I wrote earlier about Hamilton’s advice on finding a husband to his sister-in-law, Margarita (Peggy) Schuyler and wanted to share a little more about Peggy’s daring elopement with her distant relative, 19 year old Stephen Van Rensselaer III in 1783.
According to an account by Maunsell Van Rensselaer, Stephen “was in love with Margaret Schuyler, daughter of the General, and although only nineteen was anxious to get married. To this the father objected, and the young couple settled the matter by getting married without delay.”
In A Place in History: Albany in the Age of Revolution, 1775-1825 Warren Roberts writes:
“Margarita climbed out of her second-floor room in her father’s mansion to elope with her 19 year old husband. She was 25 and six years older than her husband.”
“The general’s temper was none of the mildest, and he was greatest enraged at this defiance of his paternal authority, and vented his wrath upon his secretary, accusing him of having aided the escapade.”
Stephen was a wealthy orphan who had just graduated from Harvard College a year before the couple was wed, but had not yet attained his majority and come into his inheritance. Because of his young age, mutual friends expressed concern that the marriage between Peggy and Stephen would fail. Harrison Gray Otis, a friend of Van Renesselaer’s, wrote to Killian Van Rensselaer :
“Stephen’s precipitate marriage has been to me a source of surprise and indeed of regret. He certainly is too young to enter into a connection of this kind; the period of his life is an important crisis; it is the time to acquire Fame, or at least to prepare for its acquisition. It is the time to engage in a busy life, to arouse the Facultys into action, to awake from a lethargic Inattention, which is generally the consequence of youthful pleasures, and make a figure upon the active Theatre. Instead of this our friend has indulged the momentary impulse of youthful Passions, and has yielded to the dictates of Remorseful Fancy.”
Fortunately for the couple, Otis’ fears were unfounded. Mary Gay Humphreys wrote in her biography of Catherine Schuyler:
“The young couple, handsomely entrenched in wealth and position, were doubtless speedily forgiven, as well they might be. Neither fame nor happiness passed by their married life, which was only too brief. Mrs. Stephen Van Rensselaer, the wife of the Patroon, is still the lively Peggy, the favorite of all the dinner-tables and balls.”
In a letter to Angelica Schuyler Church, Alexander Hamilton described having dinner with Peggy and Stephen in 1794:
“Your sister Margaret is also wonderfully restored. She and Mr. Rensselaer supped with us — She never was in better spirits. The sight of these friends has diminished though not dissipated a sadness which took possession of my heart on my departure from New York. I am more and more the fool of affection and friendship. In a little time I shall not be able to stir from the side of my family & friends.”
Interestingly, Van Rensselaer had played an important role in the elopement of Peggy’s sister, Angelica in 1777. The couple had exchanged vows in Van Rensselaer’s home, and he reportedly helped convince Angelica and Peggy’s father, General Philip Schuyler, to accept the newly married couple. Little did General Schuyler know that six years later, the boy Patroon would be eloping with another one of his daughters!
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.
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.”
As an update to my older post about Hamilton-themed office supplies, here are some additional office supplies available!
My office still boasts a Hamilton bobblehead and the mini-bust that I got a few years ago! Some newer supplies and office decorations are now on the market, including:
Alexander Hamilton Notebook (from the Signature Notebook Series)- Leather-bound notebook with Hamilton’s quotes. The product description states: “Alexander Hamilton is arguably one of the most inspiring—if not the most significant—of our Founding Fathers, and today, Hamilton’s legacy of brilliance still rewards us all. His defense and advocacy of the Constitution continue to shape our political discourse, and his profound impact on our then-fledging nation was accomplished largely through the power of his written word. Now you can put pen to paper in your very own Alexander Hamilton Signature Notebook, and let his words encourage and inspire you as you record your daily musings.” It is available from Target from $9.87.
Blue Hamilton Mousepad- The Alex in Blue mousepad is a nonstick blue mousepad with a rubber backing. Available from Cafe Press for $9.99.
Alexander Hamilton Statue Sculpture Figurine- This 13 inch figurine is made of cold cast resin with a bronze powder finish and is available from Amazon for $56.25.
Alexander Hamilton Glass Paperweight- made of tempered glass with a felted base. The product description states that it is “an enduring inspiration and reminder of personal commitment and excellence. A visable symbol of Americas rich heritage.” It is available from Amazon for $9.95.
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.
“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.
In an August 18, 1792 letter to President Washington, Hamilton commented on the differences between the South and North and described the talk of separation from a small group of “respectable men.” Hamilton noted that “happily,” despite this talk of separation, the “prevailing sentiment” of the people during this time period was in favor of maintaining the Union.
It is certainly much to be regretted that party discriminations are so far Geographical as they have been; and that ideas of a severance of the Union are creeping in both North and South. In the South it is supposed that more government than is expedient is desired by the North. In the North, it is believed, that the prejudices of the South are incompatible with the necessary degree of Government and with the attainment of the essential ends of National Union. In both quarters there are respectable men who talk of separation, as a thing dictated by the different geniusses and different prejudices of the parts. But happily their number is not considerable—& the prevailing sentiment of the people is in favour of their true interest,union. And it is to be hoped that the Efforts of wise men will be able to prevent a scism, which would be injurious in different degrees to different portions of the Union; but would seriously wound the prosperity of all.
Hamilton’s words of warning, nearly 70 years before the Civil War began, underscore the deep-seated tensions between North and South.