A Master Passion: The Story of Alexander and Elizabeth Hamilton: Book One: Love and Liberty
by Juliet Waldron
Publication Date: March 25, 2015
Books We Love
eBook & Print; 428 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
THE MASTER PASSION is the story of the marriage of our brilliant first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, and his courageous wife, Elizabeth Schuyler. It begins with a whirlwind Revolutionary War courtship at Washington’s headquarters. Conflict, however, is built into this marriage.
Betsy's passion is Alexander. While Hamilton adores his wife and children, there are times when he loves America more.
“...And hence one Master Passion in the breast
Like Aaron's serpent, swallows up all the rest..." ~~Alexander Pope
Alexander Hamilton has been my hero since I was a ten year old, which means I’ve been imagining him for a long time. When I decided to finally write “his” book, I’d just finished a novel about Wolfgang A. Mozart, as told by his wife. It would be a familiar approach, I thought, to tell the Hamilton story from the same womanly angle. Or, so I thought—until I realized I didn’t know much about Alexander’s wife, Betsy.
Was she just another Colonial Dame? Well not exactly. The big house in Albany where Elizabeth Schuyler was brought up was “American with a difference.”
Historical fiction readers are familiar with the customs of the Scots, Irish and. But as a New York school child, I also was taught about the Dutch, who had given place names all along the Hudson, founded N.Y.C., and had inspired Washington Irving to write his winking ghost story: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Although Betsy’s father, Major General Philip Schuyler, successfully “English-ified” himself, she probably learned Dutch at her Daddy’s knee. (During the Revolution, Betsy and Baron von Steuben would converse in it.) She was raised on the tail end of a folkway which retained some notable differences from those of her English neighbors.
Even the wealthiest ladies were inclined to hands-on. They were taught how to cook and garden, how to spin, to keep fowl, to weave and sew—as well as keep household accounts. An old family friend, James McHenry, wrote tellingly to Hamilton: “Your wife…has as much merit as your Treasurer as you have as Treasurer of the wealth of the United States.” It was no secret who kept afloat the daily affairs of this often-preoccupied Founding Father.
Dutch women were also not so quick to hand their babies—messy, inconvenient creatures—off to servants or slaves. Despite the then commonly fatal water-borne and childhood diseases, Mrs. Hamilton not only bore eight children, she raised every one of them to adulthood, something of a feat in that era, which testifies to a woman diligently breast-feeding.
They were never wealthy, so Mrs. Hamilton probably did a great deal more around her house than the wives of many other men in that founding federal government. I enjoyed putting growing Hamilton family into the story, to try to imagine something about the children—six boys and two girls—from scant facts and a few anecdotes. Every big family has a hierarchy, from oldest to youngest, from girls to boys; these young Hamiltons will experience their father’s “odd destiny” as a personal tragedy.
~Learn more about Elizabeth’s life and about her beloved Alexander—immigrant, genius, and nation builder—in A Master Passion, in print and “e” @
Jean Zimmerman’s The Women of the House, Mariner Books, 2007
David Fischer Hackett’s Albion’s Seed, Oxford University Press, 1989
Washington Irving’s Knickerbocker’s History of New York, GP Putnam & Sons, 1894
Mary Elizabeth Springer, Elizabeth Schuyler, A Story of Old New York, 1903
Juliet gardens, bicycles and is involved in local advocacy groups. She and her husband of fifty years enjoy the winding backroads of PA aboard their Hayabusa superbike.
For more information visit Juliet Waldron's website. Juliet also blogs at Possum Tracks and Crone Henge, and you can follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Goodreads.
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A Master Passion