Hamilton, Elizabeth Schuyler (1757–c. 1854)

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Hamilton, Elizabeth Schuyler (1757–c. 1854)

American promoter of her husband Alexander Hamilton. Name variations: Betsey Hamilton; Mrs. Alexander Hamilton. Born Elizabeth Schuyler in 1757; died around 1854; daughter of General Philip Schuyler; married Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804, American statesman and U.S. secretary of the treasury), on December 14, 1780; children: Philip (d. 1801); Angelica Hamilton ; Alexander Hamilton; James Alexander Hamilton; John Church Hamilton; William Stephen Hamilton; Eliza Hamilton ; Philip Hamilton (named for the first child who was killed in a duel in 1801).

The wife of American statesman Alexander Hamilton, controversial leader of the Federalist party, Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton remained a shadowy figure until her husband's death in 1804, when she emerged as one of his most ardent champions. Described as a sickly woman, given to nervous attacks, Hamilton was beleaguered by a long succession of pregnancies, during which she gave birth to eight children and suffered numerous miscarriages. Her marriage was further strained by Alexander's infidelities, one of the most notable being a liaison with Maria Reynolds , the wife of a disreputable man with whom Alexander had financial dealings. More troubling to Betsey Hamilton, no doubt, was her husband's close relationship with her attractive sister Angelica Schuyler , who wrote to Betsey in 1794, "I love him very much and, if you were as generous as the old Romans, you would lend him to me for a little while." Angelica went on to assure Betsey that she need not "be jealous," since all she wanted was to "promote his glory" and engage in "a little chit-chat." Even so, the Hamilton marriage was said to be comprised of genuine love and mutual respect.

With Alexander's death, Betsey Hamilton's health improved, indeed flourished, and she lived to be 97. During her 50 years of widowhood, she busied herself with elevating her husband's reputation, interviewing and rejecting legions of biographers who refused to write what she dictated. She even initiated a lawsuit with one of Alexander's closest colleagues to obtain papers which she believed would help enhance her husband's reputation. In the end, it was her son John C. Hamilton who finally prepared a biography that met her approval, al though it was criticized as overly reverent and exaggerated in claims. The book did not appear until 1840, by which time Betsey Hamilton was an elderly woman.


Flexner, James. "The American World Was Not Made for Me," in American Heritage. December 1977, p. 75–76.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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Hamilton, Elizabeth Schuyler (1757–c. 1854)

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