Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
Home / Life
[Editor’s note: This week, the Washington Public Library presents a book review on “My Dear Hamilton,” a novel of Eliza Schuyter Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie, from one of WPL’s Reader’s Advisory readers, who will go by the pen name “Voyager.”]
"Who was Alexander Hamilton? A traitor or a patriot? A visionary or a fool? A gentleman or a fraud?"
These are questions that Eliza "Betsy" Schuyler Hamilton asked herself as she reflected on her marriage to Alexander Hamilton throughout the book. It is written from her viewpoint.
It was a marriage fraught with many challenges such as infidelity, credit problems, and Hamilton's insecurities due to his childhood. He rose from humble beginnings to become a powerful shaper of a newly formed United States of America. He authored The Federalist Papers, served as the first Secretary of Treasury, and created a national bank. He believed in a strong central government.
Eliza was by his side from the very beginning, serving as his sounding board, before and during the Revolutionary War and the founding of the country afterwards. Her family motto, Semper Fidelis (Always Faithful, Always Loyal), was the driving force in her life.
Through Eliza's eyes, you see George and Martha Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, the Marquis de Lafayette and Aaron Burr in an up-close and personal way. You realize how little politics has changed. The same conflicts and divisions existed then as now.
You see how precarious the new American nation was with no standing military and lack of funds. The war had been won, but the really hard work was ahead: making the great American experiment a success.
Eliza was determined to save Alexander's legacy. She vowed, “I am no saint, but I was Alexander's angel. I want to avenge him.” She believed, “There is not a breath in any American's life that is not shaped in some way by Alexander Hamilton.”
Many of us remember him, mainly because his picture is on the ten-dollar bill and a vague recollection of a duel with Aaron Burr. He was so much more. Eliza succeeded in keeping his legacy alive.
I highly recommend this book. It is lengthy, but well worth reading. As a great follow-up, watch the movie or Broadway play, Hamilton. You will have a better understanding of the plot and the cast of characters, and it will add to your enjoyment.