Powered By Blogger

Saturday, July 30, 2016


You’d never know, at first glance, that Mrs. Hamilton was a Leo. When you first learn of a shy girl, “the best tempered girl in the world,” -- an 18th Century way to praise one who is not a great beauty – you can’t imagine any sort of classic Leo female. Such women radiate energy, flaunt their good looks and always have something clever to say.

Still, according to General Washington’s ADC, Tench Tilghman, who met Betsy Schuyler during a war time visit to Albany, she was “…A Brunette with the most good-natured dark lovely eyes that I ever saw, which threw a beam of good temper and Benevolence over her entire Countenance…” Later, during that same visit, three ladies and three gentlemen took a picnic “of Sherbet and Biscuit" to the Falls at Cohoes, north of Albany.

The Falls at Cohoes, low flow
They went for a climb up the rocks in order to get a better view—or at least, Betsy and Tench Tilghman did—and she astonished the Marylander by climbing unaided right alongside him, for “she disdained all assistance and made herself merry at the distress of the other Ladyes.”  This gives us a far more Leonine, picture of Miss Betsy—of a healthy, able-bodied creature, who was used to and thoroughly enjoyed physical activity—even if it wasn’t  considered “ladylike.”   

And she could fascinate in a Leonine way, too, when it suited her. Here follows a sweet story told by one of the elder children of the Ford Mansion, the stately home where Washington’s military family was housed for the winter. In order that teen-age Timothy might go see his friends in the Village of Morristown, he was given the nightly countersign so that he could pass the sentries posted around the house after dark. One night, as he approached the sentinel, he heard the call for the countersign, but the young officer who’d been trudging ahead of him through the snow couldn’t seem to remember it. The sentry, following orders, presented his bayonet.

The absent-minded officer was Alexander Hamilton, who had been leaving headquarters almost every night to spend time with Miss Betsy, now staying with her Aunt and Uncle Cochran at a farmhouse nearby. Timothy and the sentry both knew Lieutenant Hamilton, of course, but the sentry didn’t dare disobey orders. In the end, Hamilton took Timothy aside and asked for the password, which he then presented to the still dubious guard. This is the only story concerning absent-mindedness I’ve ever read about the sharp-as-a-tack Hamilton, and I give the Leo in Miss Betsy all the credit.

Later on in the marriage, after her husband's sordid affair with Maria Reynolds, nosy biographers as well as novelists like me, would love to know how Eliza reacted.  (As they grew older, Hamilton's pet name for his Elizabeth changed to one more dignified.) However, with the strong desire for privacy evidenced by many 18th Century wives of famous men, Mrs. Hamilton, like Konstanze Mozart and Martha Washington, two other notable contemporary examples, doubtless burned any and all written evidence of recrimination. To quote the astrologer, Linda Goodman, on the bravery of Leo* "...there's no one who can bear more in stoic dignity, or adjust more courageously to depressing conditions with sheer faith and optimism...". 

This perfectly describes Elizabeth. She lived for more than fifty years after her "dear Hamilton" had died and never ceased to love him and defend his memory. She worked to preserve his vast, scattered written legacy, and fought to maintain his reputation in the face of his longer lived, formidable (Adams, Jefferson) but relentlessly jealous enemies.

Although she had to scrape to raise her children, Elizabeth made her mark in the world, being one of the co-founders of the first orphanage in NYC, a project dear to her heart because through this she honored her husband, who'd also been a fatherless child.

The train of disasters, financial and emotional, which beset this lady never kept her spirits down. Quoting Linda Goodman once more on Leo: "It's hard to sway them from a set path...They accumulate only so they can distribute to others...when a real emergency falls on Leo's strong shoulders..." they will "never shirk ... duty...they will help "the defenseless" and "protect the frightened."   

@ New York Historical Society

For information and inspiration for this blog, I am indebted to:

*Women of Colonial and Revolutionary Times by Mary Gay Humphreys 
*Life of Major General Schuyler by Bayard Tuckerman
*Sun Signs by Linda Goodman

~~Juliet Waldron ~ All my historical novels :  http://amzn.to/1UDoLAi

And, please, if you've got a moment, check out these talented

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Possum Goes on Retreat

Rumination after a return from the woods. 

The possum has been at a retreat in the woods, in company with a lot of other creatures, bears, snakes, turtles, birds of every hue, wolves, rabbits, frogs, monkeys, mice, dogs, as well as some highly verbal cockroaches, dread-locked dragons, and reclusive cats, all meeting, greeting, contemplating, and studying the ways of balance and peaceful co-existence. It was very hot and very sweaty because it was July, and the animals slept in tents, walking some distance to reach showers or potty. That is, when they weren't dancing, singing, creating art, forming friendships, or meditating.

One of the finest sights is only on view during middle of the night rambles to the necessary: the Milky Way, our local galaxy, now nearly invisible to the more domesticated animals who live in the vast sprawl of cities. At the same time, grandmother moon grew fat, her face glowing through the tall straight trees, the oak, tulip poplar, beech, swamp maple, as well as the trees that grow with a hula-hoop twist, like sassafras, or flowering shrubs like mountain laurel and witch hazel.  All the creatures did a lot of walking through the woods and down along the creek, which was now singing a very soft tune as it ran over  the red and gray earth bones because it hasn’t been raining much.

What goes down must come up again, and this is true, not only for rain, but for all of us, especially if we wanted get back up again, away from the Hemlock Hole where we had been swimming, to our tents, or to the open pavilion where delicious meals are served, or to visit the forest cathedral. Worship took place in the open air. You don't need to go inside a building to hear the sacred words-or to sing hymns to Creator. If you wonder at that, remember the sermon on the mount--and if that's not your creed, recall the great Black Elk, who simply said: "The holy land is everywhere." 

