Marriage, money, and sex: Dr. Hamilton finds a wife.
When choosing a wife, eighteenth-century suitors, not unusually, considered marriage as a source of wealth. But other concerns--sexual satisfaction, emotional bonding, personal inclination, and social prestige--also entered into the mix of motives. This essay evaluates the relative strength of sexual urges, the quest for wealth, and the importance of social prestige in the American side of the transatlantic marriage market through the adventures of Bordley's friend, a Scots emigre, Dr. Alexander Hamilton and the family he married into.
This Hamilton was the son of a Professor of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh. He had arrived in Maryland during the winter of 1738-39, an ambitious Scot of high rank, but little money. His brothers Gavin (a bookseller) and Robert (a Presbyterian minister) continued the family tradition in Edinburgh as enlightened cultural and religious leaders. They and their younger brother, our immigrant in Maryland, had adopted the British upper class values and manners so coveted by Americans who were even more conscious of their provincial status than these Scots improvers. (2) Alexander had followed an older brother to America in hopes of improving his own life style by finding a "moneyd wife. (3)
America as a source of wives for impecunious, but upwardly mobile Scotsmen was not a new phenomenon. When successful in finding a woman with money, however, the Scots, unlike the English, preferred to return home with what fortunes they had acquired through marriage. (4) Alexander and his brother John were among the few who chose to remain and adapt to a life that differed considerably from the one they knew at home. Alexander did not hesitate to write about the difficulties and as a result left a rich source of information on the process of adjustment particularly as it related to his sexuality and search for a wife.
At the time of his marriage in May of 1747 Hamilton had struggled for almost eight years to create a comfortable niche in a primitive New World environment. He maintained a thriving medical practice but chafed at the difficulty of collecting his fees. (5) He is best known, however, not as a medical man but for the Itinerarium, a journal of a trip he took through the northern colonies in 1744. He also created a gentlemen's society modeled on those he knew in Scotland, the Tuesday Club, a major impetus for intellectual, literary, and musical developments in the colony. (6)
He had come to Maryland for its economic opportunities but soon realized that achieving wealth was not an easy prospect. His own personal resources were severely limited leaving him in debt to his family in Scotland and England for their handouts over the years. (7) At first he resolved "to live a bachelor while I remain in this wicked country" where it was so "Extremely hard to turn rich." (8) He hoped that marriage to the daughter of a wealthy man would permanently solve his financial problems but that goal was frustrated early on by conflicting colonial ambitions in regard to prosperity and social prestige. The door to the colonial marriage market was not closed to the immigrant of slender means, but access required techniques different from those of the local elite who drew on kin contacts to promote marriage among their own kind. (9) Hamilton's success was due in no small measure to his devising an imaginative social organization to replace those contacts and by using his social and cultural talents as a unique currency to substitute for actual wealth. His is an intriguing example of the complicated motives and techniques that entered into the process of finding a mate at the upper levels of colonial society. (10)
Although among affluent Chesapeake families the acquisition of even greater wealth continued to be the main focus of marital arrangements during the eighteenth century, the quest for identification with British upper-class manners and values was also of consideration. (11) Hamilton, with his cultured life style and status as an emigre of good family, played on that colonial anxiety. He successfully mediated between the sometimes conflicting emotional and economic goals of the provincial elite in order to satisfy his own desires for a suitable marriage.
As an immigrant, Hamilton suffered severely from the separation from his family--especially from his sisters and brothers in Scotland--but also the complex kin network that provided him with a sense of identity and emotional satisfaction. As an unattached male immigrant, his was a lonely existence in America. It was an uncomfortable life in a society where the sharing of households was the norm. Most unmarried men in the colonies, like their sisters, lived with a father or a sibling; they seldom established separate households while single. (12) Sandy's friend, Stephen Bordley, for instance, who never married, lived with his brothers and stepbrothers for a while but he spent his last years in a house he shared with his sister, Elizabeth. (13) Hamilton most uncommonly lived alone and suffered severe emotional strain as a result.
The companionship of a wife and the development of new emotional ties would do more than alleviate Hamilton's homesickness. A wife could allow her husband to become what he called a "petty prince in his own family." Once he had a child, he comforted himself, he could leave "somebody behind him to remember that such a one once was." (14) He looked forward to gaining a new identity as the head of a family along with the financial advantage of alliance to a wealthy family. Peggy Dulany, in spite of her extreme youth--she was only about sixteen at the time--therefore could bring to marriage important qualities, unrecognized by Stephen Bordley in the letter quoted above, besides her wealth.
The satisfaction of his sexual urge was a significant factor in Hamilton's decision to marry. For years the Scottish emigre had fought an inner battle over erotic temptations, torn between his physical desire for women and an ethic of restraint that shaped premarital male-female relations in lowland Scotland. Custom even in the most urban centers of that country--either because of religious opinions or other social pressures--successfully controlled sexual relations outside of marriage. Illegitimacy rates in Scotland, the common criteria for determining sexual morality at the time, unlike the rates in England, remained low during the early part of the century and did not begin to rise until long after midcentury. (15) Dr. Hamilton had internalized those Scottish values. He resolved to be celibate, to control his erotic passion until he could find the proper wife.
