Here is an excerpt from All for One, the latest in the “Alex & Eliza” trilogy by bestselling author Melissa de la Cruz ’93:
The Business of Faith
Trinity Church, New York, New York, June 1785
That Sunday, Colonel Alexander Hamilton (retired) had the honor of escorting his wife, Eliza Hamilton, née Schuyler, and her brother John Bradstreet Schuyler, Columbia College, class of 1789, to their reserved pew in Saint Paul’s Chapel of Trinity Church, accompanied by the fresh-scrubbed form of Augustus Slater, Esquire, age three and one half, or as near as anyone could tell.
Trinity had been the center of New York’s ecclesiastical community for nearly a century, and even though the main church, built all the way back in 1698, had burned down right before the war started (and had not been torched by the British, as Aaron Burr once claimed in court, in a blatant attempt to turn the jury against Alex’s loyalist client), services continued in its small but stately ancillary chapel, Saint Paul’s, located a pleasant ten-minute walk from the Hamiltons’ home, on Broadway just below City Hall Park.
Alex recognized that the care of one’s soul is no doubt an important activity, and one not to be taken lightly. He was always moved by Eliza’s faith, especially the sweet tone of her voice as she sang the hymns. But he himself could not quite believe. It’s not that he disbelieved in the Episcopalian god exactly, but he didn’t see why that particular deity was any more compelling than the Catholic god, say, or the Lutheran or Dutch Reformed or Methodist, or even the god of the Mohammedans or the Jews. (After he was orphaned, he and his brother James had been denied membership in the Church of England because his mother and father hadn’t been legally married, and, being denied a place at the parish school, he was instead educated by a Jewish tutor, whose actions had always seemed to him more Christian, in the charitable sense of that word, than the Anglican rectors who labeled him a bastard.)
For that matter, he questioned why the many gods of Africa and Hindustan and the Indies weren’t more deserving—after all, why would an omnipotent god reveal himself to a few people in one part of the world and hide himself from everyone else? And so, he was inclined to live and let live.
It seemed self-evident to him, as it did to many of the men who had helped to found this new country—John Quincy Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and General Washington being only the most prominent—that an awesome intelligence had created this world and ordered it in such a way that it could be under-stood by men, who would find happiness if they allowed reason to guide their minds rather than letting superstition cloud their hearts. But the world was a vast, and vastly complicated, creation; it seemed a little silly to Alex that a being who could conjure it out of the ether would be concerned with such trivial concerns as the garments one wore or the foods one ate or even the words with which you spoke to him—or her or it or whatever the proper pronoun might be.
Yet the solemnity and procession appealed to him as the rites did to Eliza, and the civic opportunities—though never labeled as such, lest one contravene Matthew 21—were hard to ignore. For if going to church was first and foremost a religious activity, it was also, undeniably and indispensably, a social one. Trinity was a small church, Saint Paul’s even smaller. With only a few hundred seats available, competition for entry ran high, and in the wake of overcrowding following the liberation of the city, the church had started subscribing its pews. This was ostensibly a fund-raising opportunity to help erect a new building at Trinity’s original location farther down Broadway, but it served the much more immediate function of ensuring that the church’s most elite congregants were never without a seat. The price for reserving a pew could run as high as thirty pounds a year, which was the salary of a good lady’s maid. (Alex had pointed this out one morning as Eliza was complaining that it always took her twice as long to get ready without Dot, her maid at the Pastures: He told her that if she was willing to forgo church he would be only too happy to procure her a new one. Eliza didn’t speak to him for the rest of the day.)