“[Eliza] sends her love. I do not choose to say joins in mine. Tis old fashioned.” - Alexander Hamilton, in a letter to Angelica Schuyler Church, Dec. 6, 1787.
I. admiring of his qualities
January 2, 1780
Morristown, New Jersey
My dear Angelica,
You are only down the hall in our room, but I cannot sleep and so write this letter, to unburden myself. It is Alexander’s example I take - he writes like a man deprived of the quill, bleeding ink - and I wish to experience more of how he sees this world of ours.
Alexander is such a wonder, a towering intellect and yet so tender in his affections. May I tell you what he sent along with his last letter? It was tres choquant, as you both would say, for Alexander laments my command of French as much as you do. He requested a handkerchief dipped in my perfume, so he could remember me when he is out in the field. His letter itself was full of praise for my figure, utterly effluent and unbearably sweet, particularly focused on my “delicate lips” and my “heavenly bosom”.
How flushed I am just thinking about it!
You cannot argue that he isn’t charming. Peggy has remarked that he complimented her skill at the spinet, and Father says he is to come to dinner next week-end so he can meet my “young man”. Oh, Angelica, I have a gentleman and it is just as wonderful as you told me it would be. I am sorry for doubting your expertise, my sister, but as you know, love is something one must experience for oneself.
If I may also confess something to you - something I suspect you know, as evinced by your knowing smile upon my return from a rare visit from Alexander - we have already begun exploring love’s physical side. Nothing, I might add, that would cause worry for my virtue. It is still in place, if perhaps a little tarnished. I cannot bring myself to speak of it overmuch, else I shall expire of both frustration and despair that my love is so far away.
Eleven days until the dinner in Albany, when I shall see Alexander - and you, of course - again.
II. nor hath any judgment taste
December 12, 1780
Albany, New York
My dear sister,
As I write this to you, I am sitting in our old bedroom at our father’s house, where I am soon to be Schuyler no longer. Alexander shall meet us there, as he must continue to serve the General, though he would sooner walk on hot coals, I suspect, than pen a single further dispatch. Alexander, my Alexander at last! Every time I think on him, his name and his face and his dear letters to me - I shall drown in them! - I am as giddy as that winter’s night, espying him for the first time.
And yet, my heart is troubled.
How does one become a wife? I do not mean the process, the vows, the covenant made before God and man, but the practice. How shall I become Mrs. Alexander Hamilton, wife to Lieutenant Colonel Hamilton, and - one assumes, mother to his children? How can I be enough for a man like Alexander, with his myriad ambitions and shining intellect? How, when I am only simply Eliza?
You would be better suited to him, I think. We both know that, as we both know the decision you made that night in Morristown. I will treasure your kindness forever, my dear Angelica, as I hope you will treasure my happiness. We should never be at odds with each other, for our love transcends such petty thoughts. I cannot imagine a time when I would not have you to turn to.
I do not know if I will ever send this letter, but I find that it helps to speak as if you were to hear me, and I do not find myself so troubled. How silly I am, dear sister, on the eve of my wedding and still as lost as ever. I wish you were here, Angelica, to ease my fears and make me smile.
I shall see you soon, when I wear my bridal veil and you strew tea roses before me.
Your beloved sister,
III. in choice so oft beguiled
August 17, 1791
New York, New York
My dear Angelica,
It was so good to see you on our trip to Albany. I profess myself astonished that you came all the way from London, though I profess myself more astonished that our Alexander did not join us. I know you were - and are - as disappointed as I, though I do hope seeing Philip and Father helped your disappointment. And, hopefully, myself as well, for I have missed you so in your absence and continue to miss you even now.
Do you recall that day we went to the lake? You asked, ever courteous and knowing, if I were ill, and I wept in your arms over our missing Alexander. I had hoped to take him boating, perhaps walking by the shore, where you might have joined us. It would have been so pleasant to have the three of us, finally, together in happiness.
Do not mistake me, dear sister - it was lovely to have you with us, but I cannot help but imagine how much we would have delighted to have Alexander as well. I know you wrote each other faithfully while you were away in London, and I know how well you love each other. I had hoped to remind you both of that love while we were upstate.
