Why Alexander Hamilton?
In order to further understand why the late founding Commander of The Alexander Hamilton American Legion Post 448 promoted recognition and honor of Alexander Hamilton, perhaps we should turn to the book "HOMOAFFECTIONALISM" which he authored and was published in April 1993 by GLB Publishers in San Francisco, California USA.
In the preface, Commander Paul Hardman included the following definitions: Homosexual: The coinage of the word which deals with same-sex erotic behavior is credited to Karoli Kertbeny (Karl Maria Benkert, 1824-1882). He was a literary scholar and a Hungarian who wrote in German under the name Benkert.
The word may have been coined in response to the need for a term other than "unnatural indecency" used in the repressive laws of Prussia at the time. Homoerotic: The word is usually defined as relating to homosexual expression.
In this text, the word will be used to describe conduct involving same-sex activity regardless of sexual orientation. The connotation here includes lust, and not necessarily affection.
Homoaffectionalism: As coined by the author, the word means same-sex relationships which do not necessarily involve homosexual sex acts, but do include strong emotional bonding, which may or may not include sexual conduct. The emphasis is on affection and bonding regardless of any carnal involvement. As defined, it recognizes the phenomenon of mutual altruism between individuals of the same gender and recognizes the basis of mutual support, loyalty, and cooperation needed (in our view) to allow civilization to develop. It would be difficult to imagine a military organization that does not rely on Homoaffectionalism for maintaining loyalty among its members. Today, these relationships might be referred to as a "bromance".
The following letter, which will be quoted in pertinent part, was written by Hamilton when he was twenty-two years of age. It was written to his friend colonel John Laurens, who was a few years older than Hamilton. Laurens was the son of the President of the Continental congress, Henry Laurens, the dating of the letter was made by scholars, based on internal evidence: April, 1779:
Cold in my professions, warm in my friendships, I wish, my Dear Laurens, it might be in my power, by action rather than words to convince you that I love you. I shall only tell you that 'til you bade us Adieu, I hardly knew the value you had taught my heart to set upon you. Indeed, my friend, it was not well done. You know the opinion I entertain of mankind, and how much it is my desire to preserve myself free from particular attachments, and to keep my happiness independent of the caprice of others. You should not have taken advantage of my sensibility to steal into my affections without my consent. But as you have done it, and as we are generally indulgent to those we love, I shall not scruple to pardon the fraud you have committed, on condition that for my sake, if not for your own, you will always continue to merit the partiality, which you have artfully instilled into me. (Pages 192-3)
A web search produced the following:
Hamilton, Alexander (1757-1804)
Still, writing before the consciousness of homosexuality as a medical or identity category had made same-sex bonds suspect, Atherton presented the romantic relationship of the two young men straightforwardly, even effusively. She wrote that Laurens "took Hamilton by storm, capturing judgment as well as heart, and loving him as ardently in return."
Her views are never clearer than in her description of Hamilton's reaction to the death of Laurens. "Hamilton mourned him passionately, and never ceased to regret him . . . Betsey [Schuyler Hamilton] consoled, diverted, and bewitched him, but there were times when he would have exchanged her for Laurens." She adds, with some regret, "The perfect friendship of two men is the deepest and highest sentiment of which the finite mind is capable; women miss the best in life."
In Jonathan Katz's pioneering Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.A. (1976), the relationship between Hamilton and Laurens was for the first time read through the lens of a sophisticated understanding of same-sex love and sexual relationships as historically contingent. He places the letters in the social context of their time without excusing their effusive language as merely a convention or describing them in terms of brotherhood or idealized friendship.
Katz points out that, given the number of classical allusions in the letters, Hamilton and Laurens saw the model for their relationship as Greek, and suggests that these classical allusions may have been "one of the semisecret languages used by American homosexuals to speak of those same-sex relations otherwise unnamable among Christians."
The memory of Alexander Hamilton and John Laurens lives on at the Alexander Hamilton Post 448 of the American Legion in San Francisco, the only branch of the organization comprised primarily of GLBT veterans.
Despite the opposition of some other American Legion members, Post 448 received its charter in 1985. Since then they have regularly marched in both San Francisco's Gay Pride Parades and Veterans' Day Parades. They also sent contingents to the 1993 March on Washington and to the Stonewall 25 Parade in New York in 1994 and served as the color guard at Gay Games II in 1986. The members of Alexander Hamilton Post 448 are dedicated to the welfare of GLBT veterans and current service personnel and strongly advocate the repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.
Linda Rapp teaches French and Spanish at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. She freelances as a writer, tutor, and translator. She is Assistant to the General Editor of www.glbtq.com.