WELCOME TO THE BLOG IN THE WORDS OF WOMEN

Based largely on the book of the same name, the blog is a kind of trailer for it and the primary source material it contains. An invitation, you might say … to eavesdrop on the lives of women writing 250 years ago … to become acquainted with 144 little-known but amazingly articulate chroniclers … and to discover a valuable new perspective on the Revolutionary Era.

The women featured lived between 1765 and 1799. But once you attune your ears to their way of writing, their voices easily leapfrog across the centuries. Read just a few sentences and you’ll find yourself back in time, entering their concerns, sharing their feelings. And what they have to say is always fascinating, often eye-opening, sometimes heart-rending.

Please bookmark the blog and visit regularly to see which writers and issues are being featured. There are two new posts weekly: on Monday and Thursday. And do explore those related to the many topics listed on the right. In addition to posts based on the book, others introduce the writings of women who didn’t make it into the book or who turn up as a result of ongoing research. To subscribe via email, click here. Leave a comment. Email a question. And enjoy your visits.

“I was as dear to you as a sister”

When ANGELICA SCHUYLER CHURCH returned to America from London in the spring of 1789 for a visit she stayed with Eliza and Alexander Hamilton in New York City until she moved into a her own quarters, the rent of which was paid by Hamilton. That summer when Eliza Hamilton and her children went to stay with her parents in Albany Hamilton was alone in New York City with Angelica. The two were seen about town together. (Did they have an affair? More on this anon.)
Returning to England in November, Angelica wrote this letter to Hamilton from the ship about to sail. (It was usual to refer to in-laws as “brother” or “sister” at that time.)

[November 5–7, 1789]
. . . . Do my dear Brother endeaver to sooth my poor Betsey [Eliza], comfort her with the assurances that I will certainly return to take care of her soon. Remember this also yourself my dearest Brother and let neither politics or ambition drive your Angelica from your affections.
The pilot leaves us this evening, he will call on you with my letter. Adieu my dear Brother, may god bless and protect you, prays your ever affectionate Angelica ever ever yours. . . .
Adieu my dear Hamilton, you said I was as dear to you as a sister keep your word, and let me have the consolation to beleive that you will never forget the promise of friendship you have vowed. A thousand embraces to my dear Betsy, she will not have so bad a night as the last, but poor angelica adieu mine plus cher
. . . . six oClock, all well on board

Hamilton wrote to Angelica on the day of her departure.

My Dear Sister
After taking leave of you on board of the Packet, I hastened home to sooth and console your sister. I found her in bitter distress; though much recovered from the agony, in which she had been. . . . After composing her by a flattering picture of your prospects for the voyage, and a strong infusion of hope, that she had not taken a last farewell of you . . . . [W]ith her consent, [we] walked down to the Battery; where with aching hearts and anxious eyes we saw your vessel, in full sail, swiftly bearing our loved friend from our embraces. Imagine what we felt. We gazed, we sighed, we wept; and casting “many a lingering longing look behind” returned home to give scope to our sorrows, and mingle without restraint our tears and our regrets. . . . Amiable Angelica! how much you are formed to endear yourself to every good heart! How deeply you have rooted yourself in the affections of your friends on this side the Atlantic! Some of us are and must continue inconsolable for your absence.
Betsey and myself make you the last theme of our conversation at night and the first in the morning. We talk of you; we praise you and we pray for you. We dwell with peculiar interest on the little incidents that preceded your departure. Precious and never to be forgotten scenes!
But let me check, My dear Sister, these effusions of regretful friendship. Why should I alloy the happiness that courts you in the bosom of your family by images that must wound your sensibility? It shall not be. However difficult, or little natural it is to me to suppress what the fulness of my heart would utter, the sacrifice shall be made to your ease and satisfaction.
I shall not fail to execute any commission you gave me nor neglect any of your charges. Those particularly contained in your letter by the Pilot, for which Betsey joins me in returning a thousand thanks, shall be observed in all their extent. Already have I addressed the consolation, I mentioned to you, to your Father. . . .
I shall commit this letter to Betsey to add whatever her little affectionate heart may dictate. Kiss your children for me. Teach them to consider me as your and their father’s friend. . . . Adieu Dear Angelica! Remember us always as you ought to do—Remember us as we shall you
Your ever Affect friend & brother
A Hamilton

More to come in the next post.

