It was my original intention to write a biography of Alexander Hamilton
in a more flexible manner than is customary with that method of
reintroducing the dead to the living, but without impinging upon the
territory of fiction. But after a visit to the British and Danish West
Indies in search of the truth regarding his birth and ancestry, and
after a wider acquaintance with the generally romantic character of his
life, to say nothing of the personality of this most endearing and
extraordinary of all our public men, the instinct of the novelist proved
too strong; I no sooner had pen in hand than I found myself working in
the familiar medium, although preserving the historical sequence. But,
after all, what is a character novel but a dramatized biography? We
strive to make our creations as real to the world as they are to us.
Why, then, not throw the graces of fiction over the sharp hard facts
that historians have laboriously gathered? At all events, this
infinitely various story of Hamilton appealed too strongly to my
imagination to be frowned aside, so here, for better or worse, is the
result. Nevertheless, and although the method may cause the book to read
like fiction, I am conscientious in asserting that almost every
important incident here related of his American career is founded on
documentary or published facts or upon family tradition; the few that
are not have their roots among the probabilities, and suggested
themselves. As for the West Indian part, although I was obliged to work
upon the bare skeleton I unearthed in the old Common Records and Church
Registers, still the fact remains that I did find the skeleton, which I
have emphasized as far as is artistically possible. No date is given nor
deed referred to that cannot be found by other visitors to the Islands.
Moreover, I made a careful study of these Islands as they were in the
time of Hamilton and his maternal ancestors, that I might be enabled to
exercise one of the leading principles of the novelist, which is to
create character not only out of certain well-known facts of heredity,
but out of understood conditions. In this case I had, in addition, an
extensive knowledge of Hamilton's character to work backward from, as
well as his estimate of the friends of his youth and of his mother.
Therefore I feel confident that I have held my romancing propensity well
within the horizon of the probabilities; at all events, I have depicted
nothing which in any way interferes with the veracity of history.
However, having unburdened my imagination, I shall, in the course of a
year or two, write the biography I first had in mind. No writer, indeed,
could assume a more delightful task than to chronicle, in any form,
Hamilton's stupendous services to this country and his infinite variety.