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Alexander Hamilton’s “Sorceress”

Hamilton Walking Tour, Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, Alexander Hamilton's wife

Alexander Hamilton, aide-de-camp to George Washington, met up with the eligible Elizabeth Schuyler in Morristown, NJ in 1780 in the midst of the turbulent Revolutionary War.  Hamilton’s love affliction and impatience with their separation manifests itself in this very personal August 8, 1780 letter.  He would go on to marry her on December 14, 1780 in Albany.

 

Immediately after dinner, I stole from a crowd of company to a solitary walk to be at leisure to think of you, and I have just returned to tell you by an express this moment going off that I have been doing so. You are certainly a little sorceress and have bewitched me, for you have made me disrelish every thing that used to please me, and have rendered me as restless and unsatisfied with all about me, as if I was the inhabitant of another world, and had nothing in common with this. I must in spite of myself become an inconstant to detach myself from you, for as it now stands I love you more than I ought—more than is consistent with my peace. A new mistress is supposed to be the best cure for an excessive attachment to an old— if I was convinced of the success of the scheme, I would be tempted to try it— for though it is the pride of my heart to love you it is the torment of it to love you so much, separated as we now are. But I am afraid, I should only go in quest of disquiet, that would make me return to you with redoubled tenderness. You gain by every comparison I make and the more I contrast you with others the more amiable you appear. But why do you not write to me oftener? It is again an age since I have heard from you. I write you at least three letters for your one, though I am immersed in public business and you have nothing to do but to think of me. When I come to Albany, I shall find means to take satisfaction for your neglect. You recollect the mode I threatened to punish you in for all your delinquencies.

I wrote you a long letter by your father. I suppose you will wait his return before you write. If you do I shall chide you severely and if you do not write me a very long and fond one by him, I shall not forgive you at all. I have written you a short letter since that.
We are now at Dobbes ferry.

I would go on but the General summons me to ride.

Adieu My Dear lovely amiable girl. Heaven preserve you and shower its choicest blessings upon you. Love me I conjure you.

 

Featured painting of Elizabeth Schulyer Hamilton by Ralph Earl, 1787

Alexander Hamilton’s Pamphlet on John Adams, October 24, 1800

Best Alexander Hamilton Walking Tour

Best Alexander Hamilton Walking TourBefore the presidential election of 1800, Alexander Hamilton wrote an essay (or what was known as a “pamphlet”) about John Adams, the leader of Hamilton’s Federalist party and the President of the United States called Concerning the Public Conduct and Character of John Adams, Esq. President of the United States that took a disparaging view of his tenure and character.  It was sent out to many prominent Federalists.   As it goes, the competing Democratic-Republican acquired a copy and publicly published it thereby affecting Adams chance of winning reelection in 1800 and affecting the Federalist Party’s (and Hamilton’s) prominence in the political scene.  This led to the Jefferson presidency and Aaron Burr vice-presidency.   Here is an excerpt from the beginning of the pamphlet:

Letter from Alexander Hamilton, Concerning the Public Conduct and Character of John Adams, Esq. President of the United States

Sir,

Some of the warm personal friends of Mr. Adams are taking unwearied pains to disparage the motives of those Federalists, who advocate the equal support of Gen. Pinckney, at the approaching election of President and Vice-President. They are exhibited under a variety of aspects equally derogatory. Sometimes they are versatile, factious spirits, who cannot be long satisfied with any chief, however meritorious:—Sometimes they are ambitious spirits, who can be contented with no man that will not submit to be governed by them:—Sometimes they are intriguing partisans of Great-Britain, who, devoted to the advancement of her views, are incensed against Mr. Adams for the independent impartiality of his conduct.

In addition to a full share of the obloquy vented against this description of persons collectively, peculiar accusations have been devised, to swell the catalogue of my demerits. Among these, the resentment of disappointed ambition, forms a prominent feature. It is pretended, that had the President, upon the demise of General Washington, appointed me Commander in Chief, he would have been, in my estimation, all that is wise, and good and great.

It is necessary, for the public cause, to repel these slanders; by stating the real views of the persons who are calumniated, and the reasons of their conduct.

In executing this task, with particular reference to myself, I ought to premise, that the ground upon which I stand, is different from that of most of those who are confounded with me as in pursuit of the same plan. While our object is common, our motives are variously dissimilar. A part, well affected to Mr. Adams, have no other wish than to take a double chance against Mr. Jefferson. Another part, feeling a diminution of confidence in him, still hope that the general tenor of his conduct will be essentially right. Few go as far in their objections as I do. Not denying to Mr. Adams patriotism and integrity, and even talents of a certain kind, I should be deficient in candor, were I to conceal the conviction, that he does not possess the talents adapted to the Administration of Government, and that there are great and intrinsic defects in his character, which unfit him for the office of Chief Magistrate.

