In February 1780, Hamilton wrote a letter to Eliza’s younger sister, Margarita (nicknamed Peggy) to introduce himself. At this time, he hadn’t met Peggy, but he had heard about her from Eliza.
I venture to tell you in confidence, that by some odd contrivance or other, your sister has found out the secret of interesting me in every thing that concerns her; and though I have not the happiness of a personal acquaintance with you, I have had the good fortune to see several very pretty pictures of your person and mind which have inspired me with a more than common partiality for both.
You will no doubt admit it as a full proof of my frankness and good opinion of you, that I with so little ceremony introduce myself to your acquaintance and at the first step make you my confident.
Hamilton playfully described having “serious and henious” charges to make against Eliza because of her beauty and charm:
I have some things of a very serious and heinous nature to lay to her charge. She is most unmercifully handsome and so perverse that she has none of those pretty affectations which are the prerogatives of beauty.
Hamilton’s description is framed in the difference between Eliza and all other women in society, who Hamilton characterized as being frivolous and foolish. His backhanded compliments wouldn’t be out of place in a modern day dating website.
Her good sense is destitute of that happy mixture of vanity and ostentation which would make it conspicuous to the whole tribe of fools and foplings as well as to men of understanding so that as the matter now stands it is ⟨very⟩ little known beyond the circle of these. She has good nature affability and vivacity unembellished with that charming frivolousiness which is justly deemed one of the principal accomplishments of a belle. In short she is so strange a creature that she possesses all the beauties virtues and graces of her sex without any of those amiable defects, which from their general prevalence are esteemed by connoisseurs necessary shades in the character of a fine woman.
Hamilton joked that Eliza was breaking hearts and turning heads all over Morristown.
I should never have done, were I to attempt to give you a catalogue of the whole, of all the hearts she has vanquished, of all the heads she has turned, of all the philosophers she has unmade, or of all the inconstants she has fixed to the great prejudice of the general service of the female world.
He told Peggy that Eliza’s influence was so strong, that to preserve the safety of the state and the army she needed to be removed from the neighborhood:
It is essential to the safety of the state and to the tranquillity of the army that one of two things take place; either that she be immediately removed from our neighbourhood, or that some other nymph qualified to maintain an equal sway come into it. By dividing her empire it will be weakened and she will be much less dangerous when she has a rival equal in charms to dispute the prize with her.
Below is a continuation of my previous post about Hamilton Broadway lines in the context of the primary sources that inspired them.
“Laurens, I like you a lot.” (Hamilton, “My Shot”)
Cold in my professions, warm in ⟨my⟩ friendships, I wish, my Dear Laurens, it m⟨ight⟩ be in my power, by action rather than words, ⟨to⟩ convince you that I love you. I shall only tell you that ’till you bade us Adieu, I hardly knew the value you had taught my heart to set upon you. Indeed, my friend, it was not well done. You know the opinion I entertain of mankind, and how much it is my desire to preserve myself free from particular attachments, and to keep my happiness independent on the caprice of others. You sh⟨ould⟩ not have taken advantage of my sensibility to ste⟨al⟩ into my affections without my consent. But as you have done it and as we are generally indulgent to those we love, I shall not scruple to pardon the fraud you have committed, on condition that for my sake, if not for your own, you will always continue to merit the partiality, which you have so artfully instilled into ⟨me⟩. – Hamilton writing to John Laurens in April 1779.
“Will you relish being a poor man’s wife? Unable to provide for your life?” (Hamilton to Eliza, “That Would Be Enough”)
“But now we are talking of times to come, tell me my pretty damsel have you made up your mind upon the subject of housekeeping? Do you soberly relish the pleasure of being a poor mans wife? Have you learned to think a home spun preferable to a brocade and the rumbling of a waggon wheel to the musical rattling of a coach and six? Will you be able to see with perfect composure your old acquaintances flaunting it in gay life, tripping it along in elegance and splendor, while you hold an humble station and have no other enjoyments than the sober comforts of a good wife? Can you in short be an Aquileia and chearfully plant turnips with me, if fortune should so order it? If you cannot my Dear we are playing a comedy of all in the wrong, and you should correct the mistake before we begin to act the tragedy of the unhappy couple.” – Hamilton writing to Elizabeth Schuyler in August 1780.
