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CHAPTER II.

THE YOUNG VOLUNTEER.

ON

NE day, while Washington was preparing for

the defence of New York, his friend, General Greene, on his way to head-quarters, had occasion to pass through a field where some volunteers were at drill. His attention was at once attracted by a company of artillery, which seemed to be handled with unusual skill by its commander-a mere boy, small in stature, and of slender frame, but rapid in all his movements, and with an air of remarkable intelligence. The general stopped to speak to him, and was convinced, by a few words of conversation, that he had met with a youth of no ordinary abilities. He desired to cultivate his acquaintance, and made some inquiries about him. He was told that the name of the young captain was ALEXANDER HAMILTON, and that he was a student of King's College.

Already in his short life (for he was only nineteen years of age) Hamilton had seen some notable changes of fortune. Born in the West Indies, on the 11th of January, 1757-a native of the mountainisland of Nevis, one of the many rich and fair possessions of the British Crown-he spent his childhood amid the luxuriant beauty and balmy air of the tropics. Yet he had early known poverty and privation. His father was a Scottish gentleman, descended from a branch of the great house of Hamilton, which plays so distinguished a part both in history and romance; but, being a younger son, and having embraced the profession of a merchant, he had emigrated to the West Indies in search of wealth. There he had married a lady of the name of Faucette, a member of one of those Huguenot families, who, banished from France by the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, carried their virtues and their love of freedom to happier climes, and have been the progenitors of so many illustrious men. Alexander was the only child of this marriage that survived to maturity; and, while yet of a very tender age, the death of his mother, and the ruin of his father through commercial speculations, left him entirely dependent on friends for support and education. He was removed to the

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island of Santa Cruz, where some of his mother's relations afforded him such elementary instruction as lay within their reach; and, when only twelve years old, he was placed as a clerk in the counting-house of Mr. Nicholas Cruger, an opulent merchant. He disliked the employment, and sighed for leisure to engage in more congenial studies ; yet he showed such capacity for business, that, before he had completed his fourteenth year, the head of the firm could leave him in sole charge of the establishment during a temporary absence.

He found time, moreover, to cultivate mathematics and chemistry, to improve his knowledge by general reading, and to form his style by the practice of composition. An account, which appeared in a newspaper, of the terrific hurricane that desolated the Leeward Islands, in 1772, attracted universal notice by its literary merit, and was traced to the pen of the youthful Hamilton. It was thought a pity that so much natural talent should not be developed by education, and it was resolved to withdraw him from the counting-house, and to send him to pursue his studies at New York. Had that tempest not raged, and that article not been written, a great name would probably have been wanting in the history of the United States.

Provided with the necessary funds, and with letters of introduction to persons of repute, Hamilton embarked on board a vessel, which was nearly destroyed by fire on the voyage to Boston. He arrived there, however, in safety, and proceeded thence to his place of destination. Having delivered his credentials, he soon found friends to interest themselves in his welfare, and, acting by their advice, he first entered a grammar-school at Elizabethtown, New Jersey, and then, after about a year's preparation, became a member of King's College, New York. This was an institution chartered by George II. "with the good design of promoting a liberal education, and to make the same as beneficial as may be," not only to the inhabitants of the province, “but to all our colonies and territories in America." And here the young student was, for the first time, surrounded by an atmosphere suitable to his tastes and powers. He worked hard at the college-course, easily mastered all the ordinary exercises, and soon added the study of anatomy, having then some intention of adopting the profession of medicine. He distinguished himself as a speaker at the local debating-club, wrote serious poetry, as well as doggerel verses of a satirical character, and, while he acquired a high reputation for ability, he was extremely popular with his fellowstudents, and generally regarded as a lively and pleasant companion. It is stated on the authority of the friend who shared his room, that he was also very regular in his religious observances, not only attending public worship, but always praying on his knees night and morning—a habit which was probably rare with the young men of his age. The same friend relates, that Hamilton's firm belief in the truths of Christianity, and the eloquent and weighty arguments he advanced in their favour, greatly tended to confirm his own wavering faith.

But the political differences, which had arisen between the colonies and the mother-country, were now becoming a subject of universal interest, and drew off the minds of men from every other question. It was natural, that a youth like Hamilton, at an age when the boyish imagination is so readily kindled at the name of liberty, should be an enthusiastic champion of the popular cause. In this, he no doubt resembled the majority of his fellow-collegians. But what was peculiar to himself was the skill, the force, and the judgment, with which he defended his position. At an open-air meeting in New York, he had attended to hear the speakers;

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