Pre-2016, if you came across a historical fiction novel about Peggy Schuyler during the American Revolution, you probably wouldn’t think much of it. You likely wouldn’t know who she was. However, since Hamilton: An American Musical debuted, there has been an interest in not only the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton but also of the Schuyler sisters. While Hamilton may have introduced fans to lives of these historical Patriots, there is so much more to learn.
L.M. Elliott’s novel Hamilton and Peggy! A Revolutionary Friendship is not only a work of fiction but the result of extensive research. Elliott reviewed journals, biographies, newspapers, and even letters written by Hamilton himself to get the events and characterizations as accurate as possible. Instead of seeing the American Revolution through Hamilton’s point of view, readers experience events through the eyes of Peggy Schuyler, the third daughter of General Philip Schuyler and younger sister of Hamilton’s wife, Eliza.
Hamilton and Peggy! explores the years between 1777 and 1781, after the signing of the Declaration of Independence up to the Battle of Yorktown, with an epilogue in the summer of 1782. We meet Peggy playing a card game with her two older sisters and John Carter, who Angelica soon elopes with. We’re also introduced to the rest of the Schuyler family, including Peggy’s three younger brothers and the infant sister.
Very quickly, Peggy Schuyler is pegged as the quick wit of the trio. Not a positive descriptor for a woman of the time. Angelica is the flirt with political interests, Eliza is more gentle and artistic, and Peggy is often stuck in her sisters’ shadows.
With this in mind, Peggy’s perspective of events keeps readers aware of her position in the family. As Angelica, newly married, and Eliza are often away together, it’s up to Peggy to stay home and take care of her family. Due to her intelligence, and knack for skillfully opening sealed enemy letters and resealing them, she begins to play small roles in her father’s efforts in the war. With military meetings taking place at the general’s home, Peggy is in a prime location to help. However, the part she plays isn’t enough and she longs to do more to support the Patriots.
This Isn’t Hamilton
Fans of the musical will already pick up on differences between Hamilton and the novel Hamilton and Peggy! For one, Elliott’s research shines through in attention to details. When historical records back up actions or events, they’re included. Unlike the musical, the author shows that Angelica Schuyler actually was married before she met Alexander Hamilton. What started off as a romantic runaway marriage with John Cater proved to be a disappointment for her as he gambled and drank frequently.
The novel also provides more background into the role General Schuyler played in Albany. His relationship with the different Native American tribes of upstate New York made a difference in helping the Patriots fight for independence against the British. In particular, we see Peggy’s role in these meetings between the chiefs and her father. While there were battles in New York City and along the coast, Albany had its own invasion threats, battles, and even assassination attempts. You don’t get that in the musical.
Alexander Hamilton & Peggy Schuyler
As the title suggests, the novel does cover how Peggy came to know Hamilton and become his sister-in-law. When Hamilton has an interest in her sister Eliza, he asks for Peggy’s help in different ways. First, it’s to help him court her. Later, once Hamilton and Eliza are married, he asks Peggy to look after Eliza when he goes to fight for General George Washington in Yorktown.
In the Afterward, Elliott explains that while none of Peggy Schuyler’s letters have survived, two of Hamilton’s letters addressed to her have. Additionally, Peggy is mentioned in other correspondence that provided the framework for their friendship in the novel. There is evidence to suggest that Hamilton appreciated Peggy’s intelligence and wit, and her knack for calling him out when necessary.
Likewise, it seems he looked out for Peggy’s interests as well. She becomes a sister to him and helps him adjust to being part of a family again. He understands her spirit and helps her to appreciate her talents. He even goes so far as to protect her from an undeserving suitor. Their relationship in the book is, therefore, a blend of historical fact and an educated guess of what their friendship may have looked like. Peggy’s concern for her sister’s well-being is always first and it’s a joy to see that relationship evolve along with her friendship with Hamilton.
The Schuyler Sisters
In any family, there are fights, jealousies, and misunderstandings. There are also moments of pride, recognition, and love. Those and more are present with this inside look at the Schuyler family. When the three elder Schuyler sisters are together, readers can see how they balance each other out. While they can, and do, bring out the worst in each other, they also bring out the best.
Seeing this sibling relationship from the youngest of the trio, we are treated Peggy getting left behind when her elder sisters travel together. We get an understanding of how she resents being “and Peggy.” Elliott does a great job showing the love Peggy has for her sisters; but, also, her need to branch out on her own. To show what she, as just Peggy Schuyler, can do.
Peggy Schuyler and George Washington
General George Washington and General Schuyler not only worked together in the fight for America’s independence. They were also friends. As such, readers are treated to many scenes with the future president and the Schuyler sisters.
There are some tender moments between Washington and Peggy that, fact or not, showed his leadership abilities to inspire and guide. Even when off the battlefield.
Final Thoughts on Hamilton and Peggy!
A daughter. A sister. A friend. A translator. A Spy. A strategist. A caregiver. A hero in her own right. Peggy Schuyler is often overlooked due to the successes and fame of her elder sisters, but she is worth getting to know. She aides not only her father but General Washington due to her fluency in French. She saves her infant sister when the British invade the Schuyler household during an assassination attempt on General Schuyler’s life.
What’s more, she isn’t afraid to speak her mind and stand up for what’s right. As a woman in the late 1700s, there was very little she could do. She could not vote, or fight for her country, or travel on her own. Still, she recognized moments where she could be of use, inserted herself in the conversation, and proved to everyone she met that she was a force to be reckoned with.
Whether the topic was politics or standing up for her sister, Hamilton and Peggy! shows that Peggy Schuyler could hold her own, and did on several occasions. After reading the novel, be sure to read the Afterword by Elliott. More research is shared here, revealing what we know to be true of Hamilton and Peggy from 1777 through 1782. She was so much more than a little sister.
It’s a shame more records of her didn’t survive.