Weatherwatch: the storm that launched Hamilton's career

Alexander Hamilton’s account of a Virgin Islands hurricane in 1772 was to prove the springboard to his career

Few can adequately express the power of a hurricane in words. The career of one young man was founded on an account he sent to the Royal Danish American Gazette in September 1772 of a hurricane he witnessed in the Virgin Islands: “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.” He calls the hurricane the wrath of the deity – “He who gave the winds to blow, and the lightnings to rage” – and ends with a plea for aid for the survivors: “O ye, who revel in affluence, see the afflictions of humanity and bestow your superfluity to ease them.”

Vintage American History painting of founding father Alexander Hamilton
Vintage American History painting of founding father Alexander Hamilton. Photograph: John Parrot/Getty/Stocktrek Images

The author was a lowly 17-year-old clerk called Alexander Hamilton. Some businessmen were so impressed by his writing that they raised a subscription to send the young man north to complete his education. In New York, Hamilton studied law, and was attracted to revolutionary politics. He became one of the founding fathers of the US, and the subject of a hit musical. Even a hurricane can blow some good.

Contributor

David Hambling

The GuardianTramp

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