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Hamilton – An American Musical made its Broadway debut in the summer of

2015. Even before it left the off-Broadway Public Theater the show was a huge
success. The original cast recording (and a subsequent mixtape – some new songs
with remixes and covers of the originals) were also hot items. As a history buff with a
special affection for the Revolutionary period, I was all about this show. The music
and lyrics made it even better. With shows in New York, Chicago, London, and a
U.S. tour selling out consistently, I think it’s safe to say that you don’t have to be a
history nerd or Revolutionary War expert to like the show.

I completely understand that Lin-Manuel Miranda was creating this art based on
history when writing the musical, and I have no issue with the creative dramatic
license he used in the interest of telling a good story. Being the nerd I am, however, I
wanted to delve deeper into the fact and fiction of the musical telling of Hamilton’s
life. (I also have considered using this idea as an assignment for students in the
classroom.)

Using Ron Chernow’s biography (Miranda’s inspiration for the musical) and primary
source documents, I’ve set out to pull the facts from the musical interpretation. This
is the first in a series of what I hope will be an interesting, educational, and historical
companion to an amazing musical.

————-

The first song in the musical is Alexander Hamilton, and I felt that the first four lines
beg for an explanation.

How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a


Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a
Forgotten spot in the Caribbean by providence
Impoverished, in squalor….

Interestingly enough, I found that Hamilton himself penned a letter to his old friend
William Jackson in the summer of 1800 on the subject of his birth.[1] His mother’s
family was French, and came to the island of Nevis in the Caribbean, possibly to
escape religious persecution. Hamilton’s mother, Rachel, married a well-off
merchant named John Michael Lavien. Though Hamilton says only that the
marriage was unhappy and ended in divorce, Chernow wrote that the relationship
was abusive and Rachel left St. Croix for St. Kitts, abandoning her husband and their
only son.[2]

Hamilton wrote that following the divorce, Rachel met James Hamilton, his
father. Among the youngest of many children “of a respectable Scotch Family”
according to Hamilton, James came to the Caribbean in search of making a fortune
as a merchant. (He was not successful.)
Trouble arose when John Lavien wished to remarry. In 1759, he filed for divorce from
Rachel, writing in the official summons that she had “given up to whoring with
everyone.” Making things worse for Alexander, Lavien demanded that Rachel be
denied any legal rights to his property so that her “whore-children” could not take it
from his child. Lavien was granted the divorce and allowed to remarry, but Rachel
was prohibited from remarrying.[3] Because she could not legally remarry,
Alexander (and his brother) would remain illegitimate in the eyes of the law – a
bastard son of a whore. (Later in the song is the explanation of why he’s an orphan –
the song does not keep the events in chronological order.)

Some lines later, John Laurens sings that our “ten-dollar founding father without a
father” was placed “in charge of a trading charter” when he was 14. After Hamilton
shows up on stage a few seconds later, Eliza sings, “When he was ten his father
split….” There is a question as to whether Hamilton was born in 1755 or
1757. (Current scholarship leans towards 1757, however.) Miranda, consciously or
not, remained true to both in these cases. James Hamilton took his family back to St.
Croix for business purposes in 1765, but shortly thereafter, he abandoned them there
and never returned[4] – Hamilton was ten when his father split, if we use the birth
date of 1755. Hamilton, a clerk at Kortright and Cruger, was placed in charge of the
trading charter in 1771, when Cruger went to New York for five months for medical
reasons[5] – he was fourteen then, using the birth date of 1757.

While at Kortright and Cruger, Hamilton probably did see enslaved humans “being
slaughtered and carted away across the waves,” as Jefferson sings. According to
Chernow, they handled shipments of enslaved Africans at least once a year, and did
so at least once during Hamilton’s time in charge.[6]

After some more biographical lyrics, Madison appears on stage to sing about the
hurricane that shaped Hamilton’s early life. This hurricane struck at the end of
August 1772, when Hamilton was 15 (or 17) years old. After surviving the storm, in
which “it seemed as if a total dissolution of nature was taking place,” he penned a
letter to his father explaining the “horror and destruction” brought upon the island.
(Though James had abandoned his family, Alexander attempted to keep contact
with his father sporadically throughout his life.) This letter found its way to the
offices of The Royal Danish American Gazette, where it was published on October
3rd.[7] When “the word got around,” a group of businessmen on the island, along
with his guardian and a cousin, sent him (i.e. paid his way) to North America so he
could get a proper education.[8]

After those lines of the song, we have to go back in time. Eliza sings of Hamilton’s
father leaving the family and of Alex and his mother bed-ridden and half-dead. Then
the entire company sings, “Alex got better but his mother went
quick.” Indeed, Rachel died in February 1768, (before the hurricane) effectively
leaving Alexander and his brothers as penniless orphans.
Washington appears on stage next and sings about how Hamilton “moved in with a
cousin, the cousin committed suicide, left him with nothin’….” After Rachel’s
death, Alexander and his brother did move in with their 32-year-old widower cousin,
Peter Lytton. Lytton had many problems of his own, and in July 1769, he “stabbed or
shot himself to death,” according to court records. Lytton had a child with his
mistress, and in his will he provided for his mistress and child, but not for the
Hamilton brothers, leaving them with nothin’.[9]

As the song builds towards Hamilton sailing for the mainland, Burr sings that
Alexander “started workin’, clerkin’ for his late mother’s landlord.” Miranda is not
incorrect, but he does go out of chronological order again. Hamilton actually started
working at Beekman and Cruger – his late mother’s landlord – before his cousin’s
death. Beekman and Cruger had supplied his mother with provisions for her shop
before her untimely death.[10]

The company ends the song singing about Hamilton arriving in New York – “the ship
is in the harbor now, see if you can spot him,” Burr raps. But Hamilton actually
sailed into Boston. He did go directly to New York after disembarking, but he did not
stay there long; he wound up at Elizabethtown Academy in New Jersey.[11]

In the next part, we’ll meet Aaron Burr in the second song of the musical, “Aaron
Burr, Sir.”

Read Part 2

[1] I will link to any of the sources that are available, but will not cite them
otherwise.
[2] Chernow, Ron. Alexander Hamilton. New York: The Penguin Press,
2004. Pages 11-12.
[3] Ibid., 20.
[4] Ibid., 21.
[5] Ibid., 31.
[6] Ibid., 32.
[7] Hugh Knox, a Presbyterian minister and local newspaper editor at St. Croix,
passed the letter on to the larger paper where Hamilton’s words were more
widely read.
[8] Chernow, 38. Thomas Stevens was his guardian at this point, and his cousin
was Ann Lytton Venton. Chernow says these were “probably” his “chief donors.”
[9] Ibid., 26.
[10] Ibid., 27.
[11] Ibid., 41-42.

The second song of the Hamilton musical is “Aaron Burr, Sir. ” This song introduces
us to Hamilton’s friends, as Hamilton meets them.

It must be said at the outset that the timing of events in this song, and the locations,
are not historically accurate. This puts much of the true historical facts out of
context. The song begins, “1776. New York City.” However, many of the
subsequent events do not happen during that year, or in New York City.

An early example is when Hamilton raps to Burr, “I heard your name at Princeton. I
was seeking an accelerated course of study….” Hamilton did seek an accelerated
course of study at Princeton. However, Hamilton entered King’s College (now
Columbia University) in New York City in 1773 or 1774. By 1776, when this song is
supposed to take place, Hamilton was already in the army, and King’s College was
being used as a military hospital.[1] Taking a step back to Princeton, Hamilton
approached John Witherspoon, the President of Princeton (then known as the
College of New Jersey), to request that he complete his course of study “with as
much rapidity as his exertions could enable him to do.” Though Witherspoon was
impressed with Hamilton, the request was rejected.[2]

Hamilton then tells Burr, “I got sort of out of sorts with a buddy of yours. I may
have punched him,” but he doesn’t recall who the man was. Burr responds, “You
punched the bursar.” Nothing of the sort happened, but ‘bursar’ rhymes nicely with
Burr, sir, and the action fits the storyline of Hamilton as a hothead.

Next Hamilton tells Burr, “I wanted to do what you did. Graduate in two, then join
the revolution.” Burr actually tried to enter Princeton at age eleven, but he was
denied because he was too young. Undeterred, he studied for two years and then
applied to the junior class at Princeton at age thirteen. As a compromise, he was
admitted as a sophomore. He graduated at age sixteen in 1772,[3] so he did not
“graduate in two.” Despite the timeline being messed with, Burr did join the
Revolution before 1776. He was with Benedict Arnold’s campaign to Quebec in 1775
and was one of the few Americans not wounded in the ensuing battle for the
town. (The Americans lost.)

Leaving thoughts of the Revolution behind, Hamilton inquires of Burr, “How’d you
graduate so fast?” Burr responds, “It was my parents’ dying wish before they
passed.” This is most likely not true. Aaron Burr, Sr. died on September 24, 1757,
and Burr’s mother, Esther Edwards, died on April 7, 1758. Unlike Hamilton, though,
Burr had come from a distinguished background. His father was a reverend, as well
as the President of Princeton. His mother was the daughter of Jonathan Edwards, a
famed preacher (and briefly President of Princeton after the death of Burr,
Sr.)[4] Despite being an orphan, Burr was well-taken care of by his extended
family. His parents probably wouldn’t have made it their dying wish that Burr quickly
graduate – he was a year old when his father died, and two when his mother
passed. Although we can say that they probably would have done all in their power
to see that Burr would have graduated from college, had they lived.

Soon after Burr’s line above, Miranda has Hamilton exclaiming, “God, I wish there
was a war! Then we could prove that we’re worth more Than anyone bargained
for.” Hamilton did write, “I wish there was a war,” but this was his closing line in a
letter to his friend Edward Stevens in 1769, when Stevens was attending King’s
College and Hamilton was still on the island of St. Croix, an orphan unaware that
he’d ever travel to the mainland. Also, (and anyway,) because Miranda takes things
out of context, Hamilton doesn’t even have to wish for a war in 1776, because the war
had already begun.

The cool-headed Burr then asks Hamilton if he can buy him drink, and he offers
Hamilton some advice – “Talk less…smile more.” While they are drinking, we meet
Hamilton’s core group of friends in the musical – John Laurens, the Marquis de
Lafayette, and Hercules Mulligan. Miranda again changes the timeline of events
here. Hamilton didn’t meet the first two men until 1777. The earliest he meets
Laurens is the spring of 1777.[5] Laurens received a letter from General George
Washington dated August 5, 1777 asking him to “do me the honour to become a
member of my Family.” The General Orders of September 6th made the
appointment of Laurens as an “Extra-Aid-du Camp to the Commander in Chief”
official. It was probably during this time that Hamilton and Laurens first met.[6]

Lafayette didn’t even arrive in North America until June 13, 1777 when he landed in
South Carolina. He marched north, arriving in Philadelphia (to meet with the
Congress there) on July 27th. Initially rebuffed by Congress, Lafayette requested to
first serve in the army at his own expense as a volunteer.[7] He was appointed a
major general by Congressional resolution on July 31, 1777. Hamilton probably met
him around this time.

