Archive for the ‘Hamilton, Alexander’ Category

“I put your letter into his hands . . . “

For this post I am opting out of my mission of bringing readers the words of women from the American Revolution and the early national period. Instead I am posting a letter that Alexander Hamilton wrote not to Lady Kitty Alexander Duer (see previous post) but to another Kitty, this one CATHARINE LIVINGSTON (1751-1813), daughter of the Governor of New Jersey, sister of Sarah Livingston Jay and cousin to Lady Kitty. Coincidentally, Kitty Livingston, like her cousin, was concerned with a flag of truce, not for herself but for some friends who wanted to leave British occupied New York City to pay a visit to New Jersey. Kitty Livingston made her appeal to her friend Alexander Hamilton, who gave it to General George Washington for whom he was an aide de camp. Hamilton was instructed by Washington to reply to Kitty’s letter. His response is mildly flirtatious, flattering, fanciful, and wordy. In fact it is the longest letter I have come across that can be summed up as “No”. There was an exception, as you will discover.

Headquarters, March 18, 1779.I can hardly forgive an application to my humanity to induce me to exert my influence in an affair in which ladies are concerned, and especially when you are of the party. Had you appealed to my friendship or to my gallantry, it would have been irresistible. I should have thought myself bound to have set prudence and policy at defiance, and even to have attacked wind-mills in your ladyship’s service. I’m not sure but my imagination would have gone so far as to have fancied New York an enchanted castle—the three ladies so many fair damsels ravished from their friends and held in captivity by the spells of some wicked magician— General Clinton, a huge giant, placed as keeper of the gates—and myself, a valorous knight, destined to be their champion and deliverer.

But when, instead of availing yourself of so much better titles, you appealed to the cold, general principle of humanity, I confess I felt myself mortified, and determined, by way of revenge, to mortify you in turn. I resolved to show you that all the eloquence of your fine pen could not tempt our Fabius [Washington] to do wrong; and, avoiding any representation of my own, I put your letter into his hands and let it speak for itself. I knew, indeed, this would expose his resolution to a severer trial than it could experience in any other way, and I was not without my fears for the event, but if it should decide against you, I anticipated the triumph of letting you see your influence had failed. I congratulated myself on the success of my scheme; for, though there was a harder struggle upon the occasion between inclination and duty, than it would be for his honor to tell; yet he at last had the courage to determine that, as he could not indulge the ladies with consistency and propriety, he would not run the risk of being charged with a breach of both.

This he desired me to tell you, though, to be sure, it was done in a different manner, interlaced with many assurances of his great desire to oblige you, and of his regret that he could not do it in the present case, with a deal of stuff of the same kind, which I have too good an opinion of your understanding to repeat. I shall, therefore, only tell you that whether the Governor and the General are more honest or more perverse than other people, they have a very odd knack of thinking alike; and it happens in the present case that they both equally disapprove the intercourse you mention, and have taken pains to discourage it. I shall leave you to make your own reflections upon this, with only one more observation, which is that the ladies for whom you apply would have every claim to be gratified, were it not that it would operate as a bad precedent.

But, before I conclude, it will be necessary to explain one point. This refusal supposes that the ladies mean only to make a visit and return to New York. If it should be their intention to remain with us, the case will be altered. There will be no rule against their coming out, and they will be an acquisition. But this is subject to two provisos—1st that they are not found guilty of treason or any misdemeanor punishable by the laws of the State, in which case the General can have no power to protect them; and 2dly, that the ladies on our side do not apprehend any inconvenience from increasing their number. Trifling apart, there is nothing could give me greater pleasure than to have been able to serve Miss Livingston and her friends on this occasion, but circumstances really did not permit it. I am persuaded she has too just an opinion of the General’s politeness not to be convinced that he would be happy to do anything which his public character would justify in an affair so interesting to the tender feelings of so many ladies. The delicacy of her own ideas will easily comprehend the delicacy of his situation;— she knows the esteem of her friend.

A. Hamilton.

The General and Mrs. Washington present their compliments.

