Alexander Hamilton is one of the Founding Fathers of the United States Of America. He was an influential interpreter and promoter of the U.S. Constitution. An underachiever, he established of the nation’s financial system, the Federalist Party, the U.S. Coast Guard, and The New York Post newspaper. As the first Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton was the driving force for economic policies of George Washington’s administration. He came up with a system of tariffs, and friendly trade relations with Britain. His vision for the new country was a strong central government led by a vigorous executive branch, a strong commercial economy, with a national bank and support for manufacturing, plus a strong military. Thomas Jefferson was his leading opponent, arguing in favor of support for agriculture and for a limited government.
You might think of Alexander Hamilton as the dude who has a Hip-Hop Broadway musical about him or that it is his face on the $10 bill. So, you know that he was killed in a duel with Vice President Aaron Burr in 1804. But you never read in American History class that he was probably a bisexual.
If you love the musical as much as I do, you know that he married Elizabeth Schuyler in 1780 and fathered eight children, yet some scholars show that Hamilton had a romantic relationship with a fellow solider, the handsome aristocrat John Laurens while both men served George Washington during the Revolutionary War.
There are letters (this is before texting) written by Hamilton to Laurens shortly after Laurens left Washington’s close circle for South Carolina, where he worked to recruit African-American troops to fight against the British.
April 6, 1779
Cold in my professions, warm in my friendships, I wish, my Dear Laurens, it might be in my power, by action rather than words to convince you that I love you. I shall only tell you that til you bade us Adieu, I hardly knew the value you had taught my heart to set upon you. Indeed, my friend, it was not well done. You know the opinion I entertain of mankind, and how much it is my desire to preserve myself free from particular attachments, and to keep my happiness independent of the caprice of others. You should not have taken advantage of my sensibility to steal into my affections without my consent.
Come on, kids; that sounds rather gay, don’t you think? The letter goes on:
But as you have done it, and as we are generally indulgent to those we love, I shall not scruple to pardon the fraud you have committed, on condition that for my sake, if not for your own, you will always continue to merit the partiality, which you have artfully instilled into me.
During this era, romantic relationships between people of the same sex was forbidden; sodomy was a punishable offense in all 13 colonies. Which raises the question what did Hamilton mean by ”fraud”?
In another letter, from September 1779, Hamilton describes himself as a ”jealous lover” after Laurens did not send letters back to him:
Like a jealous lover, when I thought you slighted my caresses, my affection was alarmed, and my vanity piqued. I had almost resolved to lavish no more of them upon you and to reject you as an inconstant and ungrateful.
In the same letter, Hamilton writes about Schuyler, in a way that makes her sound more like a beard than his fiancée:
Next fall completes my doom. I give up my liberty to Miss Schuyler. She is a good hearted girl who I am sure will never play the termagant; though not a genius she has good sense enough to be agreeable, and though not a beauty, she has fine black eyes – is rather handsome and has every other requisite of the exterior to make a lover happy. And believe me, I am lover in earnest, though I do not speak of the perfections of my Mistress in the enthusiasm of Chivalry.
In a letter from September 1780, Hamilton writes to Laurens:
In spite of Schuyler’s black eyes, I have still a part for the public and another for you; so your impatience to have me married is misplaced; a strange cure by the way, as if after matrimony I was to be less devoted than I am now. Let me tell you, that I intend to restore the empire of Hymen and that Cupid is to be his prime Minister.
Adieu, be happy, and let friendship between us be more than a name.
After Hamilton’s passing, his family crossed out sections of the letters. Could it have been because of the suggestive language that might have confirmed a romantic relationship between the two men?
In all the surviving letters written by Hamilton, the only other ones that show the same sort of passion are those to his wife.
Laurens was probably gay. His father wrote: Master Jack is ”too closely wedded to his studies to think about any of Miss Nanny’s.”
He is saying that his son shows no interests in girls. He might as well have written that his son locks himself in his room and listens to Broadway Musical Cast albums.
