Was Alexander Hamilton actually Jewish?

Historian Andrew Porwancher says there is evidence suggesting one of America's most famous Founding Fathers may have been Jewish.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Statue of Alexander Hamilton in Washington DC
Statue of Alexander Hamilton in Washington DC

History records Alexander Hamilton, one of the most prominent of America’s Founding Fathers, as being a nominal Episcopalian – likely born and raised as a Presbyterian, being largely irreligious through much of his life, taking communion with a Episcopalian bishop on his deathbed and being buried at an Episcopalian church.

But some researchers have suggested Hamilton may have actually been Jewish – at least according to Jewish traditional law, or Halacha.

The theories rest in part on Hamilton’s well-known philosemitism, the fact that he studied as a boy at a Jewish school in the Caribbean, and the likelihood that his mother’s first husband was Jewish.

Dr. Andrew Porwancher, a professor of history at the University of Oklahoma, says that there is strong evidence suggesting that Hamilton might have been Jewish through his mother.

Porwancher, who is currently writing a book addressing the question of whether Hamilton was Jewish, says that while there is no definitive proof Hamilton was Jewish, the evidence available gives reason to believe he may have been.

“When you’re dealing with 18th century history, any claims you could make are probabilistic, rather than certain,” Porwancher told Unpacked. “It’s not the case that we can say definitely that Alexander Hamilton was a Jew. It is the strongest argument that can be made based on the evidence available.”

So what is Porwancher’s theory?

Hamilton, born on the island of Nevis in the Caribbean, was the son of James Hamilton, a Scot, and Rachel Faucette, a person whose ancestry has been the source of much speculation, but who is widely believed to be half British and French Huguenot descent.

Hamilton was born out of wedlock, as his mother had never formally divorced her first husband, Johann Michael Lavien.

Lavien’s background, like Faucette’s has been the focus of much speculation, with many researchers suggesting Lavien was Jewish, based in part on his last name, which was a common variation of the Jewish name Levy.

If Lavien was in fact Jewish, and with intermarriage prohibited by law at the time, Faucette would likely have had to convert to Judaism in order to marry Lavien, though no conversion certificate or ketubah (traditional Jewish marriage license) have been found.