Back Alexander Hamilton, “Examine Well Your Heart”

Alexander Hamilton (1757–1804)
From The Essential Hamilton: Letters & Other Writings

Phillipa Soo as Elizabeth Schuyler and Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton in Hamilton: The Musical. (Joan Marcus/The Public Theater)

Alexander Hamilton fell in love with Elizabeth Schuyler in February 1780, when he was in the middle of fighting the Revolutionary War. They met each other while she visited relatives in Morristown, New Jersey, near where George Washington and his staff (including Hamilton) were headquartered for the winter. Because of the war, the lovers were often apart and during the year of their engagement, Hamilton wrote some two dozen love letters to “Betsey,” most of which have survived. (None of Elizabeth’s letters still exist; she destroyed them all in the next century.)

Alexander’s correspondence with Elizabeth includes what biographer Ron Chernow calls “the most candid letters of his life.” They all contain the flowery sentiments we expect to read in love letters (“I would this moment give the world to be near you only to kiss your sweet hand”), but he also confided in her on military matters that would prove to be of historical importance, such as the treasonous actions of Benedict Arnold.

And the letters more recently inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda’s lyrics for his smash-hit musical. “Will you relish being a poor man’s wife / Unable to provide for your life?”—a line from the song “That Would Be Enough”—is lifted almost verbatim from one of Hamilton’s more famous letters to Elizabeth, and we present that letter as our Story of the Week selection.

Read “Examine Well Your Heart” by Alexander Hamilton

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