Part 10 out of 10
reins of public life again unless in the event of a revolution. I
believe I have crushed that possibility with this election; otherwise, I
doubt if my knell would have sounded. On the bare possibility that such
is not the case, and that my usefulness may not be neutralized by public
doubt of my courage, I must accept this challenge, whether or not I have
sufficient moral courage to refuse it. I believe I have; but that is
neither here nor there, and I shall fall. Should I survive, the sole
reason would be danger ahead. For the last two years I have felt myself
moving steadily deathward. By this abrupt exit I but anticipate the
inevitable a year or two, and doubtless it seems to the destiny that
controls my affairs as the swiftest way to dispose of Burr, and awaken
the country to the other dangers that menace it. To the last I am but a
tool. No man was ever so little his own master, so thrust upon a planet
for the accomplishment of public and impersonal ends alone. I have been
permitted a certain amount of domestic felicity as my strength was best
conserved thereby, my mind free to concentrate upon public duties. I was
endowed with the gift of fascination, that men should follow me without
question, and this country be served with immediate effectiveness, I
have received deep and profound satisfaction from both these
concessions, but it would not matter in the least if I had not. They
were inevitable with the equipment for the part I had to play. I have
had an astonishing and conquering career against the mightiest
obstacles, and I may as a further concession, be permitted an enduring
place in history; but that, also, is by the way. I conquered, not to
gratify my love of power and to win immortal fame, but that I might
accomplish the part for which I was whirled here from an almost
inaccessible island fifteen hundred miles away--to play my part in the
creation of this American empire. It has been a great part, creatively
the greatest part. The proof that no native-born American could have
played it lies in the fact that he did not. The greatest of her men have
abetted me; not one has sought to push me aside and do my work. My only
enemies have been those who would pull my structure down; the most
ambitious and individual men in the Union, of the higher sort, are my
willing followers. To win them I never plotted, nor did I ever seek to
dazzle and blind them. Part of my equipment was the power to convince
them without effort of my superior usefulness; there was no time to
lose. I am nothing but a genius, encased in such human form as would
best serve its purpose; an atom of the vast creative Being beyond the
Universe, loaned for an infinitesimal part of time to the excrescence
calling itself The United States of North America, on the dot called
Earth. Now the part is played, and I am to be withdrawn. That my human
heart is torn with insupportable anguish, matters not at all. I leave
Hamilton had been bred in the orthodox religion of his time, and its
picturesqueness, including its ultimates of heaven and hell, had taken
firm hold of his ardent imagination. But in his cosmic moments the
formulations of this planet played no part.
"I have not even a mother-country," he thought. "I am a parent, not a
child. My patriotism has been that of a tigress for her young, not of a
man for his fatherland. God knows I am willing, and always have been, to
die for this country, which is so much my own, but why--why--need I have
been made so human? Could I not have understood men as well? Could I not
have performed my various part without loving my wife and children, my
friends, with the deepest tenderness and passion of which the human
heart is capable? Then I would go without a pang, for I am tired, and
death would be a relief. But, since all humanity was forced into me, why
should not I, now that I have faithfully done my part, be permitted a
few years of happiness by my hearthstone?"
He raised his hands as if to shut out the cold high stars. He had had
few bitter moments since the night, four years before, when he had
deliberately exorcised bitterness and hate; and that mellowness had come
to him which came to his great rivals in their old age. But to-night he
let the deeps rise. He ached with human wants, and he was bidden to
work out his last act of service to the country for whose sole use he
had been sent to Earth.
He dropped his hands and stared at the worlds above. "Must I go on?" he
thought. "Is that it? Does other work await me elsewhere? Has the
Almighty detached from himself a few creative egos, who go from world to
world and do their part; removed the day their usefulness is over, that
they shall not dissipate their energy, nor live until men regard with
slighting wonder the work of the useless old creature in their midst,
withdraw from it their first reverence? I go in the fulness of my
maturity and the high tide of respect and affection; I go in the
dramatic manner of my advent, and my work will be a sacred thing;--even
my enemies will not dare to pull it down until such time as they are
calm enough to see it as it is; and then the desire will have passed.
Doubtless all things are best and right.... Maturity? I feel as old as
time and as young as laughter."
He sat up suddenly and bent his head. Millions of tiny bells were
ringing through the forest. So low, so golden, so remote they sounded,
that they might have hung in the stars above or in the deeps of the
earth. He listened so intently for a moment that life seemed suspended,
and he saw neither the cool dark forest nor the silver ripple of the
Hudson, but a torn and desolate land, and a gravestone at his feet. Then
he passed his hand over his forehead with a long breath, and went softly
into the drawing-room.
Angelica sat at the piano, with her head thrown back, her long fair hair
hanging to the floor. Her dark eyes were blank, but her fingers shook
from the keys the music of a Tropic night. It was a music that Hamilton
had not sent a thought after since the day he landed in America,
thirty-one years ago. It had come to her, with other memories, by direct
He went to the dining room hastily and poured out a glass of wine. When
he returned, Angelica, as he expected, was half lying in a chair, white
"Drink this," he said, in the bright peremptory manner to which his
children were accustomed. "I think you are not strong enough yet to
indulge in composition. You have grown too fast, and creation needs a
great deal of physical vigour. Now run to bed, and forget that you can
play a note."
Angelica sipped the wine obediently, and bade him good night. As she
toiled up the stairs she prayed for the physical strength that would
permit her to become the great musician of her ambitious dreams. Her
prayer was answered; the great strength came to her, and her music was
the wonder of those who listened; but they were very few.
Hamilton went into his library, prepared to write until morning.
Bitterness and cosmic curiosity had vanished; he was the practical man,
with a mass of affairs to arrange during the few days that were left to
him. But he did no work that night. The door-knocker pounded loudly. The
servants had gone to bed. He took a lamp, and unchained and unlocked the
front door, wondering what the summons meant, for visitors in that
lonely spot were rare after nightfall. A woman stood in the heavy shade
of the porch, and behind her was a carriage. She wore a long thin
pelisse; and the hood was drawn over her face. Nevertheless, she
hesitated but a moment. She lifted her head with a motion of haughty
defiance that Hamilton well remembered, and stepped forward.
"It is I, Hamilton," she said. "I have come to have a few words with you
alone, and I shall not leave until--"
"Come in, by all means," said Hamilton, politely. "You were imprudent to
choose such a dark night, for the roads are dangerous. When you return I
will send a servant ahead of you with a lantern."
He led the way to the library and closed the door behind them. Madame
Jumel threw off her cloak, and stood before him in the magnificence of
cloth of gold and many diamonds. Her neck blazed, and the glittering
tower of her hair was a jewel garden. She was one of the women for whom
splendour of attire was conceived, and had always looked her best when
in full regalia. To-night she was the most superb creature that man had
ever seen or dreamed of. Even her great eyes looked like jewels, deep
and burning as that blue jewel of the West Indies, the Caribbean Sea;
but her lips and cheeks were like soft pink roses. Hamilton had seen her
many times since the day of parting, for she went constantly to the
theatre, and had been invited to the larger receptions until her
reckless Jacobinism had put the final touch to the disapproval of
Federal dames; but he had never seen her in such beauty as she was
to-night. Eleven years had perfected this beauty, taken from it nothing.
He sighed, and the past rose for a moment; but it seemed a century
"Will you not sit down?" he asked. "Can I fetch you a glass of wine? I
remember you never liked it, but perhaps, after so long a drive--"
"I do not wish any wine," said Madame Jumel, shortly. She was nonplussed
by this matter-of-fact acceptance of a situation which she had intended
should be intensely dramatic. She was not yet gone, however.
