In preparation for Valentine’s Day, here are some Hamilton-themed Valentine’s Day gifts (and gifs)!
Slate recently featured these Hamilton musical inspired Valentine’s Day postcards from artist Casey Barber (who also came up with the My Shot cocktail recipe I featured on Hamil-Swag: Shot Glasses. The postcards are available via Etsy for $20.
The New-York Historical Society sells a necklace for $78.00 that is inspired by one of Hamilton’s love letters to Eliza that has the inscription: “I meet you in every dream.” The website’s description states:
Few figures in the history of the United States have left such a profound legacy as that of Alexander Hamilton, America’s first Secretary to the Treasury. This modern sterling silver pendant is inscribed with a delightful quotation from Hamilton’s intimate letter to Elizabeth Schuyler, dated October 5, 1780, only a few weeks before their marriage. It displays his elegance as a wordsmith, his charm and his humanity, often forgotten among the great issues of military history and statesmanship for which he is best remembered.
Hamilton’s complete sentence read: “I meet you in every dream – and when I wake I cannot close my eyes again for ruminating on your sweetnesses.”
Hamilton Grange National Memorial, Hamilton’s country home is the only home he ever owned. The home was built in 1801, three years before Hamilton’s death. In 1889, the home was moved for the first time to 287 Convent Avenue. According to the New York Times, the National Park Service took stewardship of the property in 1962.
In 1967, the Landmarks Preservation Committee observed:
“The almost square architectural mass of Hamilton Grange is impressive in its symmetry and handsome proportions. Designed by one of the City’s best early architects, John McComb, Jr., and incorporating features suggested by Hamilton, this Federal style house, with its porches and unpretentious clpaboard exterior, has a gracious dignity. ‘The Grange’ was planned as a country seat by Alexander Hamilton for the open countryside and was named after his paternal grandfather’s home in Scotland. It is one of the few remaining notable historical houses, designed in the Federal Style, of true architectural distinction.”
In 2006, the National Park Service began an $8.2 million restoration project to restore the house, including a restoration of the original entryway and front and back porches. For the first time in 119 years, the house would be visible from all four sides. However, the ultimate location of the house created some controversy because the house was placed in a different orientation than was originally intended so that it could face 141st Street, as documented by the New York Times in a February 2008 article:
This spring, the National Park Service plans to move the Grange from a cramped nook on Convent Avenue to a far more generous setting in a hillside corner of nearby St. Nicholas Park in Upper Manhattan.
In doing so, the service will swing the house around to face West 141st Street. That means that the Grange’s front door will end up oriented northeast rather than southwest, as was intended by Hamilton and his architect, John McComb Jr., when the home was completed in 1802.
This is a grave concern to some preservationists, who believe the government is squandering a chance to authentically restore the home of a towering founding father.
After the house was moved, the National Park Service created a short video, available on YouTube documenting the process of moving the house and explaining the historical significance of Hamilton Grange.
Wolfe House & Building Movers also released a nine minute video compilation of news coverage of the house being moved so that you can watch it in action.
If you’re in New York, make sure to stop by Hamilton Grange, now located at 414 W 141st St, New York, NY 10031! Information on visiting hours and tours is available here.
Below is a continuation of my previous post about Hamilton Broadway lines in the context of the primary sources that inspired them.
“Laurens, I like you a lot.” (Hamilton, “My Shot”)
Cold in my professions, warm in ⟨my⟩ friendships, I wish, my Dear Laurens, it m⟨ight⟩ be in my power, by action rather than words, ⟨to⟩ convince you that I love you. I shall only tell you that ’till you bade us Adieu, I hardly knew the value you had taught my heart to set upon you. Indeed, my friend, it was not well done. You know the opinion I entertain of mankind, and how much it is my desire to preserve myself free from particular attachments, and to keep my happiness independent on the caprice of others. You sh⟨ould⟩ not have taken advantage of my sensibility to ste⟨al⟩ into my affections without my consent. But as you have done it and as we are generally indulgent to those we love, I shall not scruple to pardon the fraud you have committed, on condition that for my sake, if not for your own, you will always continue to merit the partiality, which you have so artfully instilled into ⟨me⟩. – Hamilton writing to John Laurens in April 1779.