Correspondences between men were more affectionate in that era than they are now, but suggesting a three-way with your wife on your wedding night isn’t something most guys would do. Or maybe they were just behaving like most 20-something boys.
Laurens called his wife ”dear girl” in his letters to her and calls Hamilton ”dear boy” in letters to him. That is totes adorbs. Interesting that Laurens doesn’t call other male companions ”dear boy” in his other letters.
Laurens failed to mention to Hamilton that he had a wife and child. Hamilton only found out a year and a half after meeting Laurens. He found out when he was snooping around and read a letter from Laurens’ sister to Laurens.
Born in the British West Indies in 1757, Hamilton was forced to go to work at 12-years-old because of his father’s business failures. In 1772, relatives sent young Hamilton to college in NYC, but he soon dropped his studies to join the growing American Colonial Liberation Movement and producing propaganda pamphlets.
In 1776, Hamilton was commander of an artillery company and fought beside George Washington. The next year Hamilton became one of his valued aides. Washington promoted him to Lieutenant-Colonel, and he worked hard to systematize the Revolutionary War effort.
From 1782 to 1783, Hamilton served a term in the Continental Congress, then began a law practice in NYC.
Laurens was born in 1754 into a rich family in Charleston, South Carolina. He was sent away to school in Europe. In France, Laurens married a girl he had gotten pregnant, to save her honor and then swiftly returned to America to join the Revolution. He joined Washington’s staff as a volunteer aide, fought and was wounded in several battles, and was commissioned a Lieutenant-Colonel by Congress. In 1778, Laurens, in a rage over certain “constant personal abuse” of Washington, fought a duel to defend the father of our nation’s honor.
Laurens was elected to the South Carolina assembly in 1779, but resigned to fight against a British invasion. When Charleston surrendered to the British in 1780, Laurens was held as a POW until his exchange for a British officer held by the Americans. That year, at 26-years-old, Laurens was sent by Congress to France on a successful mission to obtain much-needed money and supplies.
Those letters are from when Hamilton was 22 and Laurens was 25-years-old. Both young revolutionaries were part of that close male circle surrounding Washington. His “family”, as Washington dubbed them.
In September 1780, Hamilton writes to Laurens, under arrest and jailed in Pennsylvania:
That you can speak only of your private affairs shall be no excuse for your not writing frequently. Remember that you write to your friends, and that friends have the same interests, pains, pleasures, sympathies; and that all men love egotism.
Of course, we can never know for sure if they were lovers. But one thing we do know, the feelings Hamilton had for Laurens were unique. Take this letter written to General Nathanael Greene in 1782 after Laurens was killed in battle:
I feel the deepest affliction at the news we have just received of the loss of our dear and inestimable friend Laurens. His career of virtue is at an end. I feel the loss of a friend I truly and most tenderly loved, and one of a very small number.
After Hamilton was shot in the stomach in the duel with Burr, the paralyzed Hamilton, who knew he was mortally wounded, was ferried to the Greenwich Village home of his friend William Bayard Jr., who had been waiting on the dock. After final visits from his family and friends and considerable suffering, Hamilton died on July 12, 1804, at Bayard’s home at what is now 80 Jane Street. A secret fund was established to support his widow and children. Hamilton is buried in the Trinity Churchyard Cemetery in lower Manhattan. You can visit him there. It is easier and cheaper than getting tickets to Hamilton.
Lots of stuff is named for Hamilton: Schools, public buildings, love making positions, Apart from the $10 bill, a 1917 play, and a 1931 film in which he was played by George Arliss, Hamilton did not attract much attention in American popular culture. Hamilton: An American Musical in 2015, with music, lyrics, and book by Lin-Manuel Miranda who also played the title character. The show is based on a Hamilton biography by Ron Chernow. The musical received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and 11 Tony Awards.
Hamilton is a major character in Gore Vidal’s novel Burr (1973), the PBS miniseries The Adams Chronicles (1976), the 1986 television series George Washington II: The Forging Of A Nation, In 2008, hottie Rufus Sewell plays Hamilton in two episodes of HBO’s miniseries John Adams.