"No one ever could get the best of you, Hamilton," she exclaimed. "I
have come here to-night--how terribly delicate you look," she faltered,
with a sudden pallor. "I have not seen you for so long--"
"My health does not give me the least concern," said Hamilton,
hurriedly, wondering if he could lay his hand on a bottle of
smelling-salts without awaking his wife. "Pray go on. To what am I
indebted for the honour of this visit?"
Madame Jumel rose and swept up and down the long room twice. "Can there
be anything in that tale of royal blood?" thought Hamilton. "Or in that
other tale of equally distinguished parentage?"
She had paused with her back to him, facing one of the bookcases.
"Classics, classics, classics!" she exclaimed, in a voice which grew
steadier as she proceeded. "That was the only taste we did not share.
Don Quixote in Spanish, Dante and Alfieri in Italian; and all the German
brutes. Ah! Voltaire! Rousseau! What superb editions! No one can bind
but the French. And the dear old _Moniteur_--all bound for posterity,
which will never look at it."
She returned and stood before him, and she was quite composed.
"I came to tell you," she said, "that when you die, it will be by the
hand of my deputy. I tell you because I am determined that your last
earthly thought shall be of me."
"_Cherchez la femme--toujours!_ Why are you doing this?" he asked
curiously. "You no longer love me, and your hate should have worn out
"Neither my hate nor my love has ceased for a second. I married Jumel
for these jewels, for the courts of Europe, for a position in this
country which the mighty Schuylers cannot take from me again. But I
would fly with you to-morrow, and live with you in a hole under ground.
I came to make no such proposal, however; I know that you would
sacrifice even your family to your honour, and everything else in life
to them. For years I waited, hoping that you would suddenly come back to
me, hating you and injuring you in every way my Jacobinism could devise,
but ready to wipe your shoes with my hair the moment you appeared. Now
the hard work of your life is over. You look forward to years of
happiness with your family on this beautiful estate, while I am married
to a silly old Frenchman--who, however, has brought me my final means of
revenge. I know you well. You would rather be alive now than at any time
of your life. Well, you shall go. And I would pray, if that were my
habit, that into these last days you may condense all the agonies of
parting from those you love that I have ached and raged through in these
eleven long years."
"God knows I have bitterly regretted that you should suffer for my
passions. And, if it is any satisfaction to you, I go unwillingly, and
the parting will be very bitter."
She drew a sharp breath, and flung her head about. "One cannot triumph
over you!" she cried. "Why was I such a fool as to come here to-night?
My imagination would have served me better."
"Is it French money?" asked Hamilton.
"Yes, but I alone am responsible. We handle immense sums, and its
disposal is left to our discretion. This will be distasteful neither to
France nor Virginia,--I suppose I may have Louisiana, if I want it!--but
I am no man's agent in this matter."
"You are magnificent! It is quite like you to disdain to share your
terrible responsibility. I can lighten it a little. I shall not shoot
"I should rather you did. Still, it does not matter. He will be disposed
of, and I shall lead the hue and cry."
"You are young to be so brutal. Will your conscience never torment you?"
"I have too much brain to submit to conscience, and you know it. I shall
suffer the torments of the damned, but not from conscience. But I would
rather suffer with you out of the world than in it. I have stood that as
long as a mere mortal can stand anything. Revenge is not my only motive.
Either you or I must go, and as I have now found the means of boundless
distraction, I live. I have been on the point of killing myself and you
more than once. But my power to injure you gave me an exquisite
satisfaction; and then, I always hoped. Now the time for the _period_
has come." Her chin sank to her neck, and she stared at him until her
eyes filled. "Do you love them so much more than you ever loved me?" she
Hamilton turned away his head. "Yes," he said.
She drew a long shivering breath. "Ah!" she said. "You are a frail
shadow of yourself. You have no passion in you. And yet, even as you
are, I would fling these jewels into the river, and live with you until
you died in my arms. You may think me a monster, if you like, but you
shall die knowing that your wife does not love you as I do."
Hamilton leaned forward and dried her tears. "Say that you forgive me,"
she said; for audacity was ever a part of genius.
"Yes," he said grimly, "I forgive you. You and Bonaparte are the two
magnificent products of the French Revolution. I am sorry you are not
more of a philosopher, but, so far as I alone am concerned, I regret
"Oh, men!" she exclaimed, with scorn. "They are always philosophers when
they are no longer in love with a woman. But you will give me your last
"No," he said deliberately, "I shall not."
She sprang to her feet. "You will! Thank you for saying that, though! I
was about to grovel at your feet. Take me to my coach! What a fool I was
to come here!" She seized her pelisse, and wound it about her as she ran
down the hall. Hamilton followed, insisting that she give him time to
awaken a servant. But she would not heed. She flung herself into her
coach, and called to the driver to gallop his horses, unless he wished
to lose his place on the morrow. Hamilton stood on the porch, listening
to the wild flight down the rough hill through the forest But it was
unbroken, so long as he could hear anything, and he laughed suddenly and
entered the house.
"The high farce of tragedy," he thought. "Probably a mosquito will
settle on Burr's nose as he fires, and my life be spared."
The challenge was delivered on Wednesday. Hamilton refused to withdraw
his services from his clients in the midst of the Circuit Court, and
July 11th, a fortnight later, was appointed for the meeting. When
Hamilton was not busy with the important interests confided to him by
his clients, he arranged his own affairs, and drew up a document for
publication, in the event of his death, in which he stated that he had
criticised Burr freely for years, but added that he bore him no
ill-will, that his opposition had been for public reasons only, that his
impressions of Burr were entertained with sincerity, and had been
uttered with motives and for purposes which appeared to himself
commendable. He announced his intention to throw away his fire, and
gave this reason for yielding to a custom which he had held in avowed
abhorrence: "The ability to be in future useful, whether in resisting
mischief or effecting good, in those crises of our public affairs which
seem likely to happen, would probably be inseparable from a conformity
with public prejudice in this particular."