This was not a deprivation that he contemplated with ease. In debating with himself about the value of "matrimony," Hamilton posed the question to himself: "Can I live easy (says I) without a wife, and yet live chast as a man of my Character ought. If I can, why should I marry to draw a load of cares on my back? If I cannot why Should I continue in a State liable to temptations?" (16)
While he complained about this necessity for self-denial, he found some comfort in showing what he called "resolution & fortitude in withstanding these temptations" of a sexual nature. (17) This moral imperative for chastity was part of a pattern of polite reserved behavior that was associated with superior masculine status in Scotland. Such an exercise of will was another aspect of the triumph of reason over emotion that was admired in the early Scottish enlightenment. It required a balance of moral and rational powers that called for suppressing the passions to the extent necessary to cultivate virtue. Sexual restraint then was valued as a demonstration of a man's ability to control his baser instincts. (18)
Given his attitude toward self-control, there remains the question of whether Hamilton might have succumbed to the temptations of a prostitute as a temporary expedient. He did refuse the offer of "a courtezan" during his trip north in New York even though he was advised that he had "a good choice of pritty lasses among them, both Dutch and English." Hamilton thought himself "not so abandoned" to consider consorting with prostitutes. (19) He may have been just as reluctant to do so even in Edinburgh where prostitutes were also available. The most notorious area of that city was on a street called the Canongate, its reputation well known to visitors and residents alike. An English soldier in 1747 remarked on the "vast Numbers of Bawdy-Houses in this Street; which amongst the Frequenters of it is a common question to ask, If they have got a Pair of Canon-Gate Breeches meaning, the venereal Disease, which rages here." (20) Young girls were told that the women they saw carrying lanterns were providing a useful ser vice by running errands and "Lighting Gentlemen home at Night." (21) But the young men knew better.
Hamilton was familiar with the reputation of the Canongate and that particular metaphor of the breeches. As a young man he had walked through the area many times, recognizing the incongruity of lowlife at the upper end and the royalty at the lower part of the street. When reminiscing about his home city, he reported with his usual acerbic wit the story he had heard of "a man who was poxed" as a result of his indulgence in the Canongate offerings. This pox, called the great pox, was in fact syphilis, a widespread health hazard at the time. The proximity of poxes and princes did not escape Dr. Hamilton's pen: "Now this Celebrated distemper in the City of Edinburgh goes by the name of Canongate Breeches, so that you understand a man has got the Clap or pox when you hear it Said, that he has got a pair of Canongate Breeches, which is a modest and witty way of expressing the Disease, the Canongate being a Street in the Suburbs of Edinburgh, famous for a great number of bawdy houses, and also for the palaces of the ancient Scots nobility." (22)
Familiarity with the location of these prostitutes and their erotic activities does not necessarily suggest that young Hamilton took advantage of their services. The threat of public exposure and the subsequent embarrassment to his family might have been a strong deterrent. He probably knew of Robert Alderslie, a fellow Edinburgh medical student in 1736, who was held up to public ridicule and chastised for "frequenting and haunting Badhouses" and committing "the vile and abominable act of uncleanness and fornication with women therein." (23) Cases of fornication continued to appear in the church records in the early part of the century. A declining number of cases after mid century is indicative not of a diminution of liaisons but of less vigorous attempts at control over sexual behavior. (24) But Hamilton had left Edinburgh before these changes began to occur.
His Scottish self-control did not imply a distaste for sexual activity. Hamilton had lived in a community where sex manuals exalted the value of lust as a means of promoting conjugal relations. That erotic passion, however, was only to be encouraged among married partners. (25) Like the Puritans of seventeenth-century Massachusetts, the Scottish Presbyterians recognized the social importance of sexual bonds in marriage. (26)
A student of Hamilton's father, the Reverend Robert Wallace, probably expressed the common beliefs held by educated Scotsmen of his day that linked love and eroticism. He assumed that sexual urges were natural, their satisfaction a pleasure given to both men and women to promote the propagation of the species. (27) No adult could be expected to find enjoyment in sexual abstinence--it was a state to be tolerated until marriage freed both men and women to indulge their passions. And thus as Hamilton noted "a young frolicksome Girl" once married "naturally would like some game." (28) But so too did young men, according to Wallace. Certainly acceptance of one's sexuality as a part of nature was also included in the enlightened thought that a man of sensibility took for granted.
There was an obvious ambivalence in the Scots climate of opinion about illicit sexual activity. The very toleration of brothels on the periphery of Edinburgh testifies to the lack of unity on the subject. Some physicians, like Wallace, and churchmen even advocated the use of "badhouses" as a healthier alternative to masturbation. (29) Daniel Maclauchlan, a Presbyterian minister, was one of the less discreet promoters of sexual license in Scotland, publicly proclaiming his support of "fornication" and "justifying the same from Scripture and Reason" in 1735. (30) For his gross indiscretion, Maclauchlan was imprisoned but not before his Essay had appeared in print and become the fodder for contemporary satirists. Such publications as well as novels about sexual adventures formed a literature that Hamilton knew about. (31) He was just as steeped in the sexuality of the century as were other enlightened individuals.
For Hamilton the temptation to marry and satisfy his sexual urge was ever present and fully acknowledged. He confessed to his brother worries about whether he could continue to control his desires sufficiently and "live chast as a man of my Character ought" or, possibly, chance making his economic condition worse by marrying a woman with little money. When he could no longer be "Easy" in the celibate state, he admitted he would have to marry. He feared the consequences of family responsibility without sufficient resources. He asked himself whether he could he be "Such a mere fool as to make use of any means, however lawfull to [bring about] my own dammage?" (32) Thus his dilemma between a financially burdensome marriage and frustrating sexual abstinence.
But did Hamilton really abstain from sexual contact all those years in America? Or did he use the word "chaste" in his correspondence as a synonym for bachelorhood? In spite of his refusal to submit to some obvious temptations during the trip north in 1744, he may have relaxed his standards after returning to Annapolis. Travel, a growing awareness of his own potential role in his new society, a renewed confidence is his ability to succeed in America, and the subtle influence of more relaxed Anglo-American sexual mores could have drawn him away from the ambiguous Scottish imperative to resist temptation. (33) Events during an early Tuesday Club meeting on July 16, 1745 point in that direction.
