Hamil-Fam: The Death of Peggy Schuyler

On March 14, 1801, Margarita (Peggy) Schuyler Van Rensselaer died at her husband’s mansion in Albany after prolonged suffering from an unknown illness.  She was laid to rest in a private family vault on the grounds of the Van Rensselaer Manor House.  I’ve written previously about the romance between Peggy and her husband Stephen, who had eloped against her father’s wishes when Peggy was 25 and Stephen was 19.

Hamilton was in the Albany area attending court, and kept an eye on Peggy and reported back to his wife Eliza:

“Your Sister Peggy had a better night last night than for three weeks past and is much easier this morning. Yet her situation is such as only to authorise a glimmering of hope. Adieu my beloved. A thousand tender wishes for you.”

On March 10, 1801, Hamilton’s legal business in Albany was complete, but he wrote to Eliza that Peggy and his father and mother-in-law had asked him to stay in town during her illness:

The Senate has refused on account of the interference with other business to hear any more causes this session; so that were it not for the situation of your Sister Peggy, her request that I would stay a few days longer and the like request of your father and mother, I could now return to you. But how can I resist these motives for continuing a while longer?

Things must change this week but at all events I set out for New York the beginning of the next. I cannot resolve to be longer kept from you and my dear Children.

There has been little alteration either way in Peggys situation for these past four days.

On March 16, 1801, Alexander Hamilton wrote to Eliza, conveying the news that Peggy had passed away and reassuring her that Peggy had been “sensible” and “resigned” as she faced her death.

On Saturday, My Dear Eliza, your sister took leave of her sufferings and friends, I trust, to find repose and happiness in a better country.

Viewing all that she had endured for so long a time, I could not but feel a relief in the termination of the scene. She was sensible to the last and resigned to the important change.

Your father and mother are now calm. All is as well as it can be; except the dreadful ceremonies which custom seems to have imposed as indispensable in this pla⟨ce⟩, and which at every instant open anew the closing wounds of bleeding hearts. Tomorrow the funeral takes place. The day after I hope to set sail for N York.

I long to come to console and comfort you my darling Betsey. Adieu my sweet angel. Remember the duty of Christian Resignation.   Ever Yrs

In 1848, the old vault which had housed Peggy’s remains was demolished, and her remains were removed to an underground vault in Lot 1, Section 14 at the Albany Rural Cemetery. Above the vault is a large white marble monument. The east face of the monument bears the inscription “Margaret Schuyler Wife of Stephen Van Rensselaer Died March 14th, 1801.”

Peggy was survived by her husband and her son, Stephen Van Rensselaer IV.  Her husband remarried in 1802, a year after her death, to Cornelia Paterson.

Stephen Van Rensselaer IV.jpg
Image of Stephen Van Rensselaer IV from Wikipedia

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