Angelica Schuyler Church
Angelica Schuyler Church (February 20, 1756 – March 13, 1814) was the eldest daughter of Continental Army General Philip Schuyler, wife of British MP John Barker Church, sister of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton (wife of Alexander Hamilton).
She was a prominent member of the social elite wherever she lived; first in New York, then in Paris, London, and New York again. The village and the town named "Angelica", both located in New York State, were named after her. Some of her personal correspondence with Jefferson, Hamilton, George Washington, and the Marquis de Lafayette is preserved in the Library of Congress.
Angelica Schuyler was born in Albany, New York; the eldest daughter of Philip Schuyler and Catharine Van Rensselaer Schuyler. Both parents came from wealthy Dutch families prominent since early colonial days. Catharine was a descendant of Kiliaen van Rensselaer, one of the founders of New Netherlands. The Schuylers were also fourth-generation residents.
Angelica came of age during the troubled times leading up to the American Revolution, and met many of the prominent revolutionary leaders. Because of her father's rank and political stature, the Schuyler house in Albany was the scene of many meetings and war councils. One of the visitors, in 1776, was John Barker Church, a British-born merchant who made a fortune during the war supplying the American and French armies. At the time of their meeting and subsequent courtship, Church was on a mission from the Continental Congress to audit army supply records. Knowing that her father would not bless their marriage because of his suspicions about Church's past, Angelica and John eloped in 1777. In 1783, they and their four children left for Europe, not to return to New York until 1797.
Life in Europe
From 1783-85, Angelica and her family lived in Paris while John performed his duties as a U.S. envoy to the French government. Angelica never failed to enchant the famous, intelligent men she met, and in Paris she soon befriended the venerable Benjamin Franklin, U.S. Ambassador to France. She also developed lasting friendships with Franklin's successor, Thomas Jefferson, and with the Marquis de Lafayette.
After a brief visit to New York in 1785, the family sailed for England, taking up residence in London. Now the wife of a very wealthy man, Angelica entered a fashionable social circle that included the Prince of Wales, Whig party leader Charles James Fox and playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan. She also befriended and sponsored emigre American painter John Trumbull, who went on to create some of the most famous paintings of the Revolutionary War era. Always an American at heart, Angelica made a visit in 1789 to attend the inauguration of George Washington as the nation's first president.
Return to America
John and Angelica Church finally returned to the U.S. in 1797, to be reunited with her family in New York. In lieu of capital, the young country repaid loan from John Barker Church for funding the revolution army with 100,000 acres of land in Western New York. To take possession of the land, his son Philip traveled to the area of what is today Allegany and Genesee counties, near the Pennsylvania border. Philip Church selected the specific acreage, along the Genesee River, with his surveyor Moses Van Campen. The planned village was laid out with the plots and design to be reminisent of Paris, France (a circular drive in the center, streets coming to that drive to form a star, and five churches situated around that circle). In the center of the circular drive is the village park. Philip named his planned village Angelica, after his mother.
Philip left to marry Anna Matilda Stewart, daughter of General Walter Stewart (founder of the Erie Canal and Erie Railroad) in Philadelphia. For their honeymoon, they traveled to first by boat, then raft as far west as Bath, New York, then on horseback to the banks of the Genesee River. Soon they constructed a small house, soon to be whitewashed and known as the "white house". Later, they had their mansion built (known as 'Belvidere'). It still stands on the banks of the Genesee River near Angelica, New York; it is occupied by its owners. FROM THE ARCHIVES BY JOHN MINARD, HISTORIAN: History of Angelica, New York, A Centennial Memorial History of Allegany County, New York John S. Minard, Esq. Historian Mrs. Georgia Drew Andrews, Editor. W. A. Fergusson & Co., Alfred, N. Y. 1896
"The town was formed by an act of the Legislature, passed Feb. 25, 1805, and described as "being in width twelve miles," just that of the Morris Reserve, and in length "from south to north extending thirty-four miles from the Pennsylvania line," taking in about two-thirds of the towns of Granger and Grove. It was taken from Leicester, and when erected was a part of Genesee county. (The village had been founded three or four years before, and named by Capt. Philip Church for his mother, Angelica, the eldest daughter of Gen. Philip Schuyler."
In 1804, built a country house, christened Belvidere, in upstate New York.
A series of letters Angelica Church received from Jefferson, Hamilton, George Washington, and the Marquis de Lafayette were kept in her family's possession until they were sold to The University of Virginia for $275,000 in 1996. The letters from Jefferson were of particular interest to the University, as it was he who founded it almost 200 years earlier. In one note Jefferson wrote:
Think of it, my friend, and let us begin a negotiation on the subject. You shall find in me all the spirit of accommodation with which Yoric began his with the fair Piedmontese.
This is an allusion to a sexually charged scene in Laurence Sterne's popular novel A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy in which "Parson Yorick" has to negotiate sleeping arrangements when obliged to share a room with an attractive Italian woman and her maid.
Angelica's correspondence with Hamilton, now preserved in the Library of Congress, demonstrates a strong affection between them. There has long been speculation that she may have had a romantic and possibly sexual relationship with Hamilton. Hamilton biographer Ron Chernow notes that:
The attraction between Hamilton and Angelica was so potent and obvious that many people assumed they were lovers. At the very least, theirs was a friendship of unusual ardor...
One letter sent to Angelica's sister Elizabeth, Hamilton's wife, is suggestive of a relationship, but likely an innocent joke between sisters. Speaking of Elizabeth's husband, Angelica wrote to her:
...if you were as generous as the old Romans, you would lend him to me for a little while.
- Christoph, Florence A. Schuyler genealogy: a compendium of sources pertaining to the Schuyler families in America prior to 1800, Volume 2. Friends of Schuyler Mansion, 1992
- Jefferson's Letters to Angelica Schuyler Church Associated Press
- Andrew Burstein, The Inner Jefferson: Portrait of a Grieving Optimist, University of Virginia Press, 1995, p. 109
- Chernow, Ron. Alexander Hamilton. The Penguin Press, (2004) (ISBN 1-59420-009-2)
- Elizabeth Hamilton (1757-1854) PBS American Experience
- Muse and Confidante: Angelica Schuyler Church. This website at the University of Virginia contains some relevant material, but has some problems with historical accuracy.
- Chernow, Ron. Alexander Hamilton. The Penguin Press, (2004) (ISBN 1-59420-009-2).