John Barker Church - Fake ID's, Dueling Pistols and the Schuyler Sisters
John Barker Church is one of only two American Revolutionaries I know of who also sat in Parliament (the other being Henry Cruger Jr.)
Church was also the husband of Angelica Schuyler, who has recently become famous in the Broadway play Hamilton. Church, however, seems to have been left out of the show. He is only referred to as Angelica’s ‘wealthy husband.’
This is a shame, as Church led a curious life which included a fake identity, supplying the Continental Army, becoming a member of Parliament, and playing a role in the Hamilton-Burr duel.
John Barker Church
Despite being born into a wealthy, aristocratic family in England, John Barker Church had run up gambling debts he could not afford by the age of 26.
Fearing a prison sentence, Church fled to North America just as the Revolutionary War was about to begin. To hide his identity, he began going by a different name: John Carter.
As Carter, John was able to begin supplying arms to the colonial Militias.
The Schuyler Family
Church impressed many of the men he dealt with and by 1776 was one of three men charged with auditing the Northern Department of the Continental Army. Major General Philip Schuyler was none too happy with the audit of his troops and received Church coldly.
That did not deter Church, who met and fell in love with one of Schuyler’s daughters, Angelica.
Not knowing who Church’s family was, Schuyler did not approve of this man courting his daughter. Undeterred, John and Angelica eloped, much to the chagrin of her mother who was saddened by the thought of missing her oldest child’s wedding.
Now, Church was still going by the alias of John Carter at this point and, therefore, Angelica took on the same surname.
While we do not know when she found out he husband’s true identity (it may well have been before the marriage) we do know that they both announced their real names in 1784. This was SEVEN YEARS after the wedding and after the completion of the Revolutionary War.
Supplying an Army
In the meantime, John had struck up a partnership with Jeremiah Wadsworth and begun dealing provisions to the French Army who came to support their American friends. As the French paid in gold and silver (instead of worthless Continentals), this business was extremely lucrative. Soon thereafter, they went on to sign a contract which gave them the right as sole-suppliers of the Continental Army as well.
It was also while in France that the Carters announced to the world that their last name was really Church. Having advanced wealth, John could now pay off his debtors and return to Great Britain.
And return to Great Britain he did, buying a house and (despite close ties to the American Revolution) winning a seat in Parliament!
While a member of the Government of Great Britain, Church advocated for reform in the remaining colonies, a pro-American agenda and against war with France. Additionally, he assisted in an attempted rescue of the Marquis de Lafayette when he was imprisoned during the French Revolution.
After six years in Parliament, the Church Family returned to the United States.
After a duel with Aaron Burr (more on that in a bit), John speculated in land, purchasing large sections of Western New York. This was mostly due to an attempt to help his friend Robert Morris avoid bankruptcy, though that did not work out in the end.
After Angelica passed away, Church returned to England where he spent most of his savings before himself succumbing to illness.
As stated earlier, John Barker Church fought a duel with Aaron Burr in 1797.
It just so happens that Church was brothers-in-law with Alexander Hamilton, as they had both married Schuyler Sisters. When Alexander’s son Philip was killed in a duel just a few years later, he was using the same pistols as in the Church-Burr duel.
If you haven’t already guessed, when Hamilton and Burr met in Weehawken on the day of their much more famous duel, the set of pistols used were the very same ones owned by John Barker Church.
Follow this site to read about another Founder tomorrow!
Until then, read one of my articles on other Founders involved with the Hamilton-Burr duel.
Want to read more about the Continental Army?
As there is (surprisingly) no biography about Church, I thought today I’d just recommend a military history of the Continental Army he supplied.
‘Contest For Liberty’ discusses, among other things, how George Washington’s true military success lay in the fact that he simply kept the Continental Army together when at every turn it seemed to be tearing apart at the seams.
Pick up a copy through the Amazon affiliate link below (you’ll support this site, but don’t worry, Amazon pays me while your price stays the same) but be warned, it is very rare and therefore expensive.
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