Did Alexander Hamilton Lie About His Age?
Examining a question that has plagued biographers for centuries
For many years after his death in 1804, Alexander Hamilton remained a recognizable but slightly obscure figure in American history. His face adorned the $10 bill, he was credited with the creation of the country’s financial system, and he was an author of The Federalist Papers — but few Americans would have known the details of Hamilton’s life.
That all changed with the release of Hamilton: An American Musical, a wildly-popular Broadway show that thrust Alexander Hamilton back into the limelight. Suddenly, Americans began devouring every detail of Hamilton’s life. If you want to discover any small fact about Hamilton, you can certainly find it.
There is still one question that remains elusive, however. It is a question that Hamilton’s biographers cannot answer. Even Hamilton’s own son could never discover the truth.
How old was Alexander Hamilton?
It seems like a simple question, but it’s not. Even Ron Ron Chernow, the biographer who penned the book that inspired the Broadway play, wrote that “Few questions bedevil Hamilton biographers more than the baffling matter of his year of birth.”
Here’s why the question remains baffling:
What we know
During his lifetime, Alexander Hamilton often told his friends that he was born in 1757. Even the listed age on Hamilton’s tombstone in New York matches that year.
Because of Hamilton’s own insistence, it was widely assumed for many years that the 1757 date was accurate. This would put Alexander Hamilton at the young age of 19 in 1776, when the United States declared independence from Great Britain.
In recent years, biographers have discovered official documents from the Caribbean island of Nevis, Hamilton’s birthplace, that dispute the 1757 date. The Nevisian records state that Hamilton was born in 1755 — two years before the supposed date of the founding father’s birth.
Why did Hamilton lie about his age?
Biographers are still split on the actual reason why Alexander Hamilton lied about his age.