47 pages 1 hour read

Stephanie Dray

My Dear Hamilton

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2018

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Summary and Study Guide


My Dear Hamilton is a 2018 historical novel by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie based on the life of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton. The novel is narrated by Elizabeth toward the end of her life as she looks back on her experiences during the American Revolution and her marriage to Alexander Hamilton. Addressing themes such as The Price of Freedom and The Power of Silence, My Dear Hamilton tells the story of one woman’s patriotism and strength in the face of social and political turmoil.

This study guide refers to the William Morrow eBook edition of the text.

Content Warning: This guide describes and discusses the source text’s treatment of enslavement, pregnancy and child loss, racism, sexism, anti-gay bias, and xenophobia.

Plot Summary

Elizabeth Schuyler, called Eliza, is the daughter of a prominent New York general whose involvement in the war against England brings her into the world of the revolution. Under the influence of her father and surrounded by well-known figures such as the Marquis de Lafayette, James Monroe, and Benedict Arnold, Eliza is inspired to aid the war effort. She is exposed to the misfortunes of the common soldiers, whom she cannot help but pity and want to assist.

When visiting her uncle at General George Washington’s camp, Eliza meets Colonel Alexander Hamilton, Washington’s eloquent and ambitious right-hand-man. Angelica, Eliza’s older sister, warns her against Hamilton’s ambition and rakish ways, yet Eliza finds herself bonding with him, and the two quickly fall in love. Hamilton is worried that his lack of family and fortune will prevent Eliza from marrying him, but Eliza’s love is steadfast, and the two marry and start a family.

Hamilton yearns for a higher rank and to command a battalion rather than write Washington’s correspondence. Washington eventually lets him lead a battalion at the pivotal Battle of Yorktown in 1781. America wins the Revolution, but its challenges and those of the Hamiltons are far from over. The Hamiltons struggle financially, and Eliza is left to run the house with relatively little help for a woman of her position with a growing family. Hamilton enacts a secret plan to replace the Articles of Confederation—the document currently governing the new country—with his idea for a new constitution. After the Constitutional Convention, Hamilton and his friends James Madison and John Jay write The Federalist Papers, and Eliza assists them in copying notes and delivering essays between the writers.

Once the Constitution is ratified, partisan politics between the Federalists (like Hamilton and Washington) and Republicans (like Thomas Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe) threaten the Union. The Hamilton family is put in jeopardy several times for Hamilton’s radical beliefs. Meanwhile, Hamilton’s friendship with Aaron Burr begins to sour as Burr switches loyalties between the Federalists and Republicans and takes Eliza’s father’s seat in Congress.

Eliza does her best to cool her husband’s temper, knowing that he is extremely clever and has good intentions but also that his great ambitions for himself and the country might cause his downfall. Hamilton reveals he had an affair and claims he was lured into it. Eliza knows that this is a lie and that he will do anything, including destroying their marriage and family, to satisfy his ambitions.

Eliza uses silence as her weapon especially after learning of Hamilton’s adultery. They finally begin to speak with one another when both contract yellow fever. Fearing they will die, Eliza recognizes that her anger does not outweigh her love for her husband, and she forgives him, promising to be the wife that he needs. Shortly after their marriage is repaired, Eliza miscarries and sees the loss of her pregnancy as a bad omen for their relationship.

Years later, word gets out about Hamilton’s affair after Jefferson hires journalists to investigate and slander Hamilton. Hamilton believes Monroe is to blame for the story being leaked, so Eliza confronts Monroe as he earlier promised to keep what he knew of the affair a secret. Hamilton tries to get ahead of the story by making the affair public. He publishes a highly detailed 90-page essay, causing shame to fall on Eliza.

The Hamiltons’ oldest son dies in a duel defending his father’s name, and Eliza cannot reconcile her faith with her anger over the way politics has harmed her family. After a break from politics, Hamilton returns to the political arena and influences the presidential election of 1800, essentially giving Jefferson the presidency over Burr. Eliza and Hamilton are happy for a time, enjoying a simpler life than in the past, until one day Eliza is told that Hamilton is unwell, and she discovers that he was shot in a duel with Burr. Hamilton dies shortly after, and Eliza does everything she can to convict Burr as a murderer, driving him out of the city and forcing him into hiding.

After Hamilton’s death, Eliza tries to restore his reputation, leading her to read through thousands of pages of his political and personal writings. She discovers that Hamilton might have had an affair with her sister and a romantic relationship with a soldier named John Laurens during the early years of the war. Eliza feels not only foolish but as if she never knew her husband or sister at all. For years, she abandons having a biography of Hamilton written or a monument built, avoiding Hamilton’s grave and the subject of her marriage.

Eliza is reunited with Lafayette, who convinces her that, though Hamilton was not perfect, he loved her. She goes through his letters once again and sees the complicated truth of their relationship. For 50 years after Hamilton’s death, Eliza follows his legacy and that of the country they helped found, having Hamilton’s biography written, raising money to build the Washington Monument, speaking out against the mistreatment of Indigenous and enslaved people, and helping widows, orphans, and those in need across New York.

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