Edward Lloyd, a Talbot County landowner whose marriage to Anne Rousby in 1739 united two powerful and wealthy eastern shore families, appeared in the Annapolis Tuesday Club that July night in 1745 shortly after visiting a "Company of Ladies." Lloyd's ribald tales of his rakish exploits earlier that evening put his hearers, Sandy noted, "into an amorous vein." All of the company (twelve were present), with the exception of Charles Cole, who was usually indifferent to female attractions, were so aroused, that each, including the four other married men, "resolved to have his Girl that very night." The unmarried, twenty-seven year-old Edward Dorsey, extremely "agitated by this amorous enthusiasm," left the meeting with Sandy as a companion and guide, "resolved not to return, till he had blunted the edge of his desires, with some Gentle and kind Nymph." (34) As Sandy tells the story, he led his friend Edward to a house of known reputation. They knocked at the door and were greeted by an elderly female. Dorsey, how ever, was put off by the sight of her unpleasant face and the two men returned to the club without satisfying their "desires." Later that evening the widower John Lomas and the unmarried Witham Marshe took Dorsey in a more successful "pursuit of some fair Nymphs." Sandy left it up to the reader's imagination to sort out their late night "adventures and exploits." (35) Although he does not include himself among this second "amorous" adventure, Sandy's earlier collaboration with Lloyd is certainly suggestive of at least an attempt at illicit sexual activity.
Even if, in time, he had relaxed his Scottish standards to take advantage of available prostitutes, no other kind of liaison seemed to appeal to him. An affair with a woman near his own rank was of a different nature and there is no suggestion anywhere in his writings that he considered the possibility of such an "intrigue" as a substitute for marriage. He might "frolic" with a single woman--playful touching while clothed as happened during his trip north--but penetrative sex was unthinkable. (36) Marriage would be his only legitimate means of fully satisfying sexual desires and it had to be to a woman of means. The search for a wealthy wife nonetheless required a more imaginative approach than that followed by his American-born contemporaries.
The doctor knew that young women of the kind he wanted to many--of genteel education from wealthy families--would find him lacking in several important qualities most desirable in a husband. He was not in good health and had too little money to guarantee that the woman would lead a life of comfort. Wealthy fathers concerned about their daughters' welfare warned against choosing a man who could not provide them with the proper material comforts. One such father, Sandy's anatomy teacher and mentor in Scotland, Dr. Alexander Monro, advised his daughter to avoid those men with limited financial possibilities: soldiers who might be killed, old men who might die too soon, or those suffering from disease who could leave them destitute. Monro in a typical piece of eighteenth-century fatherly advice admonished his daughter to have no intimacy with rakes or drunkards, or those who habitually lied and cheated in business affairs, and to shun both misers and spendthrifts. (37) Marriage to a man of "high Gallantry," as th e euphemism of the day described the sexual predator and habitual womanizer, would only lead to a lifetime of unhappiness. The wary female should choose her future husband wisely with her father's guidance and from within her own class. (38)
If Monro's warnings were also the concerns of American fathers, Sandy would fall short. Although he was not a "habitual tippler," or a rake, or a "lying Rogue" but rather gave the appearance of a refined sensitive man, Sandy had few of the other positive attributes in Monro's list. Given his uncertain income derived primarily from a medical practice and apothecary shop, he could not promise to maintain a wife in a comfortable life style. (39) His only capital was in family background, education, and distinctive upper-class British manners that were the result of his father's insistence on correct deportment and association with "those of better rank." (40) Hamilton was educated in the elitist qualities of Scotland's early improvers who tended to equate cultivated manners with moral virtue. (41) Such a genteel background he expected to serve in place of the financial capital valued by upwardly mobile colonials.
A man's wealth may have been the most important factor when women choose suitors but there were other qualities to consider. By the 1740s young women were being encouraged to consider love and affection, in other words the physical, intellectual, and social attributes, for a companionable marriage. Even in Edinburgh Professor Alexander Monro had emphasized the dangers of a loveless marriage to his daughter. A repressed sex urge, he told her, could lead to a woman's ruin because if she could not find satisfaction within marriage she or her husband would be tempted by a lover. (42) Thus his advice to seek a genteel, refined, generous man of superior knowledge and manners and moral character for whom she felt a physical attraction. These latter characteristics were Hamilton's major personal attributes. He intended to capitalize on them in the expectation of offsetting his financial deficiencies.
Like any young man in Maryland, Hamilton participated in the social activities encouraged by parents. They held dances, barbecues, fish feasts, horse races, musicals, teas, and other kinds of entertainments to introduce their unmarried children to potential mares. (43) At such occasions in both Scotland and the colonies, women usually found Sandy very attractive and, if he had not been so determined to marry Maryland money, he might well have found a wife early on. There was a young woman waiting for him in Edinburgh. After six years, she still hoped for his return or encouragement to join him in America. (44) A Boston matron he met during his trip north tried to persuade him to remain in that city in the hopes of making a match for a marriageable daughter. (45) Neither of these proposals was encouraged. Hamilton continued to hope that his elegance on the dance floor, his moral character, his intellect and wit combined with his faultless family background would win over some wealthy genteel girl and convince her father to finance a comfortable living for the couple. (46) In turn he could endow their lives with greater respectability, adding a gloss of old world refinement to any quest for social rank among the newly rich.
He found it difficult, however, to breach the local class boundaries. He tried to court a young woman of the highest rank, Elizabeth Tasker, daughter of Councillor Benjamin Tasker. Hamilton received an invitation to call on Betty in the spring of 1744 to taste some recently imported wine. Accompanied by her brother Benny, the three young people sampled the wine, a sack, that Sandy acknowledged was "very racy and fine." (47) The possibility of a formal courtship was not fine. We hear no more of his calling on young Betty who eventually married Charles Lowndes, a merchant in Bladensburg and a more acceptable financial prospect than a struggling doctor. (48) The extreme wealth that Hamilton sought just was not available to him; he would, he discovered, have to be content with a smaller portion and as events proved, a less lively companion
Hamilton's choice of a wife was further limited because skewed sex ratios among the wealthy class even as late as the mid eighteenth century gave women a distinct advantage over men in the marriage market. (49) He was not the only man to face this problem. Annapolis had a large number of bachelors among those of high social rank. Many of them, including several of Sandy's friends, would never marry, either unable to win the favor of the small number of eligible females or with strong homosocial, if not homosexual, preferences. His very wealthy friend Stephen Bordley never married.
