“Hamilton, you are back!”
Under a sunbeam on the water’s edge in Charlestown, Nevis, historian Harvey Hendrickson reads his ode to a still-shrouded sculpture on the lawn.
A few minutes later, the bronze is revealed, and Alexander Hamilton is finally back in the place of his birth nearly 257 years after his family moved to St Croix.
It was in Nevis that Hamilton, one of the founding fathers of the United States, must have dreamt and aspired and “as a consequence, achieved great things,” Nevis Premier Mark Brantley said.
Hamilton, whose towering life returned to the public consciousness with the launch of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony-sweeping musical in 2015, was born on the Eastern Caribbean island in 1757, spending his early years in Nevis and then periods of his youth in St Croix and Statia.
Hamilton’s extraordinary career included being the first secretary of the treasury, founder of the Federalist Party, founder of the US Coast Guard and arguably the father of the United States’ financial system, among other achievements.
Today, Hamilton’s birthplace is a centerpiece of downtown historic Charlestown, Nevis‘ capital, home to a museum and, on the second floor, the site of the Nevis Island Assembly.
And Hamilton remains a major draw for the island, which has seen a wave of new tourism interest driven by the reinvigorated public curiosity about Hamilton; the island’s top resort, the Four Seasons Nevis, has an Alexander Suite, for example; there’s even an Alexander Hamilton Rum on sale in the museum shop.
Because it all truly did begin in tiny Nevis, and Hamilton’s Caribbean contribution was the subject of a thoughtful ceremony at the Alexander Hamilton Museum in Charlestown this past weekend, one that included a moving appearance by Hamilton re-enactor Scott MacScott.
“We, as I like to say, must agree that the United States owes Nevis a debt of gratitude,” Brantley said.
In a world where statues and their place are the subject of sometimes tumultuous conversations, the bigger purpose of the Hamilton work is “not to glorify but to recognize the impact that individuals from small island states can have,” said Jahnel Nisbett, director of the Nevis Historical and Conservation Society.
The idea is for visitors to come to learn about Hamilton “and leave knowing more about Nevis itself and its rich history,” she said.
More broadly, the hope is to inspire young people in Nevis “of the contribution of a Nevisian, that an island this size could have contributed so much to a country the size of the United States,” Brantley said.
The life-size bronze statue, donated by Robin Sommers, is part of a series of statues by American sculptor Benjamin Victor, whose first Hamilton statue debuted at the US Coast Guard Academy in 2018.
Hamilton, set on the grass in front of his onetime home, is portrayed as a younger man to represent his youth in the Caribbean, carrying a scroll – a symbol of his skills and knowledge, said Nicole Scholet, president of the Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society.
The series will also include statues in Statia and St Croix, Hamilton’s other stops in the Caribbean.
And now in Nevis, Hamilton is back, peering out at the sea and the streets of Charlestown, the place that by the caprice of history drove him to one day help forge the American Republic.
“It’s a welcome addition,” Brantley said. “It reminds us that we are never limited by the station of our birth, only by the extent of our ambition and imagination.”