As for Mulligan, Hamilton already knew him before 1776. In fact, Mulligan was
Hamilton’s first friend when he arrived in New York. It’s also possible that Hamilton
may have boarded with Mulligan for a short time as well.[8] So there is also a
historical inaccuracy at the end of the song when the three men ask, “Who are
you?…Who is this kid? What’s he gonna do?” Hamilton still hadn’t met Laurens
and Lafayette, and Mulligan had known him since he arrived in New York.
“Aaron Burr, Sir” transitions directly into the third song of the musical – “My
Shot.” This song fleshes out Hamilton and his friends, and establishes that all,
except Burr, are ready to fight in the war. There are a number of instances where
Miranda ignores the historical timeline again. Examples include Hamilton’s rap, “I’m
‘a get a scholarship to King’s College,” since by this time he was already out of the
school, which was temporarily closed; and Mulligan’s rap, “Yo, I’m a tailor’s
apprentice,” as he already had a tailor shop in New York City since at least 1768.[9]

There are at least two historically connected lines of this song. Hamilton raps,
“Britain keeps shittin’ on us endlessly. Essentially, they tax us relentlessly.”
Although historians may discuss the causes of the war (for example, was it really
fought just due to taxation without representation?), the British did begin taxing the
colonies after the end of the French and Indian war in 1763, which some in the
colonies viewed as overbearing and despotic. Beginning with the Currency Act in
1764 and the Sugar Act of the same year, the British continued levying new taxes on
the colonies until a breaking point was reached. So while the colonists successfully
fought against the Stamp Act of 1765 and the Townshend Acts of 1767 (Parliament
repealed both), their protests of the 1773 Tea Act, culminating in the Boston Tea
Party, led to a crackdown by the British, which eventually led to the war.[10]

The second historically connected line is actually a blurred line. Later in “My Shot,”
Hamilton raps, “Laurens, I like you a lot.” There has been discussion as to whether
or not Laurens and Hamilton were more than just friends. A letter sent by Hamilton
to Laurens, probably in the spring of 1779, does little to dispel those
rumors. Hamilton begins the letter very affectionately:

I wish, my Dear Laurens, it m⟨ight⟩ be in my power, by action rather


than words, ⟨to⟩ convince you that I love you. I shall only tell you that ’till
you bade us Adieu, I hardly knew the value you had taught my heart to set
upon you. Indeed, my friend, it was not well done….You sh⟨ould⟩ not have
taken advantage of my sensibility to ste⟨al⟩ into my affections without my
consent. But as you have done it and as we are generally indulgent to
those we love, I shall not scruple to pardon the fraud you have committed,
on condition that for my sake, if not for your own, you will always
continue to merit the partiality, which you have so artfully instilled into
⟨me⟩.

Of course, the times were different then, so who really knows what that means?
The drinking scene among friends ends in the 4th song of the musical – “The Story of
Tonight,” which needs no historical discussion.

[1] Chernow, Ron. Alexander Hamilton. New York: The Penguin Press, 2004. Page
72.
[2] Ibid, 48, 47. The rejection is why Hamilton chose King’s College. A reason why
he may have been rejected, according to Chernow, is that Witherspoon and the
trustees “may have been deterred by the recent experience of a young Virginia
scholar who had entered as a sophomore in 1769 and worked himself into a state
of nervous exhaustion by completing his bachelor’s degree in two years instead of
three.” That scholar was future President of the United States, James Madison.
[3] Ibid, 48. According to an announcement of commencement found in
the Pennsylvania Journal, or, Weekly Advertiser of October 14, 1772 (page 1), Burr
delivered an oration on “castle-building.”
[4] Jonathan Edwards died six months after Burr, Sr. Edwards wrote the famous
sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”
[5] Chernow, 94.
[6] Hamilton served as an aide to Washington from March 1, 1777 until April of
1781.
[7] Unger, Harlow Giles. Lafayette. Hoboken: Wiley & Sons, 2002. Page 37.
[8] Chernow, 40.
[9] Mulligan was born in 1740, making him significantly older than the rest of this
group of friends. He had a tailor shop in New York since at least 1768 – an ad
appears in the New-York Journal of September 29, 1768 (page 4) for “Hercules
Mulligan, Taylor; in Chapel Street.”
[10] The Currency Act of 1764 forbade the colonies from issuing paper currency.
The Sugar Act of the same year actually halved the previous tax on molasses, but
the colonists hadn’t been paying that anyway. The Stamp Act of 1765 required
colonists to purchase a government-issued stamp for legal documents and other
paper goods. The Townshend Acts of 1767 were a series of laws passed to raise
revenue to pay the salaries of some colonial governors and judges. Items that
weren’t made in the colonies, such as lead, paint, glass, and tea, were taxed. The
Tea Act allowed the British East India Co. to operate tax-free, while the colonies
still paid a tax on tea.
The fifth song of the Hamilton musical is “The Schuyler Sisters.” This song
introduces us to Hamilton’s future wife and her two sisters.

Aaron Burr opens the song singing

“There’s nothing rich folks love more than going downtown and
slummin’ it with the poor. They pull up in their carriages and
gawk at the students in the common just to watch them talk.
Take Philip Schuyler: the man is loaded. Uh-oh, but little does
he know that his daughters, Peggy, Angelica, Eliza sneak into
the city just to watch all the guys….”

The College – Kings College – was one block from the Common, which was the site
of public speeches and debates. (See “A plan of the City of New York” from the
larger map “The provinces of New York and New Jersey…” from 1776.) Hamilton and
other students, as well as anyone else who wished to speak in public, could do so at
the Common.

Philip Schuyler was a prominent member of New York society. Born in Albany,
Schuyler inherited extensive lands in that area and along the Hudson River. He was
involved in the commercial development of New York City and State. He was also a
military man, serving as a major during the French and Indian War and a General
during the Revolution. Schuyler’s wealth and connections also allowed him to be
politically active; he was a delegate to the Continental Congress, and a State and
U.S. Senator. In his early forties at the outset of the Revolution, Schuyler’s oldest
child, Angelica, was twenty years old; Eliza was nineteen; and Peggy was
eighteen. Miranda does not mention any of the other Schuyler children, of which
there were at least eleven in all. Five children other than the aforementioned sisters
were born to Philip and his wife Catherine before the Revolutionary War started (2
died as babies), and would have been between the ages of 11 and 3 in 1776. The three
surviving children were males.

Later in the song, Peggy sings, “It’s bad enough daddy wants to go to war,” but her
father was already at war. He was appointed one of four major generals in the
Continental Army in 1775, and served as the commander of the Northern
Department. He planned the invasion of Canada in 1775, but did not take the field
due to ill health.[1]

Historical references in the song include Angelica singing, “I’ve been reading
Common Sense by Thomas Paine” and all three sisters singing together, “We hold
these truths to be self-evident That all men are created equal.”
Common Sense was originally published anonymously in January 1776. In this
pamphlet, Paine called for complete separation between the colonies and Great
Britain. His argument used both moral and political justifications. Common
Sense was one of the best-selling and most widely read pieces of the time period,
going through twenty-five editions in 1776 alone. Before the pamphlet, not many
people publicly spoke of independence, but that changed afterwards. Gordon
Wood, in his book The American Revolution: A History, stated that Common
Sense was “the most incendiary and popular pamphlet of the entire revolutionary
era.”[2] It can be easily imagined that the Schuyler sisters had, at the very least,
heard of the ideas espoused in the work, if they didn’t read it (or have it read to
them).

The second quote above comes directly from the Declaration of


Independence. Angelica follows up by singing that when she meets Thomas
Jefferson, the author of the Declaration, she was going to “compel him to include
women in the sequel.” Angelica did actually meet Jefferson, in Paris in
1788. They continued a correspondence for many years, including during the period
of time when Jefferson and Angelica’s brother-in-law, Alexander Hamilton, were
fierce political rivals. There was no sequel to the Declaration, however, for Angelica
to discuss with Jefferson.

The next part in this series will focus on the sixth and seventh songs of the musical –
“Farmer Refuted,” and “You’ll Be Back,” the latter in which King George III makes his
first appearance in the musical.

[1] Schuyler did not resign his commission until April 1779.
[2] Wood, Gordon. The American Revolution: A History. New York: Random
House, 2002.

The sixth and seventh songs of Hamilton – An American Musical are “Farmer
Refuted,” and “You’ll Be Back,” the latter in which King George III makes his first
appearance in the musical.

In “Farmer Refuted,” Alexander Hamilton publicly clashes with a loyalist who is


speaking out against the rebellion. The loyalist introduces himself in the first line of
the song – “Hear ye, hear ye! My name is Samuel Seabury.” Seabury was a real
person; he was an Episcopal rector.[1] Immediately after he introduces himself, he
explains his purpose for being there is to “present Free Thoughts on the
Proceedings of the Continental Congress.” Those first letters are capitalized
because while Seabury and Hamilton didn’t lyrically battle in a public square, they
did battle on paper. Seabury’s “Free Thoughts on the Proceedings of the
Continental Congress”[2] was actually a pamphlet published anonymously in 1774,
placing the musical events off the historical timeline.

In the song, Hamilton’s buddy Hercules Mulligan encourages Hamilton to “Tear this
dude apart.” Hamilton did respond with an anonymous writing of his own titled “A
Full Vindication of the Measures of the Congress.”[3] In the song, Hamilton and
Seabury sing their responses over each other in a counterpoint exchange. I don’t
know if Lin-Manuel Miranda purposefully did this, but in reality, Seabury was already
writing a second piece while Hamilton was writing “A Full Vindication.” Seabury had
to write a postscript in response to “A Full Vindication” before publication of his
pamphlet, titled “The Congress Convassed.”[4] Less than a week after Seabury’s
work was published, Hamilton responded in Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer with a
piece titled “A Card.”[5]

Following that “discussion,” Seabury attempts to recompose himself and continue


his speech, but Hamilton literally gets in his face to interrupt each line. Again, this
fits the historical reality. Seabury published “A View of the Controversy Between
Great-Britain and her Colonies.”[6] Not to be outdone, Hamilton replied again, this
time with “The Farmer Refuted.”[7] These two guys really liked to write.

Burr interrupts the discussion, “Alexander, please!” to which Hamilton replies,


“Burr, I’d rather be divisive than indecisive.” And he was divisive and
decisive. Hamilton continued writing throughout 1775 and into 1776. He wrote
“Remarks on the Quebec-Bill” which was published in two parts in Rivington’s New
York Gazetteer, the first on June 15, 1775 and the second on the 22nd. Then, between
November 9, 1775 and February 8, 1776, Hamilton published fourteen pieces titled
“The Monitor” in the New-York Journal.[8] Can someone figure out how much
money he spent on ink and parchment?

“Farmer Refuted” (the song) ends with the Company singing “A message from the
King!” and as King George III appears on stage, “You’ll Be Back” begins.

In this humorous song, in which the King cannot understand why the colonists are so
upset, he tells them, “You’ll be back.” And if not on their own, he sings, “I will send
a fully armed battalion to remind you of my love” and later “I will kill your friends
and family to remind you of my love.” In reality, King George went before both
houses of Parliament on October 27, 1775 to deliver a speech regarding the rebellion
and his wish to respond with the military might of the British army and navy in order
to bring the rebellious colonists back in line. He informed Parliament that when the
“unhappy and deluded multitude…become sensible of their error” he would be ready
to receive them “with tenderness and mercy.”

There is one last historical note regarding the King’s line “When you’re gone, I’ll go
mad.” Historians believe that King George suffered from a mental illness, possibly
mania. Others, however, think medicine he was taking played a role in his
madness. Either way, the madness of King George did not stop him from ruling
England for sixty years, eight of which he tried to make the colonists “become
sensible of their error.”

“Da da da dat da dat da da da da ya da da da dat dat da ya da!”

In the next part, we’ll look at the history behind the lyrics of the eighth song in the
musical, “Right Hand Man.”

