Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton
- An album of correspondence by the matriarch of the Hamilton family, chiefly to members of her immediate family, 1805–1846
- Paper, ink
The letters to her brother concern her inheritance from her father's estate; those to her sister-in-law and son Philip about her journey west in 1837 (when she was a feisty octogenarian) to visit her son William. His letter, dated 1836, places him in Green Bay, [Wisconsin]. A free-spirited bachelor, after attending West Point and fighting in the Black Hawk war, he moved to California during the gold rush to sell supplies to miners and died there of cholera in 1850. Most of the letters to her children involve matters of daily life and are imbued with the solicitous tenderness of a loving mother, particularly for her daughter Angelica. After the death of her eldest brother, Philip, in 1801, Angelica, then seventeen years of age, seemingly suffered a nervous breakdown from which she never recovered. However, a letter written by Jonathan Mason of Boston in 1805 seems to indicate otherwise. Angelica was visiting the Masons and her comportment, according to Mason, was amiable and poised. He writes: "This good girl of yours has made herself extreamly acceptable to Mrs. Mason & daughter. We shall anticipate with pleasure some future opportunity to enjoy her society in Boston ... you have in her ... great consolation and comfort & a companion that will alleviate & soothe these sorrows which probably never can be removed."
On another occasion she pessimistically views completion of her task of preserving her husband's legacy, since she is losing the race against time. Since Hamilton's death, she had traveled great distances and written to many of his surviving contemporaries in the quest of organizing his letters, papers, and writings. She confides to daughter Eliza Holly in 1832: "[T]he mission for which I am here [Philadelphia] is one of the most interesting. I have my fears I shall not obtain my object. Most of the contemporaries of your father have also passed away."
Eliza's letters from Washington are lightly peppered with political (or apolitical) talk. In a letter date 1845 to her son James, she dryly remarks "I have been very kindly received, altho the party [in power] are of different politics with yourself. My conduct is to be of no party, but to respect myself." In an earlier letter to her sister-in-law Mary Anna (wife of her brother Philip Jeremiah), she paints a portrait of herself with self-deprecating humor; while on a visit to Washington in 1842 to see her recently widowed daughter Elizabeth Holly, Eliza attended a ball where she described herself as a superannuated curiosity: "In some of our conversations I think we concluded that the inhabitants of the world were going cracked. Last evening I was at the levee at the palace of our great metropolis where there was a great assemblage of the Talents of the Union, and a very old lady with a cap that the fashion had not been changed for the last forty years nor her dress since the birth of her first great grandchild, she was bowed about at the great ball. Now, my dear, does not this folly make good our conclusion?"