Book III. The Little Lion
Chapter IX

The wedding of Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler was the most notable private event of the Revolution. The immense social and political consequence of the Schuylers, and the romantic fame of the young aide, of whom the greatest things possible were expected, brought the aristocracy of New York and the Jersies to Albany despite the inclement winter weather. The large house of the Schuylers gave a prolonged hospitality to the women, and the men lodged in the patriarchal little town. But although Hamilton was glad to see the Livingstons, Sterlings, and Boudinots again, the greater number of the guests interested him far less than a small group of weather-beaten soldiers, of which this occasion was the happy cause of reunion. Troup was there, full of youth and honours. He had received the thanks of Congress for his services at Saratoga, and been appointed secretary of the Board of War. Recently he had resigned from the army, and was completing his law studies. Nicolas Fish came with Lafayette, whose light artillery he commanded. He was known as a brave and gallant soldier, and so excellent a disciplinarian that he had won the approval and confidence of Washington. He still parted his little fringe in the middle, and his face was as chubby as ever, his eyes as solemn. Lafayette, who had brought a box full of clothes that had dazzled Paris, embraced Hamilton with tears, but they were soon deep in conjectures of the next campaign. Laurens, looking like a king in exile, wrung many hearts. Hamilton's brother aides, unfortunately, were the more closely bound by his absence, but they had despatched him with their blessing and much chaffing.

The hall of the Schuyler mansion was about twenty feet square and panelled in white. It was decorated with holly, and for three nights before the wedding illuminated by hundreds of wax candles, while the young people danced till three in the morning. The Schuyler house, long accustomed to entertaining, had never been gayer, and no one was more content than the chatelaine. Although she had been reasonably sure of Elizabeth, there was no telling at what moment the maiden might yield to the romantic mania of the time, and climb out of her window at night while Hamilton stood shivering below. Now all danger was past, and Mrs. Schuyler moved, large, placid, and still handsome, among her guests, beaming so affectionately whenever she met Mrs. Carter's flashing eyes that Peggy and Cornelia renewed their vows to elope when the hour and the men arrived. General Schuyler, once more on the crest of public approval, was always grave and stern, but he, too, breathed satisfaction and relief. He was a tall man of military appearance, powerful, muscular, slender; but as his nose was large and fleshy, and he wore a ragged-looking wig with wings like Washington's, he could not be called handsome. It was a noble countenance, however, and his black eyes flashed and pierced.

As for Hamilton and Miss Schuyler, who had a trunk full of charming new gowns, they were as happy as two children, and danced the night through. They were married on the 20th, in the drawing-room, in front of the splendid mantel, which the housewives had spent much time in admiring. The bride wore the white which became her best, made with a long pointed bodice and paniers, and lace that had been worn by the wife of the first patroon. She had risen to the dignity of a wig, and her mass of black hair was twisted mercilessly tight under the spreading white monstrosity to which her veil was attached. Hamilton wore a black velvet coat, as befitting his impending state. Its lining and the short trousers were of white satin. His shapely legs were in white silk, his feet in pumps with diamond buckles, the present of Lafayette. He, too, wore a wig,--a close one, with a queue,--but he got rid of it immediately after the ceremony, for it heated his head.

Hamilton had then reached his full height, about five feet six. His bride was perhaps three inches shorter. The world vowed that never had there been so pretty a couple, nor one so well matched in every way. Both were the perfection of make, and the one as fair and fresh as a Scot, the other a golden gipsy, the one all fire and energy, the other docile and tender, but with sufficient spirit and intelligence. It is seldom that the world so generously gives its blessing, but it might have withheld it, for all that Hamilton and his bride would have cared.

Hamilton's honeymoon was brief. There was a mass of correspondence awaiting him, and no place for a bride in the humble Dutch house at New Windsor where Washington had gone into winter quarters. But the distance was not great, and he could hope for flying leaves of absence. Washington was not unsympathetic to lovers; he had been known to unbend and advise his aides when complications threatened or a siege seemed hopeless; and he had given Hamilton the longest leave possible. Nevertheless, the bridegroom set forth, one harsh January morning, on his long journey, over roads a foot deep in snow, and through solitary winter forests, with any thing but an impassioned desire to see General Washington again. Had he been returning to the command of a corps, with a prospect of stirring events as soon as the snow melted, he would have spurred his horse with high satisfaction, even though he left a bride behind him; but to return to a drudgery which he hated the more for having escaped it for three enchanted weeks, made his spirit turn its back to the horse's head. He resolved anew to resign if an opportunity offered. Four years of that particular sort of devotion to the patriot cause were enough. He wished to demonstrate his patriotism in other ways. He had accomplished the primary object for which Washington had pressed him into service, and he believed that the war was nearing its finish; there was nothing he could now do at Headquarters which the other aides could not do as well, and he wanted military excitement and renown while their possibilities existed.