[1] After the war, Seabury moved to Connecticut and became the first Anglican
bishop ordained on American soil, in 1785.
[2] The full title: Free thoughts on the proceedings of the Continental Congress, held
at Philadelphia, Sept. 5, 1774 : wherein their errors are exhibited, their reasonings
confuted, and the fatal tendency of their non-importation, non-exportation, and
non-consumption measures, are laid open to the plainest understandings; and the
only means pointed out for preserving and securing our present happy constitution :
in a letter to the farmers, and other inhabitants of North America in general, and to
those of the province of New-York in particular by A Farmer.
[3] Actually, the full title is A Full Vindication of the Measures of the Congress, from
the Calumnies of Their Enemies, in Answer to a Letter, Under the Signature of A.W.
Farmer: Whereby His Sophistry is Exposed, His Cavils Confuted, His Artifices
Detected, and His Wit Ridiculed ; in a General Address to the Inhabitants of America,
and a Particular Address to the Farmers of the Province of New York.
[4] The full title is The Congress Convassed or, An Examination into the Conduct of
the Delegates, at their Grand Convention, Held in Philadelphia.
[5] That’s it; that’s the full title. Really.
[6] That didn’t last for long. The full title is A View of the Controversy Between
Great-Britain and Her Colonies: Including a Mode of Determining Their Present
Disputes, Finally and Effectually; and of Preventing All Future Contentions. In a
Letter to the Author of A Full Vindication of the Measures of the Congress, from the
Columnies of Their Enemies. By A. W. Farmer, Author of Free Thoughts &c.
[7] Also not wanting to be outdone on the length of his title, it’s full title is The
Farmer Refuted: or A more impartial and comprehensive View of the Dispute
between Great-Britain and the Colonies, Intended as a Further Vindication of the
Congress: In Answer to a Letter From A. W. Farmer, Intitled A View of the
Controversy Between Great-Britain and her Colonies: Including a Mode of
determining the present Disputes Finally and Effectually, &c.
All of these writings, which were widely read, referenced or referred to two other
widely read pieces of the time, John Dickinson’s “Letters from a Farmer, in
Pennsylvania, to the Inhabitants of the British Colonies” and Matthew Robinson-
Morris’s “Considerations on the Measures Carrying on with Respect to the British
Colonies in North America.”
[8] Subscribers to geneologybank.com can view those pieces by signing in at this
link.

The eighth song of Hamilton – An American Musical is “Right Hand Man.” In this song
we meet George Washington, and the friction between Hamilton and Burr is
introduced.

The song begins, “British Admiral Howe’s got troops on the water. Thirty-two
thousand troops in New York Harbor.” British Admiral Richard Howe, brother of
the General William Howe (who was prosecuting the war on land), did indeed have
about 32,000 troops in New York Harbor. Those soldiers landed on Staten Island by
early August 1776.

Hamilton then reminisces, “As a kid in the Caribbean I wished for a war,” because
he knew it would be a way for him to rise up in society. As mentioned in part two of
this series, Hamilton did “wish there was a war” in a 1769 letter to his friend Edward
Stevens, when Hamilton was still an orphan child on the island of St. Croix.

After Burr and the company introduces George Washington, the general sings, “We
are outgunned, outmanned, outnumbered, outplanned,” and he wasn’t lying. On
August 26, 1776, before the Battle of Long Island (aka Brooklyn), the entirety of the
American army in and around New York City was just over 27,000 men, including
sick, and others who couldn’t be counted on to fight. The British had 31,625 men in
the area.[1] A couple of verses later, Washington sings, “Any hope of success is
fleeting; how can I keep leading when the people I’m leading keep
retreating? We put a stop to the bleeding as the British take Brooklyn.” The
Battle of Long Island was a disaster for the Americans, who had two generals
captured during the fighting. Following the battle, the American army retreated to
Manhattan, but they wouldn’t stay for long.
Hamilton sings next, “They’re battering down the Battery check the
damages.” Hamilton’s artillery company was posted at the Battery, at the southern
tip of Manhattan Island, for some time before the attack. The American army beat a
hasty retreat northward. With the British already commanding the western shore of
Manhattan, if they cut off the American retreat to the north and east, the Americans
would be trapped on the island.

Before recounting the fighting retreat, Hamilton exclaims, “Yo, let’s steal their
cannons.” The musical here goes off the timeline again. The cannon referred to by
Hamilton were removed, not stolen, on the night of August 23, 1775. Ron Chernow
wrote, “When the British warship Asia appeared in the harbor that summer…the
New York Provincial Congress worried that the two dozen cannon posted at Fort
George at the tip of the Battery might be seized by the British. Hamilton, joined by
fifteen other King’s College volunteers, signed up for a hazardous operation to drag
the heavy artillery to safety under the liberty pole on the Common.”[2]

Next in the song, Washington recounts the retreat and battles interspersed with the
company yelling “Boom!” First he sings, “We’re abandoning Kips Bay,” followed by
“There’s another ship and we just lost the southern tip and we gotta run to
Harlem quick.” All of this did happen. General William Heath recorded in his
memoirs (which he wrote in 1793) under the date of September 15, 1776: “About
noon, the British landed at Kipp’s Bay. They met with but small resistance, and
pushed towards the city of which they took possession in the afternoon.” At about
the same time, the British also landed at the Battery and took Fort George at the
southern tip of Manhattan. As for the ships, the British had ships in New York Bay,
and had been running them up and down the East and North (Hudson) Rivers for
weeks. On September 13th and 14th the British sent seven or eight ships up the rivers,
and cannonaded the American positions on shore. Washington described much of
this, and the American retreat to Harlem, in a letter to John Hancock, dated
September 16, 1776.
Following these debacles and with the American army dissolving before him,
Washington decided to split up his forces. In the musical he sings, “This close to
giving up, facing mad scrutiny, I scream in the face of this mass mutiny: Are
these the men with which I am to defend America?” The Americans had not
performed well after the Battle of Long Island. Some men retreated and others hit
the stores of rum and got drunk. Heath, in his memoirs, wrote that at Kip’s Bay, the
Americans “did not behave well; and here it was, as fame hath said, that Gen.
Washington threw his hat on the ground, and exclaimed, ‘Are these the men with
which I am to defend America?’”

Washington next sings, “We ride at midnight, Manhattan in the distance.” The
Americans fought the British again at Battle of White Plains, on October 28,
1776. Following that battle, the Americans controlled only Fort Washington and the
surrounding area (present-day Washington Heights). On November 12th,
Washington crossed into New Jersey. On the 16th Fort Washington fell to the British,
and the American army began to retreat across New Jersey.

The musical then breaks away from the battle scenes and enters Washington’s
offices, and as he sings, “I cannot be everywhere at once, people, I’m in dire need
of assistance,” Burr enters, and the General asks, “Who are you?” Washington had
a number of aides on his staff at all times. In fact, Burr briefly served on
Washington’s staff in June 1776 before being transferred to General Israel Putnam’s
force to serve as his aide. Therefore, Washington would have known who Burr was
at this time. Still, Burr responds, “I was a captain under General Montgomery until
he caught a bullet in the neck in Quebec.” Burr marched to Quebec with Benedict
Arnold’s expedition. On November 30, 1775 Arnold sent Burr as a messenger to
General Richard Montgomery (who had recently taken Montreal from the British)
with a letter of introduction. Montgomery liked Burr immediately, and made Burr a
captain and one of his aides.[3] The Battle of Quebec was fought a month later, on
December 30, 1775. Montgomery was joined by a force commanded by Arnold in the
attack. Arnold was wounded in the ensuing battle, which the Americans lost. Burr
escaped capture, as did Arnold. Montgomery was not so lucky; he was killed by
grapeshot.[4]

As Burr attempts to offer some strategic suggestions, Hamilton walks in, and
Washington asks if the two had met. They respond they had, and as Burr attempts
to continue his suggestions, Washington unceremoniously dismisses him in favor of
speaking with Hamilton. Washington acknowledges Hamilton’s reputation, “You’re
a young man of great renown, I know you stole British cannons when we were
still downtown,” but questions him, “How come no one can get you on their
staff?” Although Washington says, “Nathaniel Green and Henry Knox wanted to
hire you,” there is no evidence that Knox ever asked Hamilton to be on his
staff. Hamilton retorts, “To be their Secretary? I don’t think so,” and Washington
responds, “It’s alright, you want to fight, you’ve got a hunger, I was just like you
when I was younger.” Washington’s first taste of combat was in May 1754, as a
British soldier. He ordered the surprise attack of a small French party in a secluded
woods in Pennsylvania, unknowingly killing a French diplomat who was to deliver a
message to the British. This incident was one that led to the French and Indian War
being fought. Washington wrote of this battle, “I fortunately escaped without a
wound, tho’ the right Wing where I stood was exposed to & received all the Enemy’s
fire and was the part where the man was killed & the rest wounded. I can with truth
assure you, I heard Bulletts whistle and believe me there was something charming in
the sound.”[5]

Then Washington asks Hamilton to join his staff – “I need someone like you to
lighten the load. So?” A letter that was sent from Washington to Hamilton on
January 20, 1777 has never been found. It is assumed that in this letter Washington
asked Hamilton to join his staff. The appointment was officially announced in
the General Orders of March 1, 1777. Hamilton accepts – “I am not throwin’ away
my shot!” and sings, “You need all the help you can get. I have some friends.
Laurens, Mulligan, Marquis de Lafayette” and suggests, “We’ll need some spies
on the inside.” John Laurens did join Washington’s staff later in 1777. He received a
letter from Washington dated August 5, 1777 asking him to “do me the honour to
become a member of my Family.” The General Orders of September 6 made the
appointment as an “Extra-Aid-du Camp to the Commander in Chief”
official. Hamilton may have had something to do with the appointment of Laurens,
although Laurens father held a high spot in the new government as well, which
couldn’t have hurt his chances. Lafayette, as noted in part two of this series, arrived
in North American on June 13th and was appointed a Major General by Congress on
July 31st. Hercules Mulligan, who Hamilton had known since arriving in New York,
stayed in the City when the British occupied it and worked as a spy for the
Americans.

[1] Carrington, Henry B., Battles of the American Revolution


[2] Chernow, 67. A number of contemporary newspapers also described the
cannon stealing, including Constitutional Gazettearticle from August 26th, New-
York Gazette, and Weekly Mercury article from August 28th, and New-York
Journal article from August 31st
[4] Letter to George Washington from Major General Philip Schuyler, 13 January
1776 and letter to George Washington from Brigadier General Benedict Arnold, 14
January 1776
[5] For information on Washington’s war-causing blunder, see a letter from
George Washington to Robert Dinwiddie, 29 May 1754, and a letter from George
Washington to John Augustine Washington, 31 May 1754.