“Hamilton’s a host unto himself. As long as he can hold a pen, he’s a threat.” (Jefferson to Madison, “Adams Administration”)
“Hamilton is really a colossus to the anti-Republican party. Without numbers, he is a host within himself.” – Jefferson writing to Madison on September 21, 1795.
“Jefferson has beliefs. Burr has none.” (Hamilton, “Election of 1800”)
“There is no doubt but that upon every virtuous and prudent calculation Jefferson is to be preferred. He is by far not so dangerous a man and he has pretensions to character.
As to Burr there is nothing in his favour. His private character is not defended by his most partial friends. He is bankrupt beyond redemption except by the plunder of his country.” – Hamilton writing to Oliver Wolcott, Jr. on December 16, 1800. For more of Hamilton’s thoughts on Jefferson v. Burr, see my post here.
By March of 1780, Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler were engaged. The wedding date was set for December of that year, and as Hamilton continued his duties as General Washington’s aide-de-campe, he wrote her several letters expressing his sentiments. Although most of Elizabeth’s friends affectionately called her Eliza, Hamilton referred to her as his Betsey. The letters excerpted below are from the period July 1780 to October 1781, and are all available via the National Archives’ Founders Online.
I love you more and more every hour. The sweet softness and delicacy of your mind and manners, the elevation of your sentiments, the real goodness of your heart, its tenderness to me, the beauties of your face and person, your unpretending good sense and that innocent simplicity and frankness which pervade your actions; all these appear to me with increasing amiableness and place you in my estimation above all the rest of your sex.
July 31, 1780– Because Eliza’s letters have never been found, we don’t know what the back and forth exchange was between the two, but it appears that Hamilton was reassuring Eliza about his feelings for her.
Since my last I have received three letters from you,the sweetest ever dictated by a fond heart. Banish your uneasiness my love; I discard for ever, every idea injurious to your tenderness which every thing convinces me is without an equal but in mine. I have no time to indulge my heart by dwelling on those assurances which it delights to be ever giving you of its admiration, of its esteem of its love. My life shall be a continued proof of the unbounded affection of your
In August of 1780, a few months before they were to be married, Hamilton playfully questioned whether Eliza would be able to handle the challenges of her new uncertain financial situation after the two were married. He asks her to think seriously about whether she can adjust to a lifestyle of financial uncertainty and be satisfied with it even when she sees her friends and acquaintances living far grander lifestyles:
But now we are talking of times to come, tell me my pretty damsel have you made up your mind upon the subject of housekeeping? Do you soberly relish the pleasure of being a poor mans wife? Have you learned to think a home spun preferable to a brocade and the rumbling of a waggon wheel to the musical rattling of a coach and six? Will you be able to see with perfect composure your old acquaintances flaunting it in gay life, tripping it along in elegance and splendor, while you hold an humble station and have no other enjoyments than the sober comforts of a good wife? Can you in short be an Aquileia and chearfully plant turnips with me, if fortune should so order it? If you cannot my Dear we are playing a comedy of all in the wrong, and you should correct the mistake before we begin to act the tragedy of the unhappy couple.