“Will you relish being a poor man’s wife? Unable to provide for your life?” (Hamilton to Eliza, “That Would Be Enough”)
“But now we are talking of times to come, tell me my pretty damsel have you made up your mind upon the subject of housekeeping? Do you soberly relish the pleasure of being a poor mans wife? Have you learned to think a home spun preferable to a brocade and the rumbling of a waggon wheel to the musical rattling of a coach and six? Will you be able to see with perfect composure your old acquaintances flaunting it in gay life, tripping it along in elegance and splendor, while you hold an humble station and have no other enjoyments than the sober comforts of a good wife? Can you in short be an Aquileia and chearfully plant turnips with me, if fortune should so order it? If you cannot my Dear we are playing a comedy of all in the wrong, and you should correct the mistake before we begin to act the tragedy of the unhappy couple.” – Hamilton writing to Elizabeth Schuyler in August 1780.
“Hamilton’s a host unto himself. As long as he can hold a pen, he’s a threat.” (Jefferson to Madison, “Adams Administration”)
“Hamilton is really a colossus to the anti-Republican party. Without numbers, he is a host within himself.” – Jefferson writing to Madison on September 21, 1795.
“Jefferson has beliefs. Burr has none.” (Hamilton, “Election of 1800”)
“There is no doubt but that upon every virtuous and prudent calculation Jefferson is to be preferred. He is by far not so dangerous a man and he has pretensions to character.
As to Burr there is nothing in his favour. His private character is not defended by his most partial friends. He is bankrupt beyond redemption except by the plunder of his country.” – Hamilton writing to Oliver Wolcott, Jr. on December 16, 1800. For more of Hamilton’s thoughts on Jefferson v. Burr, see my post here.
Fishs Eddy offers this dueling gift box of Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton shot glasses on their website for $12. I received these as a Christmas present this year, and love them! They are very sturdy and well made (but be warned, they pour pretty large shots).
Cafe Press offers this Fight Club Hamilton shot glass, combining A. Ham + one of my favorite movies, for $13.99.
Cafe Press also offers this I Love Federalists shot glass for $13.99.
And if you’re looking for something to put into these shot glasses, food writer Casey Barber has an exciting recipe for an Alexander Hamilton cocktail she named “My Shot” on Good Food Stories. She writes:
As the Hamilton musical grows into more of a phenomenon, I feel compelled to celebrate its genius. I don’t have an acre of land, a troop to command, or a dollop of fame, but I can make a damn good cocktail. So here’s my way of adding my voice to the narrative: a boozy homage to the checkered, complex life of Alexander Hamilton, using spirits—rum, whiskey, cider, pimento dram, and applejack—that were popular during Hamilton’s lifetime.
I’ve written before about Hamilton’s pivotal role in the the Election of 1800. Below are some excerpts from Hamilton’s letters in December 1800 on the presidential contest between Jefferson and Burr.
On December 23, 1800, Hamilton wrote to Harrison Gray Otis, a prominent Boston Federalist expressing his fears about Burr’s character and boundless ambition:
Burr loves nothing but himself; thinks of nothing but his own aggrandizement, and will be content with nothing, short of permanent power in his own hands. No compact that he should make with any passion in his breast, except ambition, could be relied upon by himself. How then should we be able to rely upon any agreement with him. Jefferson, I suspect, will not dare much. Burr will dare every thing, in the sanguine hope of effecting every thing.
