1779: In an example of "romantic friendship" between men, Alexander Hamilton
writes to his friend, John Laurens, "I wish, my dear Laurens, that it might be
in my power, by action, rather than words, to convince you that I love you."|
Romantic Friendship Among Men
The correspondence between Alexander Hamilton, a hero of the Revolutionary War, and John Laurens, a lieutenant colonel and member of George Washington's staff, are filled with professions of love and strong emotion. The letters are part of a pattern of such correspondence between men, and present a problem of interpretation. These letters make it clear that Hamilton and Laurens had a passionate bond, and, to a modern reader, their professions of love and longing would seem to imply an intimate sexual relationship. In the context of their time, however, such "romantic friendships" and effusive declarations of love were common both between men and between women, and may not have had a clearly sexual component. Whatever sexual expression did or did not take place within these friendships, it is clear that they were primarily emotional and loving attachments. The world of wealthier Americans was remarkably "homosocial" - men and women did not spend much time together unless they were married - and there are many examples of such expressions of same-sex love throughout the late 18th and 19th centuries.