I propose you a set of new questions my lovely girl; but though they are asked with an air of levity, they merit a very serious consideration, for on their being resolved in the affirmative stripped of all the colorings of a fond imagination our happiness may absolutely depend. I have not concealed my circumstances from my Betsey; they are far from splendid; they may possibly even be worse than I expect, for every day brings me fresh proof of the knavery of those to whom my little affairs are entrusted. They have already filed down what was in their hands more than one half, and I am told they go on diminishing it, ’till I fear they will reduce it below my former fears. An indifference to property enters into my character too much, and what affects me now as my Betsey is concerned in it, I should have laughed at or not thought of at all a year ago. But I have thoroughly examined my own heart. Beloved by you, I can be happy in any situation, and can struggle with every embarrassment of fortune with patience and firmness. I cannot however forbear entreating you to realize our union on the dark side and satisfy, without deceiving yourself, how far your affection for me can make you happy in a privation of those elegancies to which you have been accustomed. If fortune should smile upon us, it will do us no harm to have been prepared for adversity; if she frowns upon us, by being prepared, we shall encounter it without the chagrin of disappointment. Your future rank in life is a perfect lottery; you may move in an exalted you may move in a very humble sphere; the last is most probable; examine well your heart. And in doing it, dont figure to yourself a cottage in romance, with the spontaneous bounties of nature courting you to enjoyment. Dont imagine yourself a shepherdess, your hair embroidered with flowers a crook in your hand tending your flock under a shady tree, by the side of a cool fountain, your faithful shepherd sitting near and entertaining you with gentle tales of love. These are pretty dreams and very apt to enter into the heads of lovers when they think of a connection without the advantages of fortune. But they must not be indulged. You must apply your situation to real life, and think how you should feel in scenes of which you may find examples every day. So far My Dear Betsey as the tenderest affection can compensate for other inconveniences in making your estimate, you cannot give too large a credit for this article. My heart overflows with every thing for you, that admiration, esteem and love can inspire. I would this moment give the world to be near you only to kiss your sweet hand. Believe what I say to be truth and imagine what are my feelings when I say it. Let it awake your sympathy and let our hearts melt in a prayer to be soon united, never more to be separated.
On December 14, 1780, Alexander and Eliza were married at the Schuyler Mansion in Albany. Shortly afterwards, Hamilton returned to his post and wrote letters about the pain of being separated from his new wife.
I impatiently long to hear from you the state of your mind since our painful separation. Be as happy as you can, I entreat you, my amiable, my beloved wife. But let not absence deprive me of the least particle of your affection. Always remember those tender proofs I have so frequently given you of mine and preserve for me unabated the only blessing which can make life of any value to me.
Constantly uppermost in my thoughts and affections, I am happy only when my moments are devoted to some office that respects you. I would give the world to be able to tell you all I feel and all I wish, but consult your own heart and you will know mine. What a world will soon be between us!
October 12, 1781– Hamilton chastised Eliza for not writing him enough letters, but then expressed how his annoyance melted away when he thought of the impending birth of his child.
You complain of me my love, for not writing to you more frequently, but have I not greater reason to complain of you? Since I left Kings ferry, I have received three letters from you, that is three in seven weeks. You have no occupations to prevent your writing; I am constantly employed. Yet I am sure I have written to you during that period more than twenty letters. Don’t imagine that this neglect will go unpunished. I hope to see you in three or four weeks from this time, and you may then expect to be called to a severe account. I know you rely upon your power over me. You expect that your usual blandishments will have the usual charm. You think you have only to smile and caress and you will disarm my resentment; but you are mistaken. The crime is of too serious nature to be forgiven; except with one atonement which I am sure it will not be easy for you to make. This is to love me better than ever. If upon deliberate examination you should find this impossible, I may compound for one substitute. You shall engage shortly to present me with a boy. You will ask me if a girl will not answer the purpose. By no means. I fear, with all the mothers charms, she may inherit the caprices of her father and then she will enslave, tantalize and plague one half ⟨the⟩ sex, out of pure regard to which I protest against a daughter. So far from extenuating your offence this would be an aggravation of it.The idea of a smiling infant in my Betseys arms calls up all the father in it. In imagination I embrace the mother and embrace the child a thousand times. I can scarce refrain from shedding tears of joy. But I must not indulge these sensations; they are unfit for the boisterous scenes of war and whenever they intrude themselves make me but half a soldier.
