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.