To give a correct idea of the circumstances which have gradually produced this conviction, it may be useful to retrospect to an early period.

I was one of that numerous class who had conceived a high veneration for Mr. Adams, on account of the part he acted in the first stages of our revolution. My imagination had exalted him to a high eminence, as a man of patriotic, bold, profound, and comprehensive mind. But in the progress of the war, opinions were ascribed to him, which brought into question, with me, the solidity of his understanding. He was represented to be of the number of those who favored the enlistment of our troops annually, or for short periods, rather than for the term of the war; a blind and infatuated policy, directly contrary to the urgent recommendation of General Washington and which had nearly proved the ruin of our cause. He was also said to have advocated the project of appointing yearly a new Commander of the Army; a project which, in any service, is likely to be attended with more evils than benefits; but which, in ours, at the period in question, was chimerical, from the want of persons qualified to succeed, and pernicious, from the peculiar fitness of the officer first appointed, to strengthen, by personal influence, the too feeble cords which bound to the service, an ill-paid, ill-clothed, and undisciplined soldiery.

It is impossible for me to assert, at this distant day, that these suggestions were brought home to Mr. Adams in such a manner as to ascertain their genuineness; but I distinctly remember their existence, and my conclusion from them; which was, that, if true, they proved this gentleman to be infected with some visionary notions, and that he was far less able in the practice, than in the theory, of politics. I remember also, that they had the effect of inducing me to qualify the admiration which I had once entertained for him, and to reserve for opportunities of future scrutiny, a definitive opinion of the true standard of his character.

In this disposition I was, when just before the close of the war, I became a member of Congress.

The situation in which I found myself there, was far from being inauspicious to a favorable estimate of Mr. Adams.

Upon my first going into Congress, I discovered symptoms of a party already formed, too well disposed to subject the interests of the United States to the management of France. Though I felt, in common with those who had participated in our Revolution, a lively sentiment of good will towards a power, whose co-operation, however it was and ought to have been dictated by its own interest, had been extremely useful to us, and had been afforded in a liberal and handsome manner; yet, tenacious of the real independence of our country, and dreading the preponderance of foreign influence, as the natural disease of popular government, I was struck with disgust at the appearance, in the very cradle of our Republic, of a party actuated by an undue complaisance to foreign power; and I resolved at once to resist this bias in our affairs: a resolution, which has been the chief cause of the persecution I have endured in the subsequent stages of my political life.

Among the fruits of the bias I have mentioned, were the celebrated instructions to our Commissioners, for treating of peace with Great-Britain;which, not only as to final measures, but also as to preliminary and intermediate negotiations, placed them in a state of dependence on the French ministry, humiliating to themselves, and unsafe for the interests of the country. This was the more exceptionable, as there was cause to suspect, that in regard to the two cardinal points of the fisheries and the navigation of the Mississippi, the policy of the cabinet of Versailles did not accord with the wishes of the United States.

The Commissioners, of whom Mr. Adams was one, had the fortitude to break through the fetters which were laid upon them by those instructions; and there is reason to believe, that by doing it, they both accelerated the peace with Great-Britain, and improved the terms, while they preserved our faith with France.

Yet a serious attempt was made to obtain from Congress a formal censure of their conduct. The attempt failed, and instead of censure, the praise was bestowed which was justly due to the accomplishment of a treaty advantageous to this country, beyond the most sanguine expectation. In this result, my efforts were heartily united.

The principal merit of the negotiation with Great-Britain, in some quarters, has been bestowed upon Mr. Adams; but it is certainly the right of Mr. Jay, who took a lead in the several steps of the transaction, no less honorable to his talents than to his firmness. The merit, nevertheless, of a full and decisive co-operation, is justly due to Mr. Adams.

It will readily be seen, that such a course of things was calculated to impress me with a disposition friendly to Mr. Adams. I certainly felt it, and gave him much of my consideration and esteem.

But this did not hinder me from making careful observations upon his several communications and endeavoring to derive from them an accurate idea of his talents and character. This scrutiny enhanced my esteem in the main for his moral qualifications but lessened my respect for his intellectual endowments. I then adopted an opinion, which all my subsequent experience has confirmed, that he is a man of an imagination sublimated and eccentric; propitious neither to the regular display of sound judgment, nor to steady perseverance in a systematic plan of conduct; and I began to perceive what has been since too manifest, that to this defect are added the unfortunate foibles of a vanity without bounds, and a jealousy capable of discoloring every object.

