MY DEAR HAMILTON – Stephanie Dray & Laura Kamoie
New York and Philadelphia – 1777 to 1825
Elizabeth Schuyler was born and raised along the frontier of New York where she was familiar with the warlike Mohawk and the American-friendly Oneida Indians. The Hudson Valley was home to immigrants from the Netherlands as well as from England, and the Schuylers were highly regarded. Elizabeth's father, a general in Washington's Army, was prominent in the community, and the family estate was a magnet for other new leaders in the infancy of the United States. It's just after the Battle of Saratoga, one that the Americans won, and Eliza's father is tasked with housing the captive British officers, along with fellow soldiers such as Benedict Arnold, James Monroe, and the young French general, Lafayette. But it isn't until the winter of 1780 in Morristown, New Jersey that Eliza will meet her future husband, the enigmatic Alexander Hamilton.
Hamilton is a trusted aide to General Washington, an up and coming young officer who comes from a mysterious background. Born in Nevis, a Caribbean island, to a woman who was most likely a prostitute and a Scottish land owner, he was sent to New York for his education by a local merchant who saw potential in the young boy. When he met Eliza Schuyler, he was fighting his way up the ranks in Washington's fledgling army, and didn't feel worthy of the daughter of a general. But both knew it was fate that brought them together, and they married at her father's estate, The Pastures, in upstate New York.
When the British finally surrender at Yorktown, it was time to organize the new country. With Washington as president, Hamilton was made the Secretary of the Treasury, a position he held until his resignation and return home to practice law. All of this time, Eliza patiently held down the home front, which was usually a rented house wherever Alexander could find work. Supporting her husband's need to succeed in whatever his endeavors, Eliza struggled to keep her growing family together, and give moral support to Hamilton. Life wasn't easy, but Eliza could sense how important Hamilton's brilliance was to the new country. She was always available to help her husband with his paperwork, transcribing for him, and keeping track of his work. Despite Eliza's love for Hamilton, he was not the perfect man. He knew he wasn't, and so did Eliza, but she also knew that the young country needed him to succeed. The Schuyler family motto was Semper Fidelis, always faithful, and Eliza never wavered.
MY DEAR HAMILTON is told in Eliza's words. While little is known of her, what is known is how devoted she was to her husband, and that her handwriting appears in much of his paperwork. She bore him eight children, followed him from one rented home to another, and shared both the happy family times, and the grief. Eliza was hostess to most of the Founding Fathers, from James Madison, and James Monroe, to Thomas Jefferson. She was stunned when her father's friend, General Arnold, became a traitor, and was present when the first President of the United States was inaugurated. One of her closest friends early on was the wise Martha Washington.
Beautifully written and impeccably researched, MY DEAR HAMILTON is a glowing tribute to someone who was as much a part of the founding of our country as any of the men were. It is interesting to read the similarities of the political system of the Washington era to today. This may be a fictional story of Eliza Hamilton, but the history surrounding her life was very much real. A Perfect 10 novel in every way, I very highly recommend MY DEAR HAMILTON.