Friday, July 29, 2016

Guide To Hamilton The Musical Created By Actual Historian

A Guide to Hamilton: The Revolution

 By BFTSM and his daughter,


Alexander Hamilton:  A bastard and an orphan from the West Indies, Hamilton was one of the most aristocratic (despite the image the play presents) of the Founding Fathers.  During the American Revolution he was chief staff aide to George Washington.  After the war he was a major contributor to the Federalist Papers, a strong supporter of the U.S. Constitution, and founder of the Coast Guard.  As the first secretary of the Treasury, he promoted the federal assumption of states’ debts (to bind the wealthy to the new government) and the creation of a national bank.  He also supported tariffs (to promote industrialization) and friendly relations with Great Britain during the 1790s (in the wake of the French Revolution).  As a founder and leader of the Federalist Party, he was opposed by the Democratic-Republican Party, led by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.  They favored states’ rights over a strong central government.  Jefferson and Madison also supported France and feared that Hamilton’s plan would promote industry at the expense of the yeoman farmers they saw as the economic and moral foundation of the American Republic.

Aaron Burr: Burr and Hamilton may not have met prior to the American Revolution.  After serving in the Continental Army, Burr became a successful lawyer and politician. The NY state legislature chose him as US senator (over Philip Schuyler) in 1791.  In 1800, Burr ran with Jefferson for president and the two men earned an equal number of electors.  The Federalists led by Hamilton ultimately gave their support to Jefferson, forcing Burr to accept the VP slot.  Knowing that Jefferson planned to drop him from the ticket in 1804, Burr returned to NY to run for governor but ran into opposition from Schuyler and Hamilton, which led to their famous duel.  After Burr killed Hamilton in 1804 he was finished in politics.

Elizabeth Schuyler:  One of the three Schuyler sisters, she ultimately marries Hamilton.  Despite his affair with Maria Reynolds, Eliza remains devoted to him and they have two children after he admits to it.  The second and final child was named Philip, after their oldest child who died in an 1801 duel with George Eacker, a lawyer who was twenty-seven at the time.  He himself died only three years later, possibly of consumption.

Angelica Schuyler:  Although she too was fond of Hamilton, there is no convincing evidence that they were in love and that she forsook Hamilton only because her sister had fallen for him.

Peggy Schuyler:  The third Schuyler sister – she does not play a major role here.

Philip Schuyler:  The father of the Schuyler sisters and namesake for Hamilton’s two sons.  His defeat by Burr in 1791 contributed to the rivalry with Hamilton.

George Washington:  Commander of the Continental Army and the first president of the United States.  He was a strong supporter of Hamilton, whom he hired as his chief of staff during the war.

Thomas Jefferson:  The author of the Declaration of Independence (1776), he served as secretary of state during the Washington administration and vice-president during the Adams administration.  He was elected president in 1800 after the Federalists supported him against Burr, who had run with him.  Jefferson opposed Hamilton’s financial plan, which he believed favored the financial interests of New York against the agricultural interests of Virginia.  He also advocated for states’ rights, not a strong central government

James Madison: Like Jefferson he was a founder of the Democratic-Republican Party and a strong opponent of Hamilton’s plan and ideas.  He was the fourth president of the U.S.

John Laurens:  A close friend of Hamilton’s, Laurens fought a duel with General Charles Lee in 1778 (after Lee had criticized Washington’s leadership) and the following year received permission from the Continental Congress to recruit slaves as US soldiers in return for their freedom.  He was killed in action in 1782.

Hercules Mulligan:  An Irish-born tailor and spy during the  American Revolution, he was a staunch opponent of British rule and convinced Hamilton to alter his views.  With his slave Cato, Mulligan provided important intelligence information during the war.

King George III:  He was the British monarch from 1738-1820 – the longest rein for a British king to that time.  Besides the American Revolution, he fought a series of wars with France from 1763 to 1815, when Napoleon was finally defeated and sent into exile.  Throughout his life King George suffered from mental illness and periodic insanity.

Marquis de Lafayette:  He was a French aristocrat and military officer who fought in the American Revolution.  He helped persuade France to support the colonies and played a key role in the decisive defeat of the British at Yorktown in 1791. A close friend of Washington, Jefferson, and Hamilton, Lafayette later was an important figure in the French Revolution, although the radicals eventually turned against him and he was imprisoned for five years.