“A Winter’s Ball” opens with Aaron Burr sounding quite jealous of Hamilton, before
they start talking about the ladies. In the song, Burr sings, “Martha Washington
named her feral tomcat after him” (him referring to Hamilton), and Hamilton
quickly replies, “That’s true.” I’m sorry, but it is not true. Researchers Michael
Newton & Stephen Knott have traced the origins of the story to the book History of
the Flag of the United States of America: And of the Naval and Yacht-club Signals,
Seals, and Arms, and Principal National Songs of the United States, with a Chronicle of
the Symbols, Standards, Banners, and Flags of Ancient and Modern Nations by George
H. Preble, published in 1880. In this book, Preble quotes the Journal of Captain
Smythe, R.A., under the date of January 1780:
“Thirteen is a number peculiarly belonging to the rebels. A party of naval
prisoners lately returned from Jersey say that the rations among the
rebels are thirteen dried clams per day; that the titular Lord Stirling takes
thirteen glasses of grog every morning, has thirteen enormous rum
bunches on his nose, and that (when duly impregnated) he always makes
thirteen attempts before he can walk; that Mr. Washington has thirteen
toes to his feet (the extra ones having grown since the Declaration of
Independence), and the same number of teeth in each jaw; that the Sachem
Schuyler has a topknot of thirteen stiff hairs, which erect themselves on the
crown of his head when he grows mad; that old Putnam had thirteen
pounds of his posterior bit off in an encounter with a Connecticut bear
(’twas then he lost the balance of his mind); that it takes thirteen Congress
paper dollars to equal one penny sterling; that Polly Wayne was just
thirteen hours in subduing Stony Point, and as many seconds in leaving it;
that a well-organized rebel household has thirteen children, all of whom
expect to be generals and members of the high and mighty Congress of the
‘ thirteen united States ‘ when they attain thirteen years; that Mrs.
Washington has a mottled tomcat (which she calls in a complimentary
way Hamilton) with thirteen yellow rings around his tail, and that his
flaunting it suggested to the Congress the adoption of the same number of
stripes for the rebel flag.”[1]

The entire piece is satirical in nature, making Mrs. Washington’s possession of


tomcat named Hamilton unlikely. Newton also pointed out(using dictionaries as
references) that it wasn’t until the early 1900s that the word tomcat meant anything
other than a male cat.

The next lines of the song – “1780 / A winter’s ball /And the Schuyler sisters are the
envy of all” – isn’t exactly accurate. Elizabeth Schuyler did arrive in Morristown in
1780, on February 2nd according to Ron Chernow. Chernow notes, however, that
Alexander had already met Eliza on his brief visit to Albany in 1777. Back in
Morristown, Eliza’s aunt and her husband, Dr. John Cochran, stayed at the home of
Dr. Jabez Campfield.[2] Eliza stayed with them, about a quarter of a mile from Jacob
Ford’s home, where George Washington made his headquarters, and where
Hamilton was staying. Chernow wrote, “soon, Hamilton was a constant visitor at the
two-story Campfield residence, spending every evening there.”[3]
Burr then sings, “Yo, if you can marry a sister, you’re rich, son,” and Hamilton
replies, “Is it a question of if, Burr, or which one?” In reality, of the Schuyler sisters,
the men had only Eliza and Peggy to choose from. Angelica eloped with John
Church in 1777. Another sister, Cornelia, would have been 4 years old, and another
sister, Catherine, wasn’t born until 1781.[4] Lin-Manuel Miranda’s artistic license
gives the Alexander-Angelica story more life.

“A Winter’s Ball” goes right into the next song, “Helpless.” This is where Angelica
introduces herself to Alexander. Instead of keeping him for herself, she tells him,
“I’m about to change your life,” and brings him over to Eliza. After they meet Eliza
sings, “One week later I’m writin’ a letter nightly / Now my life gets better, every
letter that you write me.” Although Eliza destroyed her letters to Alexander (as we
find out in a later song), he wrote at least nineteen letters to her between March and
October of 1780.[5]

Angelica wants a piece of Alexander as well, and tells her sister, “I’m just sayin’, if
you really loved me, you would share him.” That isn’t far from the truth. In a letter
dated July 30, 1794, Angelica wrote to Eliza, “…if you were as generous as the old
Romans, you would lend him to me for a little while….”[6] We don’t know if Angelica
and Alexander ever had anything romantic going on, but Eliza surely did not want to
share him.

In the following verse Eliza sings she’s “In the living room stressin’ / My father’s
stone-faced / While you’re asking for his blessin’… I panic for a second, thinking
‘we’re through’ / But then he shakes your hand and says ‘Be true.’” In reality,
Hamilton received a letter from Philip Schuyler dated April 8, 1780, in which
Alexander received permission to marry Eliza.

As the song comes to an end, the wedding march plays. Alexander and Eliza were
married at the Schuyler home in Albany on December 14, 1780. “Satisfied” then
begins with John Laurens introducing Angelica at the wedding party – “Now
everyone give it up for the maid of honor Angelica Schuyler!” Alexander wrote to
Laurens on June 30, 1780 to let him know he had made the decision to marry. “Have
you not heard that I am on the point of becoming a benedict? I confess my sins. I am
guilty. Next fall completes my doom. I give up my liberty to Miss
Schuyler.” On September 16, 1780 Hamilton wrote again, wishing Laurens could be
in “Albany to be witness to the final consummation.” He had been taken prisoner by
the British in South Carolina, and was on parole in Pennsylvania.

As for the “Satisfied” part of the song, Angelica wrote to Alexander on February 4,
1790, “I cannot be so easily satisfied.” I assume those words formed the foundation
for this song.
We see Hamilton and the boys get back together for some drinks in “The Story of
Tonight (Reprise),” following “Satisfied.” Hamilton’s friends playfully make fun of his
taking up the ball and chain, and in between Mulligan and Lafayette singing, Laurens
sings, “I’ve seen wonders great and small ‘Cause if the tomcat can get married
There’s hope for our ass, after all!” Interestingly, only Burr (who hasn’t shown up
yet in this song) was married later than Hamilton. Hercules Mulligan married
Elizabeth Sanders in 1773; Lafayette married Adrienne de Noailles in 1774; and
Laurens married Martha Weatherell Manning in 1776. Burr was married in 1782 to
Theodosia Bartow Prevost.[7] There wasn’t hope for any of them….

When Burr does enter, he is mocked by Hamilton’s friends. Hamilton says to Burr,
“Ignore them. Congrats to you, Lieutenant Colonel.” (Burr had received his
lieutenant colonel commission on June 22, 1777.) Laurens then gets personal with
Burr, singing, “Well I heard you’ve got a special someone on the side, Burr.” When
the others get on Burr too, Hamilton says they should go, and tells Burr, “I wish
you’d brought this girl with you tonight.” Burr replies, “You’re very kind, but I’m
afraid it’s unlawful, sir.” The conversation follows:

Hamilton: “What do you mean?”

Burr: “She’s married.”

Hamilton: “I see.”

Burr: “She’s married to a British officer.”

Adultery was illegal during colonial times. In fact, New York penal code today still
defines adultery as a class B misdemeanor: “255.17 Adultery. A person is guilty of
adultery when he engages in sexual intercourse with another person at a time when
he has a living spouse, or the other person has a living spouse.”

Burr didn’t really have someone on the side; it was more like Burr was Theodosia’s
side piece. Theodosia married (James) Marcus Prevost on July 28, 1763.[8] After the
British captured Savannah, Georgia at the end of December 1778, Prevost was
appointed lieutenant governor of Georgia (in mid-1779). Theodosia remained in the
north. In 1781, Prevost was sent to Jamaica, where he died sometime towards the
end of the year of an illness. Burr and Theodosia would have been free to marry after
Prevost’s death was recorded.

Hamilton doesn’t understand why Burr is being so secretive. He sings, “If you love
this woman, go get her! What are you waiting for?” Burr only responds, “I’ll see
you on the other side of the war.”
In the next song, “Wait For It,” Burr explains his philosophy. First, though, he admits
to adultery – “Theodosia writes me a letter every day / I’m keeping the bed warm
while her husband is away.” Besides explaining his philosophy, Burr tells us a little
about his family in this song. I’ll break down the facts by line.

First: “My grandfather was a fire and brimstone preacher.” Burr’s grandfather was
the famed preacher Jonathan Edwards. Edwards was ordained a minister in 1727 and
became one of the most well-known preachers in the colonies. His published works
were read widely, and include the sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. He
also served as the President of the College of New Jersey (Princeton).

Then he says: “My mother was a genius.” His mother was Esther Edwards, the
daughter of Jonathan, and was an educated woman. She kept a diary from 1754 until
1757. (It was published in 1984.)

And finally, “My father commanded respect.” Aaron Burr, Sr. also became a
minister, in 1726 in Newark, NJ. In 1746, he helped to found the College of New
Jersey, and he became the second President of the College two years later. It was
during his tenure that the College moved from Elizabeth to Princeton, following the
completion of Nassau Hall in 1756. He and Esther married in 1752.

Burr then sings, “When they died they left no instructions just a legacy to
protect.” Burr’s parents died less than seven months apart, when Burr was only one
and a half to two years old. His father died on September 24, 1757; his mother on
April 7, 1758. Tragically, Burr’s grandfather, who had taken over the Presidency of
the College in February 1758, following the death of his son-in-law, died the day
before his mother.

And there you have the tragic Burr story. By the end of the song, he sounds
somewhat jealous, or even angry, that Hamilton, who doesn’t hesitate and has no
restraint, has been so successful. As their paths continue to cross, Burr doesn’t get
any happier with Hamilton.

The next part of the series will cover the next four songs in the musical – “Stay Alive,”
“Ten Duel Commandments,” “Meet Me Inside,” and “That Would Be Enough.”

[1] The quote can be found on page 264.


[2] The home sits on its original property, but was moved approximately one
hundred feet away from its original location. Today the house is known as the Dr.
Jabez Campfield House or the Schuyler-Hamilton House, and it operates as a
museum.
[3] Chernow, 129.
[4] Peggy also eloped, with Stephen Van Rensselaer in 1783.
[5] Hamilton continued writing to Eliza after they were married as well. To see all
of their letters to each other, see this link.
[6] Hamilton, Allan Mclane. The Intimate Life of Alexander Hamilton. New York: C.
Scribner’s Sons, 1910. Pages 259-260.
[8] Trinity Church marriage records.

This part will cover the fourteenth through seventeenth songs of the musical – “Stay
Alive,” “Ten Duel Commandments,” “Meet Me Inside,” and “That Would Be
Enough.” These songs span the time period from about the 1777-1778 winter at
Valley Forge until before the Battle of Yorktown in 1781, and include Hamilton
involved in the Battle of Monmouth and acting as a second in a subsequent duel,
before quitting the army (temporarily).

“Stay Alive” and the following few songs take things out of order on the historical
timeline. This song covers the events of 1777-1778 – the winter at Valley Forge and
the Battle of Monmouth. The Hamiltons were married in a previous song
(“Helpless”), fitting the musical’s narrative, though in reality they married in 1780.

In the first verse of “Stay Alive” Hamilton sings, “I have never seen the General so
despondent / I have taken over writing all his correspondence / Congress writes,
‘George, attack the British forces.’ / I shoot back, we have resorted to eating our
horses. Local merchants deny us equipment, assistance….” There’s much to
unpackage here.

First, Washington was despondent in a number of his letters during this time, some
of which are in Hamilton’s handwriting. In one letterhe complains of the lack of
supplies and money, and the dissipation of the army. The following day he wrote,
“this Army must inevitably be reduced to one or other of these three things. Starve—
dissolve—or disperse, in order to obtain subsistence in the best manner they
can.” These types of complaints continued throughout much of the winter, but
Washington had been down since early in the war.[1]

As for the second line, Hamilton did not take over writing all of Washington’s
correspondence. Washington had a number of aides, and letters can be found in the
handwriting of most of them.[2]

As for the next two lines, regarding letters to and from Congress, the complaints
flowed from all directions. A letter dated January 17, 1778 titled “The Thoughts of a
Freeman” was forwarded to Congress and featured complaints regarding the failed
leadership of Washington. A number of times, Congress felt enough wasn’t being
done, and that Washington’s negative reports were exaggerated. The recent victory
at Saratoga (October 1777) by the Americans under General Horatio Gates, and
backdoor moves attempting to remove Washington as THE General were being
passed around Congress and the army. Yet despite Washington’s repeated calls to
Congress for food, supplies, longer enlistments, and money, Congress failed to
provide much, and seemed truly unaware of the poor conditions faced by the army
at Valley Forge. Congress chose a committee to go to the encampment at Valley
Forge to investigate on January 10, 1778. And while Hamilton did not write those
exact words, he and Washington composed a letter to that committee (in Hamilton’s
handwriting) detailing the situation of the army. The letter ran about 16,000
words.[3]

And the final part of the quoted verse is true. Washington wrote about dealing with
local merchants more than once, including once when he wrote about “the difficulty
of procuring necessaries and the exorbitant prices they are obliged to pay for ’em.”

