A Letter from Susan Holloway Scott
Many thanks for your interest in my new historical novel, I, Eliza Hamilton.
Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton (1757-1854) was the wife of Alexander Hamilton (c1755-1804), a Revolutionary War hero, statesman, politician, and abolitionist, the first Secretary of the Treasury, a signer and promoter of the Constitution, the founder of the American financial system, and, perhaps most famously for posterity, the only Founding Father killed in a duel.
You might also have heard that he inspired a certain Broadway musical that carries his name.
Like so many women of the past, Eliza's story has been overshadowed by her brilliant husband. She didn't help her place in posterity by destroying (or asking her son to destroy) most of her own letters and virtually eliminating her voice. As a result, she's too often been dismissed by historians, who variously describe her as shy and reclusive, a homebody, or a saint.
But the real Eliza's still there: in the letters of others who knew her, in diaries, in portraits, in memoirs, and most of all, in the achingly beautiful love letters her husband wrote to her over the years of their courtship and marriage. She was a mother, daughter, sister, and wife. She was intelligent and resourceful and strong, a woman who lived in the thick of some of the most turbulent and exciting times in American history. Her marriage was filled with love and passion, regard and devotion, but also marred by public scandal and unimaginable tragedies that broke her heart, but not her spirit. I'm honored to tell her story.
I hope you’ll enjoy this extra content about Eliza, her life, family, and times. Over the next months, I'll be sharing more about her, as well as discoveries from my research junkets, on my history-related blog here and my web site blog here, my Facebook page, and my Instagram account. You can also read a bit more about the book here in a recent post on Bustle.com.
Susan Holloway Scott
Download the I, Eliza Hamilton Book Club Kit here.
In this beautifully written novel of historical fiction, bestselling author Susan Holloway Scott tells the story of Alexander Hamilton’s wife, Eliza—a fascinating, strong-willed heroine in her own right and a key figure in one of the most gripping periods in American history.
“Love is not easy with a man chosen by Fate for greatness . . .”
As the daughter of a respected general, Elizabeth Schuyler is accustomed to socializing with dignitaries and soldiers. But no visitor to her parents’ home has affected her so strongly as Alexander Hamilton, a charismatic, ambitious aide to George Washington. They marry quickly, and despite the tumult of the American Revolution, Eliza is confident in her brilliant husband and in her role as his helpmate. But it is in the aftermath of war, as Hamilton becomes one of the country’s most important figures, that she truly comes into her own.
In the new capital, Eliza becomes an adored member of society, respected for her fierce devotion to Hamilton as well as her grace. Behind closed doors, she astutely manages their expanding household, and assists her husband with his political writings. Yet some challenges are impossible to prepare for. Through public scandal, betrayal, personal heartbreak, and tragedy, she is tested again and again. In the end, it will be Eliza’s indomitable strength that makes her not only Hamilton’s most crucial ally in life, but his most loyal advocate after his death, determined to preserve his legacy while pursuing her own extraordinary path through the nation they helped shape together.
Book Club Discussion Questions
1. What did you know about Alexander Hamilton as a founding father before you read this book, and how has your perception changed?
2. Eliza was very much a woman of her time in her devotion to her family and her husband. What do you think were her greatest strengths? Her weaknesses?
3. Eliza was the second of the three older Schuyler sisters. Do you believe being in the middle between her brilliant older sister Angelica and her beautiful younger sister Peggy influenced her? How?
4. Do you think Eliza ever truly regretted marrying Alexander?
5. Some historians believe that Angelica and Alexander had an affair. What’s your opinion?
6. Why do you think Angelica married John Barker Church? Do you think their marriage was a happy one?
7. After George Washington’s death, Alexander admitted that Washington had always been his “aegis” – his protector. Had Washington lived, do you think Alexander would have fought the duel with Aaron Burr?
8. If you were Eliza, would you have forgiven Alexander after he published the details of his affair with Maria Reynolds?
9. At the time Alexander proposed to Eliza, cynics believed he was marrying her only for her money and family position. What do you think?
10. Why do you think Alexander constantly courted physical danger and social disaster?
11. Alexander always believed in the truth, no matter the consequences. Do you agree, or not? Why?
12. Over the course of his life, Alexander was involved, either as a primary or secondary participant, in at least eleven duels or near-duels. Why was his honor so important to him?
13. Eliza strongly objected to dueling on both moral and religious grounds, yet not even she was able to persuade Alexander to stop. What could she have done or said differently to change his mind?
14. During the duel with Burr, Alexander apparently fired in the air, purposefully avoiding injuring Burr. Why do you think he did this?
15. Burr was said to have taken the duel very seriously, and reportedly practiced his aim and shooting for days beforehand. Do you think he intended to kill Alexander? Why?
16. Abigail Adams loathed Alexander. At one point, she wrote: “O I have read his Heart in his wicked Eyes many a time. The very devil is in them. They are lasciviousness itself, or I have no skill in Physiognomy.” What do you think she meant by this?
17. Alexander supposedly advised his son Philip before his duel to fire into the air as a way to satisfy his honor, but avoid murdering a man; this strategy led directly to Philip’s death. Do you think Eliza ever learned her husband’s advice to their son? Do you think he told her himself? What do you think her reaction would have been?
18. What aspects of 18th century American politics reminded you of modern politics?
19. It’s easy to take American democracy for granted. Did it come as a surprise to you to realize how much of what holds the U.S. together was created and put into practice by Hamilton? Did it change your perception of the United States, and what makes it different from previous forms of government?
20. Was Alexander Hamilton a hero? Was Aaron Burr a villain?