I, Eliza Hamilton:
Questions for Discussion for Reading Groups and Book Clubs
What did you know about Alexander Hamilton as a founding father before you read this book, and how has your perception changed?
Eliza was very much a woman of her time in her devotion to her family and her husband. What do you think were her greatest strengths? Her weaknesses?
Eliza was the second of the three older Schuyler sisters. Do you believe being in the middle between her brilliant older sister Angelica and her beautiful younger sister Peggy influenced her? How?
Do you think Eliza ever truly regretted marrying Alexander?
Some historians believe that Angelica and Alexander had an affair. What’s your opinion?
Why do you think Angelica married John Barker Church? Do you think their marriage was a happy one?
After George Washington’s death, Alexander admitted that Washington had always been his “aegis” – his protector. Had Washington lived, do you think Alexander would have fought the duel with Aaron Burr?
If you were Eliza, would you have forgiven Alexander after he published the details of his affair with Maria Reynolds?
At the time Alexander proposed to Eliza, cynics believed he was marrying her only for her money and family position. What do you think?
Why do you think Alexander constantly courted physical danger and social disaster?
Alexander always believed in the truth, no matter the consequences. Do you agree, or not? Why?
Over the course of his life, Alexander was involved, either as a primary or secondary participant, in at least eleven duels or near-duels. Why was his honor so important to him?
Eliza strongly objected to dueling on both moral and religious grounds, yet not even she was able to persuade Alexander to stop. What could she have done or said differently to change his mind?
During the duel with Burr, Alexander apparently fired in the air, purposefully avoiding injuring Burr. Why do you think he did this?
Burr was said to have taken the duel very seriously, and reportedly practiced his aim and shooting for days beforehand. Do you think he intended to kill Alexander? Why?
Abigail Adams loathed Alexander. At one point, she wrote: “O I have read his Heart in his wicked Eyes many a time. The very devil is in them. They are lasciviousness itself, or I have no skill in Physiognomy.” What do you think she meant by this?
Alexander supposedly advised his son Philip before his duel to fire into the air as a way to satisfy his honor, but avoid murdering a man; this strategy led directly to Philip’s death. Do you think Eliza ever learned her husband’s advice to their son? Do you think he told her himself? What do you think her reaction would have been?
What aspects of 18th century American politics reminded you of modern politics?
It’s easy to take American democracy for granted. Did it come as a surprise to you to realize how much of what holds the U.S. together was created and put into practice by Hamilton? Did it change your perception of the United States, and what makes it different from previous forms of government?
Was Alexander Hamilton a hero? Was Aaron Burr a villain?