Further on in the song, Hamilton’s buddies explain what they’ll be doing to


contribute. Hercules Mulligan sings, “I go back to New York and my
apprenticeship,” but as mentioned earlier, he was not an apprentice; he owned his
own business in New York City. Also, he was not at Valley Forge, as he stayed in the
City for almost the entire war. Lafayette sings, “I ask for French aid, I pray that
France has sent a ship.” Lafayette did go back to France. Although he was seen as
a hero by many, he also disobeyed orders when he left to fight in America, and so
upon his arrival in France he was placed under house arrest. Still, he constantly
spread his belief that French assistance to the Americans would ensure their victory
over the British. Lafayette sent a proposal to the French prime minister which
included sending the following to the Americans: “six ships of 64 and 50 guns, 8,000
tons of transport ships…four full-strength battalions [about 4,000 men] to which
their grenadiers would be attached.” The prime minister and other cabinet ministers
approved Lafayette’s proposal, pledging 6,000 troops, and agreeing to send clothing
and 15,000 muskets to the Americans. They also opened discussions with Benjamin
Franklin for new loans to the United States. Lafayette sailed back to America in
March aboard the Hermoine, this time with permission, and arrived in Massachusetts
on April 27th. [4]

Next, Hamilton claims he asks “ev’ry day ‘Sir, entrust me with a command,’” but
Washington always says no. In reality, Hamilton began writing to Washington in the
spring of 1781, after he had already left the army. On April 27, 1781, Hamilton wrote,
“Unconnected as I am with any regiment, I can have no other command than in a
light corps, and I flatter myself my pretensions to this are good.” He tried again in
another letter dated May 2nd, but it wasn’t until the end of July 1781 that Hamilton
was given his commission. The General Orders of the 31st read, “The Light
Companies of the first and second regiments of New York…with the two companies
of York Levies…will form a Battalion under command of Lieutenant Colonel
Hamilton and Major Fish.”

In the meantime, Hamilton was present for the Battle of Monmouth in June 1778. In
the song, Hamilton sings, “Instead of me he promotes Charles Lee, makes him
second-in-command….” (“I’m a general, weeeee!”) Since the beginning of the war,
Lee expected command of the army (over Washington). He was an experienced
officer who had fought for many years in Europe. [5] It would have been natural to
offer him the command. However, at a council of war on June 24, 1778, Lee strongly
dismissed Washington’s idea to take advantage of the retreating British by attacking
them if the opportunity presented itself. When Washington decided to issue those
orders anyway, Lee refused to serve as second in command; he thought the British
would trounce the Americans and wanted no part of it. Washington placed Lafayette
in Lee’s place, but Lee soon decided he wanted to be second in command after all,
and rode out to take command.

So when Hamilton sings Lee “shits the bed at the Battle of Monmouth,” he’s not
kidding. Washington had ordered Lee to attack the British rear. Lee initially moved
into that position, but then gave confusing and contradictory orders to his men, who
initially outnumbered the retreating British. As Lee tried to move his men around the
field of battle, the confusion only grew. John Laurens wrote that Lee’s orders “had
been so contradictory, that he was utterly at a loss what part to take.” From his view,
Laurens said, “A new position was ordered, but not generally communicated, for part
of the troops were forming on the right of the ground, while others were marching
away, and all the artillery driving off…. All this disgraceful retreating, passed without
the firing of a musket, over ground which might have been disputed by the inch.”
Washington did ride up, as shown in the musical when he sings, “What are you
doing, Lee? Get back on your feet!” Laurens wrote, “The Genl expressed his
astonishment at this unaccountable retreat. Mr Lee indecently replied that the
attack was contrary to his advice and opinion in council.” General Charles Scott
described a scene in which the normally level-headed General Washington furiously
lost his temper. Scott said Washington “swore that day till the leaves shook on the
trees….Never have I enjoyed such swearing before or since. Sir, on that memorable
day he swore like an angel from heaven.” Others said Washington called Lee a
“damned poltroon.” [6]

After dismissing Lee, Washington tells Hamilton, “Have Lafayette take the lead.”
Lafayette was supposed to have the lead to begin with, so that’s no surprise.
Hamilton, who may have been disappointed that Washington didn’t offer the
command to him, fought in the battle, and had a horse shot from under him and was
injured. [7]
Lafayette sings, “we snatch a stalemate from the jaws of defeat.” The Americans
may have won the battle without Lee’s bungling. However, once Washington rode
up and put things in order, the Americans pushed the British back close to the
original positions when the fighting began. Once it got dark, the fighting stopped,
and the British escaped overnight. They had four times more men killed and
wounded than the Americans, who had possession of the battlefield. Both sides
claimed victory.

After the battle, Lee must have felt embarrassed. Hamilton sings, “Charles Lee was
left behind without a pot to piss in….” and Lee goes on in the song to say some not-
nice things about Washington. In reality, Washington and Lee exchanged a number
of letters in the days following the battle, and Lee requested a court-martial to clear
his name. Three charges were brought against him, and he was found guilty of all
three, and as a result was “suspended from any Command in the Armies of the
united States of North America for the Term of Twelve Months.” Congress approved
the sentence on December 5th. Lee never served in the American army again. He
didn’t go away quietly, however. He published a “Vindication to the Public” in
the Pennsylvania Packet newspaper on December 3, 1778, which was a defense of his
behavior. Then seven months later, he published another defense in the Maryland
Journal of July 6, 1779. It was the “Vindication” publication that caused Laurens to
say, “Strong words from Lee, someone oughta hold him to it.” In reality, Laurens
wrote to Hamilton on December 5, 1778 stating that he did not trust his written
response, and so he asked Hamilton to take up his pen and reply. Laurens wrote, “An
affair of this kind ought to be passed over in total silence, or answered in a masterly
manner.” Laurens did end up in a duel with Lee though, and that is what we have in
the next song – “Ten Duel Commandments.”

“Ten Duel Commandments” is loosely based on the Code Duello – The Rules of
Dueling. There are actually twenty-five rules. [8] One of Miranda’s other artistic
licenses in this song was making Aaron Burr Lee’s second. In reality, Major Evan
Edwards was Lee’s second. But what fun would that be?

The men met on the outskirts of Philadelphia on December 23, 1778. When Burr
contends that Lee should have to answer for his words, but not with his life,
Hamilton replies, “Hang on, how many men died because Lee was inexperienced
and ruinous?” Historically speaking, we already know Lee was experienced –
probably the most experienced man in the American army. As for the second part –
How many men died? Washington reported to Henry Laurens the following
numbers: 8 officers, 1 sergeant, and 60 men killed; 18 officers, 10 noncommissioned
officers, 1 adjutant, and 132 men wounded. That does not include men who died
from the heat. [9]

Burr sees no other way to reconcile the situation, and says, “Okay, so we’re doin’
this.” As the call comes to Fire! the musical moves to the next song, “Meet Me
Inside.” The beginning of this song and the real history are pretty close. Hamilton
asks Lee if he yields, and Burr, responding for Lee, says “You shot him in the side!
Yes, he yields!” The seconds – Hamilton and Edwards – wrote an account of the
duel. (Hamilton wrote it; they both signed it.)

“They approached each other within about five or six paces and exchanged
a shot almost at the same moment. As Col Laurens was preparing for a
second discharge, General Lee declared himself wounded….General Lee
then said the wound was inconsiderable…and proposed to fire a second
time. This was warmly opposed both by Col Hamilton and Major
Edwards… But General Lee repeated his desire…and Col Laurens agreed
to the proposal. The combat was then going to be renewed; but Major
Edwards again declaring his opinion, that the affair ought to end where it
was, General Lee then expressed…he should be willing to comply with
whatever they should cooly and deliberately determine. Col. Laurens
consented to the same.”

General Lee walked away, slightly wounded in the right side.

The “Meet me inside” part kind of actually happened as well, just not following this
duel. But it didn’t happen the way Miranda wrote it. Washington did not say “Go
home Alexander;” instead Alexander chose to leave on his own. As Hamilton
explained in a letter to his father-in-law in February 1781, Washington and Hamilton
passed on the stairs (presumably at headquarters), and Washington told Hamilton he
wanted to see him. Hamilton said he’d be right there. He first went to give a letter to
Lieutenant Colonel Tench Tilghman, who was downstairs. Then on the way back up,
he met Lafayette, and they talked for “about half a minute.” Hamilton wrote,

“Instead of finding the General as usual in his room, I met him at the head
of the stairs, where accosting me in a very angry tone, ‘Col Hamilton (said
he), you have kept me waiting at the head of the stairs these ten minutes. I
must tell you Sir you treat me with disrespect.’ I replied without petulancy,
but with decision ‘I am not conscious of it Sir, but since you have thought it
necessary to tell me so we must part’ ‘Very well Sir (answered said he) if it
be your choice’ or something to this effect and we separated. I sincerely
believe my absence which gave so much umbrage did not last two
minutes.”

Though Hamilton wrote much more, and there were other reasons for him wishing
to break from Washington’s staff, this, and not his participation as a second in the
duel between Laurens and Lee, was the reason he chose to go home.

Another historical piece of this song comes from the mention of Thomas
Conway. Hamilton sings of him and others, “These men take your name and they
rake it through the mud.” Washington says, “My name’s been through a lot, I can
take it.” Well, all of that happened. Conway was a general who disliked Washington,
and wanted him replaced. There were a number of other officers in the army who
had similar feelings. What is now known as the Conway Cabal was exposed to
Washington in a letter from General Lord Stirling on November 3, 1777. Enclosed
was a note that Stirling said showed “wicked duplicity of Conduct.” The note read,
“In a letter from General Conway to General Gates he says, ‘Heaven has been
determined to Save your Country; Or a Weak General and bad Counsellors would
have ruined it.’” Washington quickly dashed off a letter to Conway with that quote,
prefaced only with, “a Letter which I receivd last Night, containd the following,
paragraph.” (How savage is that?) Conway feebly denied referring to Washington as
a “weak general” in a letter to him, but just over a week later he told Washington he
had sent his resignation to Congress. Washington coolly responded, “I cannot
permit you to leave the Army, till you have obtained their consent. When that is
done, I shall not object to your departure, since it is your inclination.”

One last interesting historical connection in “Meet Me Inside” is when Hamilton said
of Lee, “John should have shot him in the mouth, that would’ve shut him up.” It
was Conway who was actually shot through the mouth. Conway had continued to
speak ill of Washington, so Pennsylvania militia General John Cadwalader challenged
Conway to a duel. On July 4, 1778, Conway the men met and Cadwalader shot
Conway through the mouth.[10]

The final song I’m covering today is “That Would Be Enough.” Hamilton arrives
home (in the musical, because Washington sent him there), and Eliza asks him to
stay. There are two lines of this song to discuss. First, Eliza sings, “I wrote to the
General a month ago.” That’s highly unlikely, especially knowing Hamilton left on
his own accord in February 1781. Hamilton later sings, “Will you relish being a poor
man’s wife?” In a letter to Eliza, written in August 1780, Hamilton wrote, “Do you
soberly relish the pleasure of being a poor mans wife?” One final note: When Eliza
mentions “this child,” she is speaking of Philip, who was born on January 22,
1782. Eliza got pregnant almost immediately upon Hamilton’s return home.
On that note, we end until next week, when Hamilton gets back into the war. Part
eight will cover songs eighteen through twenty-one: “Guns and Ships,” “History Has
Its Eyes On You,” “Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down),” and “What Comes
Next,” where King George comes back out to sing to us.