Strong evidence of some traits of this character, is to be found in a Journal of Mr. Adams, which was sent by the then Secretary of Foreign Affair to Congress. The reading of this Journal, extremely embarrassed his friends, especially the delegates of Massachusetts; who, more than once, interrupted it, and at last, succeeded in putting a stop to it, on the suggestion that it bore the marks of a private and confidential paper, which, by some mistake, had gotten into its present situation, and never could have been designed as a public document for the inspection of Congress. The good humor of that body yielded to the suggestion…

 

Central Park’s Vanderbilt Gate

Best Central Park Walking Tours - Secrets Central Park

Best Central Park Walking Tours - Secrets Central ParkAt the Fifth Avenue entrance to Central Park’s Conservatory Gardens near the top of Central Park, is a magnificent gate.  The wrought iron gate was not built for the gardens but was a gift of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney to New York City and originally stood in front of Cornelius Vanderbilt II’s mansion at Fifth Avenue and 58th Street–where Bergdorf-Goodman is today.  Designed by the great architect George B. Post, of New York Stock Exchange fame, along with Richard Morris Hunt, the house first opened in 1883.  The gate, designed by Post and produced in Paris in 1894, is a spectacular way to enter the center Italian Garden of the Conservatory Gardens.  See the gate on the Secret Places of Central Park walking tour.

Fort Fish in Central Park

Central Park Tour

Central Park Tour

Fort Fish, in what is now Central Park was named after Nicholas Fish who, during the War of 1812, was on the City Committee of Defense to protect New York from British invasion.

Nicholas was also a good friend of Alexander Hamilton.  They were both in the Hearts of Oak militia in New York  (1st Battalion/5th Field Artillery Regiment) before and early in the Revolutionary War.  Both were at Yorktown and both were members of the New York Society of the Cincinnati (for which Fish was also president).  Fish named his son, Hamilton Fish, after Alexander Hamilton.  Hamilton Fish would go on to serve as New York governor and United States senator from New York.

In John Trumbull’s painting above called, The Surrender of Lord Cornwallis both Colonel Nicholas Fish and Colonel Alexander Hamilton can be seen on the bottom right. Fish is at the very far right and Hamilton is four men in.

The 12th Amendment to the Constitution (ratified in 1992)

Best Hamilton Tour of New York City

Best Hamilton Tour of New York City

The second Amendment, proposed at Federal Hall in New York City but not ratified until about 203 years later in 1992 as the 27th amendment, had to do with Congress not being able to give itself a raise in pay without its constituents having the ability to disapprove. The increase in pay goes into effect after the following House of Representatives election.

Here’s the wording:

“No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.”

The 11th Amendment to the Constitution (not ratified)

Best Hamilton Tour of New York City

Best Hamilton Tour of New York City

The first 10 amendments to the Constitution are known as the Bill of Rights, but there were actually two amendments that were proposed at Federal Hall in New York City on September 25, 1789 that were not ratified.  The original first amendment had to do with establishing a ratio and limitation on how many people could be represented by each member of the House of Representatives.

Fortunately, it was not ratified, because if it was, there would be more than 6,000 representatives instead of the current 435.  The amendment proposed a limit of 50,000 people per representative.  Today, each member of the House represents about 700,000 people!

Here is the original wording of that amendment:

“After the first enumeration required by the first article of the Constitution, there shall be one Representative for every thirty thousand, until the number shall amount to one hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall be not less than one hundred Representatives, nor less than one Representative for every forty thousand persons, until the number of Representatives shall amount to two hundred; after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall not be less than two hundred Representatives, nor more than one Representative for every fifty thousand persons.”

Home at the Grange

Hamilton Grange - Alexander Hamilton

Hamilton Grange - Alexander Hamilton

George Washington had Mount Vernon, Thomas Jefferson had Monitcello and Alexander Hamilton had the Grange.

Hamilton commissioned the fine architect John McComb, Jr., (who helped design New York’s City Hall) to design a home in what was then the country in Upper Manhattan on a sprawling 32 acres.  It was completed in 1802, just two years before the duelwith Aaron Burr.

The home’s original placement provided for views of the Hudson and Harlem Rivers from long piazzas and numerous windows.  It has since been moved twice.  Once in 1889 and again in 2011 (at a cost of approximately 14.5 million dollars) to its present location on Convent Avenue and 141st Street where it is operated as a historic site and open to the public.

https://www.nps.gov/hagr/index.htm

The Original Federal Hall

Alexander Hamilton, George Washington Walking Tour New York City

Alexander Hamilton, George Washington Walking Tour New York City

One of the stops on the Revolutionary Tour is the current Federal Hall, originally a customs house.  The original building on Wall and Broad Streets was built from 1699-1703 as the English colonial city hall.  It was redesigned by Pierre Charles L’Enfant for the American Federal Hall in 1789 and was the site of George Washington’s inauguration April 30, 1789.  It served as the first capital under the Constitution for about 17 months after which the capital moved to Philadelphia until 1800 when it moved to the permanent capital.  This building, torn down in 1811, was the site of the following:

Under British rule in 1735, the trial and imprisonment of publisher John Peter Zenger, who was arrested for publishing libelous articles against the British royal governor.  He was acquitted on the grounds that what he published could not be proven false, thereby establishing a precedent for freedom of the press.

