Bad Blood: Abigail Adams on Hamilton

I’ve posted previously about the enmity and bitterness that John Adams felt towards Alexander Hamilton, even after Hamilton’s death.  Amanda Norton of the Massachusetts Historical Society, has a great blog post summarizing some of the highlights of Abigail Adams’ choice words about Hamilton, which focused on what she saw as his unbounded ambition, his influence over prominent statesmen, and his failed marriage vows.  I’ve included some quotes from Adams’ letters below.

In a December 31, 1796 letter to her husband, Abigail wrote:

“You may recollect, that I have often said to you, H. is a Man ambitious as Julius Ceasar. A subtle intriguer, his abilities would make him dangerous if he was to espouse a wrong side. His thirst for Fame is insatiable. I have ever kept my Eye upon him. He has obtaind a great influence over some of the most worthy and amiable of our acquaintance whom I could name.”

On January 28, 1797, a few months before the Adams administration began, Abigail wrote to John complaining of Hamilton’s cunning in trying to influence the 1796 election.  She remarked about Hamilton’s “wicked eyes,” claiming that “the very devil is in them.”

Mr. Black told me the other day on his return from Boston that Col. H. was loosing ground with his Friends in Boston, On what account I inquired. Why for the part he is said to have acted in the late Election. Aya what was that? Why they say that he tried to keep out both Mr. A–s and J–n, and that he behaved with great duplicity. He wanted to bring in Pinckney that he himself might be the dictator. So you see according to the old adage, Murder will out. I despise a Janus tho I do not feel a disposition to rail at or condemn the conduct of those who did not vote for you, because it is my firm belief that if the people had not been imposed upon by false reports and misrepresentations, the vote would have been nearly unanimous. H–n dared not risk his popularity to come out openly in opposition, but he went secretly cunningly as he thought to work, and as his influence is very great in the N England States, he imposed upon them. Ames you know has been his firm friend. I do not believe he suspected him, nor Cabot neither whom I believe he play’d upon. Smith of S C was duped by him I suspect.  Beware of that spair Cassius, has always occured to me when I have seen that cock sparrow. O I have read his Heart in his wicked Eyes many a time. The very devil is in them. They are laciviousness itself, or I have no skill in Physiognomy.

Pray burn this Letter. Dead Men tell no tales. It is really too bad to survive the Flames. I shall not dare to write so freely to you again unless you assure that you have complied with my request.

In a January 12, 1799 letter, Abigail described the idea of Hamilton having a top ranking position in the army in the Adams administration.  She complained that Hamilton’s nomination to such a position would “ill suit[]” the New England stomach.  She also alluded to his public affair with Maria Reynolds, stating that he was damned to “everlasting Infamy.”

“The Idea which prevails here, is that Hamilton will be first in command, as there is very little Idea that Washington will be any thing more than, Name as to actual Service, and I am told that it ill suits the N England Stomack. They say He is not a Native, and beside He has so damnd himself to everlasting Infamy, that He ought not to be Head of any thing. The Jacobins Hate him and the Federilists do not Love him. Serious people are mortified; and every Uriah must tremble for his Bathsheba”

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