Burr spent several hours of each day in pistol practice, using the
cherry trees of Richmond Hill as targets. Thurlow Weed, in his
"Autobiography," has told of Burr's testament, written on the night
before the duel. Having neither money nor lands, but an infinitude of
debts, to bequeath his daughter, he left her a bundle of compromising
letters from women. The writers moved in circles where virtue was held
in esteem, and several were of the world of fashion. They had, with the
instinct of self-defence, which animates women even in that stage where
they idealize the man, omitted to sign their names. Burr supplied the
omission in every case and added the present address. That Hamilton
would throw away his fire was a possibility remote from the best effort
of Burr's imagination, and although he knew that no one could fire more
quickly than himself, he was not the man to go to the ground unprepared
for emergencies: if his daughter, now Mrs. Alston, would obey his hint
and blackmail, she might realize a pretty fortune. That Theodosia Burr,
even with the incentive of poverty, would have sunk to such ignominy, no
one who knows the open history of her short life will believe; but the
father, whose idol she was, insulted her and stained her memory, too
depraved and warped to understand nobility in anyone, least of all in
one of his own blood. In the study of lost souls Burr has appealed to
many analysts, and by no one has been made so attractive as by Harriet
Beecher Stowe; who, knowing naught by experience of men of the world,
either idealized them as interesting villains or transformed them into
beasts. In Burr she saw the fallen angel, and bedewed him with many
Christian tears. But I doubt if Burr, the inner and real Burr, had far
to fall. His visible divergence from first conditions was as striking
as, no doubt, it was natural. As the grandson of Jonathan Edwards, the
son of the Reverend Aaron Burr, and reared by relatives of that same
morbid, hideous, unhuman school of early New England theology, it only
needed a wayward nature in addition to brain and spirit to send him
flying on his own tangent as soon as he was old enough to think. After
that his congenital selfishness did the rest. For a time he climbed the
hill of prizes very steadily, taking, once in a way, a flight, swift as
an arrow: in addition to great ability at the bar, and a cunning which
rose to the dignity of a talent, he was handsome, magnetic, well-bred,
and polished, studied women with the precision of a vivisectionist,
assumed emotions and impulses he could not feel with such dexterity that
even men yielded to his fascination until they plumbed him; had in fact
many of the fleeting kindly instincts to which every mortal is subject
who is made of flesh and blood, or comes of a stock that has been bred
to certain ideals. Every wretch has a modicum of good in him, and in
spite of the preponderance of evil in Burr, had he been born under
kindly Southern skies with a gold spoon in his mouth, if, when ambitions
developed, he had had but to stretch out his hand to pluck the prizes of
life, instead of exercising the basest talents of his brain to overreach
more fortunate men, why it is possible that his nature might not have
hardened into a glacier: its visible third dazzling and symmetrical, its
deadly bulk skulking below the surface of the waters which divided the
two parts of him from his victims; might have died in the chaste
reclusion of an ancestral four-poster, beneficiaries at his side. But
that immalleable mind lacked the strong fibre of logic and
foresight--which is all that moral force amounts to--that lifts a man
triumphant above his worst temptations; and he paid the bitter and
hideous penalty in a poverty, loneliness, and living death that would
have moved the theologians of his blood to the uneasy suspicion that
punishment is of this earth, a logical sequence of foolish and
short-sighted acts. Both men and women are allowed a great latitude in
this world; they have little to complain of. It is only when the brain
fails in its part, or the character is gradually undermined by lying
and dishonour, that the inevitable sequence is some act which arouses
the indignation of society or jerks down the iron fist of the law. When
Burr took to the slope he slid with few haltings. In his long life of
plottings and failures, from his sympathy with the Conway Cabal to his
desperate old age, there were no depths of blackguardism that he did not
touch. Whether Madame Jumel spoke the truth or not to Hamilton on that
night of their last interview, it was entirely in keeping with his life
and character that he should kill for hire.
On the Fourth of July, the Society of the Cincinnati gave its annual
dinner. This society, then the most distinguished in the Union, and
membered by men who had fought in the War of Independence, had, upon the
death of Washington, their first President, elected Hamilton to the
vacant office. He presided at this banquet, and never had appeared nor
felt happier. Not only did that peculiar exaltation which precedes
certain death possess him, as it possesses all men of mettle and brain
in a like condition, but the philosophy which had been born in him and
ruled his imagination through life had shrugged its shoulders and
accepted the inevitable. Hamilton knew that his death warrant had been
signed above, and he no longer experienced a regret, although he had
often felt depressed and martyred when obliged to go to the courts of
Albany and leave his family behind him. He had lost interest in his
body; his spirit, ever, by far, the strongest and the dominant part of
him, seemed already struggling for its freedom, arrogant and blithe as
it approached its final triumph. There is nothing in all life so selfish
as death; and the colossal ego which genius breeds or is bred out of,
isolated Hamilton even more completely than imminent death isolates most
men. The while he gave every moment he could spare to planning the
future comfort and welfare of his family, he felt as if he had already
bade them farewell, and wondered when and how he should meet them
At this gathering he was so gay and sportive that he infected the great
company, and it was the most hilarious banquet in the society's history.
The old warriors sighed, and wondered at his eternal youth. When he
sprang upon the table and sang his old camp-song, "The Drum," he looked
the boy they remembered at Valley Forge and Morristown. There was only
one member of the company who was unelectrified by the gay abandon of
the evening, and his sombre appearance was so marked in contrast that it
was widely commented on afterward. Burr frequently leaned forward and
stared at Hamilton in amazement. As the hilarity waxed, his taciturnity
deepened, and he finally withdrew.
The secret was well kept. Few knew of the projected meeting, and none
suspected it, although Burr's pistol practice aroused some curiosity. He
had been a principal in a number of duels, and killed no one. But he was
known to have more than one bitter score to pay, for this last campaign
had exceeded every other in heat and fury. So many duels had studded it,
and so many more impended, that the thinking men of the community were
roused to a deep disapproval of the custom. The excitement and horror
over the sacrifice of Hamilton, full-blew this sentiment.
On Saturday, Hamilton gave a dinner at the Grange, and a guest was one
of Washington's first aides, Colonel Trumbull. As he was leaving,
Hamilton took him aside and said, with an emphasis which impressed
Trumbull even at the moment: "You are going to Boston. You will see the
principal men there. Tell them from me, as my request, for God's sake to
cease these conversations and threatings about a separation of the
Union. It must hang together as long as it can be made to. If this Union
were to be broken, it would break my heart."
The following day preceded the duel. Hamilton attended an entertainment
given by Oliver Wolcott, whose fortunes he had made, raising the capital
of a business that could be presided over by no one so well as a former
Secretary of the Treasury. It was a large reception, and he met many of
his old friends. Lady Kitty Duer, widowed, but pleasantly
circumstanced, was there, and Kitty Livingston, once more bearing her
old name in a second marriage. Bitter as the feeling between her house
and Hamilton still was, she had declared long since that she would not
cut him again; and although they never met in private, they often
retired to a secluded corner at gatherings and talked for an hour. His
first reason for attending this reception was to shake her hand as they
parted. Madame Jumel was there, paling the loveliness of even the young
daughters of Mrs. Jay and Lady Kitty Duer. Those who did not mob about
Hamilton surrounded her, and although her cheek was without colour, she
looked serene and scornful.
After the reception Hamilton spent an hour with Troup. This oldest of
his friends, and Angelica, were the only people whose suspicion he
feared. Troup was quite capable of wringing Burr's neck, and his
daughter of taking some other desperate measure. But it was long now
since he had given Angelica reason for anxiety, and she had ceased to
watch him; and to-day, Troup, whom he had avoided hitherto, was treated
to such a flow of spirits that he not only suspected nothing, but
allowed himself to hope that Hamilton's health was mending. Hamilton
dared not even hold his hand longer than usual at parting, although he
longed to embrace him.
That night, in the late seclusion of his library, Hamilton wrote two
letters to his wife, in one of which he recommended Mrs. Mitchell to her
care; then the following to Sedgwick, still a close friend, and probably
the most influential man in New England:--
NEW YORK, July 10th, 1804.
MY DEAR SIR: I have received two letters from you since we last saw
each other--that of the latest date being the twenty-fourth of May.
I have had on hand for some time a long letter to you, explaining
my view of the course and tendency of our politics, and my
intentions as to my own future conduct. But my plan embraced so
large a range, that, owing to much avocation, some indifferent
health, and a growing distaste for politics, the letter is still
considerably short of being finished. I write this now to satisfy
you that want of regard for you has not been the cause of my
I will here express but one sentiment, which is, that DISMEMBERMENT
of our EMPIRE will be a clear sacrifice of great positive
advantages, without any counterbalancing good; administering no
relief to our real disease, which is DEMOCRACY; the poison of
which, by a subdivision, will only be the more concentrated in each
part, and consequently the more virulent. King is on his way to
Boston where you may chance to see him and hear from himself his
sentiments. God bless you.