What the doctor needed too was a forum in which to demonstrate more fully his own unique qualities as a gentleman. He found the answer in the establishment of the Annapolis Tuesday Club in 1745. There he could attract wealthy ambitious men of the community, patrons he could prevail upon to intercede on his behalf with women in their families in return for an alliance with gentility. In such a setting he could demonstrate to the social climbers that they could benefit from a marital alliance with him.
The entrance of Walter Dulany and Edward Dorsey into the Tuesday Club on July 2, 1745 provided the opportunity that Sandy had anticipated. Edward Dorsey, born in 1718 and six years Sandy's junior, was a fourth generation American, very much part of a tangled web of cousinery that included Ridgelys, Goughs, and Worthingtons and whose marriage to the wealthy, seventeenth-year-old Henrietta Chew in 1748 would extend the connection to include the Bordleys and Lloyds, names that figure prominently in the social and political life of the colony. (50) The wealth and political stature of the extended Dorsey family endowed young Edward with social rank, but his limited education in America kept him from identifying with the more genteel European traditions represented by Alexander Hamilton. Association with the Tuesday Club offered an opportunity to acquire some of that old world patina of gentility and refinement so desired by the Chesapeake elite. (51)
Even more important to the doctor's plan than young Dorsey was Walter Dulany, a second generation Marylander born in the early 1720s and suffering from the same educational limitations as Edward Dorsey. Walter was a younger son of one of the richest men in the colony and he too would eventually marry the daughter of a wealthy landowner, Mary Crafton of New Castle, Delaware. (52) As expected, each generation of these native-born landed aristocrats extended and consolidated the reach and wealth of their fathers through marriage with equally wealthy men and women. In general, only those with existing fortunes could extend their wealth by marrying women from even more affluent families.
Nonetheless, Walter, in spite of his wealth, lacked the polish that distinguished the gentry from ordinary folk. As a child he was not encouraged to acquire the intellectual attributes of gentility. One biographer assumes that he was a boy of somewhat ordinary talents that would fit him only for the mercantile trade. While his older brother Daniel went to England for his education--from Eton to Cambridge to Middle Temple for training in the law, Walter was sent to Philadelphia as an apprentice to a merchant house. (53) As happened to second sons, Walter was destined to handle the business end of the family enterprises and not encouraged to develop his intellect. (54) When he returned home to Annapolis in 1744 somewhere between the age of 20 or 22, there was little to distinguish him from the ordinary men of the community except his family wealth.
With faint praise Sandy described Walter as a man "of a very mild and pacific disposition." Among a group who were proud of their conversational ability, Sandy noted that Walter was "very little given to making of Speeches or talking in club." (55) Symbolically, Walter's main contribution to the Tuesday Club was to pay for the purchase of a silver punch ladle. (56) Later on he successfully puzzled over the riddles of some bawdy conundrums. (57) But once the club ended the coarse conundrum ritual, Walter played no active role, becoming merely a name on the roster of members and a host at meetings when expected. Even in the colonial legislature--a seat in the Assembly was won by Walter on December 7, 1745--his reputation was "unexceptional" and lacking any drama. (58) In spite of his obvious personal and cultural limitations and in a distinct deviation from the norm, Walter was accepted as a member of Sandy's elite group. No doubt, in return for this gloss of intellectual respectability, Walter did his part to convince his father that the Scotsman's gentility could add an aura of legitimacy to their own quest for acceptance as country-born aristocrats.
The elder Dulany, although educated at the University of Dublin, had arrived as an indentured servant in 1703 and worked hard to overcome those humble beginnings. Fortunately he was literate and his indenture involved legal training. As a result, the elder Dulany was introduced to the political leadership. His subsequent skill in the law and shrewd business dealings earned him a fortune. Successive marriages to the daughters of wealthy landowners added to that wealth. Daniel Dulany the elder continued to be counted among the newly rich but the family's social rank was not as secure as their wealth. The highest political offices had to be won by craft and cunning; they did not come through privilege. (59) The Dulanys were outclassed by the descendants of earlier immigrants like the Taskers. (60)
The eagerness of the twenty-some-year old Walter Dulany to acquire some cultural capital and become part of the Annapolis social scene on his return from Philadelphia provided Sandy with the opening that he had been anticipating. Walter's sister, Margaret, born about 1732 was just reaching maturity when Dulany himself was invited to join the Tuesday Club. (61) By the age of fifteen she could invite a gentleman to call. Sixteen was not too young to marry even to a man twice her age. Among the upper classes there was often a wide disparity in the ages of married couples. Although age at first marriage for women was rising during the eighteenth century, many wealthy females continued to marry in their mid-teens. Sandy could see this happening. His other protege, Edward Dorsey, at the time was eying Walter's stepsister, the fourteen-year old Henrietta Chew. They would marry when she was seventeen. Sandy's niece in southern Maryland had married at about sixteen.(63) In the American environment, the thirty-five-yea r old Scottish emigre did not feel any particular discomfort in wooing a teenager half his age.
Although there is no written evidence of their first meeting, Sandy, with Walter as a sponsor, was probably introduced to Peggy at one of the many assemblies held in her home. The elegant and well-appointed Dulany household with its spacious parlor and sixteen house servants to cook, clean, and serve encouraged its residents to entertain lavishly. (64) When invited to tea with Peggy Dulany and her friends, Sandy had the opportunity to demonstrate his facility at a ritual that separated the genteel from the vulgar. (65) As he exerted his flirtatious charm to woo her favor, he could evaluate Margaret's potential skills as a wife. His manners and sophistication certainly impressed the provincial young woman and she obviously responded to his request to pay his "address." (66) Her father's approval followed. Although consent of her father was not required fora legally binding marriage, Peggy and Sandy faced the loss of her dowry without in. (67)
The details of that financial settlement are somewhat murky. Hamilton confessed he was not successful in acquiring as large a fortune as he wanted. The negotiations have left no record and no prenuptial agreement exists. The exact amount in money terms is, therefore, difficult to determine. Although Dulany had a "great estate," Hamilton regretted that there were so "many Children by two different marriages to divide it amongst" that each portion was thereby reduced.68 But when the elder Dulany died in 1753, he bequeathed to Peggy's younger sister, Mary, a sum of [pounds]600 sterling at her marriage.69 Peggy probably received about the same amount in a combination of land and cash.
