Later Life, Duel, and Death

The Grange, Residence of General Alexander Hamilton, Lithographed by George Hayward, 1858.jpg

The Grange

Alexander and Elizabeth had eight children and were married for 23 years until his death on July 12, 1804, after a duel with Vice President Aaron Burr. Alexander and Eliza put their hearts into building a home for their large family in upper Manhattan, which they named the Grange. Hamilton's ancestral home in Scotland was called the Grange, as was the estate of his uncle on St. Croix where his mother was buried. Hamilton lived at his new house for the last two years of his life. Hamilton’s letters to Eliza throughout his life reveal his lasting love for her and their children. She outlived her husband by 50 years, tirelessly fighting to preserve the memory of Alexander Hamilton and promote his legacy as a Founding Father.

Hamilton Grange National Memorial has been beautifully restored by the National Park Service and visitors are welcome.

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Hamilton falls mortally wounded in a duel with Vice President Aaron Burr, held on a ledge above the Hudson River in Weehawken, NJ, July 11, 1804.

 Dueling Pistols used for the Burr-Hamilton Duel, US Postal Museum Exhibit, Washington, DC, August 2018 (cropped).jpg

These are the original pair of dueling pistols used in the Burr-Hamilton Duel. These were also used in the duel which ended Hamilton’s son’s life in 1801. They are English-made flintlock smoothbore pistols by Wogdon & Barton, made before 1797. They are in the collection of the Chase Manhattan Bank, now part of J. P. Morgan Chase.

Hamilton Fires in the Air

In 1804, after an unsuccessful run for governor of New York, Aaron Burr noticed in the press that at a private gathering earlier that year Hamilton had allegedly expressed a strong unfavorable opinion of Burr and his character as a candidate for public office. Correspondence between the two men did not succeed in resolving their differences, and a duel became inevitable. Hamilton agonized over the potential exposure of his family to grief and hardship, but he felt a high sense of duty to protect his honor. In a letter to Eliza the day before the duel, Hamilton wrote: "The Scruples of a Christian have determined me to expose my own life to any extent rather than subject my self to the guilt of taking the life of another. This must increase my hazards & redoubles my pangs for you. But you had rather I should die innocent than live guilty."

In a moving parting note to Eliza of July 4th, Hamilton wrote: "This letter, my very dear Eliza, will not be delivered to you, unless I shall first have terminated my earthly career; to begin, as I humbly hope from redeeming grace and divine mercy, a happy immortality. If it had been possible for me to have avoided the interview, my love for you and my precious children would have been alone a decisive motive. But it was not possible, without sacrifices which would have rendered me unworthy of your esteem. I need not tell you of the pangs I feel, from the idea of quitting you and exposing you to the anguish which I know you would feel..." Hamilton died the day after the duel.

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Eulogy on Gen. Alexander Hamilton, 1804

The untimely death of Alexander Hamilton shocked the nation and led to a massive outpouring of grief. His funeral was the largest ever held in New York City up to that time. Among the many tributes to his memory was this eulogy, delivered by Harrison Gray Otis on July 26, 1804. Otis was a distinguished Massachusetts Federalist and a friend of Hamilton.

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Hamilton Estate Trust Certificate for One Share, signed by Trustees Gouverneur Morris, Rufus King, Egbert Benson, Oliver Wolcott, and Charles Wilkes.

Saving the Grange

Upon the death of Alexander Hamilton, Eliza and the children were left without any means to pay the large outstanding loan on the Grange. Friends of the Hamilton family stepped in with a plan to help preserve the family home. They raised money by selling shares in the Hamilton Estate Trust, in order to pay Hamilton's debts and help the family. The executors were able to buy the Grange for $30,000 and sold it back to Eliza for half that price, enabling her to live there for many years.

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Photographs of the founders of Graham-Windham Orphanage in New York City

Eliza Preserves Hamilton's Legacy

After Hamilton's death, Eliza lived 50 more years. She devoted her life to tireless work to preserve Hamilton's reputation and legacy. Her earliest accomplishment was becoming a co-founder of the Orphan Asylum Society of New York City, the first of its kind, today's Graham Windham. With this step, she continued the work that the Hamilton family had done, caring for orphaned children in their own home. Over many years, Eliza collected Hamilton's letters and papers to make sure that they were preserved. She succeeded in persuading her son John Church Hamilton to publish many of these papers and to record his own recollections and knowledge about Alexander Hamilton and his family.