“The Eloquence of Silence”: Hamilton, Angelica Church, and John Trumbull

On January 22, 1800, Hamilton playfully wrote to his sister-in-law about his experience of dining in the presence of her portrait on a visit to his in-laws in Albany:

The pleasure of this was heightened by that of dining in the presence of a lady for whom I have a particular friendship. I was placed directly in front of her and was much occupied with her during the whole Dinner. She did not appear to her usual advantage, and yet she was very interesting. The eloquence of silence is not a common attribute of hers; but on this occasion she employed it par force and it was not considered as a fault. Though I am fond of hearing her speak, her silence was so well placed that I did not attempt to make her break it. You will conjecture that I must have been myself dumb with admiration. Perhaps so, and yet this was not the reason of my forbearing to invite a conversation with her. If you cannot find yourself a solution for this enigma, you must call in the aid of Mr. Church—and if he should fail to give you the needful assistance write to your friend Mr. Trumbull for an explanation.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fb/Mrs_John_Barker_Church_Son_Philip_and_Servant_John_Trumbull.jpeg
Image from Wikipedia Commons

Trumbull had painted the portrait of Angelica Church, her son Philip Schuyler Church, and a servant during his time in London. Trumbull had a close relationship with Angelica’s husband John Barker Church.  In his autobiography, Trumbull recalled that when he was a struggling artist, Church had offered to lend him money at a low interest rate whenever he needed funds without requiring any security to guarantee repayment.  Trumbull wrote:

“Instances of patronage like this, to young men studying the fine arts, I presume are uncommon, and deserve to be gratefully remembered. … The kindness of Mr. Church, in advancing me, at times when my prospects were not the most promising, and on my personal security merely, the sums which form the above account, will forever deserve my most sincere acknowledgments; without such aid, my subsequent success would have been checked by pecuniary embarrassments.”

Images of Hamilton: the Statue at the Treasury Building

On May 17, 1923, the Treasury Department officially unveiled the statue of Alexander Hamilton in the South Plaza of the Treasury Building.

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Image from US Archives

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:

ALEXANDER HAMILTON

1757 — 1804

FIRST SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY

SOLDIER, ORATOR, STATESMAN
CHAMPION OF CONSTITUTIONAL UNION,
REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT AND
NATIONAL INTEGRITY

The back inscription reads:

“He smote the rock of the national resources and abundant streams of revenue gushed forth. He touched the dead corpse of the public credit and it sprang upon its feet.”

Image from the Smithsonian Art Inventories Catalog

Images of Hamilton: Jefferson’s Bust of Hamilton

In my post on Monday about Elizabeth Hamilton, I mentioned her affection for a bust of Hamilton created by Giuseppe Ceracchi that Mrs. Hamilton showed visitors to her DC home.  Ron Chernow’s description states:

“…the tour’s highlight stood enshrined in the corner: a marble bust of her dead hero, carved by an Italian sculptor, Giuseppe Ceracchi, during Hamilton’s heyday as the first Treasury secretary.  Portrayed in the classical style of a noble Roman senator, a toga draped across one shoulder, Hamilton exuded a brisk energy and a massive intelligence in his wide brow, his face illuminated by the half smile that often played about his features.

Interestingly, Jefferson also has a history with the bust of Hamilton created by Ceracchi.  In 1792, Jefferson wrote a letter recommending Ceracchi to his colleagues in 1792, and endorsed him as a “”a very celebrated sculptor of Rome.”

Image 1016 of 1309, Thomas Jefferson to Robert R. Livingston, March 6,

Jefferson placed two busts, a likeness of himself and his political opponent Alexander Hamilton, opposite one another in the Entrance Hall. Both were modeled by the Italian sculptor Giuseppe Ceracchi in Philadelphia in 1793 and 1794. In the Life of Thomas Jefferson, Henry Stephens Randall (Jefferson’s grandson and biographer) noted:

“After gazing a moment at these objects, the eye settled with a deeper interest on busts of Jefferson and Hamilton, by Ceracchi, placed on massive pedestals on each side of the main entrance ‘opposed in death as in life,’ as the surviving original sometimes remarked, with a pensive smile, as he observed the notice they attracted.”