In December 1800, Hamilton wrote to Oliver Wolcott, Jr., President Adams’ Secretary of Treasury (who would resign from the position days later) with the purpose of dissuading him from favoring Burr’s candidacy. Wolcott, Jr. and other Federalists were so opposed to Jefferson’s policies that many saw Burr as a more palatable alternative. Hamilton fiercely resisted this position:
There is no circumstance which has occurred in the course of our political affairs that has given me so much pain as the idea that Mr. Burr might be elevated to the Presidency by the means of the Fderalists. I am of opinion that this party has hitherto solid claims of merit with the public and so long as it does nothing to forfeit its title to confidence I shall continue to hope that our misfortunes are temporary and that the party will ere long emerge from its depression. But if it shall act a foolish or unworthy part in any capital instance, I shall then despair.
Such without doubt will be the part it will act, if it shall seriously attempt to support Mr. Burr in opposition to Mr. Jefferson. If it fails, as after all is not improbable, it will have rivetted the animosity of that person, will have destroyed or weakened the motives to moderation which he must at present feel and it will expose them to the disgrace of a defeat in an attempt to elevate to the first place in the Government one of the worst men in the community. If it succeeds, it will have done nothing more nor less than place in that station a man who will possess the boldness and daring necessary to give success to the Jacobin system instead of one who for want of that quality will be less fitted to promote it.
Let it not be imagined that Mr. Burr can be won to the Federal Views. It is a vain hope. Stronger ties, and stronger inducements than they can offer, will impel him in a different direction. His ambition will not be content with those objects which virtuous men of either party will allot to it, and his situation and his habits will oblige him to have recourse to corrupt expedients, from which he will be restrained by no moral scruples. To accomplish his ends he must lean upon unprincipled men and will continue to adhere to the myrmidons who have hitherto seconded him. To these he will no doubt add able rogues of the Federal party; but he will employ the rogues of all parties to overrule the good men of all parties and to prosecute projects which wise men of every description will disapprove.
These things are to be inferred with moral certainty from the character of the man. Every step in his career proves that he has formed himself upon the model of Catiline, and he is too coldblo[o]ded and too determined a conspirator ever to change his plan.
On December 16, 1800, Hamilton wrote to Wolcott again:
“There is no doubt but that upon every virtuous and prudent calculation Jefferson is to be preferred. He is by far not so dangerous a man and he has pretensions to character.
As to Burr there is nothing in his favour. His private character is not defended by his most partial friends. He is bankrupt beyond redemption except by the plunder of his country. His public principles have no other spring or aim than his own aggrandisement per fas et nefas. If he can, he will certainly disturb our institutions to secure to himself permanent power and with it wealth. He is truly the Cataline of America—& if I may credit Major Wilcocks,he has held very vindictive language respecting his opponents.”
In both letters to Wolcott, Hamilton describes Burr as the Catiline of America, referring to a Roman Senator of the 1st Century BC who attempted to overthrow the Senate and the Roman Republic, but was stopped by Cicero and then exiled.
On December 24, 1800, Hamilton wrote to Gouverneur Morris:
Another subject—Jefferson or Burr?—the former without all doubt. The latter in my judgment has no principle public or private—could be bound by no agreement—will listen to no monitor but his ambition; & for this purpose will use the worst part of the community as a ladder to climb to perman[en]t power & an instrument to crush the better part. He is bankrupt beyond redemption except by the resources that grow out of war and disorder or by a sale to a foreign power or by great peculation. War with Great Brita[i]n would be the immediate instrument. He is sanguine enough to hope every thing—daring enough to attempt every thing—wicked enough to scruple nothing. From the elevation of such a man heaven preserve the Country!
He followed this up with a second letter to Morris two days later on December 26, 1800, stating:
“That on the same ground Jefferson ought to be preferred to Burr.
I trust the Federalists will not finally be so mad as to vote for the latter. I speak with an intimate & accurate knowlege of character. His elevation can only promote the purposes of the desperate and proflicate. ⟨If t⟩here be ⟨a man⟩ in the world I ought to hate it is Jefferson. With Burr I have always been personally well. But the public good must be paramount to every private consideration. My opinion may be freely used with such reserves as you shall think discreet.”