“To Alexander Hamilton from Angelica Church, [5–7 November 1789],” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified July 12, 2016, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Hamilton/01-05-02-0290. [Original source: The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, vol. 5, June 1788 – November 1789, ed. Harold C. Syrett. New York: Columbia University Press, 1962, p. 497.]
“From Alexander Hamilton to Angelica Church, [8 November 1789],” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified July 12, 2016, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Hamilton/01-05-02-0297-0001. [Original source: The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, vol. 5, June 1788 – November 1789, ed. Harold C. Syrett. New York: Columbia University Press, 1962, pp. 501–502.]

“the relation of lover and mistress”

ANGELICA SCHUYLER CHURCH was the sister of Alexander Hamilton’s wife Elizabeth, usually called Eliza or Betsy. They were the two eldest of the eight children—Angelica one year older than Eliza— of soldier and statesman Philip Schuyler and Catherine Van Rensselaer both of whose families were wealthy Dutch landowners. The Schuylers lived in Albany where the girls were educated by their mother and private tutors.

Alexander Hamilton met Eliza in Morristown, New Jersey, the Continental Army’s winter quarters, in 1780 where she had come to stay with relatives. Hamilton was smitten; he wrote to his friend John Laurens in March 1780:

I give up my liberty to Miss Schuyler. She is a good-hearted girl who, I am sure, will never play the termagant. Though not a genius, she has good sense enough to be agreeable, and though not a beauty she has fine black eyes, is rather handsome, and has every other requisite of the exterior to make a lover happy.

Hamilton married Eliza but he was also drawn to her sister Angelica whom he also met in 1780. Angelica was gay, witty, vivacious and interested in politics. In 1777 Angelica had married John Church, an Englishman who left for America under suspicious circumstances. Since her father did not approve of the match the pair eloped. Church made a fortune in the Revolution; after the war he and Angelica settled in London where John became a member of Parliament and Angelica established herself as a noted hostess. Angelica and Hamilton corresponded frequently during her stay abroad.

Angelica also made a friend of Thomas Jefferson who was serving as minister to France. Although they were on opposite sides of the political scene in America—Federalists vs Republicans—the two also corresponded. They had discussions about the appropriate roles for women, Jefferson expressing the view that “French ladies miscalculate their happiness when they wander from the true field of their influence into politics.” (Recall the exchanges Jefferson had had with Ann Willing Bingham on this subject here, here, and here. Angelica and Jefferson also corresponded in language that is quite intimate and flirtatious. They worked together to assist victims of the French Revolution.

Hamilton’s letters to Angelica in London were also intimate and flirtatious. Just after the Churches left in 1785 he wrote:

You have I fear taken a final leave of America and of those that love you here. I saw you depart from Philadelphia with peculiar uneasiness, as if foreboding you were not to return. My apprehensions are confirmed and unless I see you in Europe I expect not to see you again.
This is the impression we all have; judge the bitterness it gives to those who love you with the love of nature and to me who feel an attachment for you not less lively.

He wrote on December 6, 1787, thanking her for some information she had sent him.

. . . I can not . . . resist the strong desire I feel of thankg you for your invaluable letter by the last packet. Imagine, if you are able, the pleasure it gave me. Notwithstanding the compliment you pay to my eloquence its resources could give you but a feeble image of what I should wish to convey.
This you will tell me is poetical enough. I seldom write to a lady without fancying the relation of lover and mistress. It has a very inspiring effect. And in your case the dullest materials could not help feeling that propensity.

More about Hamilton and Angelica Church in the next post.

Sources for LETTER to John Laurens and Hamilton’s letters to Angelica: “From Alexander Hamilton to Angelica Church, [3 August 1785] also Alexander Hamilton to Angelica Church, [6 December 1787 Founders Online, National Archives, last modified July 12, 2016, [Original source: The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, vol. 3, 1782–1786, ed. Harold C. Syrett. New York: Columbia University Press, 1962, pp. 619–620 and pp. 374–376.] The portrait of Angelica Schuyler Church, son Philip, and a servant is by John Trumbull (1785).

“The Many Faces of a Wily Founder”

Excuse the absence of a post on the Fourth of July and the promised post on ANGELICA SCHUYLER CHURCH.
I want to bring to your attention an article in The New York Times titled “The Many Faces of a Wily Founder” by Jennifer Schuessler. Of course, “the wily founder” is Hamilton. Illustrations by Peter and Maria Hoey accompany the piece, depicting Hamilton as Composter, Master, Love, Insulter, Prankster, Conniver, Student, Prognosticator, Victim, and Victor.

Four exhibitions in New York City provide examples for each of the above. I mean to see all of them and hope you will manage to do so too. At the New-York Historical Society is “Summer of Hamilton;” the New York Public Library has mounted “Alexander Hamilton: Striver, Statesman, Scoundrel;” Columbia University’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library has on view items from its collection; and finally the Museum of the City of New York is featuring “New York at Its Core Sneak Peak: Alexander Hamilton.”