As he folded and sealed the letter he suddenly realized that the act was
the final touch to the order of his earthly affairs, and he lifted his
hand as though to see if it were still alive. "To-morrow night!" he
thought. "Well, now that the hour has come, I go willingly enough. I
have been permitted to live my life; why should I murmur? There has been
sufficient crowded into my forty-seven years to cover a century. I have
been permitted to play a great part in history, to patch together a
nation out of broken limbs and inform it with a brain. It is right that
I should regard myself in this final hour as a statesman and nothing
more, and that I should go without protest, now that I have no more to
do. I can only be deeply and profoundly thankful that out of three
millions of Americans I was selected, that I have conquered in spite of
all obstacles, and remained until I have nothing more to give. It is
entirely right and fitting that I should die as I have lived, in the
service of this country. Only a sacrifice can bring these distracted
States to reason and eliminate the man most dangerous to their peace. If
I have been chosen for this great part, I should be unworthy indeed if I
Hamilton crossed the river to Weehawken at seven the next morning. He
was accompanied by Pendleton, and his surgeon, Dr. Hosack. It was
already very hot. The river and the woods of the Jersey palisades were
dim under a sultry blue haze. There was a swell on the river, and
Pendleton was very sick. Hamilton held his head with some humour, then
pointed out the great beauty of the Hudson and its high rugged banks,
to distract the unhappy second's mind.
"The majesty of this river," he said, "its suggestion of a vast wild
country almost unknown to the older civilizations, and yet peopled with
the unembodied spirits of a new and mighty race, quicked my unborn
patriotism, unconsciously nourished it until its delivery in Boston."
"It would have curdled mine," said Pendleton. "Who knows--if you had
been of a bilious temperament, the face of our history might wear a pug
nose and a weak chin."
Hamilton laughed. "It never could have done that while Washington's
profile was stamped on the popular fancy. But lesser causes than
seasickness have determined a man's career. Perhaps to my immunity I owe
the fact that I am not a book-worm on St. Croix. If I had even once felt
as you did just now, my dear Pendleton, I should never have set sail for
"Thank God!" said Pendleton. They were beaching. A moment later he and
Hamilton had climbed to the ledge where Burr and Van Ness awaited them.
It was the core of a thick grove, secluded from the opposite shore and
from the high summit of the great palisade.
Hamilton and Burr nodded pleasantly. The men were dressed in the silken
finery of their time, and looked like a pleasuring quartette in that
green and lovely spot. Through leafy windows they saw the blue Hudson,
the spires and manor-houses, the young city, on the Island. The image of
Philip rose to Hamilton, but he commanded it aside.
Pendleton had the choice of position and was to give the word. He had
brought with him John Church's pistols, now in their fourth duel. Their
first adventure caused the flight of Church to America. Since then, they
had been used in his duel with Burr and by Philip Hamilton.
He handed one of the pistols to Hamilton, and asked him if he should set
"No, not this time," said Hamilton.
Pendleton gave the word. Burr raised his arm, deliberately took aim,
and fired, Hamilton lifted himself mechanically to the tips of his feet,
turned sideways, and fell on his face. His pistol went off, and
Pendleton's eye involuntarily followed the direction of the ball, which
severed a leaf in its flight. Often afterward he spoke of the impression
the cloven leaf made on him, a second of distraction at which he caught
eagerly before he bent over Hamilton. Hosack scrambled up the bank, and
Burr, covered with an umbrella by Van Ness, hastily withdrew.
Hamilton was half sitting, encircled by Pendleton's arm, when the
surgeon reached the spot. His face was gray. He muttered, "This is a
mortal wound," then lost consciousness. Hosack ascertained, after a
slight examination, that the ball was in a vital part, and for a few
moments he thought that Hamilton was dead; he did not breathe, nor was
any motion of heart or pulse perceptible. With Pendleton's assistance,
Hosack carried him down the bank and placed him in the barge. William
Bayard had offered his house in case of disaster, and the boat was
propelled over to the foot of Grand Street as rapidly as possible.
Before reaching the shore the surgeon succeeded in reviving Hamilton,
who suddenly opened his eyes.
"My vision is indistinct," he said. In a moment it grew stronger, and
his eye fell on the case of pistols. His own was lying on the top. "Take
care of that pistol," he said. "It is undischarged and still cocked.
Pendleton knows that I did not intend to fire at him." He closed his
eyes, and said nothing further except to enquire the state of his pulse,
and to remark that his lower extremities had lost all feeling. As the
boat reached the pier, he directed that his wife and children be sent
for at once, and that hope be given them. Bayard was standing on the
shore in a state of violent agitation. It was in these pleasant grounds
of his that the great banquet had been given to Hamilton after the
Federalists had celebrated their leader's victory at Poughkeepsie, and
he had been his friend and supporter during the sixteen years that had
Hamilton was placed in bed on the lower floor of Bayard's house; and, in
spite of the laudanum that was liberally administered, his sufferings
were almost intolerable. His children were not admitted to the room for
some time, but his wife could not be kept from him. She knew nothing of
the duel, but she saw that he was dying; and the suddenness and horror,
the end of her earthly happiness, drove her frantic. She shrieked and
raved until Hamilton was obliged to rouse himself and attempt to calm
her. The children were huddled in the next room, and when the pain
subsided for a time, they were brought in. Hamilton's eyes were closed.
When he was told that his children were beside his bed, he did not open
them at once. In those moments he forgot everything but the agony of
parting. Finally, he lifted his heavy eyelids. The children stood there,
the younger clinging to the older, shivering and staring in terror.
Hamilton gave them one look, then closed his eyes and did not open them
again for several moments. As the children were led from the room, one
of the boys fainted.
Through Hamilton's heavy brain an idea forced itself, and finally took
possession. Angelica had not stood in that little group. He opened his
eyes, half expecting that which he saw--Angelica leaning over the
foot-board, her face gray and shrunken, her eyes full of astonishment
"Are you going to die--to die?" she asked him.
"Yes," said Hamilton. He was too exhausted to console or counsel
"To die!" she repeated. "To die!" She reiterated the words until her
voice died away in a mumble. Hamilton was insensible for the moment to
the physical torments which were sending out their criers again, and
watched her changed face with an apprehension, which, mercifully, his
mind was too confused by pain and laudanum to formulate. Angelica
suddenly gripped the foot-board with such force that the bed shook; her
eyes expanded with horror only, and she cowered as if a whip cracked
above her neck. Then she straightened herself, laughed aloud, and ran
out of the room. Hamilton, at the moment, was in the throes of an
excruciating spasm, and was spared this final agony in his harsh and
untimely death. Angelica was hurried from the house to a private asylum.
She lived to be seventy-eight, but she never recovered her reason.
Meanwhile, the grounds without were crowded with the friends of the
dying man,--many of them old soldiers,--who stood through the night
awaiting the end. Business in New York was entirely suspended. The
populace had arisen in fury at the first announcement on the bulletin
boards, and Burr was in hiding lest he be torn to pieces.
Hamilton slept little, and talked to his wife whenever he succeeded in
calming her. Her mental sufferings nearly deprived her of health and
reason; but she lived a half a century longer, attaining the great age
of ninety-seven. It was a sheltered and placid old age, warm with much
devotion; her mind remained firm until the end. Did the time come when
she thought of Hamilton as one of the buried children of her youth?
