Episode 335: Andrew Porwancher, The Jewish World of Alexander Hamilton
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Alexander Hamilton played important roles in the founding of the United States. He served in the Continental Army, helped frame the United States Constitution, and helped place the United States on a secure economic footing with his work as the first Secretary of the Treasury. But how did Hamilton come to know so much about the economic systems that could help the new United States build a strong economic footing? Why did Hamilton work for and believe that the new United States should be a nation that welcomed all religions and forms of religious worship?

Andrew Porwancher, the Wick Cary Associate Professor of History at the University of Oklahoma and the Ernest May Fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center, joins us to investigate the Jewish world and upbringing of Alexander Hamilton.

This episode is supported by an American Rescue Plan grant to the Omohundro Institute from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

About the Show

Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history. It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world. Ben Franklin’s World is a production of the Omohundro Institute.

Episode Summary

Andrew Porwancher, the Wick Cary Associate Professor of History at the University of Oklahoma and the Ernest May Fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center, joins us to investigate the Jewish world and upbringing of Alexander Hamilton.

Using details from his book, The Jewish World of Alexander Hamilton, Andrew reveals details about Hamilton’s childhood in the Caribbean and how he came to be educated at a Jewish school; Hamilton’s work as a clerk for an internationally-focused mercantile firm; And information about the many ways Hamilton worked to enact internationally-focused economic policies for the new United States and to include Jews in American civil and political society.

What You’ll Discover

  • The connection between constitutional history and Jewish history
  • Jewish influences on American constitutional history
  • Alexander Hamilton’s views on Christianity
  • Hamilton’s Caribbean and Jewish childhood
  • Facts and sources we have as to Hamilton’s Jewish upbringing
  • Jewish life in the early modern Caribbean
  • The Jewish education Hamilton likely received
  • Hamilton’s move and life on St. Croix
  • Caribbean lessons for Alexander Hamilton
  • Hamilton’s account of a 1772 hurricane
  • How Hamilton came to mainland North America
  • Hamilton’s use of Christian language
  • Judaism in the early American republic
  • Views of Jews and Judaism in early British North America
  • What Hamilton made of British North America’s anti-semitism
  • Role of Hamilton’s Jewish education in his role as a U.S. founder
  • The long history of antisemitism
  • Early Americans’ inclusion of Jews in American civil society
  • Citizenship in the new United States

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Complementary Episodes

Time Warp Question


In your opinion, what might have happened if Alexander Hamilton had openly acknowledged and embraced his Jewish heritage? How might his role as a founder of the United States have been different and would he have had the opportunities to shape the United States that he had?

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The post Episode 335: Andrew Porwancher, The Jewish World of Alexander Hamilton appeared first on Ben Franklin's World.

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