“For Alexander, careful dress and formal language were shields against the world’s disrespect.” – The Hamilton Affair, Elizabeth Cobbs
What happened in American history? Did I happen to fall asleep during the lessons about Alexander Hamilton, one of America’s founding fathers, one of the men who wrote the Constitution of the United States yada yada ya. Snooze feast.
What if teachers took more liberties to make our journey back in time a memorable and rewarding one. As an adult I have the freedom to craft a curriculum of my choosing to learn about people of the past. The Hamilton Affair, a historical fiction narrative written by a historian proved to be a surprising awakening to my curiosity about Hamilton.
The author does an amazing job of keeping true to events and people but creatively introducing the reader to Hamilton’s childhood, his involvement in the American Revolutionary War. Hamilton’s views on equality among the races was not one I ever remember reading about in my school textbooks. The author does introduce a fictional character based on Alexander’s childhood that I felt added an authentic element to the tone of the book but also was easy to imagine based on his view that black people were people and not property. Again, what a sad reflection when thinking back to history class, where was the discussion on these viewpoints?
When Hamilton meets and falls in love with Eliza Schuyler (who becomes his wife) their relationship seems enchanted in some ways, almost like a fairy tale. He loves her deeply and Eliza, even at a young age, aspired to do more than just marry someone because she was expected to do, but marrying someone she felt she couldn’t live without.
” If I ever marry, I don’t want a husband I can live with. I want one I cannot live without.”
How different she was even at an early age to have such views and not feel obligated to marry jsuf because that was what was expected of young women.
Eliza loved her family but she also had a deep desire to help others, which she later spends time championing after a scandal involving her husband. I know that black men offered to fight for a county that didn’t value them as people but was ok with them sacrificing their lives for it.
“When I saw the liberty poles in the people all engaged for the support of freedom, I could not but like and be pleased with such thing. . . . And living on the borders of Rhode Island, where whole companies of colored people enlisted. . . . [I escaped] into the American army, where I served faithful about ten months, when my Master found and took me home. . . notwithstanding the songs of liberty that. . . thrilled through my heart.”- Jehu Grant
I loved how the author includes and pays homage to men like Jehu Grant and gives us glimpses into their plight through quotes that set the tone for each chapter and characters like Ajax Manly (fictitious but lends to the tone and personality of Hamilton). Hamilton corrects the misunderstanding about his relationship with Ajax—
“You misunderstand. Private Manly is my friend, not my property.”
Reading this book has inspired and motivated me to make it a point to do some research as I read to enhance the experience. The author made it easy since a lot of the events and people were factual. I was reminded again why I enjoy historical fiction; it usually motivates me to look things up.
Overall, this was a book I really enjoyed. If a friend wouldn’t have suggested it as a book club start up read, I don’t think I would have picked it up. I plan to read more from Elizabeth Cobbs including The Hello Girls: America’s First Women Soldiers and Broken Promises: A Novel of the Civil War. I also plan to read more about Alexander and Eliza Hamilton.