Peggy herself could expect no material advantage in marrying Sandy. Hamiltons estate could do little to add to the wealth of the Dulany family. On her part, therefore, this may well have been a marriage based primarily on affection and romantic attachment as well as the intangible cultural capital of an old-world tie. For him, although the major rewards were economic and erotic, romantic sentiment and physical attraction also played its part.
With the financial negotiations completed, wedding plans could go forward. Bans were probably posted in Sr. Anne's Church announcing the upcoming betrothal. (70) Sandy's friend, the Anglican priest and rector of St. Anne's, the Reverend John Gordon, would officiate. Thus Dr. Hamilton married young Peggy Dulany at the end of May 1747, fulfilling the immigrant's hopes to find economic success in America. He had reached his goals of marriage, money and, presumably, sex, to some degree of satisfaction.
What about Peggy's physical attractions? We don't know what she looked like, but if she dressed in the latest fashion, walked gracefully, and had no decided physical defects, she would have appeared sufficiently handsome to be acceptable. Hamilton certainly enjoyed the company of a good-looking woman. Attracted by the "fine face and eyes" of one woman whose "discourse was of no great importance," he was pleased with her company. "The presence of a pritty lady," he concluded, "makes even triffling [talk] agreable." However, he most admired lively women with good conversational skills. In Boston he had enjoyed the company of a woman who lacked the "natural accomplishment" of great beauty but used her knowledge to great advanta e by a "discourse," he acknowledged, that was "lively, entertaining, and sold.,, (71)
Peggy's discourse has left no record. The absence of reference to his wife's talents except for the usual obligatory comments about his happiness in letters to his mother, might suggest that she was a rather dull person. Bordley's letter to Marsh quoted at the beginning of this paper to the effect that Peggy's influence might convert Sandy to a "grave and sober fellow" certainly indicates that she lacked a coveted liveliness. Bordley had crossed out a snide commentary about Peggy's "invisible charms" suggesting possibly that what she had to offer besides her money was not intellectual but merely sexual, a trait hidden behind her elaborate clothing and a facade of ritual sociability.
Peggy Dulany may well have presented herself as a modest and unassuming female, qualities that Hamilton, like other men of his time, expected in a 72 Certainly advice manuals of the time extolled the feminine virtues of modesty, affability, and an agreeable disposition that did not question the husband's authority.72 Although Hamilton did not suffer from the extremity of William Byrd's "patriarchal rage" at signs of feminine independence and intransigence, he too was influenced by contemporary misogyny.74 Hamilton had a special distaste for female attempts to intrude into the realm of masculine public space. Thus he refused to admit women, and possibly pointedly his own wife, into his Tuesday Club on the grounds that
this Sex have so little notion of Truth and artless Simplicity, it must be altogether unsafe to trust them in any case whatsoever with the Reins of Government.... It is therefore prudent to keep them within their proper sphere, suffering them only to bear sway over the prigs and coxcombs and Smarts of the age, their natural and proper subjects." (75)
However Peggy appeared to Sandy during their courting days, there were times that tested his patience. In a revealing letter to his nephew, William Cleghorn, after three years of marriage, Hamilton confessed to some problems, but denied that the complexities of married life were unsurmountable. With a condescension that was very much in line with the expected attitude of the paternalistic male, he informed his nephew, who was contemplating marriage, that the most "Indomitable and termagent of that sex" could be brought under control by "good sense on the part of the man." Women, he advised, had "a certain Softness or Plasticity, Infused by nature into their disposition," and they could, by "cautious and tender management ... to speak figuratively" be "made to shoot up into a goodly plant, fruitful in love and many engaging virtues."76 Such comments speak of a childish, willful wife who required tactful and calculated handling. Nonetheless, Hamilton's response was to treat her with gentleness and affection avo iding any suggestion of being vindictive or crude.
Hamilton was satisfied that he had, with enlightened management, directed Peggy's growth into proper submissive womanhood. Again, contrasting his attitude with that of William Byrd, Hamilton had reason to be complacent about his success as a "Petty prince in his own household" anti his ability to solidify his position as a man of means and gentility. He is in many ways the polar opposite of Byrd who raged at women for his own failures as suitor, lover, and patriarch. (77) Byrd, like Hamilton, saw marriage as a means of upward mobility. There the similarity ends. Byrd reversed the Scotsman's journey by going to England in the attempt to find a wife to endow him with a coveted English gentility. (78) The transatlantic marriage market did not fulfill his hopes. Hamilton, on the other hand, secure in his identity as a man of wit and family, reluctantly but with graceful acceptance lowered his monetary sights in America and tactfully avoided threats to his control of property or household posed by his wealthy wife .
Unfortunately children did not follow. Hamilton died nine years later leaving no offspring to "remember that such a one once was." (79) His widow promptly remarried and bore her new husband at least two children. (80) Hamilton's hard won estate estate reverted back to Margaret and then to her new husband, William Murdock.
Hamilton's quest for a wealthy wife lives on as an unusually precise demonstration of how one could succeed in the eighteenth century colonial world and of the cultural currency that a wily suitor could use in the absence of a great estate. Many Scotsmen with few economic resources and lacking local kinship ties often failed in their efforts and returned home in despair. (81) Hamilton's success was due in no small measure to his social and cultural talents, his ability to adapt to new conditions, as well as the creation of a club to showcase his old world background. In the American environment, on the periphery of the British empire, where the elite were most conscious of their social inferiority, Hamilton demonstrated that cultural assets could stand in place of the traditional financial capital that powered the marriage market at the upper levels of society.
