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GAY HISTORY?

Was Founding Father Alexander Hamilton Bisexual? His Letters Suggest So.

AlexanderHamiltonMost people think of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton as the face on the $10 bill. Either that or the primary author of the Federalist Papers who was killed in a duel by Vice President Aaron Burr in 1804. But few people are aware that the celebrated Revolutionary War veteran may have been bisexual.

Though he married Elizabeth Schuyler in 1780 and fathered a total of eight children, some historians believe Hamilton had a romantic relationship with fellow solider and aristocrat John Laurens while both men were aide-de-camps to George Washington during the Revolutionary War.

The evidence is found in a series letters written by Hamilton to Laurens shortly after Laurens left Washington’s military family for South Carolina, where he worked to recruit African American troops to fight against the British.

In a letter dated April 1779, Hamilton begins:

Cold in my professions, warm in my friendships, I wish, my Dear Laurens, it might be in my power, by action rather than words to convince you that I love you. I shall only tell you that ’til you bade us Adieu, I hardly knew the value you had taught my heart to set upon you. Indeed, my friend, it was not well done. You know the opinion I entertain of mankind, and how much it is my desire to preserve myself free from particular attachments, and to keep my happiness independent of the caprice of others. You should not have taken advantage of my sensibility to steal into my affections without my consent.

All that flowery language certainly does sound kinda — well — gay.

Charles_Willson_Peale_-_John_Laurens_-_Google_Art_Project

John Laurens

The letter continues:

But as you have done it, and as we are generally indulgent to those we love, I shall not scruple to pardon the fraud you have committed, on condition that for my sake, if not for your own, you will always continue to merit the partiality, which you have artfully instilled into me.

At the time, romantic relationships between members of the same sex were considered taboo, and sodomy was a punishable offense in all 13 colonies. Which raises the question of what sort of “fraud” Hamilton might be referring to.

In another letter, dated September 1779, Hamilton describes himself as a “jealous lover” after Laurens failed to respond to any of his missives:

Like a jealous lover, when I thought you slighted my caresses, my affection was alarmed and my vanity piqued. I had almost resolved to lavish no more of them upon you and to reject you as an inconstant and an ungrateful ____.

At that point, the handwriting becomes illegible, leaving it up to the reader’s imagination what the Founding Father may have written.

Later in the letter, Hamilton talks about his new fiance, Elizabeth Schuyler, in language that makes her sound more like a beard than a wife:

Next fall completes my doom. I give up my liberty to Miss Schuyler. She is a good hearted girl who I am sure will never play the termagant; though not a genius she has good sense enough to be agreeable, and though not a beauty, she has fine black eyes – is rather handsome and has every other requisite of the exterior to make a lover happy. And believe me, I am lover in earnest, though I do not speak of the perfections of my Mistress in the enthusiasm of Chivalry.

Mrs._Elizabeth_Schuyler_Hamilton

Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton

One year later, in a letter dated September 1780, Hamilton again wrote to Laurens about his wife:

In spite of Schuyler’s black eyes, I have still a part for the public and another for you; so your impatience to have me married is misplaced; a strange cure by the way, as if after matrimony I was to be less devoted that I am now. Let me tell you, that I intend to restore the empire of Hymen and that Cupid is to be his prime Minister.

He signed the letter:

Adieu, be happy, and let friendship between us be more than a name.

It’s been reported that after his death, Hamilton’s family crossed out sections of the letters. Their reasons for doing so are unknown, though some speculate it was because the notes contained suggestive language that might have confirmed a romantic relationship between the two men.

Interestingly, in his 2003 essay Slavery and Liberty in the American Revolution, historian Gregory D. Massey notes that of all the surviving letters written by Hamilton, the only other ones that show the same level of sentiment are those penned to his wife.

Of course, we’ll probably never know for sure. But one thing is for certain: Whatever feelings Hamilton had towards Laurens were unique, as evidenced in a letter he sent to General Greene in 1782 after Laurens was killed in the Battle of the Combahee River:

I feel the deepest affiction at the news we have just received of the loss of our dear and inestimable friend Laurens. His career of virtue is at an end…. I feel the loss of a friend I truly and most tenderly loved, and one of a very small number.

By:           Graham Gremore
On:           Jul 4, 2014
Tagged: , ,
  • 15 Comments
    • Mezaien
      Mezaien

      Well those were the days when men really look like fruit cake. You wonder I canceled Christmas.

