“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.]


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