Maria and James Reynolds:  In the summer of 1791, Maria met Hamilton in Philadelphia and pleaded with him for help because her husband had abandoned her.  Hamilton arranged to give her money and then began an affair with her, which she may have initiated (Eliza was in Albany that summer and fall).  James then began to blackmail Hamilton, who eventually refused to pay.  James then went to the Democrat-Republicans with the information, forcing Hamilton to write a pamphlet about the affair and deny that he had misappropriated public funds.

Disc One

1.       Alexander Hamilton [Hamilton, Burr, Cast]:  In this song, we are introduced to Hamilton, a bastard and orphan who comes to New York because there “you can be a new man.”

2.       Aaron Burr, Sir [Burr, Hamilton, Lafayette, Laurens]: This song takes place in 1776 – “the revolution is imminent” but fighting with Britain has not yet begun.  Burr was a child prodigy who graduated early from Princeton; Hamilton attended Kings College (today Columbia University).

3.      My Shot [Hamilton, Mulligan, Laurens, Lafayette, Cast]:  Hamilton’s tragic demise is foretold here – of course the life expectancy in the West Indies was also quite short due to disease.  We also get a sense of Hamilton’s political and economic beliefs as he asserts that a “nation of states” must focus more on the “state of the nation.”

4.      The Story of Tonight [Laurens, Lafayette, Mulligan, Hamilton]: In this song, which is set in 1776, Hamilton meets his good friends, although in fact they would not cross paths until years later.  .

5.      The Schuyler Sisters [Angelica, Eliza, and Peggy]: Here we meet the Schuyler Sisters, especially Eliza who declares that she wants a “mind at work,” cites Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense,” and wishes that the Declaration of Independence included a reference to rights for women.  It is not clear how “progressive” Eliza’s beliefs actually were.

6.      Farmer Refuted – Samuel Seabury was the first American Episcopal bishop and a confirmed loyalist who opposed the patriots during the Revolution.  Seabury wrote under the pen name of “A Farmer.”

7.      You'll Be Back [King George III]:  Here the King predicts, wrongly, that after “oceans rise and empires fall” the colonies will return to the bosom of England.

8.      Right Hand Man [Washington, Hamilton, Cast,  Burr, Mulligan, Lafayette, Laurens]: After the British under Admiral Howe landed 32,000 troops in New York, Washington had to stage a disastrous retreat.  In the wake of this defeat, he hires Hamilton as his chief aide even as Burr makes another appearance and offers more suggestions.

9.      A Winter's Ball [Burr, Hamilton]: Despite the war, Hamilton finds time to meet the ladies at a ball in 1780 and demonstrate his “skill with a quill” – a double entendre if ever there was one. Hamilton also announces his intention to marry one of the sisters.

10.  Helpless [Hamilton, Burr, Laurens, Eliza, Angelica]:  In this song, Angelica introduces Hamilton to Eliza. 

11.  Satisfied [Angelica, Eliza, Hamilton]  Here Angelica offers a toast to the groom, whom she has introduced to her sister.  The song implies that Hamilton and Angelica had a prior relationship, which Miranda acknowledges that he fabricated in order to add dramatic / romantic tension to the play.

12.  The Story of Tonight [Mulligan, Laurens, Lafayette, Hamilton]: This song foreshadows what is to come – Laurens sings that “I may not live to see our glory!”  All toast Hamilton the  “tomcat,” although they note that he has lost his personal freedom even as they continue to fight for their political freedom.  Burr offers Hamilton his congratulations – but he receives the field command Hamilton truly covets.

13.  Wait for It [Burr] :  Here Burr sings to his beloved daughter Theodosia, who has married a loyalist.  He adds that he is willing to wait for his moment – and then seize it.

14.  Stay Alive [Hamilton, Washington, Laurens, Lafayette, Mulligan]: During the dark days of the American Revolution, a despondent Washington must find a way to keep his army in the field.   General Charles Lee loses the Battle of Monmouth and then criticizes Washington.  Hamilton wants to challenge Lee to a duel but has given his word that he will not, so Laurens takes his place.

15.  Ten Duel Commandments [Burr, Hamilton, Lee, Laurens] Lee and Laurens duel here, with Burr and Hamilton as seconds.  It serves as a precursor for what is to come.

16.  Meet Me Inside [Hamilton, Burr, Laurens, Washington]   Laurens has shot Lee in the side.  But when Washington arrives he is angry with Hamilton, whom he sends home to see his wife and child.