On May 17, 1923, the Treasury Department officially unveiled the statue of Alexander Hamilton in the South Plaza of the Treasury Building.
The Program of Exercises Attending the Unveiling of the Statute of Alexander Hamilton, available from US Archives includes the following statement on Hamilton’s life and legacy:
ALEXANDER HAMILTON was born in the island of Nevis, West Indies, on January 1 1, 1757, and died in New York July 12, 1804. At the age of 12 years it was necessary for him to earn his own living as clerk in a counting house at Saint Croix, but his genius being soon recognized funds were raised by his friends to enable him to come to America to finish his education. He arrived here in 1772 and in 1774 entered college where he made a brilliant record as a student. In March, 1776, he secured a commission in the Continental Army and participated in important battles of the Revolution, displaying skill and courage. He also served as aid-de- camp on the staff of Washington. At the close of the war he was but 24 years of age, but was even then considered one of the great men of the day. He was elected to the Continental Congress from New York October 1, 1782, but resigned in 1783 and returned to the practice of law. He took an active part in the preparation of the Constitution of which he was a signer. When Congress in 1789 established a Treasury Department, Washington at once made Hamilton its first Secretary, where his great ability was devoted to organizing the Department and inaugurating a successful national financial policy. The Encyclopedia Americana in its biography of this great public character says “American history presents no more striking character than Alexander Hamilton. He was not popular, nor did he strive after popularity, but after 100 years his name still holds a noble eminence. He lived for the public good. Eloquent and refined, able and brilliant, the embodiment of devotion, integrity and courage, he has left as deep a mark upon our political institutions as any other statesman our country has produced.”
Funds for the statue were raised by the Alexander Hamilton Association, which was established in February 1908 “for the purpose of raising, by public or private subscription, the money necessary to erect a suitable memorial in the form of a monument or statue to perpetuate the memory and commemorate the public achievements of Alexander Hamilton.” The president of the association was Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan, the lone dissenter in the Plessy v. Ferguson case who famously wrote:
“Our constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law. The humblest is the peer of the most powerful. The law regards man as man, and takes no account of his surroundings or of his color when his civil rights as guaranteed by the supreme law of the land are involved.”
After Justice Harlan’s death, the presidency was taken over by Justice Josiah A. Van Orsdel, who presided over the final unveiling of the statue. Congress appropriated $10,000 for the statute, and the other funds were furnished by the Alexander Hamilton Association and private donors.
The statue is inscribed on three sides. The front inscription reads:
1757 — 1804
FIRST SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY
SOLDIER, ORATOR, STATESMAN
CHAMPION OF CONSTITUTIONAL UNION,
REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT AND
By March of 1780, Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler were engaged. The wedding date was set for December of that year, and as Hamilton continued his duties as General Washington’s aide-de-campe, he wrote her several letters expressing his sentiments. Although most of Elizabeth’s friends affectionately called her Eliza, Hamilton referred to her as his Betsey. The letters excerpted below are from the period July 1780 to October 1781, and are all available via the National Archives’ Founders Online.
I love you more and more every hour. The sweet softness and delicacy of your mind and manners, the elevation of your sentiments, the real goodness of your heart, its tenderness to me, the beauties of your face and person, your unpretending good sense and that innocent simplicity and frankness which pervade your actions; all these appear to me with increasing amiableness and place you in my estimation above all the rest of your sex.
July 31, 1780– Because Eliza’s letters have never been found, we don’t know what the back and forth exchange was between the two, but it appears that Hamilton was reassuring Eliza about his feelings for her.