Troup, Fish, Wolcott, Gouverneur Morris, Rufus King, Bayard, Matthew
Clarkson, some twenty of Hamilton's old friends, were admitted to the
death room for a moment. He could not speak, but he smiled faintly. Then
his eyes wandered to the space behind them. He fancied he saw the
shadowy forms of the many friends who had preceded him: Laurens,
Tilghman, Harrison, Greene, Andre, Sterling, Duane, Duer,
Steuben,--Washington. They looked at him as affectionately as the
living, but without tears or the rigid features of extremest grief. It
is a terrible expression to see on the faces of men long intimate with
life, and Hamilton closed his eyes, withdrawing his last glance from
Morris and Troup.
Of whom did Hamilton think in those final moments? Not of Eliza Croix,
we may be sure. Her hold had been too superficial. Perhaps not even of
Elizabeth Schuyler, although he had loved her long and deeply. What more
probable than that his last hour was filled with a profound
consciousness of the isolation in which his soul had passed its mortal
tarrying? Surrounded, worshipped, counting more intimate friends
sincerely loved than any man of his time, gay, convivial, too active for
many hours of introspection, no mortal could ever have stood more
utterly alone than Hamilton. Whether or not the soul is given a sentient
immortality we have no means of discovering, but the most commonplace
being is aware of that ego which has its separate existence in his
brain, and is like to no other ego on earth; and those who think realize
its inability to mingle with another. Hamilton, with his unmortal gifts,
his unsounded depths, must have felt this isolation in all its tragic
completeness. There may have been moments when the soul of Washington or
Laurens brushed his own. Assuredly no woman companioned it for a
fraction of a second. Whatever his last thoughts, no man has met his end
with more composure.
He died at two o'clock in the afternoon.
The humour and vivacity which had seldom been absent from Hamilton's
face in life withdrew its very impress with his spirit. His features had
something more than the noble repose, the baffling peace, of death; they
looked as if they had been cast long ago with the heads of the Caesars.
Gouverneur Morris, staring at him through blistered eyeballs as he lay
in his coffin, recalled the history of the House of Hamilton, of its
direct and unbroken descent--through the fortunate, and famed, and
crowned of the centuries--from the Great Constantine, from "The
Macedonian," founder of a dynasty of Roman Emperors, and from the first
of the Russian monarchs. Throughout that history great spirits had
appeared from time to time, hewed the foundations of an epoch, and
disappeared. What long-withdrawn creators had met in this exceptionally
begotten brain? Did those great makers of empire, whose very granite
tombs were dust, return to earth when their immortal energies were
invoked to create a soul for a nation in embryo? Morris reviewed the
dead man's almost unhuman gift for inspiring confidence, exerted from
the moment he first showed his boyish face to the multitude; for
triumphing to his many goals as if jagged ramparts had been grass under
his feet. He had been the brain of the American army in his boyhood; he
had conceived an empire in his young twenties; he had poured his genius
into a sickly infant, and set it, a young giant, on its legs, when he
was long under twoscore. Almost all things had come to him by intuition,
for he had lived in advance of much knowledge.
He communicated these thoughts to Troup, who left the room with him, his
head bent, his arms hanging listlessly. "He might have come in some less
human form," added Morris, bitterly. "This is the worst time of _my_
life. I am not ashamed to say I've cried my eyes out."
"I have cried my heart out," said Troup.
The funeral took place from the house of John Church, in Robinson
Street, near the upper Park. Express messengers had dashed out from New
York the moment Hamilton breathed his last, and every city tolled its
bells as it received the news. People flocked into the streets, weeping
and indignant to the point of fury. Washington's death had been followed
by sadness and grief, but was unaccompanied by anger, and a loud desire
for vengeance. Moreover, Hamilton was still a young man. Few knew of his
feeble health; and that dauntless resourceful figure dwelt in the high
light of the public imagination, ever ready to deliver the young country
in its many times of peril. His death was lamented as a national
On the day of the funeral, New York was black. Every place of business
was closed. The world was in the windows, on the housetops, on the
pavements of the streets through which the cortege was to pass:
Robinson, Beekman, Peal, and Broadway to Trinity Church. Those who were
to walk in the funeral procession waited, the Sixth Regiment, with the
colours and music of the several corps, paraded, in Robinson Street,
until the standard of the Cincinnati, shrouded in crepe, was waved
before the open door of Mr. Church's house. The regiment immediately
halted and rested on its reversed arms, until the bier had been carried
from the house to the centre of the street, when the procession
immediately formed. This was the order of it:--
The Military Corps
The Society of the Cincinnati
Clergy of all Denominations
The Body of Hamilton
The General's Horse
The Judges of the Supreme Court (in deep mourning)
Mr. Gouverneur Morris in his carriage
Gentlemen of the Bar and students at law (in deep mourning)
Governor and Lieutenant-Governor of the State
Mayor and Corporation of the City
Members of Congress and Civil Officers of the United States
The Minister, Consuls, and Residents of Foreign Powers
The Officers of the Army and Navy of the United States
Military and Naval Officers of the Foreign Powers
Militia Officers of States
Presidents, Directors, and Officers of the respective Banks
Chamber of Commerce and Merchants
Marine Society, Wardens of the Port, and Masters and Officers
of the Harbour
The President, Professors, and students of Columbia College
The different Societies
The Citizens in general, including the partisans of Burr
On the coffin were Hamilton's hat and sword. His boots and spurs were
reversed across his horse. The fine gray charger, caparisoned in
mourning, was led by two black servants, dressed in white, their turbans
trimmed with black.
The military escorted him in single file, with trailing arms, the band
playing "The Dead March in Saul," minute guns from the Artillery in the
Park answered by the British and French warships in the harbour. But for
the solemn music, its still more solemn accompaniment, the tolling of
muffled bells, and the heavy tramp of many feet, there was no sound;
even women of an hysterical habit either controlled themselves or were
too impressed to give way to superficial emotion. When the procession
after its long march reached Trinity Church the military formed in two
columns, extending from the gate to the corners of Wall Street, and the
bier was deposited before the entrance. Morris, surrounded by Hamilton's
boys, stood over it, and delivered the most impassioned address which
had ever leapt from that brilliant but erratic mind. It was brief, both
because he hardly was able to control himself, and because he feared to
incite the people to violence, but it was profoundly moving. "He never
lost sight of your interests!" he reiterated; "I declare to you before
that God in whose presence we are now so especially assembled, that in
his most private and confidential conversations, his sole subject of
discussion was your freedom and happiness. Although he was compelled to
abandon public life, never for a moment did he abandon the public
service. He never lost sight of your interests. For himself he feared
nothing; but he feared that bad men might, by false professions, acquire
your confidence and abuse it to your ruin. He was ambitious only of
glory, but he was deeply solicitous for you."
The troops formed an extensive hollow square in the churchyard, and
terminated the solemnities with three volleys over the coffin in its
grave. The immense throng, white, still aghast, and unreconciled,
dispersed. The bells tolled until sundown. The city and the people wore
mourning for a month, the bar for six weeks. In due time the leading men
of the parish decided upon the monument which should mark to future
generations the cold and narrow home of him who had been so warm in
life, loving as few men had loved, exulted in the wide greatness of the
empire he had created.
It bears this inscription:
TO THE MEMORY OF
THE CORPORATION OF TRINITY HAVE ERECTED THIS MONUMENT IN TESTIMONY OF
THEIR RESPECT FOR THE PATRIOT OF INCORRUPTIBLE INTEGRITY THE SOLDIER OF
APPROVED VALOUR THE STATESMAN OF CONSUMMATE WISDOM
WHOSE TALENTS AND VIRTUES WILL BE ADMIRED BY GRATEFUL POSTERITY LONG
AFTER THIS MARBLE SHALL HAVE MOULDERED TO DUST
HE DIED JULY 12TH 1804, AGED 47
PAGE XI. "Nevis" is pronounced Neevis.
