hamilton’s vision for life, instilling an ineradicable pessimism about human nature that infused all his writing. Abandoned and Alone Nine years after Rachel had fled St. Croix, Lavien resurfaced in 1759. Looking to take a new wife, Lavien needed to obtain an official divorce sum- mons from Rachel. He noted bitterly that he “had taken care of Rachel’s legitimate child from what little he has been able to earn,” whereas she had “completely forgotten her duty and let husband and child alone and instead given herself up to whoring with everyone.” After this vicious indictment, Lavien de- manded that Rachel be denied all legal rights to his property, which would be preserved for their son, 13-year-old Peter. Summoned to appear in court in St. Croix, BARBARIC TACTICS In the West Indies European settlers lived in fear of slave revolts and relied on sadistic physical punishments, such as flogging (below), to subdue male and female slaves. BUDDYMAYS/ALAMY/ACI GRANGER/CORDON PRESS ALEXANDER HAMILTON always had a special relationship with money. His face has graced U.S. paper currency since the 1860s, but in 2015, the U.S. Treasury announced plans to redesign the ten-dollar bill, where Hamilton currently appears. One of the pos- sible new design ideas is to feature an important American woman on the bill in addition to Hamilton’s portrait. Hamilton fans can look forward to the new ten-dollar look when it debuts in 2020. ALL ABOUT THE HAMILTONS THE CLASSIC TEN-DOLLAR BILL WILL GET A NEW FACE IN 2020.