Hamil-Fam: Alexander Hamilton, Jr. and Aaron Burr’s Divorce

Alexander Hamilton’s third child, Alexander Hamilton, Jr. was born in 1786.  Like his father and older brother Philip, Alexander completed a course of study at Columbia College.  Hamilton, Jr. was active in politics and had a military career, spending some time in Spain and Portugal before the War of 1812, and serving as aide-de-camp to General Morgan Lewis.  After time in Europe and Florida, Hamilton, Jr. returned to New York and practiced as a lawyer in the Court of Chancery.

Interestingly, Hamilton, Jr.’s legal career would place him on a collision course with Aaron Burr.

On July 3, 1833, 77-year old Aaron Burr had married wealthy widow Eliza Jumel.  Philip Hone, a successful merchant and the mayor of New York from 1825-1826 wrote in his diary:

Wednesday, July 3. — The celebrated Colonel Burr was married on Monday evening to the equally celebrated Mrs. Jumel, widow of Stephen Jumel. It is benevolent in her to keep the old man in his latter days. One good turn deserves another.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/5/53/Lithograph_of_Eliza_Jumel.jpg/220px-Lithograph_of_Eliza_Jumel.jpg
Image of Eliza Jumel from Wikipedia

In The Morris-Jumel Mansion, Carol Ward writes:

“Upon Stephen Jumel’s death, Eliza was one of the wealthiest widows in New York.  However, she sought additional security in terms of her place in society.  Her marriage to former vice president Aaron Burr in 1833 bolstered her footing among the New York elite.  The marriage was solely out of convenience for both sides.  Aaron Burr was 77 when they married, and he was looking for a source of funds to assist him to cover his expenses.  Eliza quickly saw his endgame and also learned of his infidelity with a much younger woman.  Eliza sued for divorce.  In an interesting turn of events, her lawyer was Alexander Hamilton’s son.  Perhaps this was delayed karma for Aaron Burr, who had shot and killed Hamilton 30 years prior.”

William Henry Shelton wrote that during the divorce trial, Jumel and Burr were “hurling correspondents at each other, and on the part of Burr, in the unfair proportion of four to one.”

The divorce case based on Burr’s alleged infidelity proceeded privately in the Court of Chancery.  Hamilton, Jr. represented Eliza Jumel, and Charles O’Conor represented Burr.  On September 14, 1836, coincidentally the day of Burr’s death, the divorce was granted by Judge Philo T. Ruggles.

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