Since my last I have received three letters from you,the sweetest ever dictated by a fond heart. Banish your uneasiness my love; I discard for ever, every idea injurious to your tenderness which every thing convinces me is without an equal but in mine. I have no time to indulge my heart by dwelling on those assurances which it delights to be ever giving you of its admiration, of its esteem of its love. My life shall be a continued proof of the unbounded affection of your
In August of 1780, a few months before they were to be married, Hamilton playfully questioned whether Eliza would be able to handle the challenges of her new uncertain financial situation after the two were married. He asks her to think seriously about whether she can adjust to a lifestyle of financial uncertainty and be satisfied with it even when she sees her friends and acquaintances living far grander lifestyles:
But now we are talking of times to come, tell me my pretty damsel have you made up your mind upon the subject of housekeeping? Do you soberly relish the pleasure of being a poor mans wife? Have you learned to think a home spun preferable to a brocade and the rumbling of a waggon wheel to the musical rattling of a coach and six? Will you be able to see with perfect composure your old acquaintances flaunting it in gay life, tripping it along in elegance and splendor, while you hold an humble station and have no other enjoyments than the sober comforts of a good wife? Can you in short be an Aquileia and chearfully plant turnips with me, if fortune should so order it? If you cannot my Dear we are playing a comedy of all in the wrong, and you should correct the mistake before we begin to act the tragedy of the unhappy couple.
I propose you a set of new questions my lovely girl; but though they are asked with an air of levity, they merit a very serious consideration, for on their being resolved in the affirmative stripped of all the colorings of a fond imagination our happiness may absolutely depend. I have not concealed my circumstances from my Betsey; they are far from splendid; they may possibly even be worse than I expect, for every day brings me fresh proof of the knavery of those to whom my little affairs are entrusted. They have already filed down what was in their hands more than one half, and I am told they go on diminishing it, ’till I fear they will reduce it below my former fears. An indifference to property enters into my character too much, and what affects me now as my Betsey is concerned in it, I should have laughed at or not thought of at all a year ago. But I have thoroughly examined my own heart. Beloved by you, I can be happy in any situation, and can struggle with every embarrassment of fortune with patience and firmness. I cannot however forbear entreating you to realize our union on the dark side and satisfy, without deceiving yourself, how far your affection for me can make you happy in a privation of those elegancies to which you have been accustomed. If fortune should smile upon us, it will do us no harm to have been prepared for adversity; if she frowns upon us, by being prepared, we shall encounter it without the chagrin of disappointment. Your future rank in life is a perfect lottery; you may move in an exalted you may move in a very humble sphere; the last is most probable; examine well your heart. And in doing it, dont figure to yourself a cottage in romance, with the spontaneous bounties of nature courting you to enjoyment. Dont imagine yourself a shepherdess, your hair embroidered with flowers a crook in your hand tending your flock under a shady tree, by the side of a cool fountain, your faithful shepherd sitting near and entertaining you with gentle tales of love. These are pretty dreams and very apt to enter into the heads of lovers when they think of a connection without the advantages of fortune. But they must not be indulged. You must apply your situation to real life, and think how you should feel in scenes of which you may find examples every day. So far My Dear Betsey as the tenderest affection can compensate for other inconveniences in making your estimate, you cannot give too large a credit for this article. My heart overflows with every thing for you, that admiration, esteem and love can inspire. I would this moment give the world to be near you only to kiss your sweet hand. Believe what I say to be truth and imagine what are my feelings when I say it. Let it awake your sympathy and let our hearts melt in a prayer to be soon united, never more to be separated.
On December 14, 1780, Alexander and Eliza were married at the Schuyler Mansion in Albany. Shortly afterwards, Hamilton returned to his post and wrote letters about the pain of being separated from his new wife.
I impatiently long to hear from you the state of your mind since our painful separation. Be as happy as you can, I entreat you, my amiable, my beloved wife. But let not absence deprive me of the least particle of your affection. Always remember those tender proofs I have so frequently given you of mine and preserve for me unabated the only blessing which can make life of any value to me.
Constantly uppermost in my thoughts and affections, I am happy only when my moments are devoted to some office that respects you. I would give the world to be able to tell you all I feel and all I wish, but consult your own heart and you will know mine. What a world will soon be between us!