There is no cause for worry, as I know you will upon reading this letter. Your love for Alexander is kin to mine, as you are kin to me, and so I want only our happiness. Know that your place is safe in my heart and, if I may speak for my absent husband, in his.
Before I must go, Philip has bade me convey his wish to have “Aunt Angelica” back by Christmastide, and so you must take his wishes into consideration when you plan your next visit. I daresay we can, between us, pry Alexander from the Congressional floor and back home where he belongs.
I remain your loving sister,
IV. showers of oaths did melt
September 3, 1797
My dear sister,
My hands have shaken uncontrollably since the morning of August 31, so forgive me, my Angelica, for not writing you sooner. In addition to my trembling hands, I fear it is also my heart that has trembled since that fateful morning. I could not bring myself to unburden my heart to you, my sister, until now, for I am certain you think me a fool. An empty-headed girl who loves our Alexander too much and has been blind to the tomcat’s nature.
In your superior wisdom, drawn from more years of marriage than myself and - I also suspect - your affinity to my husband’s mind - you warned me of this day. Do you recall it? It was on the eve of my engagement, we were huddled in my bedroom under the quilts, and I asked you if you thought he would make me happy. How I laughed then at your warning, that the sweet gentleman who kissed our hands was a noted libertine and rounder, and it would not be easy to change his nature. It was equally painful to read your correspondence upon reading that horrid pamphlet, your comparisons to Icarus and his wings of wax, Melampus the seer.
But you are right, as you so often are, and so I implore you again for your loving counsel - what shall I do? Market Street, that lovely stretch of stone where I once walked with our children, has become a barrage of eyes upon me. I am an object of scorn at worst, pity at best, and I cannot bear to look upon Alexander’s face. I cannot bear to think of his hands upon me without imagining that girl beneath them, or his mouth without imagining him kissing her with such ardor he has bestowed upon me. I read and reread his letters to me from that time he was betraying me, and I wonder if the candlelight he wrote them by touched her as well.
Strange, my sister, that I do not think of you in that light. But of course, we never made secret our love for Alexander from each other, and there is nothing I would begrudge sharing with you.
I shall take comfort, I suppose, in my children. William is such a calm baby, perhaps to counter his father’s wildness, and Little Angelica misses her favorite aunt. Philadelphia is positively pyretic in summer, but it shall cool off soon, and as autumn nears, I am hoping to return to New York. The invitation to visit and spend time with us is, as ever, extended to you.
All my love, your sister,
V. a dear expense
March 16, 1814
New York, New York
To my dearest Angelica,
I wrote Alexander after his death and now, my sweet sister, it seems I shall do so for you. Oh, Angelica, how I miss you. How I wish you were still here with me, when I have so much more to do. It seems unkind of Providence to have taken both you and Alexander and left only Eliza to remain. I have taken up a few old habits from the both of you - walking the Grange as Alexander once did, stitching my anger out into needlework as you were wont to do. It makes me feel as if you are still here, still strengthening me.
For there is so much work to do. There is no time to waste, not when it has run out for my dearest loves, not when there are stories untold and lives in shadow. Washington and Laurens, dear Lafayette, brave Mulligan, I want everyone to know what they did for this country of ours. I want to see their names set into the stone of history.
And there is the orphanage. There is always the orphanage and always the children. They were Alexander’s true legacy, I think, his greatest gift to me and this nation. The example he made of a bastard orphan rising to the greatest heights in the land never fails to open their eyes, and they ask me, Angelica - is it true? Did one of them truly become a general? Did one of them fight in the great war for freedom with General Washington? Did one of them serve in Congress and pen inspirational oratory worthy of the greatest men in the land?
One did. One will again.
Still, though I write and work and hope like our Alexander, I cannot help but grieve you both. You are there in every button of my dress, in every whiff of lilac. He is in every flicker of a candle and turn of a page and stain from a quill. My heart aches from where you are missing, my eyes burn with tears I cannot stop shedding.
I am so tired, Angelica. I simply want to see you and Alexander again. I want to feel your warmth and love in Heaven, where I know you are both waiting for me.
It is only a matter of time.