(1.) May 30, 1747, Bordley Letterbook, Maryland Historical Society MS.
(2.) Michal J. Rozbicki, "The Curse of Provincialism: Negative Perceptions of Colonial American Plantation Gentry," Journal of Southern History 63 (1997), 727-752. On the lowly place of Scots in the British hierarchy see John Clive and Bernard Bailyn, "England's Cultural Provinces: Scotland and America," William and Mary Quarterly 11(1954), 200- 13; and Eric Richards, "Scotland and the Uses of the Atlantic Empire," 67-114 in Bernard Bailyn and Philip D. Morgan, eds., Strangers Within the Realm: Cultural Margins of the First British Empire (Chapel Hill, 1991), 101-106.
(3.) Alexander Hamilton to Robert Hamilton, June 12, 1742, New College Library (Edinburgh). MS.
(4.) Alan L. Karras, Sojourners in the Sun: Scottish Migrants in Jamaica and the Chesapeake, 1740-1800 (Ithaca, N. Y., 1992), 21-22, 107-13.
(5.) Elaine G. Breslaw, "A Perilous Climb to Social Eminence: Dr. Alexander Hamilton and His Creditors," Maryland H istorical Magazine 92 (1997), 433-42
(6.) Carl Bridenbaugh, ed., Gentleman's Progress: The Itinerarium of Dr. Alexander Hamilton 1744 (Pittsburgh, 1948); Elaine G. Breslaw, ed., Records of the Tuesday Club of Annapolis, 1745-56 (Urbana, 1988); Alexander Hamilton, History of the Ancient and Honorable Tuesday Club, ed. Robert Micklus, 3 vols. (Chapel Hill, 1990). Hereafter cited as Itinerarium, Records, History.
(7.) Breslaw, "Perilous Climb," 433-445.
(8.) Alexander Hamilton to Robert, June 12, 1742.
(9.) On the importance of kin in the southern marital arrangements see Daniel Blake Smith, Inside the Great House: Planter Family Life in Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake Society (Ithaca, N. Y., 1980), 131; Lorri Clover, All Our Relations: Blood Ties and Emotional Bonds among the Early South Carolina Gentry (Baltimore, 2000), 479.
(10.) See especially, Lorena S. Walsh, "Experiences and Status of Women in the Chesapeake, 1750-1775," in Walter J. Fraser, et al, The Web of Southern Social Relations: Women, Family, and Education (Athens, 1985), 1-18; Allan Kulikoff, Tobacco and Slaves: The Development of Southern Cultures in the Chesapeake, 1680-1800 (Chapel Hill, 1986), especially 2 17-260; Alan Macfarlane, Marriage and Love in England: Modes of Reproduction, 1300-1840 (New York, 1986); Smith, Great House, 126-174; Julia Cherry Sptuill, Women's Life & Work in the Southern Colonies, Intro. Anne Firor Scott (New York, 1972), 136-62; Trevor Bumard, "Tangled Cousinery? Associational Networks of the Maryland Elite, 1691-1776," Journal of Southern History 61(1995), 17-44; Lynne A. Eberhardt, "Passion and Propriety: Tidewater Marriages in the Colonial Chesapeake," Maryland Historical Magazine 93 (1998), 324-47.
(11.) Jack Green has pointed out that the gentry occasionally sublimated the drive toward "personal aggrandizement" for the purpose of cultivating an image of politeness and sociability as members of the British upper-class. Jack P. Greene, "Search for Identity: An Interpretation of Selected Patterns of Response in Eighteenth-Century America," Journal of Social History 3 (1970), 205-11; and Pursuits of Happiness: The Social Development of Early Modem British Colonies and the Formation of American Culture (Chapel Hill, 1988), 93-100.
(12.) Smith, Inside the Great House, 190. Among the servant class, single men found other men as partners--mateships--to establish households and work a farm together. Russell R. Menard, "From Servant to Freeholder: Status Mobility and Property Accumulation in Seventeenth-Century Maryland," William and Mary Quarterly 30 (1973), 37-64.
(13.) Edward C. Papenfuse, Alan F. Day, David W Jordan, and Gregory A. Stiverson, A Biographical Dictionary of the Maryland Legislature, 1635-1789, 2 vols. (Baltimore, 1979- 1985), q.v.
(14.) Alexander Hamilton to Robert, June 12,1742. On the social and emotional importance of marriage to men see Nicole Eustace, "'The Cornerstone of a Copious Work': Love and Power in Eighteenth-Century Courtship," Journal of Social History 34 (2001), 520-22.
(15.) Illegitimacy rates are the criteria used by scholars for determining sexual morality of the time. John Blaikie, Illegitimacy, Sex, and Society: Northeast Scotland, 1750-1900 (Oxford, 1993), 9-11, 117-118; Leah Leneman and Rosalind Mitchison, "Scottish Illegitimacy Ratios in the Early Modern Period," Economic History Review (1987), 40:49-58. On sexual attitudes in Scotland, see R. Mitchison and L. Leneman, Sexuality and Social Control: Scotland, 1660-1780 (New York, 1989), especially 170-182; David M. Weed, "Sexual Positions: Men of Pleasure, Economy, and Dignity in Boswell's London Journal," Eighteenth-Century Studies 31 (Winter 1997-98), 215-217; Roy Porter and Lesley Hall, Facts of Life: The Creation of Sexual Knowledge in Britain, 1650-1950 (New Haven, 1995), 18-31.
(16.) Alexander Hamilton to Brother Robert, November 26, 1742, New College Library (Edinburgh), MS.
(18.) Daniel Walker Howe, Making the American Self: Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln (Cambridge, 1997), 5-8; Kathleen M. Brown, Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, & Anxious Patriarchs: Gender, Race, and Power in Colonial Virginia (Chapel Hill, 1996), 324; Weed, "Sexual Positions," 215-225.
(19.) Itinerarium, 46.
(20.) Quoted in Ernest Campbell Mossner, Forgotten Hume, Le bon David (New York, 1943), 243.