October 12, 1781– Hamilton chastised Eliza for not writing him enough letters, but then expressed how his annoyance melted away when he thought of the impending birth of his child.
You complain of me my love, for not writing to you more frequently, but have I not greater reason to complain of you? Since I left Kings ferry, I have received three letters from you, that is three in seven weeks. You have no occupations to prevent your writing; I am constantly employed. Yet I am sure I have written to you during that period more than twenty letters. Don’t imagine that this neglect will go unpunished. I hope to see you in three or four weeks from this time, and you may then expect to be called to a severe account. I know you rely upon your power over me. You expect that your usual blandishments will have the usual charm. You think you have only to smile and caress and you will disarm my resentment; but you are mistaken. The crime is of too serious nature to be forgiven; except with one atonement which I am sure it will not be easy for you to make. This is to love me better than ever. If upon deliberate examination you should find this impossible, I may compound for one substitute. You shall engage shortly to present me with a boy. You will ask me if a girl will not answer the purpose. By no means. I fear, with all the mothers charms, she may inherit the caprices of her father and then she will enslave, tantalize and plague one half ⟨the⟩ sex, out of pure regard to which I protest against a daughter. So far from extenuating your offence this would be an aggravation of it.The idea of a smiling infant in my Betseys arms calls up all the father in it. In imagination I embrace the mother and embrace the child a thousand times. I can scarce refrain from shedding tears of joy. But I must not indulge these sensations; they are unfit for the boisterous scenes of war and whenever they intrude themselves make me but half a soldier.
Happy birthday to the founding father without a father! On January 11, 1757, Alexander Hamilton was born in uncertain circumstances on the island of Nevis in the West Indies. However, by sheer brilliance, luck, and a relentless drive and ambition, Hamilton became (among many other accomplishments) an influential Revolutionary thinker, invaluable aide-de-camp to General Washington, creator of the Federalist Paper, Secretary of Treasury, and a celebrated lawyer
When Hamilton was 12, he wrote to his friend Edward Stevens who was studying in King’s College and described the extent to which his ambition made him unable to accept the circumstances of his birth as something that could limit him to a menial position for the rest of his life:
“my Ambition is prevalent that I contemn the grov’ling and condition of a Clerk or the like, to which my Fortune &c. condemns me and would willingly risk my life tho’ not my Character to exalt my Station. Im confident, Ned that my Youth excludes me from any hopes of immediate Preferment nor do I desire it, but I mean to prepare the way for futurity. Im no Philosopher you see and may be jusly said to Build Castles in the Air. My Folly makes me ashamd and beg youll Conceal it, yet Neddy we have seen such Schemes successfull when the Projector is Constant I shall Conclude saying I wish there was a War.”
In describing Hamilton’s ambition to John Adams in September of 1798, George Washington stated:
“By some he is considered as an ambitious man, and therefore a dangerous one.—That he is ambitious I shall readily grant, but it is of that laudable kind which prompts a man to excel in whatever he takes in hand.—He is enterprising,—quick in his perceptions,—and his judgment intuitively great:—qualities essential to a great military character, and therefore I repeat, that his loss will be irreparable.”
The AHA Society is putting on a series of events this weekend to commemorate Alexander Hamilton’s birthday on January 11. If you’re in the New York City area this weekend, check out the event description here.
I’ll be giving a talk on the Manhattan Well Murder trial Saturday, January 9 at 12 pm at Hamilton Grange, which has an interesting connection to the case itself. Hope to see some of you there!
Other great events include:
Dr. Tom Oller’s talk on Monday, January 11th at Federal Hall at 11 am entitled “From Colleagues to Rivals: Hamilton and Jefferson in Washington’s Cabinet and Beyond”
Dr. Stephen Knott’s keynote speech at Trinity Church at 1:15 pm on “Washington and Hamilton: The Alliance That Forged America.”