[1] One example of Washington’s earlier dejectedness can be found in a letter to


his brother Samuel, written about a week before the Battle of Trenton, when the
General pretty much admitted that without a decisive move, the war would be
over. “If every nerve is not straind to recruit the New Army with all possible
Expedition I think the game is pretty near up—owing in great Measure to the
insiduous Arts of the Enemy and disaffection of the Colonies beforementioned,
but principally to the accursed policy of Short Inlistments and depending too
much on Militia.”
[2] These aides include Richard Kidder Meade, Tench Tilghman, and Robert
Hanson Harrison, among others, who wrote some of his correspondence. John
Laurens also served as an aide to Washington during this winter.
[3] That’s like almost 20 typed pages, single-spaced. Or almost five of these
articles. The committee arrived in the camp on January 28, 1776 and realized that
Washington was being truthful. He may have even under-exaggerated the
conditions.
[4] Unger, 108-109.
[5] Lee served with the British in North American as a lieutenant (and later a
captain) during the French & Indian War; he served as a lieutenant colonel in the
Portuguese army fighting against Spanish invasion; and he fought in Poland, first
as an aide to the king and then in the Russo-Turkish War. He moved to the
American colonies in 1773, and as the man with the most military experience, he
expected to be the commander of the army. Dragging his feet when ordered by
Washington to join the army on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River in
1776, Lee was captured by the British. Because he was considered the best
general the Americans had, the British rejoiced. While Lee was on parole in New
York, he spent time with the British high command, and some claim he was a
little too close with them.
[6] Quoted from Lengel, Edward G. General George Washington: A Military Life.”
New York: Random House, 2005, p. 300. It’s worthwhile to note that in all that
Lee said and wrote in the aftermath of this, he never accused Washington of
swearing. For Washington’s account of the battle, see his letter to Henry
Laurens dated July 1, 1778.
[7] Burr and Laurens also had horses shot out from under them during the Battle
of Monmouth (Chernow, 115). Burr also suffered heatstroke, but unlike others, he
didn’t die like “a thousand soldiers die in the hundred degree heat,” as Laurens
sang.
[8] PBS had a link (which no longer works) to the Code Duello which referenced
the book Noted American Duels and Hostile Encounters by Hamilton Cochran. The
link above is to the appendix of another book.
[9] For comparison’s sake, General Henry Clinton reported the British casualties
as 65 killed, 59 dead of fatigue, and 170 wounded.
[10] John Thaxter, who had served as clerk in the office of the Secretary of
Congress in 1778, wrote to his cousin, Abigail Adams (yes that Abigail Adams) on
July 6, 1778: “a duel was fought between Major Genl. Conway and Brigr.
Cadwallader of Pennsylvania, the former of whom recieved a wound—the ball
entered his Cheek and coming out under his Ear lodged in his hair. He is like to
recover.”

Part eight will cover songs eighteen through twenty-one: “Guns and Ships,” “History
Has Its Eyes On You,” “Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down),” and “What
Comes Next,” where King George comes back out to sing to us.

“Guns and Ships” is one of my favorite songs of the musical. Lafayette is one of my
favorite historical individuals, and his raps in this song are among the fastest in the
musical. Let’s get into some of the history behind the lyrics, shall we?

Burr opens the song questioning how the rag-tag Americans defeated the greatest
military power in the world. He sings, “How do we emerge victorious from the
quagmire? Leave the battlefield waving Betsy Ross’ flag higher?” Regardless of
whether they were waving what we know today as the Betsy Ross flag or not, in
reality there is no proof of Betsy Ross designing or sewing the first American flag.
Her part in this story can be traced back to 1870, when her grandson told the
story. Instead, an American Founding Father, Francis Hopkinson, sometimes gets
credit for the design. (I wrote a piece about who designed the first American flag,
which was published on this site on Flag Day of this year.)

Burr calls Lafayette “America’s favorite fighting Frenchman.” Though it’s


impossible to say with 100% accuracy that Lafayette was as Burr says, one needs
only to look at the numerous receptions he received during his triumphal return to
the United States in 1824 and 1825 to see that nearly 50 years after independence
was declared, Lafayette was most definitely beloved by the American people.[1]

Our favorite fighting Frenchman comes out and raps, “I go to France for more funds
(Lafayette!) I come back with more guns and ships.” As mentioned in Part 7 of this
series, Lafayette sailed back to France on January 11, 1779 aboard the Alliance. He
returned in April 1780 with a pledge from the French cabinet ministers of 6,000 men,
15,000 muskets, and clothing for the Americans.[2]

Lafayette tells us “the balance shifts,” and Washington sings, “We rendezvous with
Rochambeau.” Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau was the
commander of the French troops in North America. Following a number of naval
disasters in the north, and a trip to the Caribbean, the French fleet returned to help
the Americans. The combined American and French armies marched south
(separately, a day or so apart), faking an attack towards New York City, before
continuing the march to Virginia. The American and French armies eventually cut off
the British retreat route by land, while the French fleet ensured the British could not
escape the peninsula by sea.

Later in the song, after Lafayette promotes the virtues of having Hamilton in the
army, Washington is convinced that Hamilton can help them win the battle at
Yorktown, and he says, “I need my right hand man back.” As mentioned in a
previous part of this series, by General Orders of July 31, 1781, Hamilton was named
a lieutenant colonel of a battalion of New York Levies. He was then ordered to attach
himself to Colonel Alexander Scammell’s corps. At the end of the song, Washington
sings, “I have soldiers that will yield for you,” the you being Hamilton. An
interesting historical fact is that Washington actually had to settle a dispute between
Lafayette’s two ranking subordinate officers. Those two men were Alexander
Hamilton and the Chevalier de Gimat, and according to the editors of the
Washington Papers, the question was “which was to command the attack on the
extreme left redoubt.” The editors wrote that Washington “decided in Hamilton’s
favor on grounds of seniority. Hamilton’s subordinates in the attack were Maj.
Nicholas Fish and Lt. Col. John Laurens.”

“Guns and Ships” goes right into “History Has Its Eyes On You.” This song is very
short, but Washington’s lines at its outset refer back to the beginning of his military
career. He sings, “I was younger than you are now / When I was given my first
command / I led my men straight into a massacre / I witnessed their deaths
firsthand….” Washington was given his first command (in the British army) in 1753,
when he was twenty-one years old. Using the 1757 birth date for Hamilton, he would
have been twenty-four in 1781 during the Battle of Yorktown.

Washington’s commission was given by the governor of Virginia, Robert Dinwiddie,


and read,
“You are hereby authoriz’d & impower’d to proceed hence with all
convenient & possible Dispatch, to that Part, or Place, on the River Ohio,
where the French have lately erected a Fort, or Forts, or where the
Commandant of the French Forces resides, in order to deliver my Letter &
Message to Him; & after waiting not exceeding one Week for an Answer,
You are to take Your Leave & return immediately back.”

Washington returned to let Dinwiddle know of the French’s refusal to leave the fort,
which was the governor’s request of the French. Washington was sent out again,
this time with instructions to forcibly remove the French from the fort. Washington
and his Native American allies came upon a party of Frenchmen in the woods before
arriving at the fort. The British soldiers under Washington surprised the Frenchmen
and killed their leader.

After learning that the French group was possibly a diplomatic party, and its leader
was the brother of the commander of the fort, Washington and his men
retreated. His Native allies abandoned him. Knowing the French were thirsty for
revenge, Washington moved his men to a meadow where they hastily constructed a
palisade fort, which he named Fort Necessity. The fort offered little protection to his
men. When the French and their Native allies approached the fort, they were able to
take cover in the surrounding woods, which were within range of the
fort. Washington surrendered before the day was over. In signing the articles of
capitulation, he accepted responsibility for the death of Jumonville, the leader of the
French party he had attacked. (Washington may not have known what he was
signing – it was written in French and translated into English by a Dutchman.) This
episode was one of the events which helped to set off the French and Indian War.[3]

When Washington sings, “History has its eyes on me,” he had been aware of that
for at least twenty years. Following the debacle in the wilderness, Washington
hurried back to Virginia and wrote his own narrative, which he had
published. Instead of being shunned, many saw Washington as a hero for taking on
the hated French. Some argued that he hadn’t attacked a diplomatic party, but
instead attacked a group of spies.

When the French and Indian War began, Washington was disappointed that he
would receive no higher commission and so he quit the military. But when General
Edward Braddock arrived to attempt to dislodge the French from the Ohio River
Valley, Washington offered to serve with him as a volunteer aide. Braddock
accepted. Whether or not Washington warned Braddock about how the fighting
styles of the frontier differed from those in Europe (guerilla-style warfare versus
lining up for battle), Braddock marched in a long line through the woods. With the
enemy surrounding the British and hiding on both sides of the road, the latter didn’t
stand a chance. Braddock was killed, and it appears that Washington helped to lead
the retreat.[4]

Washington explains this in those few lines of “History Has Its Eyes On You,” and
then the musical moves on to the Battle of Yorktown.

In “Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down),” Hamilton asks Lafayette, “So what
happens if we win?” and Lafayette responds, “I go back to France; I bring freedom
to my people if I’m given the chance.” Hamilton tells him, “We’ll be with you
when you do.” Lafayette was indeed a major figure in the French Revolution, and
spent time imprisoned during the Reign of Terror, before being released at its
conclusion. Hamilton, and the American government, was not with Lafayette when
he tried to bring freedom to France, however. In the 1790s, Hamilton preferred a
friendly relationship with the British at the expense of the French. Jefferson, who
preferred a relationship with the French, refers to this abandonment in a later song.

As the battle (and the song) progresses, Hamilton sings, “Take the bullets out your
gun,” and the ensemble incredulously asks, “What?!” Hamilton’s men did attack the
British redoubt with unloaded guns under the cover of night, and he suffered fewer
casualties than the French who stormed another British redoubt with their guns
loaded.

In the next verse, Miranda changes history to keep his story interesting. Hamilton
sings that his “friends all scattered to the winds. Laurens is in South Carolina,
redefining brav’ry….” Laurens was not in South Carolina, however. In fact, as a
lieutenant colonel, he commanded the left under Hamilton during the
aforementioned attack on the British redoubt. After the battle ended, he served as
the American commissioner to work on the terms of surrender.[5]

Staying more true to his story than to history, Miranda again veers from the
historical truth when Hamilton sings, “We had a spy on the inside. That’s right,
Hercules Mulligan!” Mulligan was a spy, but he wasn’t at Yorktown. One of the real
spies who helped at Yorktown was an enslaved gentleman named James Armistead.
At age 21, he was given consent to join the army and was placed under the command
of Lafayette. Lafayette employed Armistead as a spy. He posed as a runaway slave,
and the British hired him to spy on the Americans. At the end of July 1781, Armistead
provided intelligence which allowed Lafayette to trap the British in Yorktown, and
continued providing intelligence until the British surrendered. He returned to an
enslaved life after the war, but in 1784, Lafayette, finding his former spy’s condition,
petitioned for Armistead’s emancipation. In 1786, Armistead was emancipated by
Virginia’s General Assembly. He added the surname ‘Lafayette’ to his own.