(21.) Elizabeth Hamilton, "Account of Edinburgh according to what Elizabeth Hamilton remembered it when she was very young assisted a little by her Brother Doctor [Robert] Hamilton," (ca. 1824-25) New College Library (Edinburgh), MS., 8.
(22.) History, 11:46.
(23.) Quoted in Leah Leneman and Rosalind Mitchison, Sin in the City: Sexuality and Social Control in Urban Scotland, 1660-1780 (Edinburgh, 1998), 29.
(24.) Blaikie, Illegitimacy, Sex, and Society, 186-88; Leneman and Mitchison, Sin in the City, 159.
(25.) Roy Porter, "Literature of Sexual Advice Before 1800," in Roy Porter and Mikulas Teich, eds., Sexual Knowledge, Sexual Science: The History of Attitudes to Sexuality (Cambridge, 1994), 146-157; Smith, Great House, 69-70.
(26.) Edmund S. Morgan, The Puritan Family: Religion and Domes tic Relations in Seventeenth-Century New England (New York, 1966), rev. ed., 34, 62-64.
(27.) This MS was never published because Wallace (1697-1771) thought many of the ideas, especially those advocating masturbation, easy divorce, and early marriage for the purpose of sexual relations rather than property were "contrary to our present notions & manner." "Robert Wallace's 'Of Venery,"' ed. Norah Smith, Texas Studies of Language and Literature 30 (1973), 431. On Wallace's liberal ideas see Scots Magazine (1771), 341; Mossner, Forgotten Hume, 105-109; Norah Smith, "Sexual Mores in the Eighteenth Century: Robert Wallace's 'On Venery,' "Journal of the History of ideas 39 (1978), 19-433.
(28.) Alexander Hamilton to [cousin] Robert Hamilton at Glasgow, September 29, 1743, Maryland Historical Society, MS.
(29.) Norah Smith, "Sexual Mores and Attitudes in Enlightened Scotland," in Paul-Gabriel Bouce, ed., Sexuality in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Totowa, New Jersey, 1982), 62-3.
(30.) Daniel Maclauchlan, Essay upon Improving and Adding to the Strength of Great Britain and Ireland, by Fornication ... (1735) quoted in Smith, "Sexual Mores," 61, 71-72n.
(31.) Peter Wagner, Eros Revived: Erotica of the Enlightenment in England and America (London, 1988), 207-12. On Hamilton's references to this novel literature see History, 1:5-6, 30, 378; III:412 and Itinerarium, 21, 23.
(32.) Alexander Hamilton to Robert, June 12, 1742.
(33.) On the changing Anglo-English standards see Smith, Great House, 139-40; Brown, Good Wives, 325; Lawrence Stone, The Family, Sex and Marriage in England, 1500-1800, abridged ed. (New York, 1979), 332-61; Porter and Hall, Facts of Life, 22-24; Lorena S. Walsh, "'Till Death Do us Part': Marriage and Family in Seventeenth-Century Maryland," in Chesapeake in the Seventeenth Century: Essays on Anglo-American Society & Politics, (New York, 1979), eds. Thad W. Tate and David L. Ammerman, 132-3.
(34.) Hamilton, History. 1:173-174 relates this incident. At least five of those in attendance were married men: John Bullen, Robert Gordon, Reverend John Gordon, William Gumming, and Edward Lloyd. The erroneous belief, suggested by Aubrey Land, that the Tuesday Club was made up of bachelors, does not hold up to scrutiny. Aubrey C. Land, The Dulanys of Maryland: A Biographical Study of Daniel Dulany the Elder (1685-1753) and Daniel Dulany, the Younger (1722-1 797) (Baltimore, 1968), 189.
(35.) History. I:174
(36.) Tim Hitchcock, English Sexualities, 1700-1800 (New York, 1997), 31-38.
(37.) Alexander Monro (Primus), "The Professor's Daughter: An Essay on Female Conduct (1739)," ed. P. A. G. Monro, Proceedings of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh 26 (1996), 83-88.
(38.) Ibid., 111; Smith, Great House, 126-133. 87-88.
(39.) On the uncertainties of a colonial medical practice, see Whitfield J. Bell, "Medical Practice in Colonial America," Bulletin of the History of Medicine 31 (1957), 442-53; Ian K. Steele, Atlantic Merchant-Apothecary: Letters of Joseph Cruttenden, 1710-1717 (Buffalo, N. Y., 1977), xix.
(40.) William Hamilton to Lord Reay, June 1, 1721, Scottish Record Office (Edinburgh) MS, GD 84/2912 (4).
(41.) On this point see especially John Dwyer, "Introduction--A 'Peculiar Blessing': Social converse in Scotland from Hutcheson to Bums," in John Dwyer and Richard B. Sher, eds., Sociability and Society in Eighteenth-Century Scotland (Edinburgh, 1993), 16.
(42.) Monro, "Professor's Daughter." The assumption that physical attraction should be included in the mix of qualities expected of a mate was common at the time. Smith, Inside the Great House, 69-71. See also Wallace, "Of Venery," 91.
(43.) Walsh, "Experiences and Status of Women in the Chesapeake," 9, Smith, Great House, 130-33. On the practice of calling see Beth L. Bailey, From Front Porch to Back Seat: Courtship in Twentieth-Century America (Baltimore, 1988), 13-21 and Ellen K. Rothman, Hands and Hearts: A History of Courtship in America (New York, 1984), 23.
(44.) Alexander Hamilton to Gavin Hamilton, November 13, 1743, New College Library (Edinburgh), MS.
(45.) Itinerarium, 136.
(46.) See Smith, Great House, 133, 148 for other instances in which a not yet settled professional received assistance to assure the couple's independence.
(47.) John Ross to Gibson, ca. July 1744, Maryland Historical Society, MS.
(48.) Land, Dulanys, 192.
