Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Alexander Hamilton: "The Veriest Inamorato You Perhaps Ever Saw"

Most of us have celebrity crushes of one sort or another. When your daily adventures are humdrum at best, it's remarkably comforting to read the stories of other, more interesting people and know that things could one day get interesting for you...

Hey, it worked for Perez Hilton. Now people read about him. And his fabulous outfits.

Since the ladies of History's Hotties are snobs of the past, we tend to treat notables of days gone by as veritable celebrities of their own right. If you've read our blog in the past, you probably have a pretty good idea as to whose lives we like to "celebrify."

For instance, I enjoy Keith Moon. Just a reminder.

All affection for The Who aside, I must admit that one of my favorite historical hotties is actually not so overwhelmingly sexy. (But who is sexier than Keith Moon, really?) Not physically, anyway. If you regularly read our blog (which would be difficult, since we haven't posted in a couple of months), you know that I find articulate and motivated men more attractive than perhaps any others. That being said, I'm sure it comes as no surprise than one of my favorite men of the past is Alexander Hamilton.

Yes, that man there.

Hamilton was many things. A womanizer. A college drop-out. Perhaps most notably, a bad shot.

Damn you, Aaron Burr.

An orphan from the Caribbean, good old Alex was sent to what is now Columbia University with money raised by his friends and neighbors. The people around him saw clearly what you, too, will soon recognize: Hamilton was destined for great things. Like the $10 bill thing.

Hamilton was a bit impatient, though. Certainly not one to wait for greatness to fall into his lap. So he essentially flipped off his kind Caribbean benefactors, dropping out of Columbia to join the army.

Luckily for Hamilton, George Washington himself sought a fiery aide-de-camp of questionable birth. With this connection, Hamilton rose quickly through the ranks of popular memory.

Perhaps nothing contributed to Hamilton's social ascension as much as his marriage to Elizabeth Schuyler. Elizabeth, known to Hamilton as Betsey, was the second-eldest daughter of American commander Philip Schuyler. Philip Schuyler? Who is that? Unlesss you know any absurdly hip young parents, the name "Schuyler" probably means nothing to you.

Philip Schuyler was a well-bred, well-connected Dutchman who dabbled in politics, business, and military affairs. Schuyler was a surveyor by trade, much like his close friend George Washington. The pair were essentially the 18th-century equivalent of frat brothers.

You just got iced, bro.

In any case, back in the day, Schuyler was the guy to befriend. Hamilton did a pretty good job, getting with the quietly intellectual Elizabeth. According to Hamilton's grandson, Allan McLane, the marriage was perfect for both parties. "The surroundings and circumstances of Elizabeth Schuyler's life had all tended to prepare her for her future as Hamilton's wife. Had she been any other than what she was, despite all his genius and force of character, Hamilton could never have attained the place he did."

Elizabeth certainly was a huge help to her husband; not only did she re-copy drafts of his documents to make them more legible, she also was called "as much [Hamilton's] treasurer as [Hamilton] was treasurer of the United States." And of course, when Hamilton got caught in an affair with the (gasp) married Maria Reynolds, Elizabeth spent the majority of her time buying up every copy of her husband's confession so that she might destroy it. To her dying day, Mrs. Hamilton never forgave James Monroe, who had been responsible for turning over the document to the press.

And yet...despite Elizabeth's obvious superior morality to that of her husband, Hamilton had a few things going for him. His brilliance, frankly, was staggering. He came from nothing, and, with the help of people he never credited, left the world as one of the U.S.A.'s most significant founding fathers.

And he had a way with words...in a 1781 letter to Elizabeth, good old Alex wrote, "Every day confirms me in the intention of renouncing public life, and devoting myself wholly to you. Let others waste their time and their tranquility in a vain pursuit of power and glory; be it my object to be happy in a quiet retreat with my better angel." Aww! Even while he was busy cheating on Elizabeth with Mrs. Reynolds (that hookerface), Hamilton wrote sweet things to his wife..."Think of me--dream of me--and love me, my Betsey, as I do you." Though the timing of his affair and those affectionate words might lead you to question Hamilton's honesty, fear not! Our brilliant subject took care of that worry as well. To his friend John Laurens, he wrote, "Believe me, I am a lover in earnest." To another friend: "You cannot imagine how domestic I am becoming. I sigh for nothing but the company of my wife and baby." In a final attempt to win the title of the most romantic man with powdered tresses, Hamilton claimed that he was the "veriest inamorato you perhaps ever saw."

What modern woman wouldn't sigh for love letters like those Hamilton wrote to Betsey? I'd skip the cheating and the duel, but I'd gladly take Alex's smarts, charm, and drive to manage the U.S. treasury (seriously...where are those practical financial minds today?). And despite what I said at the beginning of this post, Hamilton actually was pretty good-looking. The whole Federalist thing was pretty hot, too. But that's a story for another day.

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