17.  That Would Be Enough [Hamilton, Eliza]: Just stay alive – that is what Eliza tells Hamilton, after she has introduced him to their son Philip.

18.  Guns and Ships [Lafayette, Washington] Lafayette returns with “guns and ships” and so “the balance shifts.”  Washington now tells Hamilton that “the world will never be the same.”

19.  History Has Its Eyes [Washington, Laurens, Mulligan]: Washington tells Hamilton of his first command, when he led his troops into an ambush during the French and Indian War.  “You have no control” – especially over “who lives, who dies, who tells your story.”  This song outlines the father-song, mentor-student relationship between the two men.

20.  Yorktown [Hamilton, Lafayette]:  It is 1781 and the “The World [Is] Turned Upside Down” when the Americans defeat the British with the aid of the French.  The American Revolution is over and Lafayette says he will return to France to fight for freedom. After commanding troops in the field, Hamilton promises that he will help France and end slavery in the South (historians debate whether Hamilton was truly anti-slavery).

21.  What Next? [George III]:  “Don’t come crawling back to me,” warns King George after his army has surrendered at Yorktown.

22.  Dear Theodosia [Burr, Hamilton]:  The two men sing of their hopes and dreams for their children, Theodosia and Philip.  Someday, you’ll blow us all away.

23.  Tomorrow There'll Be More Of Us [Laurens, Eliza, Hamilton]:  Hamilton learns of his friend Laurens’ death.  Will his dream of an all-black regiment die with him?  “I have so much work to do,” vows Hamilton.

24.  Non Stop [Burr, Hamilton, Cast]:  Hamilton and Burr work feverishly to become successful New York lawyers.  Burr expresses his doubts about the proposed Constitution; Hamilton asks Burr for help with the Federalist Papers.  He declines and Hamilton ends up writing the majority (51) of the essays in favor of the new Constitution.  Finally, Hamilton accepts Washington’s offer of a Cabinet position.  He becomes Secretary of the Treasury while Jefferson becomes Secretary of State.

Disc Two

1.      What’d I Miss? [Burr, Thomas Jefferson, Madison, Washington, Hamilton]: It is 1789, the French Revolution is underway, and Jefferson has returned home after vowing his support to Lafayette.  He receives a letter and says, “Sally, be a lamb, darling, and open it.”  The reference is to Sally Hemmings, the slave with whom he illicitly fathered several children.

2.      Cabinet Battle #1 [Washington, Hamilton, Burr, Jefferson, Madison]:  Hamilton and Jefferson clash over Hamilton’s financial plan to have the federal government assume the states’ debts.  Jefferson warns that Hamilton should remember what happened when Britain taxed tea (the Boston Tea Party).  What will happen when whiskey is taxed?  The answer is  the Whiskey Rebellion, which Washington has to put down with force.  Later Washington tells Hamilton that he will have to find a way to compromise.

3.      Take a Break [Hamilton, Eliza, Philip, Angelica]: Eliza begs Hamilton to join her in upstate New York with their son Philip, who is nine.  Angelica also seeks to persuade him, but he says he must remain in Philadelphia to push his plan through Congress

4.      Say No to This [Maria Reynolds, Hamilton]:  Maria pleads for help from Hamilton, then seduces and blackmails him.  In the end, Hamilton pays off Maria’s husband James to keep the affair quiet just as Burr enters.

5.      The Room Where It Happens [Burr, Hamilton, Madison, Jefferson]:  Hamilton and Burr discuss the price of fame and the value of proximity to power.  Hamilton the immigrant manages to reach a compromise with a pair of powerful Virginians – the South will accept his financial plan in return for the new capital (Washington) being in Maryland, not New York.

6.      Schuyler Defeated [Philip, Eliza, Hamilton, Burr, Washington, Madison]: Burr has seized his opportunity and joined the new party, the Democrat-Republicans.  He has also won the US Senate seat previously occupied by Philip Schuyler, Hamilton’s father-in-law.  Burr notes that Wall Street loves Hamilton, but not so “upstate,” which is mostly agricultural.

7.      Cabinet Battle #2 [Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson]:  In the second rap duel, Jefferson and Hamilton debate whether the US should aid France after the Revolution.  Jefferson is pro-France and reminds Hamilton of his promise to Lafayette, but he notes that there is no French king at the moment.