After the British surrender[6] Hamilton sings, “Tens of thousands of people flood
the streets. There are screams and church bells ringing. And as our fallen foes
retreat I hear the drinking song they’re singing – The world turned upside
down.” Chernow wrote: “Tens of thousands of onlookers gaped in amazement as
the shattered British troops marched out of Yorktown… and, to the tune of an old
English ballad, ‘The World Turned Upside Down,’ moved between parallel rows of
handsomely outfitted French soldiers and battered, ragged American troops.”[7]

And so we move to the last song for today – “What Comes Next.” And the answer is
… King George! The only line really needing historical clarification in this song is
“…now I’m fighting with France and with Spain.” The British were actually fighting
with France and with Spain before 1781. France declared war on Great Britain in
1778, and Spain declared war on Great Britain in 1779.

Until next time, “Da da da dat da dat da da da Da ya da Da da dat Da da ya da…


You’re on your own…”[8]

[1] I usually do not like to link to Wikipedia, but it’s really hard to find a good
timeline of Lafayette’s 1824-1825 tour in the U.S., and Wikipedia has one.
[2] Unger, 108-109.
[3] This link provides four other links detailing the surrender of Fort Necessity and
the articles of capitulation.
[4] He wrote letters to his mother and the Governor.
[5] The National Park Service has a history of the siege, as well as information on
the roles of Hamilton, Lafayette, and Laurens in the battle.
[6] See the terms of capitulation here.
[7] Chernow, 165. You can listen to the song here.
[8] For those not familiar with the musical, those are the last words of “What
Comes Next.”

Theodosia, the daughter of Aaron Burr and Theodosia Bartow, was born on June 21,
1783.[1] At the start of the song, Aaron Burr sings, “I’m dedicating every day to
you….” There are a number of examples of Burr’s dedication to his daughter. I’ll
take a page out of James Parton’s Famous Americans of Recent Times as one
illustration:

“(In her tenth year.) – I rose up suddenly from the sofa, and rubbing my
head, ‘What book shall I buy for her?’ said I to myself. ‘She reads so much
and so rapidly that it is not easy to find proper and amusing French books
for her; and yet I am so flattered with her progress in that language that I
am resolved she shall, at all events, be gratified. Indeed I owe it to
her.’ So, after walking once or twice briskly across the floor, I took my hat
and sallied out, determined not to return until I had purchased
something. It was not my first attempt. I went into one bookseller’s shop
after another….but I could see nothing that I would offer with pleasure to
an intelligent, well-informed girl nine years old. I began to be
discouraged. The hour of dining was come….At last I found it. I found the
very thing I sought.”

During the time Burr was searching through bookshops, he was on the upward arc of
his political fame. He was serving as a U.S. Senator when he took time out of his day
to search for the perfect book for his brilliant daughter.

Alexander Hamilton then comes out and sings about his and Eliza’s son, Philip, who
was born on January 22, 1782. He sings, “Look at my son, pride is not the word I’m
looking for, there is so much more inside me now.” Again, there are various
examples of the father showing pride and dedication to his child. Shortly after the
birth of his son, Alexander wrote to his former colleague Richard Kidder Meade (they
were both aides to Washington) congratulating Meade on the birth of his
daughter. Hamilton wrote, “I can well conceive your happiness upon that occasion,
by that which I feel in a similar one. Indeed the sensations of a tender father of the
child, of a beloved mother can only be conceived by those who have experienced
them….You cannot imagine how entirely domestic I am growing. I lose all taste for
the pursuits of ambition, I sigh for nothing but the company of my wife and my
baby.” (Of course, that last bit wasn’t entirely true.)

As Philip grew older, Alexander shared his feelings of pride with his son. In a letter
dated December 5, 1791, Alexander wrote to Philip(who had recently been sent to
boarding school), “Your Master also informs me that you recited a lesson the first
day you began, very much to his satisfaction. I expect every letter from him will give
me a fresh proof of your progress. For I know that you can do a great deal, if you
please, and I am sure you have too much spirit not to exert yourself, that you may
make us every day more and more proud of you.”

“Dear Theodosia” is a short song, and the song following it is much more of a
downer . In “Tomorrow They’ll Be More of Us,” Hamilton learns of the death of one
of his closest companions, John Laurens. Still coming off the high of singing about
his son, Hamilton doesn’t realize that a letter from Laurens is actually from Henry
Laurens, John’s father. Eliza alerts Alexander to this fact, and he asks her to read
it. In between the Hamilton’s conversation, John Laurens softly sings parts of “The
Story of Tonight,” including the line, “and when our children tell our story.” John
did have a daughter, Frances Eleanor, who was born in February 1777, and who
would live long enough to tell his story.[2]

The letter read by Eliza is not from any real letter. In fact, Henry Laurens was in
England working on a peace deal to end the war at the time of his son’s death. He
did not return to the U.S. until the summer of 1784. The first known letter he wrote
to Hamilton after John’s death was on April 19, 1785. The letter in the musical reads,
in part, that John “was killed in a gunfight against British troops retreating from
South Carolina. The war was already over.” The first part is true. Laurens died on
August 27, 1782. The war was not yet over, although it was close; the Americans
expected the British would evacuate Charleston at any moment, freeing South
Carolina from the grip of the British military. In the meantime, the British soldiers in
Charleston had been making raids into the countryside in order to obtain food for
themselves. Laurens and about fifty men in advance of the main American force, fell
in with hundreds of British soldiers at the Combahee River. Lieutenant-Colonel
Laurens was killed in the ensuing battle; twenty-six other men were killed, wounded,
or missing. The British eventually retreated.[3]

After reading the letter, Eliza asks, “Alexander, are you alright?” We don’t know
exactly how Hamilton took the news immediately after learning of John’s death. We
do have some insight into how he may have taken the news though. He wrote to
General Nathanael Greene on October 12, 1782, and mentioned the death of
Laurens. “The world will feel the loss of a man who has left few like him behind, and
America of a citizen whose heart realized that patriotism of which others only talk. I
feel the loss of a friend I truly and most tenderly loved, and one of a very small
number.”

Hamilton ends the song by saying, “I have so much work to do.” In the last letters
exchanged by the two men, they shared their lofty goals. In July 1782, Laurens wrote
to Hamilton that his attempt to enlist enslaved men to fight against the British had
again been defeated by the legislature of South Carolina, but it did not appear he
was prepared to give up. Hamilton, recently chosen as a member of Congress, wrote
back in August, though it is a letter Laurens probably never read. It read, in part,
“Peace made, My Dear friend, a new scene opens. The object then will be to
make our independence a blessing. To do this we must secure our union on
solid foundations; an herculean task and to effect which mountains of
prejudice must be levelled! It requires all the virtue and all the abilities of
the Country. Quit your sword my friend, put on the toga, come to
Congress. We know each others sentiments, our views are the same: we
have fought side by side to make America free, let us hand in hand struggle
to make her happy.”

We can only imagine, then, Hamilton’s thoughts upon learning of the death of his
good friend, a man who he thought would be at his side once independence was
won, to fight with him to ensure the ideals of the revolution were brought to reality.

In the next part of this series, covering the final song of the first act of the musical,
we leave the sadness of this song to find Hamilton carrying out the work he thought
he would be doing with Laurens.

[1] Charles F. Pidgin wrote about her life in Theodosia, the first gentlewoman of her
time.
[2] See note number nine at this link.
[3] Pennsylvania Packet, October 3, 1782. “Extract of a Letter Dated Camp,
Ashley-Hill, South-Carolina, August 30, 1782,” p3 and Pennsylvania Journal, or,
Weekly Advertiser, October 5, 1782. “Extract of a letter from South Carolina,
dated Camp, August 29, 1782,” p3. Also, a “Sketch of the Character of Col. John
Laurens, Who Fell Gloriously in the Defence of His Country, August 27, 1782” was
printed in Freeman’s Journal; or, the North-American Intelligencer, Nov. 6, 1782, p1.

Part ten will cover the twenty-third song of the musical, and the last song of Act I:
“Non-Stop.” This song puts on display Hamilton not throwing away his shot versus
Burr waiting for the right moment. This song is also jam-packed with historical
references.
At the opening of the song, Burr sings, “I finished up my studies and I practiced
law,” and Hamilton responds, “I practiced law, Burr worked next door.” The
competition between the two begins in earnest now that the war is over. In reality,
Chernow wrote, “Sometimes they worked on the same team, more often on
opposing sides. Hamilton did not drag political feuds into dinner parties and drawing
rooms, and so he mingled with Burr cordially.”[1] Burr then sings, “Even though we
started at the very same time, Alexander Hamilton began to climb….” Turning to
Chernow again we find two excerpts to give credence to this quote. First, reflecting
back later in his life, Hamilton said of him and Burr, “We set out in the practice of law
at the same time and took opposite political directions. Burr beckoned me to follow
him and I advised him to come with me. We could not agree.”[2] In the courtroom,
Hamilton apparently had no equal, which partially led to his rise. Judge Ambrose
Spencer, “who watched many legal titans pace his courtroom, pronounced Hamilton
‘the greatest man this country ever produced….In power of reasoning, Hamilton was
the equal of [Daniel] Webster and more than this could be said of no man. In
creative power, Hamilton was infinitely Webster’s superior.’”[3] That’s high praise
for Hamilton.

Following a “Non-stop!” from the ensemble, we find Hamilton in the court, singing,
“Gentlemen of the jury, I’m curious, bear with me, are you aware that we’re
making history? This is the first murder trial of our brand-new nation.” First, let’s
address the “gentlemen of the jury” part of this. As late as 1942, only twenty-eight
states allowed women to serve as jurors. The Civil Rights Act of 1957 granted the
right for women to serve on federal juries, but it wasn’t until 1973 that all fifty states
allowed women that right. Women first served on a jury in New York State in
September 1937.[4] So Hamilton would only have been talking to men on the
jury. As for the first murder trial of our brand new nation, the Levi Weeks case was
the first recorded murder trial in the U.S.

And Burr sings, “Our client Levi Weeks is innocent.” Both Burr and Hamilton (along
with Henry Brockholst Livingston) did defend Weeks, who was accused of murdering
Gulielma Sands, a young woman whom he had been seeing (and maybe secretly
married). The trial took place over two days in early 1800 – March 31st and April
1st. (This throws the musical off the historical timeline, which is necessary for the
story-telling aspect.) The State’s case was circumstantial, and the jury deliberated
for only five minutes before acquitting Weeks, but the accused was mostly
ostracized after the case, and eventually left New York. (The Library of Congress
has digitized the trial transcript; it runs about 100 pages long.) [5] It’s interesting to
note that in reality, as late as the beginning of 1800, only four years before the
fateful duel, Hamilton and Burr still worked together.
Some lines later, Burr sings, “Why do you write like you’re running out of
time…Every day you fight like you’re running out of time. Keep on fighting. In
the meantime –” While Hamilton was constantly writing, during and immediately
after the Revolution (and for the rest of his life), Chernow noted that Burr “produced
no major papers on policy matters, constitutional issues, or government
institutions.” Assuming the rest of this song takes place sometime between the end
of the war (1783) and when Washington became President (1789 – because the next
song is when Jefferson returns from France, which he did in September of that year),
Burr was serving as a member of the State assembly (1784-1785) and the attorney
general of New York (1789-1790), so it wasn’t like he bowed out of politics for the
time. Chernow also noted that of all of Burr’s known correspondence, much of it
consists of simple “gossip, tittle-tattle, hilarious anecdotes, and racy asides about his
sexual escapades.”[6] I suppose that’s what he was concerned with, in the
meantime, instead of writing or fighting for things he may have found politically
important.

Next we find “Hamilton at the Constitutional Convention.” The Convention, which


took place from May 25th to September 17, 1787, was supposed to revise the Articles
of Confederation (which served as the first U.S. constitution). Hamilton and James
Madison had other ideas, however, and they came in planning to write a completely
new document instead of fixing the old one.