Bust of Alexander Hamilton. Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc.
Image from Monticello 

In Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic, Joanne Freeman writes:

“Jefferson went to his grave struggling to cast his relationship with Hamilton in the right light, trying to depict himself as a liberal, right-minded leader rather than the petty and vindictive politician he often appeared to be.  It was concern for his reputation that inspired him to put Hamilton’s bust in the main entrance way to Monticello; there could be no nobler act than to acknowledge the greatness of one’s enemies– and only the greatest of men could defeat such a foe.”

David Bernard Dearinger writes that “Ceracchi’s bust became the best-known image of Hamilton and was used extensively by later artists for posthumous portraits of him.”

Images of Hamilton: The American Cape

In 2004, the city of Hamilton, Ohio unveiled a dramatic, larger-than-life sculpture of Alexander Hamilton entitled “The American Cape” featuring Hamilton wearing an American flag as a cape.  The statue is reportedly the largest rendition of Alexander Hamilton in existence.

Picture from Visbal Sculpture: http://visbalsculpture.com/americancapeinfo.html

 

Picture from Vidal Sculpture: http://visbalsculpture.com/americancapeinfo.html

 

An August 2003 piece in the Cincinatti Enquirer described the efforts to commission the statue and stated:

“After 213 years, Alexander Hamilton will finally have a prominent place in his namesake town.  A bronze statue of him, by metal sculptor Kristen Visbal of Lewes, Del., will be erected next year.  The piece is another victory for the region’s sculpture enthusiasts and people who enjoy the area’s history and heritage.”

The sculptor, Kristen Visbal describes the statue on her website:

This life and a half public monument was installed on High Street in Hamilton, Ohio in October, 2004. Created as the namesake work for the City, Visbal was selected through an international competition. The American Cape depicts Alexander Hamilton as orator and is the largest rendition of this historical figure to date. The piece was named for the large cape which billows behind Hamilton and is complete with the 13 star flag of Hamilton’s era.

Picture from https://heyhamilton.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/hamilton-bronze.jpg

 

Hey Hamilton! a website dedicated to providing local information about Hamilton, Ohio states:.

It was commissioned in May 2003 by Historic Hamilton Inc. and Hamilton, Ohio, City of Sculpture, Inc. The artist was selected after 10 area citizens considered entries from around the world. The American Cape — which is the largest likeness of Hamilton in the nation — faces east on High Street between Second and Third streets. It has been described as depicting “the intellectual versus military attributes of this Founding Father.” It is called “a non-traditional historical piece” with “Hamilton as orator with a full-length cape, which blows up and back and becomes the 13-star American flag of Hamilton’s era.”

“The sculpture’s portrait was modeled primarily after the John Trumbull image engraved on the $10 bill by GFC Smillie in 1906.” The City of Sculpture said, “the piece will join at least eight sculptural works of Hamilton throughout the country and is the largest likeness of Hamilton to date, followed by the seven-foot, nine-inch sculpture located in front of the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D. C.”

The sculpture, cast in bronze in Norman, Oklahoma, is “surrounded with 18 imbedded granite diamonds [in the sidewalk], highlighting quotes by Alexander Hamilton.”

On the south side of High Street are plaques highlighting phases of Hamilton’s life and his major contributions to forming the United States.

Something to check out if you’re ever in Butler County, Ohio!

Hamilton Statue at Columbia University

The statue of Hamilton at Columbia University stands proudly outside of Hamilton Hall and greets students and campus visitors.  The Hamilton statue was commissioned by the Alumni Society and erected in May 1908, as part of the commencement celebrations of that year and was presented by the Alumni Society to the school.  The Columbia University Quarterly from 1908 describes in detail the poetry verses and procession that were part of the celebrations surrounding the unveiling of the statue.

In accepting the statue on behalf of Columbia, Dean John Howard Van Amringe stated:

“No memorial of affection for their alma mater from her children could be more appropriate than this noble statue representing, and fashioned by, one of themselves; this embodiment of civic virtue and the highest public service; this splendid monument of immortal youth great in thought and action, of the loftiest ambition without a trace of meanness, of transcendent political genius and intrepid constancy, of constructive statesmanship which was a great, if not the greatest single force that gave vitality, direction, and lasting quality to this Union of States, of oratory that had the rarest attribute of human speech in convincing the judgment of men against their will and in compelling their will to follow the dictates of their captivated judgment.  May this statue stand here for all time, a tribute of affectionate gratitude to the College from the Alumni, an ever-present incentive to successive generations of students.”