Cell phones do not work in this place, although occasionally, standing on the hill by the contemplative labyrinth—stones laid into the ground, wildflowers—you could get a signal. Some creatures, suffering from electronic withdrawal, could sometimes be seen standing up there, arms extended, waving little glowing rectangles at the heavens, like devotees of some new sect, praying for even the smallest sign from the brutal cacophony which lay on the other side of the ancient blue mountains.

The possum returned home after a week of study, peace, mutual respect, and concord to a world convulsed with shootings and military coups, as well as the usual work-a-day torture, sexual slavery, famine, drought, injustice, greed, and cruelty. A few mass murders in the name of God were tossed in for good measure. Sound bite solutions to complex problems were trumpeted by the servants of Mammon--and by many accepted--easy-way-out notions which, when examined for longer than a minute, shouldn’t convince a flatworm, much less any self-respecting creature who (in vain) calls itself homo sapiens.
Humble Possum was shell-shocked. She had left the Holy Isle and re-entered the electric mad house. 

~Juliet Waldron

See all my novels:

And, please, if you've got a moment, hop on over to these other talented

Saturday, July 9, 2016

JULY 11, 1804

At 5 a.m. on this day, two gentlemen left New York from separate docks. One departed from the vicinity of Greenwich Village, the other from a dock somewhat further north. By all accounts, July 11th was a beautiful day, one of those summer rarities with blue skies and low humidity. A disinterested observer would not give these travelers upriver a second glance. Each boat—besides the oarsmen—carried three gentlemen, one of whom was an attorney well known in the city. A fine leather case accompanied the gentlemen who’d embarked from Greenwich.  

Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton were the two attorneys.  The leather case contained a brace of elegant smoothbore pistols that belonged to Hamilton’s brother-in-law, John Church. Each pistol weighed several pounds—a lot to hold steady in an extended hand—and delivered a bullet weighing almost an ounce—a .54 caliber ball. Only two years past one of these handsome weapons—lacquered walnut handles ornamented with fittings of brass and gold--had killed Hamilton’s beloved 21 year-old son Philip.

Despite that, and many promises made to his wife, on this day Hamilton and those fatal pistols were again heading toward the dueling ground. Set among Weehawken’s Palisades, the notorious ledge stood just 20 feet above the Hudson. To the dismay of the property’s owner, men from New York customarily used the place for their affairs of honor, for New Jersey did not prosecute duelists with the same energy as did the Empire State. Screened by trees and brush, it was secluded. Captain Deas, the owner, dwelt at the top of the precipice where he must have had a spectacular view across the river. He was generally unaware of the illicit activities taking place below him until he heard gun fire, an ominous sound bouncing along the cliff face.

Burr and his second, Van Ness, were first to arrive. They busied themselves tidying the underbrush and debris. Shortly thereafter, Hamilton and Pendleton climbed to the spot. Courtesies were exchanged and lots were drawn by the seconds as to which man would supervise the duel. Pendleton assumed the duty. When he spoke the word “Present” the gentlemen would fire at one another.

Replicas of the pistols

Rashomon-like, what happened will never be completely clear. Van Ness and Burr swore that “Hamilton fired first,” but even if he did so, his bullet went off into the trees—not the careful aim you’d expect from a war veteran who still hunted small game on his property—or a man who’d come to Weehawken all set to exterminate a hated rival. For his part, Pendleton swore that the duelists fired at almost the same time and that Hamilton had done exactly as he’d declared on the journey across from New York and had thrown away his shot. It’s also possible that after Hamilton was wounded, a reflex action caused him to pull the trigger. All we’ll ever really know is that Burr's aim was excellent; his shot penetrated Hamilton's liver, shattered his vertebrae and lodged in his spine.  

On the following day, July 12, about 2 p.m. the life of this remarkable Founding Father, Alexander Hamilton, came to an end in the home of William Bayard of Greenwich Village.   Hamilton was surrounded on his death bed by grieving friends and family, chief among these his loyal wife, Eliza.

Hamilton's grave at Trinity Church in the heart of the financial world he created.

~~Juliet Waldron ~ All my historical novels :  http://amzn.to/1UDoLAi

And, please, if you've got a moment, hop on over to these other talented

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Happy Independence Day

In honor of Independence Day--and because I'm slacking off to hang out with a visitor--I'm going to post a quote. Like other formidable intellects who have taken an interest in the workings of society, Alexander Hamilton can be quoted in service of a whole host of POV's.  Digging around in such a trove online, I happened upon this one. It seemed timely, a bit "wake up and smell the coffee" mashed up with a good dose of "get over yourself" + "you've got your work cut out for you."

"Have we not already seen enough of the fallacy and extravagance of those idle theories which have amused us with promises of an exemption from the imperfections, weaknesses and evils incident to society in every shape? Is it not time to awake from the deceitful dream of a golden age, and to adopt as a practical maxim for the direction of our political conduct that we, as well as the other inhabitants of the globe, are yet remote from the happy empire of perfect wisdom and perfect virtue?"  

Alexander Hamilton~ The Federalist Papers

~~ Juliet Waldron

Two romantic historicals set during the Revolution in the Hudson Valley
and one old-fashioned historical novel below:

http://amzn.to/1sUSjOH Angel’s Flight

~~Juliet Waldron ~ All my historicals :  http://amzn.to/1UDoLAi