Hamilton’s letter can be found HERE. Portrait from Find A Grave.

posted February 1st, 2018 by Janet, Comments Off on “I put your letter into his hands . . . “, CATEGORIES: Duer, Catherine Alexander "Lady "Kitty",Hamilton, Alexander,Livingston, Catharine "Kitty",Washington, George

I, Eliza Hamilton

Two Nerdy History Girls is a blog I subscribe to. The bloggers are two women, Loretta Chase and Susan Holloway Scott; the former writes historical romances and the latter historical novels and, under the pen name Isabella Bradford, historical romances. They both pride themselves on doing extensive background research for their books. Their blog posts often feature information they have come by as a result and are always fun to read. A bonus: every Sunday they present a roundup of other blog posts they find interesting.

Susan has a new book coming out in September, a historical novel called I, Eliza Hamilton. I suspect she got her inspiration from the highly successful Broadway play Hamilton. Eliza Schuyler was the wife of Alexander Hamilton. I look forward to seeing what Susan does with her story.

For my posts on Eliza, her sister-in-law-Angelica Schuyler Church, and Hamilton’s mistress Maria Reynolds see here, here, here, and here.

posted February 23rd, 2017 by Janet, comments (2), CATEGORIES: Book Beat,Church, Angelica Schuyler,Hamilton, Alexander,Hamilton, Elizabeth Schuyler,Reynolds, Maria

“The roads surpass all description”

SUSAN LIVINGSTON married John Cleves Symmes in 1794. Susan was his third wife, the first two having died. Symmes had been a member of the Continental Congress, active in the military during the Revolution, an associate judge of the New Jersey supreme court, and in 1785 he was named judge for the newly designated Northwest Territory. In 1788, lured by the prospect of money to be made in land speculation there, Symmes and some associates contracted to buy a substantial amount of land in Ohio—known as the Symmes Purchase—to be paid for in part with notes issued by Congress to raise money to finance the Revolution. Symmes settled in North Bend, Ohio near Cincinnati and proceeded to subdivide and sell parcels of land.

In 1794 he persuaded his wife Susan to come to Ohio, promising that she could return frequently to visit her family in New Jersey. Traveling with Symmes was his wife; a daughter by a previous marriage, nineteen-year-old Anne Tuthill Symmes called Nancy; and the daughter of Susan’s sister Kitty Livingston also named Susan (Kitty had married Matthew Ridley in 1787). Susan Livingston Symmes described the early part of the trip in a letter to her sister Sarah Livingston Jay who was in New York City.

22d Novr 1794 2 oClockMy dr Sister
We have just crossed the Junietta, the return of the Army [from settling the Whisky Rebellion in western Pennsylvania] impedes our progress very much, we have been detained on the opposite side of the river since yesterday, owing to the number of Waggons to be ferryed over—we do not proceed above 10 miles a day, & to-day we shall not get about—The roads surpass all description, no one can have an idea of any thing half so bad, such a season as this has not been known these10 years, while the army was passing it rained a fort-night, the teams cut up the roads most dreadfully—it is one succession of mountains from Straasburgh to Pittsburgh,we have yet 2 very considerable ones to pass, the Allegeny & Lawrel—Col.Hamilton [Alexander, who was with the troops] breakfasted at the Inn this morning where we lodged—he looked a little weather-beaten as well as ourselves—We are so happy as to be preserved in Health—expect to winter at Pittsburgh. it will make the journey less heavy—we shall be sufficiently tired by the time we reach that—An officer that’s now here proposes to leave this in the Post-Office at Phila—Remember me affecly to my dr Kitty [her sister Kitty Livingston Ridley], & your little flock, Nancy [Symmes] also desires to be remembred—Susan [the daughter of Kitty] keeps in good heart, we are in tolerable spirits & should be in better were the roads better—Mr Symmes has been unwell for many days, indeed ever since we left Morris [town], he is just beginning to recover his spirits—I find Col. Hamilton has not much expectation of mr. Jays return before Spring—I long to hear what accounts you have of him [John Jay was in England negotiating a treaty with Britain of which Hamilton approved]—I received a letter from my dr Maria dated the 15th of Novr & was happy to find she was content with her situation [Maria Jay was at school in the Moravian Academy in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania]—We are yet 114 miles from Pittsburgh—I will write again in a day or 2, this is the third letter—I would travel on Horseback, but I do not know what to do about Susy, I do not like to leave her in the carriage without me neither would she be contented—
I am my dr Sister unalterably Yours