Statue of Alexander Hamilton, Hamilton Hall

Sculptor William Ordway Partridge described the sculpture in his catalogue:

“This heroic statue of bronze stands on the plaza in front of Hamilton Hall, Columbia University, and represents the great statesman at the moment when he is making the historic speech at Poughkeepsie which won over his opponents and saved New York to the Union.  Presented to the University on behalf of the alumni by President Butler.  The speech of acceptance was made by George L. Rives.  Dedicated and unveiled May 27, 1908.  The pedestal was designed by McKim, Mead and White.”

Here’s the statue looking as handsome as ever on one of my visits to the Columbia campus.  (My brother Sid is a recent graduate of Columbia, so I’ve had the opportunity to visit the campus quite a few times!)

statue

Hamilton and The Morristown “Yarn Bomber”

A mysterious “yarn bomber” has been putting contemporary winter clothes on the statues of Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, and the Marquis de Lafayette during this winter’s cold streak.

The Morristown Patch reports:

“Morristown residents have had the mystery of the so-called “Yarn Bomber” on their minds since a slew of knit items mysteriously appeared on the statues in and around the Morristown Green late last week. The harsh polar vortex conditions that settled into the area prompted a visitor to the Green to place modern winter weather gear on the statues of George Washington, Marquis de Lafayette and Alexander Hamilton.”

The anonymous yarn bomber, also described as a “fiber fairy,” left a note attached to each article of clothing stating: “If you need this to help keep you warm in this cold weather, then it is now yours. Life is good. Pass it on.”  She remains anonymous, butells the Patch that she will be back.

What exactly is yarn bombing?  According to the New York Times:

Yarn bombing takes that most matronly craft (knitting) and that most maternal of gestures (wrapping something cold in a warm blanket) and transfers it to the concrete and steel wilds of the urban streetscape. Hydrants, lampposts, mailboxes, bicycles, cars — even objects as big as buses and bridges — have all been bombed in recent years, ever so softly and usually at night.

It is a global phenomenon, with yarn bombers taking their brightly colored fuzzy work to Europe, Asia and beyond. In Paris, a yarn culprit has filled sidewalk cracks with colorful knots of yarn. In Denver, a group called Ladies Fancywork Society has crocheted tree trunks, park benches and public telephones. Seattle has the YarnCore collective (“Hardcore Chicks With Sharp Sticks”) and Stockholm has the knit crew Masquerade. In London, Knit the City has “yarnstormed” fountains and fences. And in Melbourne, Australia, a woman known as Bali conjures up cozies for bike racks and bus stops.

To record their ephemeral works (the fragile pieces begin to fray within weeks), yarn bombers photograph and videotape their creations and upload them to blogs, social networks and Web sites for all the world to see.”

Untapped Cities has recent images of yarn bombing from New York City.

According to the Morristown Tourism Board, the set of statues, collectively known as “The Alliance,” was unveiled at Morristown Green in 2007.

Here are the statues in warmer days

Morristown served as Washington’s headquarters during the winter of 1777.  It is the site of the “Schuyler-Hamilton House” where Alexander and Betsy courted before they were married.  For more information on Morristown, see All Things Hamilton.

Images of Hamilton: Update- Trumbull Portrait Now on Display in NYC

I had blogged earlier about John Trumbull’s iconic portrait of Hamilton, and about plans to house the painting for public display at Crystal Bridges Art Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.  This week, the portrait was formally unveiled at the Met, so all the NYC Hamiltonians can go take a look at the full-length portrait in person!

John Trumbull, "Portrait of Alexander Hamilton," 1792, gift from Credit Suisse to Crystal Bridges and Metropolitan Museum

According to the Met’s press release:

An iconic life-size portrait by the celebrated Revolutionary-era painter John Trumbull of Alexander Hamilton, then Secretary of the Treasury under President George Washington, is now on view in The American Wing of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  This is the painting’s first showing at the Metropolitan since it was donated, earlier this year, by the global wealth manager and investment bank Credit Suisse to both the Metropolitan Museum in New York and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. At the Metropolitan, the work—which is considered the greatest known portrait of Hamilton and one of the finest civic portraits from the Federal period—is on display in Gallery 755, “Faces of the Young Republic,” of the New Galleries for American Paintings, Sculpture, and Decorative Arts among portraits of other great heroes of the post-Revolutionary period.