Thursday, January 14, 2016

HamAlong Part II: Cold in my professions, warm in my friendships

Welcome back to another HamAlong post! Thank you Alice for hosting this and making sure we actually read this super crazy long book.
Part one of the book covered tracks 1-8 ("Alexander Hamilton" - "Right Hand Man"). This part is pretty much tracks 9-23 ("A Winter's Ball" - "Non-Stop") and holy shit we're pretty much through Act I and there are still like 600 pages left to go. For those not familiar with the Hamilton musical, seriously, fix that cos it is amazing. Anyway, these chapters seem to focus on Hamilton's love life. Or that was the part that I focused on. Naturally.

First up, we get more about Hamilton and Laurens' love for each other, as it seems they were both "rash and impetuous". The two of them exchanged letters with lines such as "I wish, my dear Laurens, it m[ight] be in my power by action rather than words [to] convince you that I love you."
But of course, Hamilton has a lot of love to give, and as the song says, Martha Washington named her "large, lascivious tomcat 'Hamilton'". Eventually Hamilton gets tired of flirting with everything with a pulse, decides he wants to settle down, and Eliza Schuyler steals his heart. Don't worry though, Hamilton assured Laurens that "In spite of Schuyler's black eyes, I have still a part for the public and another for you."

Hamilton doesn't just get Eliza, get gets the whole Schuyler family. Hamilton, who didn't have any family to speak of, was about to get three brothers (John, Philip and the wonderfully named Rensselaer) and four sisters (Angelica, Margarita (aka PEGGY), Cornelia, and to-be-born Catherine). I don't know much about the brothers, but the sisters seem awesome, not the least because all except Eliza eloped. Cornelia won whatever challenge the sisters clearly had going by "stealing off with a young man named Washington Morton by climbing down a rope ladder from her bedroom and fleeing in a waiting coach."
Of course, Hamilton may have married Eliza, but there's always her older sister Angelica who at this point was already married, or things may have turned out differently.
The attraction between Hamilton and Angelica was so potent and obvious that many people assumed they were lovers. At the very least, theirs was a friendship of unusual ardor, and it seems plausible that Hamilton would have proposed to Angelica, not Eliza, if the older sister had been eligible.
Will they ever be satisfied?
In between all this loving, Hamilton and Washington were fighting. Washington wouldn't give Hamilton the military position he so desired and Hamilton kept annoying Washington and indeed had become disillusioned with the man. But they kept their spat hidden to not upset the children. Eventually Washington gave in and gave Hamilton a command at Yorktown and he done good. He was given the task of taking over a redoubt and he and his men managed this in under 10 minutes. So that's pretty snazzy.

Things continue to look up as Eliza gives birth to their first child, son Philip. And Hamilton cannot stop going on about how awesome his son is including his "method of waving his hand that announces the future orator". Seven-month-old Philip had apparently already NAILED orator level hand waving. Or Hamilton is a ridiculous father who would totally flood your Facebook feed with pictures and stories about how awesome his kid is. "I'm sorry, are YOUR kid's eyes 'not only sprightly and expressive, but...full of benignity?' Yeah, that's what I thought."
Hamilton also did lots of very important government stuff, helping to quell some riots from soldiers who just want the pay they were promised for fighting for the country, figuring out a financial system and other important stuff. But instead of going into the details of that, I'm going to end this on a sad note and talk about Laurens' death.

Laurens continued to be "rash and impetuous" till the end, ignoring a command to NOT randomly attack a British expedition and was shot and killed. Hamilton never got his congressional Louise to his Thelma.
On a personal level, the loss was even more harrowing. Despite a large circle of admirers, Hamilton did not form deep friendships easily and never again revealed his interior life to another man as he had to Laurens. He became ever more voluble in his public life but somehow less introspective and revelatory in private. Henceforth, his confessional remarks were reserved for Eliza or Angelica Church. After the death of John Laurens, Hamilton shut off some compartment of his emotions and never reopened it.
As so I leave you until next week.

Title quote from page 123

Chernow, Ron. Alexander Hamilton. Penguin, 2004.