“. . . 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.

  1. As an eighteenth-century scholar, I have to agree that in the past, the terms of endearment used in correspondence were much more passionate than they are today. Sometimes students mistake the protestations of “love” between characters like Othello and Iago to be erotic love, rather than the love between two people who literally trust each other with their lives.

    Comment by Jeanne — August 1, 2016 @ 9:53 am

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