One of the most interesting family dramas we got to write about in My Dear Hamilton was the elopement of Angelica Schuyler. Our protagonist, Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, was quite close to her sister Angelica and it wasn’t a leap for us to imagine the tumult of her emotions when Angelica escaped the Schuyler Manor to marry her beau–a man known then as “John Carter.”
We don’t have to imagine the upset of her parents, however, because there are extant letters describing it, including an excerpt from this gem by General Schuyler: “Carter and my eldest daughter ran off and married on the 23rd inst. Unacquainted with his family, his connections and situation in life, the match was exceedingly disagreeable to me, and I had signified it to him.” 1
The elopement came at the worst possible time for the Schuylers. The war was going badly, and General Schuyler himself was under suspicion. Worse, some said that Carter, the general’s new son-in-law, was a mere grocer by trade.2 It turned out that Carter was just the nom de guerre of John Barker Church, scion of an important English family.3
To evade creditors and, the rumors went, to dodge a scandal involving a duel, he fled to America to make his way dealing in armaments and supplies for the American Revolutionaries and their French allies. It was in his capacity as a supplier that Congress appointed him to audit the Northern Army, then under the command of General Schuyler. And there he met and wooed Angelica Schuyler under her Papa’s nose.
When Angelica discovered that Church actually came from wealth and connections is unknown. How he was able to operate so easily as a British citizen supplying a rebel army against his own king is also interesting to think about. Certainly, he made a fortune during the war and was eventually even sent to France on behalf of the fledgling United States as an emissary. Later, he would take up a place in the British parliament–all things forgiven.
But today he’s primarily known for having been Alexander Hamilton’s brother-in-law. And for us, in writing Eliza’s story, he made a fascinating foil!
- Lossing, Benson John (1873). The Life and Times of Philip Schuyler. Sheldon.
- CHURCH, John Barker (1748-1818), of Down Place, Berks. | History of Parliament Online”. www.historyofparliamentonline.org. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- Trumbull, John (1841). Autobiography, Reminiscences and Letters of John Trumbull, from 1756 to 1841. Wiley and Putnam.