PAGE 3. Of the Gingerland estate nothing remains to-day but a negro
hamlet named Fawcett. Its inhabitants are, beyond a doubt, the
descendants of slaves belonging to Hamilton's grandparents, for there is
no trace of any other family named Fawcett in the Common Records of
PAGE 6. This deed of separation is entered in the Common Records of
Nevis, 1725-1746, page 429, and is dated the fifth day of February,
PAGE 11. I have hesitated over the spelling of the name Levine. John
Church Hamilton, in his life of Hamilton, spells it Lavine, and in one
of Hamilton's letters, page 7, Vol. 11, of this same Life, it is spelt
in the same manner. But four times in the Records of St. Croix it is
spelt Levine. The half-brother to whom Hamilton refers in his letter had
himself baptized in Christianstadt in the year 1769, and the entry
reads: Peter, son of John Michael and Rachael Levine. In the interment
entry of Rachael Levine it is spelt in this fashion, and in the
government records of Levine's business transactions. It seems to me
probable that in copying Hamilton's letter the name was misspelled, and
although he no doubt mentioned the name freely to his family, it is
possible that he did not write it upon any other occasion. I have,
therefore, used the method for which there is a considerable authority.
PAGE 29. James Hamilton was the fourth son of Alexander Hamilton, Laird
of Grange, and his wife, Elizabeth (eldest daughter of Sir Robert
Pollock), who were married about 1730. The Hamiltons of Grange belonged
to the Cambuskeith branch of the great house of Hamilton, and the
founder of this branch, in the fourteenth century, was Walter de
Hamilton, a son of Sir Gilbert de Hamilton, who was the common ancestor
of the Dukes of Hamilton, the Dukes of Abercorn, Earls of Haddington,
Viscounts Boyne, Barons Belhaven, several extinct peerages, and of all
the Scotch and Irish Hamilton families. He was fifth in descent from
Robert, Earl of Mellent, created by Henry I, Earl of Leicester, who
married a granddaughter of King Henry I of France and his Queen, who was
a daughter of Jeroslaus, Czar of Russia. See "The Lineage of Alexander
Hamilton," in the _New York Genealogical and Biographical Review_, for
April, 1889, or "The Historical and Genealogical Memoirs of the House of
Hamilton, with Genealogical Memoirs of Several Branches of the Family,"
by John Anderson, Edinburgh, 1825, a copy of which is to be found in the
British Museum. In the latter work, against the name of James Hamilton,
is the following statement: A proprietor in the West Indies, and father
of Alexander Hamilton, the celebrated statesman and patriot in the
United States of America, who fell, greatly regretted, in a duel with a
PAGE 35. There is still so widespread misconception of the term
"creole," that it is necessary, even at this late date, to reiterate
that it was not invented as a euphemism for coloured blood. In the
United States creoles are Southerners of French or Spanish extraction;
in the West Indies any person born on one of the islands is a creole,
even if he be an undiluted Dane.
PAGE 49. This deed of trust was entered in Vol. X, No. 1, page 180, of
the Common Records of St. Christopher, on the fifth day of May, 1756,
eight months before the birth of Alexander Hamilton.
PAGE 60. This dialect, or rather this curious mispronunciation of words,
and inability to make use of certain letters and more than one or two
personal pronouns, is gathered from old books on the islands, for the
coloured people of the present generation in the Caribbees, even those
of the lower class, now speak, save for their singsong inflection, much
like any one else. But in those days there was no education for the
blacks, and they spoke the barbarous lingo I have transcribed without
PAGE 65. Dr. Hamilton died in June, 1764.
PAGE 68. A piece of eight, then the principal coin in the Danish West
Indies, was worth sixty-four cents.
PAGE 69. Hugh Knox married and left two children, Ann Knox, who married
James Towers, and John Knox, who, I think, became a clergyman on St.
PAGE 79. The lower story of this fine building, built by Mr. Mitchell,
is in a state of entire preservation, and is now one of the largest
stores in Christiansted.
PAGE 87. The private burying-ground of the Lyttons was on the Grange
estate, owned, at the time of Rachael's death, by Chamberlain Robert
PAGE 88. Two candlesticks of this fashion have been preserved in
Frederiksted, and are said to have been used by Hamilton while there.
PAGE 91. I am convinced that Hugh Knox baptized Hamilton, and have had
the old records of St. Croix, deposited in the archives of Copenhagen,
thoroughly searched. But they are in so dilapidated a condition that one
might as profitably appeal to the recording angel. In 1782 the French
destroyed the church registers of Nevis, but it is hardly likely that
Rachael Levine had Hamilton baptized. The islanders were indifferent to
baptism under the most amiable conditions, usually waiting until it was
reasonable to suppose that their brood was complete, when they took it
to the font _en bloc_. But Hugh Knox would have attached great
importance to this ceremony.
PAGE 120. There is no doubt in my mind that Hamilton and young Stevens
were either first or second cousins, and that the resemblance between
them which subsequently, in the United States, gave rise to the gossip
that they were brothers, was due to this fact. I was not able to
discover that Mrs. Stevens was a daughter of John and Mary Fawcett, but
she or her husband might well have been closely related to Hamilton's
grandparents, for the few prominent families of Nevis and St.
Christopher intermarried again and again. The Fawcetts were married at
least twenty-two years before Rachael was born, and doubtless had one of
the large families of that time.
PAGE 131. "The Fields" was the old name for the City Hall Park.
PAGE 133. I have inferred that the speech Hamilton made on this occasion
was a spontaneous outburst of the same thought which he elaborated a few
weeks later in his history-making pamphlets. Wherever it has been
possible, I have used his own words, for he must have talked much as he
PAGE 136. "Indeed he was the first to perceive and develop the idea of a
real union of the people of the United States"--"History of the
Constitution of the United States" by George Ticknor Curtis, who also
comments at length upon his having been the chief force in bringing the
discontent of the colonists to a head and precipitating the Revolution.
PAGE 145. There is space only for Hamilton's share in these battles. I
am obliged to assume that the reader knows his Revolutionary history.
PAGE 165. Nothing can be told here of Laurens's private history beyond
the statements that his too sensitive mind held him responsible for the
accidental death of a younger brother, and that he had married a woman
in England, whom he had left at the altar, to join, with all possible
haste, the fighting forces in America, and whom he never saw again. If
this meets the eye of his family and they care to trust me with the
necessary papers, I shall be glad to write a life of Laurens.
PAGE 196. This verse was found in a little bag on Mrs. Hamilton's neck
when she died at the age of ninety-seven.
PAGE 208. "At the age of three and twenty he had already formed
well-defined, profound, and comprehensive views on the situation and
wants of these states. He had clearly discerned the practicability of
forming a confederated government and adapting it to their peculiar
condition, resources, and exigencies. He had wrought out for himself a
political system, far in advance of the conceptions of his
contemporaries, and one which in the case of those who most opposed him
in life, became, when he was laid in a premature grave, the basis on
which this government was consolidated; on which to the present day it
has been administered; and on which, alone, it can safely rest in that
future which seems to stretch out its unending glories before
us."--GEORGE TICKNOR CURTIS.