In his script for Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda merges the American Founding with the tenor of modern America, such that history is both relived and reimagined. The characters in Hamilton recite excerpts from historical documents such as Washington’s Farewell Address and Hamilton’s History of the United States for the Year 1796, In Which the Charge of Speculation against Alexander Hamilton, Late Secretary of the Treasury, is Fully Refuted (aka The Reynolds Pamphlet). Miranda also weaves in fragments of real quotes from Hamilton and his contemporaries, effortlessly fitting them into the fabric of the whole production.
Below are a few lines that jumped out at me along with excerpts of the historic primary source documents that contain either the exact phrase or are very similar. (Note that this short list is by no means exhaustive and is entirely based on my memory from seeing the show in previews- if you think of others, add them into the comments section!)
“I wish there was a war.” (Hamilton to Burr)
“…my ambition is vigilant, so I continue the groveling condition of a clerk, or the like to which my fortune condemns me, and would willingly risk my life, though not my character, to exalt my station. … I shall conclude by saying I wish there was a war.” – Letter from Hamilton to his friend Edward “Ned” Stevens dated November 11, 1769 (reprinted in Reminisces of James A. Hamilton, available here through Google Books).
At the time of this letter, Hamilton was still in St. Croix working as a clerk. Hamilton realized that in order to rise up and advance his station in life, something dramatic would need to happen and he expressed his willingness to take any risks that would not endanger his honor.
“I’m just saying, If you really loved me, you would share him!” (Angelica to Eliza)
“…by my Amiable you know that I mean your Husband, for I love him very much and if you were as generous as the old Romans, you would lend him to me for a little while, but do not be jealous, my dear Eliza, since I am more solicitous to promote his laudable ambition, than any person in the world…” – Letter from Angelica Church to Elizabeth Hamilton, July 30, 1794 (Reprinted in the Intimate Life of Alexander Hamilton by Allan Mclane Hamilton, available on Google Books)
“Best of wives and best of women.” (Hamilton to Eliza before the duel)
“Fly to the bosom of your God and be comforted. With my last idea; I shall cherish the sweet hope of meeting you in a better world.
Adieu best of wives and best of Women. Embrace all my darling Children for me.
Ever yours. AH” – Letter from Alexander Hamilton to Eliza Hamilton written July 4, 1804
Hamilton gave this letter to Nathaniel Pendleton, his second in the duel, as part of his efforts to put his affairs in order prior to his interview with Aaron Burr at Weehawken on July 11, 1804. (Reprinted in the Papers of Alexander Hamilton, available here via Google Books). Interestingly, Hamilton and Burr had dinner together with a group of fellow former Revolutionary War officers just days before the duel.
In 1896, the Atlantic published an article entitled “Reminiscences of Mrs. Alexander Hamilton” as part of its Contributors’ Club series. The author recalled a childhood summer spent with Mrs. Hamilton when the author was 13 years old. The whole piece is worth reading, and was quoted by Ron Chernow in his biography of Hamilton. I’ve included a few excerpts below that I found particularly moving.
In the first excerpt, the author describes the tour that Mrs. Hamilton gave visitors to her Washington, D.C. home.
“I remember nothing more distinctly than a sofa and chairs with spindle legs, upholstered in black broadcloth, embroidered in flowery wreaths by Mrs. Hamilton herself, and a marble bust of Hamilton standing on its pedestal in a draped corner. That bust I can never forget, for the old lady always paused before it in her tour of the rooms, and leaning on her cane, gazed and gazed, as if she could never be satisfied.”
The bust referenced was designed by Giuseppe Ceracchi, and was one of Mrs. Hamilton’s favorite images of her husband.
In another excerpt, the author describes Mrs. Hamilton’s longing to see her husband at the end of her life:
“…she leaned back in her chair a long time with closed eyes, as if lost to all around her. I never heard her complain, and I loved her with a reverent love that made me feel awed as the long silence was broken by the murmured words, ‘I am so tired– it is so long. I want to see Hamilton.'”
“When Mrs. Hamilton died, at the age of ninety-seven, although an internment in Trinity Church had been for years a forbidden thing, her last request was granted. Quietly, at night, the frail little form was laid to rest there by the side of her beloved and illustrious husband.”