The Stamp Act Congress in 1765 with nine of the colonies’ delegates protesting the tax on paper products, playing cards and dice  They produced a list of colonial rights and grievances to King George III and Parliament.  The Stamp Act was repealed in 1766.

Congress under the Articles of Confederation met here from 1785 to 1789.

The first Congress under the Constitution met here in March 1789.

George Washington was inaugurated April 30, 1789, where the statue stands today.

The First Congress proposed twelve amendments to the Constitution in September 1789.  Ten were ratified in Philadelphia and become known as the Bill of Rights.

In September 1789, the First Congress established the Judiciary Act of 1789, creating the federal court system including the Supreme Court with six justices, one Chief Justice and five Associate Justices.

 

Aaron Burr’s Surveillance in Weehawken

Hamilton & Washington Walking Tour New York City

Mention Weehawken and Aaron Burr and most people will think of the duel with Alexander Hamilton, July 11, 1804, but Aaron Burr has earlier history to the New Jersey township. On July 6, 1778, while New York City was occupied by the British during the Revolutionary War, General William Alexander (also known as Lord Stirling), at the direct request of none other than George Washington, sent Colonel Burr a letter requesting him to provide surveillance on the “motions of the enemy’s shipping” in Weehawken, Hoboken and Bergen Heights. This is the letter:

“General Washington desires me to state that he wishes you would employ three, four, or more persons, to go to Bergen heights, Weehawk, Hoebuck, or any other heights thereabout, convenient to observe the motions of the enemy’s shipping, and to give him the earliest intelligence thereof; whether up the river particularly.  In short, everything possible that can be obtained.”

Washington’s Farewell, Part 2

Washington_Hamilton_Walking_Tour_NYC
Washington_Hamilton_Walking_Tour_NYC
George Washington , Alexander Hamilton Walking Tour New York City

In this excerpt from his George Washington’s Farewell Address of 1796 (co-written with the assistance of Alexander Hamilton), we can not take for granted that once again, after resigning his military commission after the American Revolution in 1783, after his second term as president, with the greatest of humility and grace, once again retires to civilian life allowing for a transfer of power.

He pays tribute to his fellow Americans for their constancy of support despite the often discouraging situations and prays for their continued “union and brotherly affection” to each other and hopes that the “sacred” Constitution, ultimately a product of the people, is sustained and preserved and looked upon as a shining example for every other nation.

The impressions with which I first undertook the arduous trust were explained on the proper occasion. In the discharge of this trust, I will only say that I have, with good intentions, contributed towards the organization and administration of the government the best exertions of which a very fallible judgment was capable. Not unconscious in the outset of the inferiority of my qualifications, experience in my own eyes, perhaps still more in the eyes of others, has strengthened the motives to diffidence of myself; and every day the increasing weight of years admonishes me more and more that the shade of retirement is as necessary to me as it will be welcome. Satisfied that if any circumstances have given peculiar value to my services, they were temporary, I have the consolation to believe that, while choice and prudence invite me to quit the political scene, patriotism does not forbid it.

In looking forward to the moment which is intended to terminate the career of my public life, my feelings do not permit me to suspend the deep acknowledgment of that debt of gratitude which I owe to my beloved country for the many honors it has conferred upon me; still more for the steadfast confidence with which it has supported me; and for the opportunities I have thence enjoyed of manifesting my inviolable attachment, by services faithful and persevering, though in usefulness unequal to my zeal. If benefits have resulted to our country from these services, let it always be remembered to your praise, and as an instructive example in our annals, that under circumstances in which the passions, agitated in every direction, were liable to mislead, amidst appearances sometimes dubious, vicissitudes of fortune often discouraging, in situations in which not unfrequently want of success has countenanced the spirit of criticism, the constancy of your support was the essential prop of the efforts, and a guarantee of the plans by which they were effected. Profoundly penetrated with this idea, I shall carry it with me to my grave, as a strong incitement to unceasing vows that heaven may continue to you the choicest tokens of its beneficence; that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free Constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained; that its administration in every department may be stamped with wisdom and virtue; that, in fine, the happiness of the people of these States, under the auspices of liberty, may be made complete by so careful a preservation and so prudent a use of this blessing as will acquire to them the glory of recommending it to the applause, the affection, and adoption of every nation which is yet a stranger to it.

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