PAGE 209. This letter from Hamilton to Elizabeth Schuyler, from which
this extract is taken, was first published in Martha Lamb's "History of
New York," A.S. Barnes & Co., New York.
PAGE 226. Burr was aide-de-camp to Washington for six weeks, beginning
the last week in May, 1776. He hated the work and left abruptly,
incurring Washington's contempt and dislike. The charge of his friends
that Hamilton poisoned the Chief's mind against him is wholly unfounded.
Washington made up his own mind about men, and there is no evidence that
the two young men met except in the most casual manner before this
spring of 1782. Of course it is possible that a diligent reading of
obscure correspondence might bring to light an earlier acquaintance, but
the matter is not worth the waste of time. Matthew Davis, the only
responsible biographer of Burr, gives two years as the time consumed by
Burr for his legal studies. Parton was wholly indifferent to facts and
has no serious position as a biographer; but possessing a picturesque
and entertaining style, he has been widely read, and his estimate of
Burr accepted by the ignorant.
PAGE 233. Madison was born in 1751, Morris in 1752.
PAGE 257. "A long chapter might be written about Hamilton's other
labours in the State legislature;... he laboured hard to prevent
legislation in contravention of the treaty of peace; he corrected gross
theoretical blunders in a proposed system of regulating elections, and
strove hard though not altogether successfully to eliminate religious
restrictions; he succeeded in preventing the disfranchisement of a great
number of persons for having been interested, often unwillingly, in
privateering ventures; he stayed some absurd laws proposed concerning
the proposed qualifications of candidates for office; in the matter of
taxation he substituted for the old method of an arbitrary official
assessment, with all its gross risks of error and partiality, the
principle of allowing the individual to return under oath his taxable
property; he laboured hard to promote public education by statutory
regulations; his 'first great object was to place a book in the hand of
every American child,' and he evolved a system which served as the model
of that promulgated in France by the imperial decree of 1808; he had
much to do with the legislation concerning the relations of debtor and
creditor, then threatening to dissever the whole frame of society; he
was obliged to give no little attention to the department of criminal
law; finally he had to play a chief part in settling the long and
perilous struggle concerning the 'New Hampshire Grants,' the region now
constituting the State of Vermont: his efforts in this matter chiefly
averted war and brought the first new state into the Union."--MORSE'S
"Life of Hamilton," Vol. I.
PAGE 265. The classic narrative of the Constitutional Convention is by
George Ticknor Curtis, and there have been few more fascinating
chronicles of any subject. Of the condensed narratives the most coherent
and vivid is in Roosevelt's "Life of Gouverneur Morris."
PAGE 268. Hamilton also invited Gouverneur Morris to collaborate, but
that erratic gentleman was otherwise engaged.
PAGE 269. I take this apportionment from a copy of "The Federalist"
presented by Hamilton to his nephew Philip Church, and kindly lent to me
by Mr. Richard Church. In this copy one of Hamilton's sons, at his
father's dictation, wrote the initial of the writer or writers after
each essay. To Jay are allotted Nos. 2, 3, 4, 5, 54. To Madison, 10, 14,
37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48. To Hamilton and Madison
jointly: 13, 19, 20. The rest to Hamilton.
PAGE 271. "'The Federalist,' written principally by Hamilton, exhibits
an extent and precision of information, a profundity of research, and an
accurateness of understanding, which would have done honour to the most
illustrious statesmen of ancient or modern times."--_Edinburgh Review_,
"It is a work altogether, which, for comprehensiveness of design,
strength, clearness, and simplicity, has no parallel. We do not even
except or overlook Montesquieu and Aristotle among the writings of
men."--_Blackwood's Magazine_, January, 1825.
"In the application of elementary principles of government to practical
administration 'The Federalist' is the greatest work known to
PAGE 300. This coup of Hamilton's was evidently not placed on
record,--for manifest reasons,--for it is not to be found in Elliot's
"Debates," and we should have lost it but for a letter from Clinton to
John Lamb. See Foster, "On the Constitution," page 4, Vol. I.
PAGE 304. On page 842, "History of the Republic," by J.C. Hamilton, is
the only letter from Hamilton to his brother James which has been
preserved. It is well known in the family, however, that he corresponded
with both his father and brother after his arrival in America. A letter
from his father promising to come to the United States as soon as
practicable will be found on page 567, Vol. V, Hamilton's Works (J.C.
PAGE 304. I am at a loss to understand upon what authority certain of
Hamilton's biographers base their assertion that, shortly after his
arrival in this country, he cut his West Indian relatives, ignored their
many claims upon his affection and gratitude, and deliberately excluded
them from his memory. There is no such assertion in his son's biography,
and the lives of Hamilton that have followed have been little more than
a condensation of that voluminous work. This uncharitable
assumption--which must precede such a statement--cannot be the result of
an exhaustive reading of his correspondence, for there they would find
letters from Hugh Knox and Governor Walsterstorff and Edward Stevens,
extending over a period of many years; and reproaches in none of them.
Nor can it be the result of investigation among his descendants, for it
is well known in the Hamilton family, that he not only corresponded
regularly with his relatives, including his father, for a long while,
but that he supported Mrs. Mitchell after her husband's failure and
death. And even if this indisputable information were not accessible, it
is incredible to me that any one capable of understanding Hamilton even
a little should believe that so contemptible a quality as ingratitude
had any place in his nature. The most impetuous, generous, honest, and
tender of men, he was the last person to turn his back upon those who
had befriended and supported him in his precarious youth. Had he been
capable of such meanness, he would not have died lamented by the best
men in the country, many of whom had loved him devotedly for a quarter
of a century. Nor was there any motive for such a performance. One is
not at all surprised to find that Mrs. Mitchell was among the last of
his earthly thoughts; but were there not ample proof of the falsity of
these careless assertions, then indeed would Hamilton be an enigma.
PAGE 339. Burr was married to Madame Jumel for a short time when they
were both old enough to know better. She very quickly sent him about his
business and resumed the name of her second husband. Burr had
appropriated sixteen thousand dollars with which she had entrusted him,
and, as she told people still living, his charming manners were entirely
superficial, he was cross and exacting at home. Nevertheless she did not
hesitate to make use of him upon occasion. During the bread riots in
Italy her carriage was hemmed in one day and her richly attired self
threatened by the furious populace. When it became evident that her
terrified coachman could make no headway she arose to her majestic
height, and, sweeping out one hand with her haughtiest gesture, said in
a loud and commanding tone, "Make way! make way! for the widow of the
Vice-President of the United States." The crowd fell back properly awed.
Madame Jumel claimed to have the famous diamond necklace, but for the
truth of this claim I cannot vouch. She certainly had many personal
relics of Napoleon, confided to the care of Jumel, when the fallen
Emperor meditated flight on his faithful banker's frigate.
PAGE 387. It is impossible that Hamilton could have sat for all the
alleged portraits of himself, scattered over the United States, or he
would have had no time to do any work. Moreover, few realize his
personality or the contemporaneous description of him. That in the
Boston Museum of Fine Arts is the best. That in the City Hall, New York,
is one of the best, and the copy of it in the Treasury Department,
Washington, is better. Several others are charming, notably, the one at
Morristown Headquarters, New Jersey, and the one painted for his army
friends, now in the possession of Mr. Philip Schuyler. The one in the
Chamber of Commerce is a Trumbull, but looks like a fat boy with thin
legs. It is to be hoped there will be no further photographing of that
libel. Had Hamilton looked like it he would have accomplished nothing.
