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.

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.

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.

Get Queerty Daily

Subscribe to Queerty for a daily dose of #alexanderhamilton #elizabethschuyler #johnlaurens stories and more


  • Mezaien

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

  • 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.

  • Mikah

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

  • 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”.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Alan down in Florida

    Sounds like what we would now call a serious bromance.

  • boring

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

    So great, I guess?

  • Ben Dover

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

  • LadyL

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • kiango

    @blondeboyz: I know this is — over a year later, but I feel like this should be posted in light of the Hamilton musical’s release, and the subsequent googling that will probably follow:

    Here’s a link to all of their correspondence

    And more specifically: here’s excerpts from one of the aforementioned letters that has been edited, in which Alexander Hamilton bemoans the prospect of finding a wife and asks Laurens to do it for him. (which was actually quoted in the article, and I am shocked that they didn’t highlight this. Begins with “Cold in my professions, warm in my friendships…” /forward slashes signify italics/):

    “If you should not readily meet with a lady that you think answers my description you can only advertise in the public papers and doubtless you will hear of many competitors for most of the qualifications required, who will be glad to become candidates for such a prize as I am. To excite their emulation, it will be necessary for you to give an account of the lover—his /size,/ make, quality of mind and /body,/ achievements, expectations, fortune, &c. In drawing my picture, you will no doubt be civil to your friend; mind you do justice to the length of my nose and don’t forget, that I .”

    Those five dashes at the end represent the five words that were scratched out by an editor. Said editor also wrote “I must not publish the whole of this” at the top of the page.

    ^ this tumblr goes into their interpretation of the Laurens-Hamilton “friendship” and provides some other links that may help you if you’re interested!

  • kiango

    @LuckyboyLA: I know this is a year late but I played too god damn much Assassins Creed and went too far into subsequent research into Renaissance Art and Art History to NOT talk about this:

    Actually — Michelangelo was probably gay, but was also apparently Very Catholic. To my knowledge, his hypothetical homosexuality would have been latent. (there’s a couple instances ive read of him “turning down” a few offers made in that vein, but god, his women look like men with oranges taped to their chests for a reason, right?)

    What you SHOULD be talking about is Leonardo da Vinci. Very gay, very smart, very good guy. Tried once for sodomy, and got out of the trial because he had ties to the Medici family (Powerful Patrons are a plus!). Never married, but had a longterm relationship (supposedly) with his assistant, Salai. (There were… some drawings done by Salai in one of Leonardo’s sketchbooks, lewd graffiti. Ah, bless. Humans have always been as crass as we are now.)

  • lizbian

    @blondeboyz: After Hamilton died, Eliza went out and collected as many letters that Hamilton had written.

  • russellhm

    Although an ardent fan of Gore Vidal’s, the gay author and bon vivant, I’ve yet to read his historical novel, “Burr.” It is a Vidal work and hence, not devoted to historical accuracy but to Vidal’s own sense of flair. But I do not recall his mention of anything about Hamilton that would suggest the man was bi-sexual. Granted, it is told from Burr’s point of view. Burr, himself, was a scalawag. Interesting inferences, however, from Hamilton’s letters. May we assume without too much naivete, that Hamilton and Laurens, as comrades in arms, away from the society of women, simply developed a manly devotion and his use of the word “love” in these letters is more platonic than sexual? Nevertheless, Hamilton is one of the more fascinating Founders as evidenced by the wild success of the new Broadway musical.

Comments are closed.