Skip to main content

"History Has Its Eyes on You": George Washington & Alexander Hamilton

View a collection of objects and documents exploring the relationship between George Washington and Alexander Hamilton. The four items in this special installation highlight their vital partnership and friendship that shaped the future of the nation.

Buy Tickets

Included with general admission

Special exhibit showing from

Located At

Education Center

Alexander Hamilton served as Washington’s top military aide during the Revolutionary War and as his first Secretary of the Treasury. He was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention and authored 51 of the 85 essays in the Federalist Papers series.

In the words of Lin-Manuel Miranda from his hit musical, Hamilton, “the man was non-stop.”

As commander-in-chief and president, George Washington recognized Hamilton’s brilliance and provided the young immigrant many opportunities. But the two men did not always get along. Washington’s deliberate, methodical style often clashed with Hamilton’s fiery, impulsive personality. Hamilton once wrote of his mentor, “The truth is our own dispositions are the opposites of each other.” The two men nevertheless formed a vital partnership—and friendship—that shaped the future of the nation.

"The world turned upside down"

Gift of Albert H. Small, 1995 [Print-4440/RP-656]

The British Surrendering Their Arms to General Washington After Their Defeat at Yorktown in Virginia, 1781

Engraving. Philadelphia, ca. 1819

This symbolic representation of the British surrender at Yorktown depicts the major players on both sides. Alexander Hamilton appears just behind George Washington, who is flanked by French and American officers. Eager to prove himself in battle, Hamilton had led 400 light infantry in a successful assault on British defenses during the conflict.

“I’m gonna need a right-hand man”

“I’m gonna need a right-hand man”

George Washington to David Grier, March 12, 1777

This letter, in Alexander Hamilton’s handwriting, orders Lieutenant Colonel Grier to submit an exact count of the soldiers in his 7th Pennsylvania Regiment and to send new recruits to Philadelphia to be inoculated against smallpox. General Washington cautions, “No [pleas] for delay…can be admitted.” As Washington’s aide, Hamilton drafted much of his correspondence.

Gift: Jess and Grace Pavey Fund, 2010

“Just stay alive, that would be enough”

“Just stay alive, that would be enough”

Martha Dandridge Custis Washington to Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, [September 9, 1793]

Martha Washington sends her “prayers and warmest wishes” to Eliza Hamilton for the recovery of her husband, who had fallen ill with yellow fever. She cautions Eliza, a mother of five, “I hope you take care of yourself as you know it is necessary for your family.” Alexander Hamilton survived, but the mosquito-borne virus killed nearly 5,000 people in Philadelphia that year—one tenth of the city’s population.

Gift of Cynthia and Richard Helms, 2016

“We’ll teach them how to say goodbye”

“We’ll teach them how to say goodbye”

Alexander Hamilton to Martha Washington, January 12, 1800

A month after the death of George Washington, Alexander Hamilton conveys “an imperfect expression of my affectionate sympathy” to the grieving widow. “No one, better than myself, knows the greatness of your loss,” Hamilton writes, adding, “I cannot say in how many ways the continuance of [Washington’s] confidence and friendship was necessary to me in future relations.”

Purchase made possible through a lead gift from Mr. Forrest E. Mars, Jr., with additional support from the William R. Kenan, Jr., Charitable Trust and the A. Alfred Taubman Acquisition Endowment Fund, 2012


Ron Chernow on George Washington

Pulitzer-Prize winning author Ron Chernow shares his thoughts on Washington, Hamilton, and the new Broadway play he supports.

Watch the video

Exhibit Details

View a collection of objects and documents exploring George Washington and Alexander Hamilton's vital partnership—and friendship—that shaped the future of the nation.

Exhibit Dates

Opening May 26, 2018.

Buy Tickets

Included with general admission