The entire world knows the name ‘Alexander Hamilton’ thanks to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway musical Hamilton. Because of this musical, the whole world also knows about Alexander Hamilton’s enemy, Aaron Burr, who killed Hamilton in a duel. What’s less known is that Alexander Hamilton’s son, Alexander Hamilton Jr., avenged his father’s death in the most cunning way possible.
Alexander Hamilton Jr. was born on May 16, 1786, in New York City. He was the third child and second son of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton and his wife, Elizabeth ‘Eliza’ Schuyler. He had an older brother named Philip Hamilton and an older sister named Angelica Hamilton. Hamilton Jr. had five additional younger siblings.
By the age of eight, Alexander Hamilton Jr. began attending a boarding school in Trenton, New Jersey. Alexander and his older brother Philip studied under Episcopal clergyman William Frazer.
When Alexander Hamilton Jr. was only 15-years-old, his older brother Philip was tragically shot and killed by lawyer George Eacker in a duel. Alexander Hamilton Sr. never recovered from his eldest son’s untimely death. Three years after Philip’s death, on July 11, 1804, Alexander Hamilton was killed by political rival Aaron Burr in the famous Burr-Hamilton duel. Hamilton was shot in the lower abdomen and succumbed to his injuries one day later.
Alexander Hamilton Jr. was a law student at Columbia College in New York when his father was shot. After hearing about his father’s duel and injuries, Hamilton Jr. rushed home, where he saw his father alive for the last time. Alexander Hamilton was killed only weeks before Alexander Hamilton Jr.’s graduation. As such, Hamilton Jr. didn’t graduate on time from Columbia.
Alexander Hamilton’s untimely death didn’t just impact his son’s graduation date. After the death of the first secretary of the treasury, Elizabeth Hamilton was forced to sell off their family mansion, known as The Grange, as she struggled to pay off debts still owed on the home. Similarly, Alexander Hamilton Jr.’s older sister Angelica suffered a mental breakdown after her father’s death, leading to a lifelong state of insanity. Angelica Hamilton was close not only with her father but also with her brother Philip. In only a few short years, their two deaths dealt Angelica Hamilton a great blow.
An illustrious law and military career
Soon after he graduated, Alexander Hamilton Jr. was offered an apprentice spot in Boston with Stephen Higginson’s law firm. However, Eliza Hamilton couldn’t fathom being separated from her children so soon after her husband’s death. Alexander Hamilton biographer, Ron Chernow, states in Alexander Hamilton that Eliza said to Stephen Higginson: “Unnerved by affliction and broken down by distress, what can be my wishes but to have the children of the best, the tenderest husband always with me?”
Hamilton Jr. worked in law for a few years after graduation but decided to sail for Spain in 1812. He joined the Duke of Wellington’s army, then stationed in Portugal, where he learned strategy and received military training.
Hamilton trained with the British Army before returning to America to fight in the War of 1812. In August 1813, he received a commission as Captain of the 41st Regiment of Infantry in the United States Army. However, the 41st Regiment does not appear to have seen any active service during the War of 1812. Alexander Hamilton Jr. also served with his father’s old friend, General Morgan Lewis, in 1814.
Alexander Hamilton Jr. was involved with the American military until June 1815. After the War of 1812 concluded, Hamilton began practicing law again. In 1817, he married Eliza P. Knox, the daughter of William Knox- the leading merchant in New York at the time. One year later, Hamilton took a seat as a New York State legislator.
In May 1822, then-President James Monroe appointed Alexander Hamilton Jr. as a United States Attorney for Eastern Florida. For the next few years, Hamilton Jr. played a role in shaping Florida into an America State. His efforts played a significant role in Florida eventually becoming an American State in March 1845.
Alexander Hamilton Jr. returned to New York City years later, where he started selling real estate. His success grew and he quickly became a leading name on Wall Street. He eventually used his own money to repurchase his childhood home for his mother.
Alexander Hamilton Jr. took everything from Aaron Burr
While Alexander Hamilton’s son was starting and succeeding in his career, his enemy Aaron Burr was on the brink of complete failure. Burr’s reputation greatly suffered after he killed Hamilton in 1804. The public was outraged after Hamilton’s death, which forced Burr to flee to New Jersey, though he eventually returned to Washington, D.C. In 1807, Aaron Burr was brought to trial on conspiracy and high misdemeanor charges. Burr’s political career never recovered from these charges despite being acquitted.
By 1812, Aaron Burr was completely broke. He attempted to rebuild his law career in New York City but saw only relative success. By 1830, Burr was financially dependent on his friends’ support. In 1833, Aaron Burr married socialite and wealthy widow Eliza Bowen Jumel.
Eliza Bowen Jumel’s first marriage had been to a wealthy French wine merchant named Stephen Jumel. The two lived in what is now known as the Morris-Jumel Mansion– a home once used as a headquarters by George Washington and his Continental officers. Stephen Jumel died in 1832, leaving Eliza Bowen Jumel as the wealthiest woman in America.
77-year-old Aaron Burr moved into the Morris-Jumel Mansion in Washington Heights with Eliza Jumel after their wedding. No one knows whether or not Eliza realized Aaron Burr was penniless. Historians believe her decision to marry Burr was influenced by the prestige of having a former American Vice President as her husband. However, after only four months of marriage, Eliza Bowen Jumel and Aaron Burr separated.
Jumel realized she needed a solid lawyer. Who better to represent her than the son of Aaron Burr’s enemy, Alexander Hamilton Jr.? By the time of the divorce trial, Alexander Hamilton Jr. had lived an extremely successful life. There was no logical reason for him to accept to take Jumel’s case, which was seen as leagues below his status. However, he took it anyways- perhaps to avenge his father.
The divorce trial was dragged out over a three-year time span. During this trial, Alexander Hamilton’s second son brought to light Burr’s every misdeed. By the end of the trial, Aaron Burr had been stripped of everything. Alexander Hamilton Jr. and Eliza Jumel took what remained of Aaron Burr’s money, health, and legacy.
On September 14, 1836 – the same day the divorce was finalized- Aaron Burr died in a boardinghouse that was later known as the St. James Hotel. He died knowing his enemy’s son took everything from him in his final days. Alexander Hamilton Jr. died on August 2, 1875, at age 89, in New York City.