8.      Washington on Your Side [Burr, Jefferson, Madison]:  Burr and Jefferson criticize Hamilton for expanding the federal government and enriching Wall Street even as it impoverishes farmers.  Jefferson resigns from the government as factions grow and parties form.

9.      One Last Time [Hamilton, Washington]: For the last time Washington gives Hamilton advice.  Then he tells him to draft his famous Farewell Address, which warns against “entangling alliances” of any kind.  Now Washington can go home, even as history has its eyes upon him.

10.  I Know Him [George III]:  From across the Atlantic a bemused George III wonders who’s next.  John Adams?  “Next to Washington [who at six foot two inches tall was a giant at the time] they all look small,” sings the King.

11.  The Adams Administration [Burr, Jefferson, Hamilton]:  Hamilton creates the Coast Guard but Adams fires him, calling him a “creole bastard.” Vice-President Jefferson supports the move because it divides the Federalist Party.

12.  We Know [Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison, Burr]:  Reynolds reveals the blackmail plot to Jefferson, Burr, and Madison.  Ashamed, Hamilton proves that he never used public funds for private purposes.  Jefferson and Madison indicate that they will not use the information against Hamilton, but Burr is non-committal.

13.  Hurricane [Hamilton, Angelica, Eliza, Maria, Washington, Burr]:  Hamilton now plans to write his way out of his predicament, just as he wrote his way out of the West Indies as a young man after a devastating hurricane.

14.  The Reynolds Pamphlet [Hamilton, Jefferson, Maddison, Angelica, Burr]: Hamilton emphasizes that it was a crime of passion, not corruption, but Angelica declares that she will side with Eliza while Jefferson, Madison, and Burr crow that now his career is over.

15.  Burn [Eliza] “The world has no right to my heart,” sings Eliza.  “The world has no place in our bed.”  She now burns her private letters to Hamilton, whom Angelica describes as an “Icarus” who flew too close to the sun.  Hamilton and his wife are now estranged, although not permanently (they will have two more children).

16.  Blow Us All Away [Philip, George Eacker, Hamilton, Eliza]:  Son Philip fights a duel with George Eacker, who criticized Hamilton publicly.  Father tells son to fire in the air as a man of honor.  Philip does as he is told but gets shot in the leg.

17.  Stay Alive [Eliza, Hamilton, Philip]: The doctor arrives to tell Hamilton that his son’s wound has become infected.  He will soon die; both Hamilton and Eliza are devastated.

18.  It’s Quiet Uptown [Eliza, Hamilton] Hamilton and Eliza are reunited in grief (this is a bit of theatrical license) as they move uptown and try to forget their pain (“do the unimaginable”).

19.  The Election of 1800 [Jefferson, Madison, Burr, Hamilton]: In the election, Jefferson and Burr win but are tied in the electoral college.  Ultimately, Hamilton throws his support (and that of his fellow Federalists) to Jefferson because “when all is said and all is done, Jefferson has beliefs.  Burr has none.”  Burr becomes vice-president but is embittered because he wanted to be “in the room where it happens” (as the next song makes explicit).

20.  Your Obedient Servant [Burr, Hamilton]: Burr challenges Hamilton to a duel.  He accepts.

21.  Best of Wives and Best of Women [Hamilton, Eliza, Burr]: Hamilton leaves his bed with Eliza and departs for New Jersey early in the morning.  The title of the song comes from a phrase in a letter that Hamilton left with Eliza in case of his death.

22.  The World Was Wide Enough [Burr, Hamilton]: The song describes their famous duel, which remains shrouded in mystery and controversy.  Had Hamilton intended to shoot Burr?  If not, why was he wearing his glasses?  Did Hamilton deliberately fire into the air and miss as he had advised Laurens and his son Philip to do?  “History obliterates in every picture it paints,” Burr sings as he rues how posterity will view him (and, indeed, his career is effectively destroyed by the duel).  “The world was wide enough for both Hamilton and me,” he concludes ruefully.

23.  Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story [Washington, Burr, Angelica, Eliza, Hamilton, Cast]:  They sing Hamilton’s praises.  “Every other Founding Father story gets told,” declares Angelica.  “Every other Founding Father gets to grow old.”  Who will tell Hamilton’s story and remember his name?  Eliza survives Hamilton by fifty years and goes on to burnish his reputation; she also opposes slavery and establishes the first private orphanage in New York City.

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