History

Library of Congress Puts Alexander Hamilton’s Papers Online for the First Time

Letters, speech drafts, and other documents from the ten-dollar founding father Alexander Hamilton, online for the first time from the Library of Congress.

Alexander Hamilton statue next to the Treasury Building in Washington, DC (May 17, 1923) (via Library of Congress/Wikimedia)
Alexander Hamilton statue next to the Treasury Building in Washington, DC (May 17, 1923) (via Library of Congress/Wikimedia)

Around 12,000 documents from the Alexander Hamilton Papers at the Library of Congress (LOC) are now online, available in their original format for the first time. The digitization, which was announced on August 28, includes correspondence, manuscripts related to his speeches, and papers from his career as a lawyer, chronicling how the young, scrappy, and hungry St. Croix clerk became the United States’ first Secretary of the Treasury.

The success of the Hamilton musical, still running at Broadway’s Richard Rodgers Theatre after two years, inspired the creation of this public resource on the ten-dollar Founding Father without a father’s legacy. “Alexander Hamilton is certainly having his moment and I am so thrilled that people can learn more about him — actually read his descriptions of Revolutionary War battles, read letters to his wife, see the cross-outs in his draft of George Washington’s farewell address and so many other things,” Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress, stated in a release. “Sharing this history is what the Library is all about.”

In fact, some of the language in the musical was adapted by composer Lin-Manuel Miranda from these LOC letters. As NPR reported, one of the digitized documents is Hamilton’s last letter to his wife, Eliza, drafted before he went to New Jersey for a fatal duel with Aaron Burr. He signed off in 1804: “This letter, my very dear Eliza, will not be delivered to you, unless I shall first have terminated my earthly career. Adieu best of wives and best of Women.”

Although his life was short compared to the other American Founding Fathers, Hamilton left behind extensive writings, and his skill with the quill was undeniable. Now anyone can read materials that were previously only viewable on-site, on microfilm, at the LOC. Among the earliest is a letter from Hamilton at age 12, professing his desire to rise up from his station, signed with a flourishing signature. There’s also an outline of the speech he gave at the Constitutional Convention; a draft of the Reynolds Pamphlet, in which he dramatically admitted to his infidelity; and letters to Angelica Schuyler, his wife’s sister. (You can now squint for missing commas after “dearest” yourself.) A few selections from the archive are shared below, with hundreds more now accessible online.

Letter from Alexander Hamilton, then a 12-year-old clerk in St. Croix, to his friend Edward Stevens (November 11, 1769), noting he would "willingly risk my life tho' not my Character to exalt my Station." (courtesy Alexander Hamilton Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress)
Letter from Alexander Hamilton, then a 12-year-old clerk in St. Croix, to his friend Edward Stevens (November 11, 1769), noting he would “willingly risk my life tho’ not my Character to exalt my Station.” (courtesy Alexander Hamilton Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress)
Letter from Angelica Schuyler Church to her brother-in-law Alexander Hamilton (February 4, 1790) (courtesy Alexander Hamilton Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress)
Letter from Angelica Schuyler Church to her brother-in-law Alexander Hamilton (February 4, 1790) (courtesy Alexander Hamilton Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress)
Letter from Alexander Hamilton to Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton (July 4, 1804), written shortly before his duel with Aaron Burr (courtesy Alexander Hamilton Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress)
Letter from Alexander Hamilton to Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton (July 4, 1804), written shortly before his duel with Aaron Burr (courtesy Alexander Hamilton Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress)
Letter from Alexander Hamilton to his future wife Elizabeth Schuyler (September 6, 1780), suggesting "What have we to do with any thing but love?" (courtesy Alexander Hamilton Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress)
Letter from Alexander Hamilton to his future wife Elizabeth Schuyler (September 6, 1780), suggesting “What have we to do with any thing but love?” (courtesy Alexander Hamilton Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress)
Letter, copy, fromAlexander Hamilton to the Marquis de Lafayette (October 15, 1781), reporting a joint French and American attack on British forces at Yorktown, Virginia, including a list of the killed and wounded (courtesy Alexander Hamilton Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress)
Letter, copy, from Alexander Hamilton to the Marquis de Lafayette (October 15, 1781), reporting a joint French and American attack on British forces at Yorktown, Virginia, including a list of the killed and wounded (courtesy Alexander Hamilton Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress)
Alexander Hamilton, "Abstract of Points to Form and Address," (May 16-July 5, 1796), for George Washington's September 1796 farewell speech (courtesy Alexander Hamilton Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress)
Alexander Hamilton, “Abstract of Points to Form and Address,” (May 16–July 5, 1796), for George Washington’s September 1796 farewell speech (courtesy Alexander Hamilton Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress)

The Alexander Hamilton Papers are now available online through the Library of Congress.

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