Sometimes we forget, but Columbia has some freaking awesome stuff. In our efforts to remind ourselves of this, we bring you a new series: Bwog Goes Deep, in which we find cool shit in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library and tell you about it.
Chances are you immediately deleted it, but last week an email landed in your LionMail inbox about Columbia Celebrating Constitution Day. Bwog decided there was no better way to kick off this series than to check in with our old buddies John Jay and Alexander Hamilton.
Out in the RBML, after taking time to register and talk to the librarians, we got a box of John Jay letters that included correspondence with Alexander Hamilton. In our cursory review, we couldn’t find anything specifically relating to the Constitutional Convention, celebrated today, but we did find a few other neat things. We then proceeded to geek out and feel profoundly patriotic, remembering what we learned in APUSH and 4th grade history class.
“Absence you know is not very favorable to the influence of any person, however great.”
First, we found a letter from Alexander Hamilton to John Jay, sent December 31, 1775. Expecting to find hearty New Year’s wishes, we instead found Hamilton diligently considering the public’s role in the Congress–this would be the Second Continental Congress, that seven months later would write the Declaration of Independence.
Mainly, Hamilton was worried about losing the public’s attention and faith in the Congress. He understood that in order for the Revolution to be a success, they needed the people’s support. Hamilton suggested four delegates for the Congress, including William Livingston–governor of New Jersey, whose daughter was John Jay’s wife. He also used the words “tories” and “Whigs,” which made Bwog giggle.
“All is mystery and dark beyond conjecture… But we must not be discouraged at a misfortune–we must rather exert ourselves the more vigorously to remedy the ill-consequence of it.”
In a second letter from Hamilton to Jay, written July 13, 1777, regarded the Siege of Fort Ticonderoga. Hamilton wrote from “Head Quarters” in Pompton Plains, NJ. He seemed understandably distressed in this letter, at points ranting about the loss of the seemingly impregnable Ticonderoga–“If it was tenable, what, in the name of common sense, could have induced the evacuation?”
Still he focused on the morale of the public and the soldiers: “it behoves their leaders to put on a cheerful countenance, and combat their fears by a spirited and manly example…” Think about that next time you’re suffering in Butler. Except, you know, less patriarchally.
We did find one letter from 1787 (when the Constitution was signed) but it was something to do with a debt and not all that exciting, as far as we could tell. We’re getting the hang of this RBML research thing, promise.
We walked out feeling a much more significant connection to Hamilton and Jay. After all, we didn’t go to write a paper: the reason to check this stuff out is to build a personal understanding and relationship to someone significant to both this country and this school. That and the handwriting is effing beautiful.