Like most of the country, I have caught the Hamilton fever. However, I am more enamored by the story of Elizabeth, also known as Eliza, Hamilton.
She was the daughter of two very prominent citizens of the New York Colony. Her father, Phillip, was a Revolutionary War General. Her mother was of the Van Rensselaerswyck family which was extremely wealthy and politically influential. Alexander may have gone down in history as being passionate (to put it nicely) but Eliza was reportedly stubborn and impulsive. As James McHenry wrote, “Hers was a strong character with its depth and warmth, whether of feeling or temper controlled, but glowing underneath, bursting through at times in some emphatic expression.” It is said that it was love at first sight for Eliza when she met Alexander.
Though her married life was not ideal, they often struggled to make ends meat, they were a true partnership. Alexander trusted Eliza for her opinion on his writing, she negotiated the price of their home and is often consulted on political matters. She was even an intermediary between Alexander and his publisher. It was this partnership that helped their marriage survive the scandals and the loss of two of their nine children (one in a duel and another to madness).
Alexander’s story may have stopped at his duel with Aaron Burr, Eliza’s carried on. She fought to make sure that he was not just a footnote in American History. She spent fifty years piecing together a biography of him, interviewing the soldiers that he served with. She collected and preserved every piece of Alexander’s writing that she could get her hands on. In addition to raising their children (the youngest was two at Alexander’s death), she opened the first orphanage in New York. She helped orphans, like Alexander, get their shot.