      Jul 4, 2014 at 8:37 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • blondeboyz
      blondeboyz

      While they certainly wrote with a lot of flourish in those days, and the English language is all but lost on today’s youth (just look at text messages and Facebook posts), I’m confused why it is mentioned several times that we may never know for sure if Alexander Hamilton was bi or not. It certainly seems straight forward that he had a tremendous infatuation and longing for the man that far exceeded any military comradeship.

      I was never aware of these letters and writings. What letters had sections of them crossed out? If Hamilton’s family did it after his death, were they the letters written by Hamilton to John Laurens and how did they get back into Hamilton’s possession? Or were they letters written in response from John Laurens to Hamilton? I see some research is required for my curiosity.

      Jul 4, 2014 at 8:48 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Mikah
      Mikah

      The question is,which Founding Father wasn’t bisexual?

      Jul 4, 2014 at 10:03 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Teeth
      Teeth

      Relationships and sexuality are far too dynamic to understand with just a few letters. I don’t know what those letters mean, except that he had some great love for this guy, and eventually it became one-sided. How we express love, even how we feel love changes from time to time. We don’t know if he ever played hide the salami or not.. I remember a straight friend from college, we loved each other with an intensity that I don’t know how to describe. And we snuggled plenty, and called each other “dear”, etc.. but we never screwed. Yet that love was as real you can imagine. (and yes, we are still close). Was he Bi with me? I don’t know… I think that terms like Bisexual and Gay, as we understand them, are fairly new and that love between men isn’t. SO we can’t call someone from 1750 Bi.. unless we create a new category of “Bi by our standards”.

      Jul 4, 2014 at 10:08 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Ben Dover
      Ben Dover

      Check out his cool house in upper Manhattan (run by the Nat’l Park rangers) – does it have a certain “sensibility”?

      @Teeth: Sounds like a great friendship. And you’re right that we can’t read too much into florid language from the past. Even a century later, a very elderly Walt Whitman denied being gay and denied that his poems had anything to do with THAT.

      I’ll throw in, however, that Gore Vidal wrote in his historical novels how even the most hetero Founders had a crush on cute little Alex. Of course Vidal had a tendency to see bisexuality everywhere – I forget the unpopular, un-PC way he would express that – but the novels are entertaining and worth a look.

      Jul 4, 2014 at 10:46 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • jmmartin
      jmmartin

      @Ben Dover: “Cute little Alex” in the painting accompanying this article reminds me a bit much of the conservative pundit and magazine editor, Bill Kristol.

      Jul 4, 2014 at 2:02 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • BigWoody
      BigWoody

      I live in Hamilton Ohio which began as Fort Hamilton.
      Located in VERY republican Southwest Ohio, I particularly find this article amusing.
      I will forever gaze upon Alexander’s statue downtown quite differently.

      Jul 4, 2014 at 2:04 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Alan down in Florida
      Alan down in Florida

      Sounds like what we would now call a serious bromance.

      Jul 4, 2014 at 2:15 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • boring
      boring

      FUN FACT: I’m distantly related to Alexander Hamilton AND bisexual.

      So great, I guess?

      Jul 4, 2014 at 2:47 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Ben Dover
      Ben Dover

      @boring: ha – so why do you call yourself “boring”?

      Jul 4, 2014 at 4:48 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • LadyL
      LadyL

      @jmmartin: …Kristol? UGH, you’ve RUINED this for me!

      Jul 4, 2014 at 7:09 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • LuckyboyLA
      LuckyboyLA

      Look, since we all pretty much agree we’re born with our sexuality pre-set, why is it any surprise men 200+ yrs back knew what they felt. Was David just a model or Michelangelo’s hot young BF? Being out and open is new since the 70’s, being homosexual is not. We’ve been there forever. Doesn’t take more than a read through historical writings to find us everywhere. Men who loved other men and DID hide the salami changed the course of Western civilization more than once.

      Jul 5, 2014 at 3:01 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • AddyNell
      AddyNell

      While I’ve heard of historical fiction! I’ve not quite come across historical erotica. . . Oh, the trouble I could get in with this story idea! Tehehe.

      Jul 5, 2014 at 7:46 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • michael mellor
      michael mellor

      Before gay lib and feminism, it was common for men to informally express their love for each other, whether platonic or sexual. With the rise of gay lib and feminism, male-male love was formalized and sexualized, thus sending it to the margins of the male experience.

      Male-male love is more marginalized today than it’s ever been.

      Jul 5, 2014 at 6:50 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • jwrappaport
      jwrappaport

      @blondeboyz: Good sir, it is not lost on all of us! It really is lost on my generation, though. That, and hand-written letters.

      Jul 6, 2014 at 12:21 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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