Alexander Hamilton has been in my life since I was ten, with his rags to respectability—never riches—tale. He came to America, like so many others, with nothing but the head on his shoulders. As a teen, he’d fought for freedom. He’d won the respect of the commanding general and gained the hand of a lady. He fought tirelessly to get his brilliant—but far-less well-informed colleagues—to understand and accept his financial plans. If Alexander Hamilton hadn’t created a system to unite those thirteen colonies by getting them to agree to pay the debts incurred to our fighting men—and to the businessmen who’d backed the War of Independence—the United States as we know it would have never happened.
But Hamilton was an immigrant, a fact his enemies never forgot or forgave. Worse, he was born illegitimate, and arrived on these shores through the charity of the planters of St. Croix. He was called slightingly, “Creole,” or, with frank hostility by John Adams, “the bastard brat of a Scots peddler.”
Recently, these themes moved Hamilton back into public consciousness. A few years after Ron Chernow wrote his exceptional biography, Lin-Manuel Miranda, a multi-talented first generation American, had his original hip-hop “Hamilton” storm onto Broadway. I’m just a country girl, so I didn’t know that until I’d just finished editing an old in-the-drawer story, A Master Passion.
Frankly, as a long time Hamiltonian, Lin-Manuel’s show cheers me. Here in the 21st Century, while McLuhan’s medium works a sea change upon us, it’s probably the perfect way to communicate the story of this extraordinary man, one we were lucky to have had present at America’s founding.
We all work in the medium with which we’re familiar. The one I know best is that of an aged and hybrid genre—the historical novel. I’ve written about another great man’s spouse in “Mozart’s Wife” and so naturally Hamilton’s Betsy became a large part of A Master Passion as well. Her life, as well as his, sometimes reads like fiction. Study of the “founding mothers” is (and will probably remain) a minor specialty, simply from a lack of material. 18th Century women hoped to preserve their privacy by destroying personal letters, so very often I’ve had to infer what might have been going on in someone’s head, or elaborate and fictionalize from tidbits of information gleaned during the long time of research.
Hamilton is such a protean character that in order to produce a coherent whole I’ve had to omit whole episodes—important people and places—or conflate events, which I hope readers will forgive. I wanted to focus on the relationship.
Sadly, Hamilton was scarred by childhood violence, poverty and humiliation. He could be vain and brash, impatient with slower minds. He injured his friends and family with a sordid love-affair. His insecurity and his rage toward the enemies who dragged his good name through the mud caused the political missteps which destroyed the Federalist Party. He might even be seen as the engineer of his own death.
So that’s my subject: a great man with Shakespearean fatal flaws. I’ve tried to I tackle these his and hers blockbuster of a lives in my own way, often through the POV of his loving and occasionally dismayed wife and the medium of an old-fashioned historical novel.
Juliet Waldron has lived in many US states, in the UK and the West Indies. She earned a B. A. in English, but has worked at jobs ranging from artist’s model to brokerage. Thirty years ago, after her sons left home, she dropped out of 9-5 and began to write, hoping to create a genuine time travel experience for her readers. Juliet’s a grandmother, a cat person, and fascinated by reading history and archeology. Juliet spends a lot of time visiting other centuries, but she’s also certain she doesn’t want to live there.
Juliet gardens, bicycles and is involved in local advocacy groups. She and her husband of fifty years enjoy the winding backroads of PA aboard their Hayabusa superbike.
About the Book
THE MASTER PASSION is the story of the marriage of our brilliant first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, and his courageous wife, Elizabeth Schuyler. It begins with a whirlwind Revolutionary War courtship at Washington’s headquarters. Conflict, however, is built into this marriage.
Betsy’s passion is Alexander. While Hamilton adores his wife and children, there are times when he loves America more.
“…And hence one Master Passion in the breast
Like Aaron’s serpent, swallows up all the rest…” ~~Alexander Pope