The letter is part of the Jay Papers at the Columbia Rare Book and Manuscript Library: Order no. 402136C.

posted November 8th, 2016 by Janet, Comments Off on “The roads surpass all description”, CATEGORIES: Hamilton, Alexander,Jay, Sarah Livingston,Livingston, Catharine "Kitty",Ohio,Pennsylvania,Ridley, Matthew,Symmes, Susan Livingston

“. . . do not be jealous, my dear Eliza”

During the time ANGELICA SCHUYLER CHURCH was in England she and Hamilton, as well as Eliza, corresponded. Information was exchanged on British public opinion, the French Revolution, and the state of political affairs on both sides of the Atlantic. Angelica sent books to Hamilton about finances, in particular Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations. He sent her a copy of The Federalist Papers. Angelica asked that Hamilton befriend French exiles fleeing to America, including Talleyrand. In this letter of July 30, 1794 to her sister Eliza she speaks of her “love” for Hamilton.

. . . 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 and there is no summit of true glory which I do not desire he may attain: provided always that he pleases to give me a little [illegible] and sometimes to say our dear Angelica was here…. Oh Betsy, you were a lucky girl to get so clever and so good a companion.

There is disagreement among historians as to whether the Angelica Church and Alexander Hamilton had a sexual relationship. Ron Chernow, the author of Alexander Hamilton (New York: Penguin Press, 2004), on whose book the Broadway success Hamilton is based, believes they probably did not since Hamilton’s marriage remained intact and he continued to have close ties to his wife’s family, especially her father. Nor did Hamilton’s enemies attempt to use suggestions of a liaison to defame him which they certainly would have done if they had evidence of one.

It must be noted that many women and men corresponded with their friends of the opposite sex during this time—the letters often being not only informative, but also affectionate, even flirtatious. Witness the letters between Jefferson and Angelica in this post. Research for the book published by my colleagues and me, Selected Letters of John Jay and Sarah Livingston Jay, produced a good many letters between John Jay and his sister-in-law Kitty Livingston. Kitty, the sister of Sarah Livingston Jay, was popular with Washington and his staff in the social whirl that attended winter quarters at Morristown in 1780. (In fact Hamilton is said to have flirted with Kitty before he met Eliza Schuyler there.) Sarah accompanied John Jay during his diplomatic service abroad, their young son having been left with his Livingston grandparents in New Jersey. Some letters between Kitty and John Jay naturally concerned Peter Augustus, but Kitty sent letters directed to him in Madrid and later in Paris that included her observations and speculations about the progress of the war as well as on the social scene. Some of the letters included coded references to individuals and places. We were rather surprised at the tone of intimacy and affection in these missives.

Thus far, no conclusive evidence of a sexual relationship between Angelica Church and Alexander Hamilton has surfaced. This is not to say that none will. Alexander Hamilton and Eliza Schuyler had eight children, the eldest of whom died in a duel; another went insane. When Hamilton himself died in a duel in 1804 Eliza was emotionally crushed and in dire financial straits. Slowly recovering, she spent the rest of her long life—she died in 1854—involved in charitable activities and in defending her husband’s reputation and promoting his legacy.

Source for this post: this ARTICLE, the original Letter from Angelica Schuyler Church to Elizabeth Hamilton, 30 July 1794, Alexander Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. The illustration is “From a charcoal sketch by Martin, 1851” – Cropped from Internet Archive scan of “Intimate Life of Alexander Hamilton”, published 1910. found HERE.

posted July 26th, 2016 by Janet, comments (2), CATEGORIES: Church, Angelica Schuyler,Hamilton, Alexander,Hamilton, Elizabeth Schuyler,Jay, John,Jay, Sarah Livingston,Livingston, Catharine "Kitty"

“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, [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, [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.]

posted July 22nd, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Church, Angelica Schuyler,Hamilton, Alexander,Hamilton, Elizabeth Schuyler

next page

   Copyright © 2023 In the Words of Women.