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Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

You Can Now Read More Than 850 of Alexander Hamilton's Papers Online

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

When writing his hip-hop musical Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda wasn’t able to interview America’s first treasury secretary firsthand, as he died more than 210 years ago. Instead, he got inside the founding father’s head by combing through the hundreds of drafts and correspondences Hamilton left behind. Now, studying Hamilton’s massive body of work is as easy as logging on to your computer. As NPR reports, the Library of Congress just made 880 documents from its Hamilton collection available online.

The digital archive spans everything from correspondence Hamilton wrote as an adolescent living in St. Croix to the letter he wrote to his wife, Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, the night before his fatal duel with Aaron Burr. In between is the outline for a speech he gave at the Constitutional Convention, a letter from his days of courting Elizabeth, and communications with Revolutionary leaders including Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and the Marquis de Lafayette.

The Library of Congress’s collection of Hamilton documents would likely look much different if it weren't for the work of his widow. Following Alexander's death, Elizabeth embarked on a mission to secure her late husband's legacy by collecting his writings and getting them published. As Ron Chernow—author of the Hamilton biography the hit musical is based on—told Smithsonian last year, “Her efforts made it easier to research Alexander’s life, because after his death, his enemies were in power … Elizabeth was working against the political system of the time, and time itself.”

Thanks to the Library of Congress’s project, her work is more accessible than ever. The move to bring the collection to the web was partly inspired by the recent buzz surrounding the figure, but you don’t have to be familiar with Hamilton the musical to appreciate the historical writings. Visit the Library of Congress’s website to start exploring the archive.

[h/t NPR]

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The Time Ben Franklin and John Adams Shared a Bed
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iStock

Ever been on a road trip where the sleeping conditions were less than ideal? Such indignities aren’t just for average citizens like you and me. Even Founding Fathers and future presidents had to bunk with one another on occasion. 

In September 1776, just a few months after the thirteen American colonies announced their independence from Britain, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams got stuck shacking up together for a night. As part of a delegation sent by the Continental Congress, they were on their way from Philadelphia to Staten Island to negotiate with Admiral Richard Howe of the Royal Navy for a possible end to the Revolutionary War. As they passed through New Brunswick, New Jersey, the negotiators—Franklin, Adams and South Carolina politician Edward Rutledgedecided to stop for the night and find a place to sleep. 

The local taverns and inns were nearly full, though, and there were only two rooms for the three men. “One bed could be procured for Dr. Franklin and me,” Adams wrote in his autobiography, “in a chamber a little larger than the bed, without a chimney and with only one small window.”

That window would be a problem for the two men.

A ROOM WITH A VIEW

Adams, who was “an invalid and afraid of the air in the night,” closed the window before they got into bed. 

“Oh!” said Franklin. “Don’t shut the window. We shall be suffocated.”

When Adams explained that he didn’t want to catch an illness from the cold night air, Franklin countered that the air in their room was even worse. 

“Come!” he told Adams. “Open the window and come to bed, and I will convince you: I believe you are not acquainted with my Theory of Colds.”

Contrary to the lay wisdom of the day (and everybody’s grandmother), Franklin was convinced that no one had ever gotten a cold from cold air. Instead, it was the “frowzy corrupt air” from animals, humans, and dirty clothes and beds, he thought, that led people to catch colds when they were “shut up together in small close rooms.” Cool, fresh air at night, he believed, had many benefits. 

Franklin’s ideas were inconsistent with Adams’s own experiences, he wrote, but he was curious to hear what Franklin had to say. So, even at the risk of a cold, he opened the window again and hopped into bed with Franklin.

As they lay side by side, Adams wrote, Franklin “began a harangue upon air and cold and respiration and perspiration.” 

“I was so much amused that I soon fell asleep, and left him and his philosophy together,” Adams wrote. “But I believe they were equally sound and insensible, within a few minutes after me, for the last words I heard were pronounced as if he was more than half asleep.”

The strange bedfellows were out like a light, and continued on their way in the morning. The peace conference they were traveling to lasted just a few hours and produced no results. 

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214 Years After His Death, Alexander Hamilton Is Finally Getting a Law Degree
Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images

Alexander Hamilton accomplished many great things. He was one of America's founding fathers. He was the nation's first treasury secretary. He was a lawyer. He even inspired an award-winning Broadway musical whose tickets are still among the hardest to score.

He seemed to have it all, except for one thing: a college degree. That will change on May 18, when Albany Law School in New York awards Hamilton an honorary law degree. His fifth great-grandson, Douglas Hamilton, will travel from his home in Columbus, Ohio, to accept the degree on his ancestor's behalf.

The announcement comes 214 years after Hamilton was killed in a duel with Vice President Aaron Burr.

Hamilton studied at King's College (now Columbia University) but never finished for one key reason: He dropped out and formed his own militia unit to fight in the Revolutionary War. In the chaos that ensued, the college shut its doors in 1776 and didn't reopen until eight years later.

Despite having no formal higher education, Hamilton later passed the bar exam. This is only one reason why Albany Law School's offer is symbolic, school officials say.

"Alexander Hamilton's ties to the Albany area are significant. Hamilton studied law and practiced law in Albany,” Alicia Ouellette, the school's president and dean, tells USA Today. "By conferring this degree, we are acknowledging his impact on the Capital Region and New York's legal community."

Hamilton came to Albany for the first time in 1777 on an important errand from George Washington. The general had asked Hamilton to persuade General Horatio Gates to send extra troops to defend the Philadelphia area during the war. Hamilton succeeded.

Two years later, Hamilton married Elizabeth Schuyler in her home city of Albany. And while traveling between Albany and New York City, he penned "Federalist No. 1"—the first installment of The Federalist Papers, which helped persuade the 13 states to vote in favor of ratifying the United States Constitution.

[h/t USA Today]

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