Four American Patriots  by Alma Holman Burton

"The Little West Indian"

Alexander Hamilton landed at Boston on a bright day in October, 1772. He had only time to look about the docks. Then he took a packet for New York, where he intended to go to school.

When he reached New York, he hunted up some clergymen, to whom he gave letters from his friend, Mr. Knox. These gentlemen received him with much kindness, and advised him to go to the grammar school at Elizabethtown, in New Jersey.

Before very long, Alexander was hard at work. He soon had many friends in Elizabethtown. Governor Livingston welcomed him to his home, and he often spent his evenings reading in the governor's library.

Once, when the baby of a lady friend died, he watched all night by the little casket. The room was lighted dimly with one candle, and as he sat alone such beautiful thoughts came to him about the dead child that he wrote them out in verse. The next morning he gave the verses to the sad mother. They comforted her very much.

At the end of one year, Alexander had been so diligent in the grammar school that he was ready for college. He went to see the president of Princeton College. He told him he was anxious to finish his studies as soon as possible, and asked to be allowed to double the work outside of the class.

The president declared that no such thing had ever been done, but promised to talk with the officers about it. He soon wrote Alexander that it had been decided to refuse his request. "But I am convinced," he said, "that you will do honor to any seminary in which you may be educated."

Alexander returned to New York. He entered Columbia College, which was then called King's College. Here he was so witty and amiable that he made many friends. He wrote a play, which the British officers acted, and he joined a debating club where the students talked much about the troubles with the king.

Alexander remembered what the old Scotch pilot had said about the Americans, and at first he always debated on the king's side.

But one time, I do not know why, he went up to Boston. Perhaps it was to attend to some business for his old employer at the counting-house. He found Boston in great excitement. A few nights before, the people in that city had met together to talk about the tax which Parliament had put on tea. They said they would not buy taxed tea, and that the ships in the harbor must take it back to England; but the king's governor would not send the tea back. Then some of the men dressed themselves like Indians, and hurried down to the harbor. They climbed up the sides of the ships and threw the tea overboard.

Now, the people knew very well that they would be punished for this bold act. Every night they held great public meetings. You may be sure that Alexander Hamilton attended all the meetings while he was in Boston.

He heard Samuel Adams, John Hancock, James Otis, and other patriots speak.

They said they were willing to pay taxes if they might vote like the freemen of England; but not a single American was allowed to sit in Parliament, and so Parliament had no right to tax Americans.

They said, if one tax were paid, many more must be paid; and, if the people dared to resist the law of Parliament, British troops would soon be placed in every town.

They said they were willing to obey a king, but they would not obey a tyrant.

The more Alexander listened to the talks of these great men, the more he admired them. He even found himself clapping his hands and cheering with all the rest when they cried, "No taxation without representation!"

And when he returned to New York, he would not defend the king's laws any more. He argued in debate on the side of the patriots.

He often walked under the shade of a grove of trees, talking low to himself. And when the neighbors passed by, they pointed him out and said, "There is the little West Indian, who makes such fine speeches in King's College."