PAGE 413. As the visit of little Lafayette to the United States was of
no historical moment I have taken the liberty of bringing him over at my
own pleasure. Otherwise I should have been obliged merely to mention his
advent in the course of the rapid seven years' summary which comes
PAGE 430. That Hamilton conceived the ice-water cure for yellow fever is
well known to doctors.
PAGE 435. Mr. Richard Church kindly brought me an old bundle of letters
from Mrs. Church to Mrs. Hamilton. Except for the faded ink they might
been written yesterday, so lively, natural, and _modern_ were they. It
was impossible to realize that the writer was dust long since. Indeed,
in all the matter, published and unpublished, that I have read for this
book, I find no excuse for the inverted absurdities and stilted forms
with which it is thought necessary to create a hundred-year-old
PAGE 441. This letter of Thomas Corbin disposes of the asseverations of
Jefferson's biographers that the leader of the Democrats dressed himself
like a gentleman until he became President. His untidiness was probably
congenital to begin with, and in any case would have been a policy from
the first, of that deep and subtle mind.
PAGE 448. A clause had been inserted in Article II of the Constitution
which would permit Hamilton, although an alien born, to be a President
of the United States.
PAGE 451. It was Mr. James Q. Howard in a letter to the New York _Sun_,
May, 1901, who called attention to the fact that Hamilton was the first
of the "Imperialists," or "Expansionists."
PAGE 458. I wrote to Colonel Mills, Commander of West Point, to ask him
if any of Hamilton's codes were still in use. The librarian of the post,
Dr. Edward S. Holden, replied, among other things, as follows: "... As
circumstances have changed, the details of his codes have changed, and
the principles which guided him have been readapted to new conditions as
they have arisen. The best praise that can be given him is, then, that
he thoroughly understood the basic principles underlying military
affairs, and that with superb genius he applied them to the exigencies
of his time with that philosophical and at the same time practical
talent which was his special endowment."
PAGE 469. I made a copy from the original of a letter from Alexander
Baring (afterward Lord Ashburton) to his counsel, D.J. Rinnan,
containing full details of this transaction. One of the significant
points about the contemptuous opinions of Burr's dishonesty which one
comes upon constantly in the correspondence of this period, is that no
one claims to have made its discovery, or to think comment worth while.
It evidently became established at an early date. But brilliancy and
dexterity saved him at the bar, and he won many a case for those who
despised him most.
PAGE 471. Tammany Hall was highly respectable in the beginning of its
career. I have here used the term in the figurative sense; it is in
truth an epigram into which all political abomination is concentrated.
PAGE 474. For correspondence of Hamilton with his Scotch relatives, and
with Secretary of the Navy regarding Robert Hamilton, see Vol. VI,
Burials in 1799, Con. June 3d. James Hamilton--Father of General
Hamilton in America killed by Col. Baird.
NOTE: The Rev. I. Guilding was the Rector of the Parish at this time,
and the entry was made by him in the above form.
I certify that the above entry is a true and correct copy from the
Register of Burials in the Cathedral Church of St. George, in the town
of Kingston, in the island of St. Vincent, West Indies, by me,
E.A. TURPIN, Rector of St. George and St. Andrew, and Archdeacon of St.
Vincent, this 13th day of May, 1901.
PAGE 501. Hamilton never would own a slave.
PAGE 509. The story of Burr's awakening Hamilton in the early morning to
borrow of him, is related in "The History of the Republic." Mrs.
Hamilton herself is the authority for the other loan. The story was told
her by Washington Morton, her brother-in-law, who arranged it, Burr, for
once, being ashamed to go openly to Hamilton. He repaid this sum after
PAGE 516. The oft-told tale of Hamilton and Burr meeting at the house of
Madame Jumel on the night before the challenge, I have, after careful
investigation, utterly repudiated. In the first place, the lady had been
married but two months, and to a Frenchman at that. He was a rich man
and had undoubtedly married her for love, moreover was devoted to her as
long as he lived. It is not at all likely that he was permitting
Hamilton to call one night and Burr the next--so the story runs. In the
second place, Hamilton, whatever may have been his adventures in the
past, was in no condition for gallivanting at this period, as I think I
have demonstrated. Dr. Hosack, in the paper he prepared for the _Post_
on the day following Hamilton's death, asserted that owing to the
patient's feeble condition he had been unable to give the usual
medicines. At the same time Hamilton had been working from fourteen to
fifteen hours a day. The conclusions are obvious. Moreover, General
Hamilton, now eighty-seven, and in perfect possession of all his
faculties, has told me that he frequently accompanied his grandmother,
Hamilton's widow, to call on Madame Jumel. In the small town of New York
no such sensational meeting could have been kept a secret for long.
Madame Jumel lived in the city at the time, by the way, her husband not
buying the house on the Heights until 1815.
But that she was at the bottom of the matter I should not have had the
slightest doubt, even were it not an accepted fact by both Hamilton's
present family and hers, and I arrived at my conclusions, as the story
of all concerned, and of the history of the times, developed.
PAGE 522. Burr kept these letters until he died, at the age of 80, and
left them to Matthew Davis, who destroyed those whose writers were dead,
and returned the others to certain ancient and highly respected dames.
PAGE 527. These pistols are now in the possession of Mr. Richard Church.
PAGE 531. Hamilton's strong likeness to the Caesars is best seen in the
marbles of him, notably the one executed by Ceracchi. The painted
likenesses of him either do not resemble him at all or are so full of
his vivacity, mischievous humour, and indomitable youth that they are
From "Statistical Account of Scotland," Vol. V, page 450, Edinburgh:
"The most remarkable person connected with the parish (Stevenston in
Ayrshire) was the late General Alexander Hamilton of the family of
Grange, though America was the field in which he distinguished himself.
He was excelled by none as a general, orator, financier, lawyer. In the
words of one who knew him, he was 'the mentor of Washington, the framer
of the present constitution of America, a man of strict honour and
integrity; equally esteemed in public and in private life.'"
The above came to my hand after the book went to press, and I publish it
to emphasize the fact that the Scotch Hamiltons eagerly claimed the
kinship of Hamilton, quite indifferent to the irregularity of his birth.
Hamilton's children were born and named as follows: Philip, January 22,
1782; Angelica, September 25, 1784; Alexander, May 16, 1786; James
Alexander, April 14, 1788; John Church, August 22, 1792; William
Stephen, August 4, 1797; Eliza, November 20, 1799; Philip, June 7,
It is a pleasure to acknowledge my indebtedness to the following people
who have helped me with family papers, books and political pamphlets
long out of print, their knowledge of the unwritten history of the
United States, unpublished anecdotes of Hamilton, and general
suggestions: Mr. James Q. Howard of the Library of Congress; Dr. Allan
McLane Hamilton; General A. Hamilton; Colonel J.C.L. Hamilton; Mr.
Richard Church; Mr. Roger Foster; Mr. H.W. Parker of the Mechanics'
Institute Free Library of New York; Dr. Richard B. Coutant, and Mr.
Philip Schuyler; and to the following residents of the British and
Danish West Indies:
_On St. Christopher_
Mrs. Spencer Wigley
Dr. Joseph Haven, U.S. Consul
The Rev. William Evered
The Rev. George Yoe
Mr. E.P. Latouche, Registrar and Provost Marshal
The Hon. C.C. Greaves
The Rev. W. Cowley
The Rev. Mr. Shephard
Mr. G.V. Mercier
_On St. Croix_
The Rev. W.C. Watson
Also--The West Indian works of Dr. Taylor, and Lightbourne's Annuals.