Good as her word, she sent our soon-to-be First Secretary of the Treasury a copy of Adam Smith’s seminal work on economics, The Wealth of Nations.
Hamilton playfully writes to her: "I seldom write to a lady without fancying the relation of lover and mistress. It has a very inspiring effect.”
Angelica writes: "Indeed, my dear, Sir if my path was strewed with as many roses as you have filled your letter with compliments, I should not now regret my absence from America.”
Note the odd placement of the comma. The romantic in Hamilton certainly did!
“...You ladies despise the pedantry of punctuation. There was a most critical comma in your last letter. It is my interest it should have been designed; but I presume it was accidental…” and in return he signs: Adieu ma chere, Soeur. A. Hamilton”
Though Hamilton's political enemies made a great deal of their public repartee, it seems highly doubtful that these two, for all their word-play round the subject, ever shared a bed. For one thing, the Schuylers were a proud and tightly-knit family, all of whom, from beginning to end, whole-heartedly admired Hamilton. The sisters, Elizabeth and Angelica, loved and supported each other from the beginning of this triangular relationship to the end--and beyond.
The morning you left us, all was wrong, even the sunshine was provoking, with which I never quarreled before. I took it into my head he shone only to throw light on our loss: to present a cheerfulness not at all in unison with my mind. I mounted my horse earlier than common. I took by instinct the road you had taken...
"I think I have discovered a method of preventing this dejection of mind on any future parting.
"It is this. When you come again I will employ myself in finding or fancying that you have some faults & I will draw a veil over all your good qualities if I can find one large enough."
Six months after, Jefferson begs Angelica to return to Paris and in August 1788 he seductively proposes that she accompany him on shipboard when they both return to America.
Think of it, my friend, and let us begin a negotiation on the subject. You shall find in me all the spirit of accommodation with which Yoric began his with the fair Piedmontese.
(The characters Jefferson refers to were in an erotically charged scene in Sentimental Journey, a best-selling novel of the day by English writer Laurence Sterne. Yoric is forced to share a room at a crowded Italian country inn with a lovely female stranger. These two characters will eventually have sex.)
"Let’s go back together then. You intend it a visit; so do I. While you are indulging with your friends on the Hudson, I will go to see if Monticello remains in the same place, or I will attend you to the falls of Niagara, if you will go with me to the passage of the Potowmac, the Natural Bridge, etc.,"
A decade later, Jefferson, then Vice President, is still trying: "... I shall entertain the hope that we may meet at this place, as on a middle ground. perhaps you may find it not unpleasant in winter to get this much nearer to the sun. but whether we meet or not, I shall for ever claim an esteem which continues to be very precious to me, and hope to be, at times, indulged with the mutual expression of it."
In the beginning, however, John Barker Church was a handsome fast-talker, a down-on-his-luck aristocrat in America, fleeing the consequences of a duel and a host of unpaid debts. He courted his American princess under the cover of a war-time commissary business, using the alias 'Carter.'
After Major General Schuyler, her father, soon forbade the smooth-talking Englishman access to the house, but the damage was done. They eloped in classic style. One night, she climbed out the window and down a ladder into John's waiting arms. Angelica's doubly patrician parents, (her mother was a van Rensselaer) were beyond furious. It took a year, stern interventions by Dutch grandparents, and a suitable offering in the shape of a son christened 'Philip', to reconcile them.
It looks quiet today, but The Pastures, the Schuyler's home on the banks of the Hudson, was once the site of high romantic drama. Over the years, four thwarted and love-struck Schuyler daughters, one after the other, climbed out those upstairs windows into the arms of lovers.*
Once upon a time, before he became a successful insurance underwriter, (one who was by contemporary accounts was "fonder of premiums than payouts,") John Barker Church was a dashing rakehell with the scent of brimstone about him. He seems to have been a type America loves--entrepreneur/con-artist. Once he reached America, his luck turned; all the cards went his way. He ended his Revolutionary War with a tidy fortune in his pocket.
In the 18th Century it was more or less expected that graft would be a large part of the pay-off for a nimble supplier, so the tarnish--the unpaid soldiers of the Revolution and their blood-on-the-snow sufferings--didn't stick. From an aristocratic welcher, Church was, by the end of war, transformed into a man sufficiently wealthy to return to England with a colonial princess on his arm and with his pockets sufficiently full to "win" a seat in Parliament.
In later years, letters sent by New Yorkers-in-the-know reported John Church's immense wealth as well as his appetite for underwriting all day and gambling all night. Both were occupations that, though fraught with risk, were also liable to bring immense rewards. For me, the picture that comes together is of a man of high intelligence and energy who had a positive delight in walking the edge--whether it was a bet laid upon the turn of a card or upon the successful return of a cargo of spices or a whaling ship.
Today, we call such people "thrill junkies," and perhaps this is the trait which brought Angelica and her husband together. From the number of passionate letters written to her that have survived, she thirsted for romance and was a mistress of leading on her admirers. Her looks, education, and brains ensured that she had but to crook a little finger and men came running. And why would we be surprised at her life-time of daring? She had, after all, climbed out that window, risking her honor and her future with a man whose real name she'd probably, even then, hadn't known.
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*Elizabeth is the only daughter who was married (properly) at the house, because her sweetheart, Alexander Hamilton, was the only suitor for any of his girls of whom Philip Schuyler approved.