“The happiest man I have ever known” grew up on St. Croix when it was part of the Danish West Indies. His Huguenot family had a sugar plantation, “Clifton Hill”, and was in the sugar, molasses, and probably rum, business. One of St. Croix’s major trading partners was Philadelphia, so there was much travel back and forth and several members of the family had settled there. Francis and his brother Peter were sent to Philadelphia to school and graduated together from Princeton in 1794. Francis became a U.S. citizen at 21 and two years later married a Philadelphia girl, Sarah Caldwell.
He went back to the islands and started on the accepted mercantile path. Then came a religious conversion as sudden as it was complete. Returning to Philadelphia he became deeply involved with the Presbyterian Church. This was despite the fact that the book which had changed his life – The Scholar Armed Against the Errors of the Time  – had warned against the arguments of Deists, Fifth Monarchy Men, Jews, Muggletonians, Quakers, Ranters, Socinians, Turks, and Presbyterians, among others. Some errors of the time must have appeared less dangerous than others.