In the Times article, an example of Hamilton as Lover is the tale of Maria Reynolds featured in previous posts here and here. I thought Hamilton’s ruminations in 1804, recollected by James Kent in the depiction of Hamilton as Prognosticator, have particular resonance for our times: “The pending election exceedingly disturbed him & he viewed the temper, disposition & passions of the times as portentous of evil, & favorable to the sway of artful & ambitious demagogues.”

Don’t miss these exhibits.

posted July 7th, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Hamilton, Alexander, Readings and Exhibitions, Reynolds, Maria

“My Dearest Friend”

I’m putting off writing about Alexander Hamilton’s friendship(?) with his sister-in-law until next time because I want to draw your attention to a performance of an opera based on the letters of Abigail and John Adams called My Dearest Friend to be performed this weekend (July 2) at the Adams National Historical Park in Quincy, Massachusetts. I wish I were able to go but since I cannot I am hoping that some of my readers might. I have always loved the Adams correspondence and compliment Patricia Leonard for using selected letters as lyrics. Featured will be soprano Wendy Bryn Harmer as Abigail and baritone Charles Taylor as John. I was alerted to this performance by J. L. Bell’s excellent blog Boston 1775.
When my colleagues Louise North and Landa Freeman and I were mulling over titles for our book about the correspondence between John Jay and his wife Sarah Livingston Jay, we decided on My Dearest Best of Friends, a salutation frequently used in their letters. Our publisher sadly nixed it opting for the rather dull and academic Selected Letters of John Jay and Sarah Livingston Jay. We always thought that the Jay letters rivaled the Adams correspondence, a close second perhaps. Maybe someone will do an opera based on the Jay correspondence.

“I shal be miserable till I se you”

Having begun an affair with blonde twenty-three-year old MARIA REYNOLDS (1768-1832) in the summer of 1791, when his wife Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton (pictured) and their children were vacationing in Albany with her family, Alexander Hamilton received this note from Maria in December. Her husband had returned and quickly saw an opportunity to blackmail Hamilton.

I have not tim to tell you the cause of my present troubles only that Mr. has rote you this morning and I know not wether you have got the letter or not and he has swore that If you do not answer It or If he dose not se or hear from you to day he will write Mrs. Hamilton he has just Gone oute and I am a Lone I think you had better come here one moment that you May know the Cause then you will the better know how to act Oh my God I feel more for you than myself and wish I had never been born to give you so mutch unhappiness do not rite to him no not a Line but come here soon do not send or leave any thing in his power.

Although, at that time, Hamilton’s actions were grounds for a duel, James Reynolds chose to ask for money instead. For $1,000 Reynolds proposed to leave his wife to Hamilton and depart the city taking his daughter with him. Hamilton would not or could not come up with such a sum but gave Reynolds money in small amounts while the affair continued. Apparently Reynolds was satisfied with this arrangement. Maria wrote to Hamilton again.

I have kept my bed those tow days past but find my self mutch better at presant though yet full distreesed and shall till I se you fretting was the Cause of my Illness I thought you had been told to stay away from our house and yesterday with tears I my Eyes I beged Mr. once more to permit your visits and he told upon his honnour that he had not said anything to you and that It was your own fault believe me I scarce knew how to beleeve my senses and if my seturation was insupportable before I heard this It was now more so fear prevents my saing more only that I shal be miserable till I se you and if my dear freend has the Least Esteeme for the unhappy Maria whos greateest fault Is Loveing him he will come as soon as he shall get this and till that time My breast will be the seate of pain and woe

P. S. If you cannot come this Evening to stay just come only for one moment as I shal be Lone Mr. is going to sup with a friend from New York.

When Reynolds subsequently tangled with the law—having committed forgery—and was imprisoned, he called upon Hamilton for assistance. When Hamilton refused, Reynolds released information about the affair and also suggested Hamilton had been involved in financial improprieties when he was Secretary of the Treasury. Rather than have his professional conduct impugned, Hamilton opted to admit to the affair with Maria and deal with the personal repercussions of a sexual scandal. Of course, he broke off his relationship with Maria.
Over time, Hamilton paid more than $1000 in blackmail to James Reynolds to keep the affair secret. Maria eventually divorced her husband; Aaron Burr was her attorney.

See this ARTICLE for more information. The portrait of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton is by Ralph Earl (1787) and is at The New-York Historical Society.

posted June 27th, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Hamilton, Alexander, Hamilton, Elizabeth Schuyler, Reynolds, Maria

next page

   Copyright © 2016 In the Words of Women.