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One of Hamilton’s Most Revealing Love Letters to Eliza:
“You are certainly a little sorceress and have bewitched me”
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Available as part of The Alexander Hamilton Collection

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

In the middle of their whirlwind courtship, Hamilton emphasizes his profound fascination with Eliza Schuyler. Hamilton both complains that she is distracting him from important military duties, while pleading with her for more distraction. Few of Hamilton’s letters to Eliza survive from this period.

As Hamilton was writing, tactical intelligence was being communicated at a frantic pace up and down the Hudson. On July 21, Washington had received intelligence from the Culper spy ring on British General Clinton’s planned attack on Rochambeau’s French squadron at Newport, and the massing of British troops on Long Island for an intensified invasion of New York. Hamilton now was in the middle of authoring a detailed “Plan for an Attack on New York” to recapture Manhattan and Brooklyn from the British. He mentions at the end of this letter his position at Dobbs Ferry, New York, a small town on the Hudson where the army was encamped. Hamilton ends when he is summoned by General Washington.

ALEXANDER HAMILTON. Autograph Letter Signed “A. Hamilton,” to Elizabeth Schuyler, August 8, 1780. [Dobbs Ferry, New York]. 4 pp. including partial integral leaf; lacking portion of page below signature; perhaps his signature on address relief was removed. 6½ x 8½ in.

Inventory #24329      

Complete Transcript

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 delinquen[c]ies.

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.

                                             A Hamilton

Aug 8th

[Partial Address:] Schuyler / Albany

Historical Background

Eight years earlier, the then 17-year-old orphan had arrived in New York City with little money and few connections. From his tumultuous early life in Nevis and St. Croix, Hamilton had written his way into a scholarship at King’s College (now Columbia University), public recognition as a political essayist, and a position as George Washington’s aide-de-camp. As both a student and a soldier, Hamilton had taken full advantage of his remarkable intellect to rise up.

Elizabeth Schuyler was more than a match for Hamilton’s energy and ambition. The daughter of Revolutionary War General Philip Schuyler, Eliza had inherited a deep intelligence, an unconventional athleticism, and a sense of adventure. When Hamilton’s fellow aide-de-camp, Tench Tilghman, first met Eliza in 1779, he was struck by her sense of humor, strength, and easy warmth. Years later, Dr. James McHenry, another fellow aide-de-camp, noted that Eliza had “a strong character…glowing underneath, bursting through at times in some emphatic expression.” This natural energy, combined with Eliza’s piety and experience in managing her parents’ estate, made her exceptionally compatible with the equally passionate Hamilton.

Alexander and Eliza encountered each other in early 1780, while Eliza was staying with family near the army’s encampment in Morristown, New Jersey. Eliza, heir to two of the wealthiest and most powerful families in New York politics, was one of the most sought-after young women in the state. Hamilton, who had already demonstrated a talent for ingratiating himself with influential families and their marriageable daughters, found Eliza’s character as attractive as her wealth. After their 1780 encounter, Hamilton was completely smitten, causing Tench Tilghman to muse that “Hamilton is a gone man” (R. Chernow, citing Mitchell, Alexander Hamilton, p. 198). Hamilton, known for a faultless memory, was so distracted by Schuyler that he even forgot the password to return to camp one night. Little more than a month after their second meeting, they agreed to wed. Alexander and Eliza’s grandson, Allan McLane Hamilton, affirmed this assessment of Eliza’s force and intellect, stating simply that “Had she been any other than what she was…Hamilton never could have attained the place he did.” (A. M. Hamilton, The Intimate Life of Alexander Hamilton, p. 103)    

Our letter follows Hamilton’s more sober letter to Eliza of August 1, in which he urged her to consider that their social situation will be “a perfect lottery,” and to “examine well [her] heart” to determine whether she is likely to be happy in humble circumstances. By the time Hamilton composed the letter offered here a week later, however, he seems to have been reassured of Eliza’s affections, and redoubled the flirtatiousness of his earlier letters.

Several months later, Hamilton elaborated on his infatuation with Eliza in a coy letter to her sister, Angelica: “It is essential to the safety of the state and to the tranquility of the army- that one of two things take place, either that [Eliza] be immediately removed from our neighborhood, or that some other nymph qualified to maintain an equal sway come into it.… I solicit your aid.” Hamilton developed the subject again in an October letter to Eliza: “I love you too much.... You engross my thoughts too entirely to allow me to think of any thing else.” (Gilder Lehrman Collection, #GLC00773). Their intense courtship led to marriage on December 14, 1780. Eliza and Alexander’s correspondence and marriage no doubt marked high points in an otherwise unpredictable year.

Though Hamilton relished military life, despite his frustration in being denied a command post, the Americans had faced high expectations and hard losses in 1780. In the South, the British had effectively occupied Georgia, and Charleston surrendered in May. In the North, American positions close to Morristown were put under siege in June, in an unsuccessful attempt to draw Washington’s army out of its stronghold. The arrival of the Comte de Rochambeau’s squadron at Newport in July inspired confidence that the balance of power would immediately shift in the Americans’ favor. Rochambeau, however, proved reluctant to proceed, and his troops were not committed to combat until mid-1781. Through July and August, as Hamilton wrote Eliza, Washington’s spy network intercepted critical British intelligence, which helped save both Rochambeau’s squadron and American troops on the Hudson.

The Culper Ring was not able, however, to discover Benedict Arnold’s treason. When his defection was detected in September, after his hasty departure from a breakfast with Alexander Hamilton, Arnold had already turned over valuable strategic information to the British. News from the southern theatre also seemed grim. In mid-August, British advances against the struggling Continental troops resulted in 1,900 American casualties at the Battle of Camden, South Carolina.

In the wake of this last tragedy, patriot spirits unexpectedly rallied. From September, North Carolina militiamen successfully fought off the British occupation of their state. In late October, Washington appointed the well-liked General Nathanael Greene as commander in the south, a move that revived the soldiers’ confidence and proved ingenious to American defense efforts.


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