(49.) Allan Kulikoff, Tobacco and Slaves, 55-59 estimates a ratio of one hundred women to one hundred fifty-seven men in 1704 with a slow rise in the number of women during the century. By 1755 that ratio had almost evened our for the population at large but men still outnumbered women. Given the behavior of Hamilton's set, it is possible that there was still a major shortage of elite women. On sex ratios, see also Smith, Inside the Great House, 79.
(50.) Burnard, "Tangled Cousinery?," 27-28.
(51.) Greene, "Search for Identity," 205-11. For another conclusion about the Tuesday Club male "solidality" and its relationship to marital achievement, see Wilson Somerville, The Tuesday Club of Annapolis (1745-1756) as Cultural Performance (Athens, 1996), 141-42 and 213 note 20.
(52.) They married June 17, 1746 after the death of her father and her acquisition of a large inheritance. Richard Grafton to Polly Grafton, September 3, 1737, Maryland Historical Society, MS1018.
(53.) Land, Dulanys, 53, 166-7.
(54.) John Henry Carroll, the second son of Dr. Charles Carroll, had a similar experience. He was sent to Philadelphia to learn the merchant trade while his older brother, Charles, went to England for his education. Joseph Towne Wheeler, "Reading Interests of the Professional Classes: Planters," Maryland Historical Magazine 37 (1942), 294-5.
(55.) History, I:367-7.
(56.) Ibid, I:273; Records, December 8, 1747.
(57.) Records, February 27, 1749/50; July 17, 1750; January 30, 1749/50.
(58.) Land, Dulanys, 188.
(59.) Ibid., 3, 21, 117-166.
(60.) For a summary of their political achievements see Papenfuse, Biographical Dictionary q.v.
(61.) Her age cannot be established with certitude but she was sandwiched between her youngest sibling, Mary, born in 1734 or 1735 and brother Dennis, born in 1730. See Land, Dulanys, 150, 346n; Papenfuse, Biographical Dictionary.
(62.) Kathryn Allamong Jacob, "The Woman's Lot in Baltimore Town, 1729-97," Maryland Historical Magazine 71 (1976), 285. On the average ages at marriage in the Chesapeake see Kulikoff, Tobacco and Slaves, 55-59; Smith, Great House, 128; Lois Green Carr and Lorena S. Walsh, "The Planter's Wife: The Experience of White Women in Seventeenth-Century Maryland," William and Mary Quarterly 35 (1977), 564. There is no quantitative study of age at marriage for just the elites in the eighteenth century.
(63.) David Smith to Alexander Hamilton Oct. 1, 1739, Maryland Historical. Society, MS refers to John Hamilton's only daughter as a married woman. Lemay, Men of Letters, 214 says John married in 1722. Therefore in 1739 John Hamilton's only daughter could not have been more than 16 or 17 years old and already married.
(64.) Land, Dulanys, 186 describes the house and its interiors.
(65.) Rodris Roth, "Tea Drinking in Eighteenth Century America," Material Life in America, 1600-1860, ed. Robert Blair St. George (Boston, 1988), 439. See also Cynthia Kierner, "Hospitality, Sociability, and Gender in the Southern colonies," Journal of Southern History (1996), 449-480; and David S. Shields, Civil Tongues and Polite Letters in British America (Chapel Hill, 1997), 99-120.
(66.) On these courtship rituals and the respective roles of men and women see, J. A. Leo Lemay, Robert Bolling Woos Anne Miller (Charlottesville, 1990), 2-11; Smith, Great House, 130-33; Edward Kimber, "Itinerant Observations in America (1745-1746)" Collections of the Georgia Historical Society 4 (1878), 31, 49; Walsh, "Experiences and Status," 9-10; Bailey, Front Porch, 13-15. Rothman, Hands and Hearts, 23n makes a distinction between courting as the broader term to describe socializing between men and women and courtship where the intent to marry was explicit.
(67.) Macfarlane, Marriage and Love in England, 123-128 points out that in England and Scotland at the time marriage was viewed as a private contract between two people and did not require approval of either the parents or the state as long as the man was over 14 years of age and the woman 12.
(68.) Alexander Hamilton to Dear Brother (either Robert or James), September 15, 1748, (New College Library [Edinburgh]), MS.
(69.) Land, Dulanys, 217.
(70.) There is no record of the banns, but they were traditional at the time.
(71.) The quotes are from the Itinerarium, 40,44, 141. Negative comments about women whose company he disliked are on pages 4, 74, 89, 148, 150.
(72.) Alexander Hamilton to Dear Brother, September 15, 1748; Itinerarium, 4, 153.
(73.) Smith, Great House, 67-69.
(74.) Byrd who went to England to find a wife to enhance his social position, failed to seduce those he preyed on. On Byrd's almost obsessive misogyny, see Kenneth A. Lockridge, On the Sources of Patriarchal Rage: The Commonplace Books of William Byrd and Thomas Jefferson and the Gendering of Power in the Eighteenth Century (New York, 1992), 1-27.
(75.) History, 11:519.
(76.) Alexander Hamilton to Will Cleghorn, Oct. 2, 1750, New College Library (Edinburgh), MS.
(77.) Lockridge, Sources of Patriarchal Rage, 87-101.
(78.) Ibid., 21-23.
(79.) Alexander Hamilton to Robert, June 12, 1742.
(80.) Peggy remarried in 1757 and in that twelve-year marriage bore at least two children with her second husband, William Murdock. See his will, Prince George's County Wills 1769, liber 37, folio 1382.
(81.) For descriptions of some immigrants who returned home to Scotland after failing to become wealthy, see Karras, Sojourners in the Sun, 84-93; and William R. Brock, Scotus Americanus: A Survey of the Sources for Links Between Scotland and America in the 18th Century (Edinburgh, 1982), 22-35. Another example is that of William Moraley, The Unfortunate: The Voyage and Adventures of William Moraley, an Indentured Servant, ed. Susan E. Klepp and Billy C. Smith (University Park, PA 1992), 32-3, 110, 114, 119-20.
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|Author:||Breslaw, Elaine G.|
|Publication:||Journal of Social History|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2003|
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