Who might have known?

To keep up the momentum toward publishing day, I wanted to post another mini-essay I wrote in response to a question I received: How many aides/people close to Alexander and John do you think knew about their relationship? Who? Why?



Now this is a difficult question. I know what I would like to think, just from personal relations, etc. In my book I imply that Lafayette is aware of their relationship in some manner, if perhaps not completely understanding. I have no historical evidence for this, it was a fiction choice.


However, there is one possibility below, and one I wish I had used to more advantage in my book but by the time I became aware of it/the idea fully formed it was too late. Ah, well.

Richard Kidder Meade.

There is a mention in a letter from James McHenry to Hamilton of Meade hiding in a chimney to read a letter from Hamilton so no one could read over his shoulder:

Meade writes you all that is interesting, and conducts the most weighty matters with a great deal of cunning sagacity. He thrust himself up the chimney this morning, while we were dressing round the fire, in order to be more at liberty as I supposed to read your letter, or hide any thing it might contain, from profane eyes.

It is certainly an odd thing to do. If it was confidential war information there is no reason the other aides-de-camp shouldn’t be able to see it too. So possibly it was something personal.

Now, this letter is from March 1780. Hamilton was off negotiating a prisoner exchange. Laurens was serving in the southern campaign. Hamilton had also met Elizabeth Schuyler at this point. You could argue perhaps the personal information was about Miss Schuyler, Hamilton wanting to propose, etc. But, you can alternatively argue that Hamilton wasn’t exactly hiding his interest in her and the other aides would probably know about his plans, or at least have an idea. So why hide it? Perhaps Hamilton wrote something to Meade about Laurens, something the other aides did not and should not know.

Also, as a blogger revolutionary-pirate noted in a post, Hamilton and Meade’s personal correspondence between one another pretty much ceases after Laurens dies which is curious. Meade writes Hamilton twice more and Hamilton never replies. The three men were close and perhaps after the loss of Laurens, a loss Meade would know the extent of, Hamilton couldn’t bear writing to someone else who knew or felt the need to close that portion of his life? Additionally, most of the letters between Hamilton and Meade before that no longer exist which brings up the question about why they are gone. Were they destroyed due to content?

Historically, if anyone, I think Meade knew.

© 2019 by Rebecca Dupont