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Philip Hamilton was the son and eldest child of Alexander Hamilton, a founding father of the United States and also the first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury. Philip’s father was an influential statesman, interpreter and promoter of the U.S Constitution. Alexander was also the founder of the country’s financial system, the United States Coast Guard and The New York Post.
Being the first child of Alexander Hamilton, he had a bright future ahead of him and certainly big shoes to fill.
Philip was born on the 22nd of January, 1782 in Albany, New York to Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton. The young Hamilton was named after his mother’s father, Philip Schuyler, a former United States Senator. His parents were very proud of him since his birth and his father, especially, repeatedly expressed excitement and high expectations for his son’s future.
At the age of nine, in 1791, he was sent to a boarding school to study with William Frazer, rector of St. Michael’s Church at the time and an Episcopal clergyman. The school was located in Trenton, New Jersey. Three years later, in 1794, his younger brother would join him there. While at school, he frequently wrote letters to his family and his father would also frequently write him letters to encourage him. Later on, the young Hamilton enrolled in Columbia College (now Columbia University) where his enthusiasm, educational prowess and knowledge was compared to that of his father – a respected alumnus of the school.
Philip would later graduate with honours in 1800 and then go on study law – showcasing that he was indeed meant for great things. His father was very supportive of his son’s career path and set up study routines which were described as rigorous. The study routine included waking up by 6 a.m every morning from April to September to study; Philip was allowed to wake up by 7 a.m every other day for the rest of the year. This rigorous routine proved very helpful for Philip and strengthened the bond between Philip and his father.
Philip Hamilton’s Siblings
Philip had seven siblings, although, unfortunately, he did not get to meet his youngest sibling, Philip – who was named after him. His parents, all together, had eight children; Philip, who was born in 1782; Angelica, who was born on the 25th of September, 1784 and was very close to her older brother; Alexander Jr was born on the 16th of May, 1786; John Church was born on the 22nd of August, 1792; William Stephen was born on the 4th of August, 1797 and Eliza who was born on the 20th of November, 1799.
When Philip passed away in 1801, his mother was pregnant with another child, a boy, who they decided to name after the late Philip. The fact that Alexander Hamilton had two sons named Philip is always a source of constant confusion. The younger Philip was born on the 1st or 2nd of June, 1802.
Philip Hamilton’s Death; How He Died
It all started on the 4th of July, 1801 when George Eacker (a lawyer from New York and a Freemason) gave a speech at Columbia University and criticized Alexander Hamilton in his speech. He made very egregious statements in his speech including accusing Alexander Hamilton of wanting to return to the monarchy.
When the speech was published, Philip Hamilton read it. Being a man of pride and honour, he was understandably upset and insulted by Eacker’s words.
In November of that year, four months later, Philip and Richard Price (a friend’s of Philip’s) went to Park Theater to see a play; while there, they ran into George Eacker, and Philip confronted George about his speech. The confrontation was loud, hostile and disturbed the entire theatre. Which led to George muttering that both Phillip and Richard Price were ‘rascals’; in that era, the term ‘rascal’, was a very disrespectful and insolent one and had dishonourable underlinings. This caused the two to challenge George to a duel.
According to several sources, Alexander tried to counsel his son out of the duel, attempting to convince him to delope instead. To delope meant to throw away the first shot.
George Eacker faced Richard Price and Philip Hamilton separately. He duelled Price the day after the challenge in the theatre – no one was hurt or injured in this duel. George duelled Philip the day after he Dueled Price. The duel took place in Weehawken, New Jersey.
Reports have it that Philip took his father’s advice and chose to delope instead. At the duel, Philip refused to raise his pistol to fire and Eacker followed suit. For the first minute, neither man did anything, they both simply stood. However, Eacker finally raised his pistol leading Philip to follow suit. Eacker fired his pistol first, the bullet struck Philip above his right hip, went through his body and into his left arm. Involuntary as he fell, Philip fired his pistol but missed Eacker completely.
Many have described Philip’s demeanour, as he lay on the ground dying, as exemplary and full of dignity. He was then rushed to the home of Angelica Schuyler Church, his aunt. After hearing of the unfortunate circumstance that had befallen his son, Alexander Hamilton rushed to the house of Dr. David Hosack to get his medical services for Philip, but Dr. Hosack had already heard about the duel and was on his way to Angelica Schuyler Church’s house. Alexander Hamilton was described as visibly distraught, grief-stricken and overcome by anxiety.
Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, Philip’s mother, who was three months pregnant also came over to Angelica Schuyler Church’s house. Together, Alexander and Elizabeth stayed by Philip’s side all through the night. By 5 a.m the next morning, Philip Hamilton passed away. He was buried on a stormy day with many mourners in attendance. At his funeral, as his father approached his grave, he was so stricken with grief that he had to be held upright by family and friends.
At the news of his death, his younger sister – Angelica – who he was was very close to, suffered a mental breakdown from which she never recovered until her death in 1857. Angelica remained in an eternal childlike state and her mental condition deteriorated over the years. She was frequently found talking to her brother, Philip, as though he were still alive.
Besides Angelica, Philip’s parents were also very much affected by his death and it is said that they were never themselves again after his death. They named their newborn, who was born in June the following year, in memory of their late son.
Philip Hamilton was only 19 at the time of his death.