Wife of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton
Elizabeth Schuyler (Eliza Hamilton, Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton) was born on August 9, 1757, in Albany, New York. She was the second daughter of Revoluntionary War General Philip Schuyler and Catherine Van Rensselaer Schuyler, one of the richest and most political families in the state of New York. Schooled at home, Elizabeth grew up mostly at her father’s grand new mansion in Albany and at their summer home at Old Saratoga.
Alexander Hamilton was born a British subject on the island of Nevis, West Indies, on January 11, 1755. His mother, Rachel Fawcett Levine, was jailed in 1745 for “adultery and whoring with everyone.” Her husband’s divorce petition in 1759 declared she was the mother of two illegitimate children, one of whom was Alexander Hamilton.
He carried the name of James Hamilton, a Scottish immigrant who may have been his father. He and Rachel certainly lived together. By the time she died, they were separated. Alexander was sent to live with Rachel’s family. The boy of twelve was put out to work as a clerk, but was soon longing for bigger things.
Alexander’s superior intelligence was easily apparent to local patrons on Nevis Island, including his cousin, Ann Lytton Mitchell, who saw to it that Alexander was educated in America. He arrived in New York in 1772 and began classes at Elizabethtown Academy in New Jersey in the autumn of 1772 to prepare for college.
Hamilton’s connections in Elizabethtown, New Jersey, were good ones. He boarded with the well-to-do lawyer William Livingston and his wife Susannah French Livingston. Elias Boudinot, another leading citizen, is believed to have helped Hamilton financially.
Both Livingston and Boudinot were trustees of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton), but Hamilton’s application there was rejected. He was accepted at Kings College in New York City (now Columbia), and entered school there in the spring of 1774.
Hamilton had no sooner settled in college when he became involved in revolutionary politics. In December 1774, he published his first revolutionary pamphlets, A Full Vindication of the Measures of Congress, followed by another in February 1775. He believed that a principal purpose of government was to protect property. He believed the common man needed governing in the direction of the common good, because his natural interest is self-interest. This worldview, set down and published when he was 20 years old, continued unchanged until his death.
Hamilton and Washington
Hamilton began drilling with a military company in St. Paul’s churchyard, and in August 1775 was part of an action to remove British cannons from a fort at the Battery that was under fire by British warships. He left Kings College without graduating, and in March 1776 was made captain in New York’s provincial artillery.