Y’all, I have been in full Hamilton obsession since July 3. Since then, I’ve watched it numerous times, listened to the soundtrack nonstop, and
tortured informed everyone I know with facts and tidbits I’ve learned about the process of making it, the history surrounding it, and all the key words and phrases that pack hidden meanings.
One of the many things I love about Hamilton is the historical context which inspires viewers to learn more about that time period. I’ve looked up scads of historical queries in the last two months, all because of Hamilton sparking an interest. I love when something inspires me to learn more about it, or to view it from a different perspective. Here’s a sampling of my research, since if I have that question, others might too.
Did Martha Washington really have a feral tom cat named after Hamilton?
Historians disagree on this one, unfortunately. The general consensus is that they had many barn cats, and its plausible that one was named after Alexander Hamilton. However, it’s only rumored and there’s no concrete record of it.
Should I read the book that inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda to write Hamilton?
I’m not huge on biographies, but I am a total bibliophile. So when Hamilton’s credits cited the Ron Chernow book that stared across the aisle at me during my tenure working at Barnes and Noble, I had to look it up. If it inspired Hamilton, it might just be worth the read.
Then again, it’s 880 pages. So maybe I’ll just watch Hamilton again, instead.
What happened to the rest of the fighting four?
Hercules Mulligan was indeed a tailor and a spy, and resumed his tailoring business after the revolution. He, along with Hamilton, was a founding member of an abolitionist group called the New York Manumission Society. He died in 1825 at age 84.
Raphael de Lafayette, America’s favorite fighting Frenchman, was commissioned as an officer in the French military at age 13. He was instrumental in the French Revolution of 1789 and the July Revolution of 1830.
John Laurens was ceaselessly working to get slaves to join the continental army in exchange for freedom. He attempted this through many different routes, but never successfully achieved it before dying in one of the final battles of the Revolutionary war at age 27.
What happened to Theodosia?
Theodosia, though married to a British officer, was an American patriot and used her home as a resting place for revolutionaries, including George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and Aaron Burr. Her romantic relationship with Burr began during her marriage, and after her husband’s death, she married Burr. She died at age 47 after battling illness for most of her life.
Their daughter, also called Theodosia, also died young. She was 29 when her ship was lost at sea. There are many myths and conspiracy theories concerning her death and disappearance, if you’re looking for an internet rabbit hole to fall down. Their whole family history is tragic; her own son died at age 10 from malaria.
Did Jefferson enslave people?
Yes, and that is a dark story indeed. 12 of our president’s have been enslavers. Jefferson also had children with one of his slaves, with whom he began a romantic relationship when she was only 14. My opinion on Jefferson has changed drastically since learning more about him.
Did Jefferson change the Vice President selection process?
It’s a laugh out loud moment when Burr states that he’s looking forward to working with Jefferson, after actively campaigning against him. Madison says, yes, it’s crazy that the guy comes in second gets to be Vice President. Jefferson responds,”you know what? We can change that. You know why? Because I’m the President.”
The election of 1800 did, in fact, lead to the twelfth amendment, which clarifies how the president and vice president are elected.
Is it celebrating enslavers?
When I first heard of the backlash to the show, it gave me pause. Was I enjoying something that was hurting others? But the more I thought about it, the more I disagreed. Here’s why:
- If we aren’t concerned with the Washington Monument or the Jefferson Memorial, but we are with Hamilton, then perhaps the issue isn’t with celebrating enslavers. If you’re okay with Columbus Day but not okay with Hamilton, perhaps it isn’t the enslaver status that bothers you.
- Our founding fathers have been idolized extensively, and it is easy to forget that they were just people trying to make a difference. They still had a lot to learn, too. We cannot change who they were, we can only learn from their mistakes. Should we celebrate people who enslaved other people? Of course not. But those same people are a large part of the reason we’re a free country today. All humans are mix of good and bad. Slavery was an atrocious, horrible, unredeemable act that scores of people enforced. It is a scar on our country’s history, but we cannot ignore it. We have to learn how to heal from it. We have to stop seeing the men who founded this country as godly idols and instead see them as flawed humans who did some great things while also participating in some truly awful things.
- If we don’t want to celebrate the racist monsters who perpetuated a culture that enslaved people, what better F-you can we give them to have people of color playing them onstage? What a marvelous thing, to have a diverse cast tell the story of the very men who tried to hold them down? To blend a multitude of cultures and musical styles into one show that demonstrates the beauty of a diverse culture while telling their story, our way- that is the best revenge.
I never would have thought 2020 would lead to me learning so much about the Revolutionary era, but that’s what Hamilton has done to me. It’s inspired me to further research many historical figures, and to look at their records more closely.
Bonus- it also inspired me to make fan art for the first time! My dear friend and I have been obsessing over Hamilton together, so obviously her birthday called for a one of a kind gift expressing my love for her and our love for all things Hamilton.
Hamilton is available to watch on Disney+, and the soundtrack is on Spotify (which I know because I’ve been listening to it nonstop since July 3!).