Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Before his son Philip died in in 1801, Hamilton was, for all the years he did his work “Founding” America, like the other key Founders, a theistic rationalist.

Douglass Adair and Marvin Harvey wrote an excellent article in the William & Mary Quarterly in 1955 entitled Was Alexander Hamilton a Christian Statesman? Adair and Harvey identify four religious phases in Hamilton’s life: He had a conventionally religious youth. From 1777 to 1792, he seemed totally indifferent to religion. From the period of the French Revolution onward, he had an “opportunistic religiosity”, seeking to use Christianity for political ends, and then after the death of his son Philip in 1801, truly became a repentant orthodox Christian. The first three phases of his life were consistent with theistic rationalism.

To see my summary of the details, check out this post. Or click below the fold to see what kind of “God talk” Hamilton engaged in from 1777-92.

From 1777 to 1792 there are, according to Adair and Harvey, only two letters where Hamilton mentions God or religion at all. In one of them, a letter to Anthony Wayne July 6, 1780, he discusses a military chaplain:

“He is just what I should like for a military parson except that he does not whore or drink. He will fight, and he will not insist upon your going to heaven whether you will or not.”

Hamilton’s only other reference to religion in the period from 1777-92 concerned what he desired in a wife. As he wrote to John Laurens in Dec. 1779:

“As to religion, a moderate streak will satisfy me. She must believe in god and hate a saint.”

Certainly not the words of a devout orthodox Christian.