Burr sings that Hamilton “Goes and proposes his own form of government! His
own plan for a new form of government! Talks for six hours the convention is
listless.” A number of plans were introduced at the Congress, the two major plans
being Madison’s Virginia Plan, and the New Jersey Plan, introduced by William
Paterson. Hamilton did not really like either of those plans, and so he proposed one
of his own on June 18th (there are five versions of it). Some of the notes show how
enthused the other Congressmen were to hear Hamilton.[7] Besides these notes
from other men, Hamilton had only an outline of his speech.

A week before Hamilton’s proposal, however, Richard Sherman of Connecticut


proposed a compromise (called the Connecticut Compromise), which, for general
purposes here, pretty much joined parts of the Virginia and New Jersey Plans. It was
a modified form of this compromise that became our Constitution. (You may get a
sense of why the other delegates were peeved at Hamilton’s plan – it was introduced
over a week after the delegates were already debating a final plan.)

In the musical Hamilton next visits Burr at his home one night. Burr asks Hamilton,
“What do you need?” Hamilton flatters Burr, complimenting his skills in court –
“You’re incredible in court. You’re succinct, persuasive.” Chernow cites William
Plumer, a politician, who used similar words in a diary entry of January 22,
1807. Plumer wrote that Hamilton said of Burr, “His arguments at the bar were
concise. His address was pleasing, his manners were more – they were
fascinating.”[8] Then Hamilton gets to the point – “My client needs a strong
defense. You’re the solution.” Burr responds, “Who’s your client?” and Hamilton
says, “The new U.S. Constitution.” There is no historical record that Hamilton
asked Burr to work on the Federalist Papers. There does exist, however, proof of
Hamilton asking other men who declined the invitation. When Hamilton gets
frustrated with Burr’s response (“No, no way”) he asks, “Do you support this
Constitution?” to which Burr replies, “Of course.” Did Burr support the
Constitution? He sided with the anti-Federalists following the acceptance of the
document, so probably not.

Following the exchange between Burr and Hamilton, Angelica sings, “I am sailing off
to London, I’m accompanied by someone who always pays. I have found a
wealthy husband.” Angelica and her husband, John Barker Church (who was well-
off), eloped in 1777 and had lived in England since 1782. She returned to the U.S. for
Washington’s inauguration, but soon went back to England.[9]

Burr then returns to explain the writing of the Federalist Papers. These “papers” – a
total of 85 essays (yes, John Jay wrote five, Madison wrote twenty-nine, and
Hamilton wrote the other fifty-one) – were initially published in the New York
newspapers (and then reprinted around the country). They were meant to explain
the Constitution and promote its adoption, especially in New York State.

Following the adoption of the Constitution,[10] in the musical, Washington sings to


Hamilton, “They are asking me to lead.” Hamilton was among those asking
Washington to accept the offer of leadership. A number of letters were exchanged
between the two men on the subject.[11] Washington obviously accepted the
leadership position to which he was elected.[12] Next Washington sings, “I’m doing
the best I can to get the people that I need. I’m asking you to be my right-hand
man,” and asks Hamilton to be Treasury Secretary. Hamilton was nominated by
Washington for that position on September 11, 1789 and approved on the same
day. After accepting in the musical, Hamilton says, “Let’s go,” and when Eliza
pleads, Hamilton says, “I have to leave.” Being as it was that the U.S. government
was based in New York City at the time, Alexander did not have far to go.

This song, and Act I, ends with each of the major characters singing their “taglines” –

 Angelica: “He will never be satisfied”


 Eliza: “What would be enough to be satisfied….Look around, isn’t this enough?”
 Washington: “History has its eyes on you.”
 Burr: “Why do you fight like you’re running out of time?”
 Hamilton: “I am not throwing away my shot!”

And so, in my attempt to fit in, until next time, “Just you wait.”
[1] Chernow, 190.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Chernow, 189.
[4] Library of Congress and Today In Civil Liberties History.
[5] NY Courts. There’s also a good article about the trial here. And another article
about the well here.
[6] Chernow, 192.
[7] The link contains links to Hamilton’s notes for the speech, and notes taken by
James Madison, Robert Yates, John Lansing, Jr., and Rufus King while AH
delivered the speech. Yates and Lansing were both delegates from New York,
along with AH, but both opposed the Constitution, leaving AH as the only
signatory from the state.
[8] Chernow, 193. Plumer, a lawyer from New Hampshire, served as a member of
the state House of Representatives in 1788, 1790-1, and 1979-1800. He was a
Federalist in the U.S. Senate from 1802-1807 and Governor of the state from
1812-1813 and again from 1816-1819. In the 1820 Presidential election, Plumer
was the only Elector to vote against James Monroe, voting for John Quincy
Adams instead.
[9] Church, an Englishman, was set up in business in London by his family, but it is
said he lost his money on speculation and gambling and escaped those debts by
coming to North America. He became an auditor in the army of the Revolution
before resigning to open a number of businesses. Between that and currency and
land speculation after the war, Church was able to regain a fortune. He eventually
returned to England (through Paris) and became a member of Parliament in
1790. He returned to the U.S. for good in 1799 with Angelica. See a touching
letter from Alexander to Angelica following her departure here.
[10] Something you might find interesting – George Washington’s diary entry for
September 17, 1787, the date the Constitution was adopted.
[11] In a letter of August 13, 1788, AH wrote to GW: “I take it for granted, Sir, you
have concluded to comply with what will no doubt be the general call of your
country in relation to the new government. You will permit me to say that it is
indispensable you should lend yourself to its first operations—It is to little purpose
to have introduced a system, if the weightiest influence is not given to its
firm establishment, in the outset.” Washington responded in a letter dated
August 28th: “On the delicate subject with which you conclude your letter, I can
say nothing; because the event alluded to may never happen; and because, in
case it should occur, it would be a point of prudence to defer forming one’s
ultimate and irrevocable decision, so long as new data might be afforded for one
to act with the greater wisdom & propriety….” Hamilton replied in
September with a longer letter, which included, among other lines: “every public
and personal consideration will demand from you an acquiescence in what
will certainly be the unanimous wish of your country.” Washington wrote back
again in a letter dated October 3rd, and Hamilton responded on November 18th: “I
feel a conviction that you will finally see your acceptance to be indispensable— It
is no compliment to say that no other man can sufficiently unite the public
opinion—or can give the requisite weight to the office in the commencement of
the Government. These considerations appear to me of themselves decisive—I
am not sure that your refusal would not throw every thing into confusion—I am
sure that it would have the worst effect imaginable.”
[12] If interested, you can read Washington’s first inaugural
address here. Hamilton didn’t help to write this address; David Humphreys and
James Madison had a hand in it though.

Part eleven will cover the beginning of Act Two – songs twenty-four and twenty-five:
“What’d I Miss” and “Cabinet Battle #1.”

“What’d I Miss” introduces us to Thomas Jefferson (who is the same actor who
played Lafayette). Aaron Burr opens Act II setting the scene for what is to
come. After singing about Hamilton, Burr sings, “Not so fast, someone came along
to resist him,” which refers to Jefferson. Then he sings, “You haven’t met him yet,
you haven’t had the chance, ‘cause he’s been kickin’ ass as the ambassador to
France.” Jefferson was appointed a minister to Europe in 1784, along with Benjamin
Franklin and John Adams. When Franklin returned to the U.S. the following year,
Jefferson became the minister to France. Jefferson returned to the U.S. in
September 1789.[1]

When Jefferson comes out he sings, “France is following us to


revolution….” Jefferson was present in Paris when the Bastille was stormed on July
14, 1789, which is considered the start of the French Revolution.[2] (Lafayette took
command of the National Guard in Paris afterwards.)

Jefferson then sings, “I helped Lafayette draft a declaration….” This declaration is


known as the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. Jefferson was an
influence behind it, and Lafayette introduced it to France’s National Assembly. It
was passed on August 26, 1789.[3] This document later laid the foundation
for France’s current constitution, as well as the United Nations Universal Declaration
of Human Rights.
When Jefferson returns home to Monticello (which he would have done in late
November 1789), he finds a letter from George Washington and sings, “Sally be a
lamb, darlin’, won’t cha open it?” Sally Hemings, an enslaved woman who
accompanied Jefferson’s daughters to France in 1787 (at age fourteen), remained
there for the entirety of Jefferson’s stay, and returned home with him. Here in the
musical Jefferson is asking her to open Washington’s letter for him.[4] After the
letter is opened Jefferson sings, “I am to be the Secretary of State, great, and that
I’m already Senate-approved. I just got home and now I’m headed up to New
York.” Jefferson was nominated as Secretary of State on September 25, 1789, and
was confirmed on the following day. A number of letters were exchanged between
Jefferson and Washington regarding this Cabinet position. Washington’s first letter
to Jefferson was dated October 13th and acknowledged that Washington was unsure
if Jefferson wanted the position, but wrote, “In the selection of characters to fill the
important offices of Government in the United States I was naturally led to
contemplate the talents and disposition which I knew you to possess and entertain
for the Service of your Country.” Jefferson apparently did not see this letter until
December 11th, meaning when he opened it he would have already known of the
appointment and approval by the Senate. Jefferson responded on the 15th that he
was “truly flattered by your nomination of me to the very dignified office of
Secretary of state: for which permit me here to return you my humble thanks,” and
stated that he would travel to New York in March. He arrived in New York on March
21, 1790. [5]

Upon arrival in New York, Jefferson meets his friend James Madison, who sings,
“Hamilton’s new financial plan is nothing less than government
control.” Hamilton’s financial plan, titled “Second Report on the Further Provision
Necessary for Establishing Public Credit” was delivered to the Congress on
December 13, 1790 and included a report on a national bank.[6] On January 28, 1791,
Hamilton also delivered a “Report on the Establishment of a Mint.”[7] Jefferson
would have already been in New York when these reports were presented.

The song ends with Jefferson asking, “So what did I miss?” and goes into “Cabinet
Battle #1.”

After Washington introduces the battle, Jefferson opens with ‘‘Life, liberty and the
pursuit of happiness. We fought for these ideals; we shouldn’t settle for less.
These are wise words, enterprising men quote ‘em, don’t act surprised, you guys,
cuz I wrote ‘em.” He’s referring to the Declaration of Independence, of
course. Apparently never too modest, Jefferson then goes on to attack Hamilton’s
financial plans.[8]

One of the big issues of Hamilton’s plan was the federal assumption of the war debts
from the individual states. Jefferson sings, “If New York’s in debt why should
Virginia bear it? Our debts are paid, I’m afraid, don’t tax the South cuz we got it
made in the shade.” Many of the states still had massive war debts. Part of
Hamilton’s plan included the federal government taking on these debts from the
states. While Virginia and a couple of other southern states had paid off most of
their debt, the issue wasn’t so black and white. South Carolina, for example, had one
of the highest war debts of the states. Hamilton’s plans would have freed all of the
states from the burden of these debts while also strengthening the hand of the new
federal government.

Besides being “an outrageous demand,” Jefferson says Hamilton’s plan is “too
many damn pages for any man to understand.” Jefferson believed Hamilton’s plan
would give too much power to the federal government at the expense of the
states. As for the too many pages, you be the judge – the “Second Report”
(mentioned above) ran about 15,000 words (or over 20 typed pages, single-
spaced). The Mint Report runs just as long. His “Report Relative to a Provision for
the Support of Public Credit” runs over 16,000 words, and that doesn’t include
eleven(!!!) appendices which include the financial considerations for parts of his plan.

Jefferson ends his part by signing, “Pray to God we never see Hamilton’s
candidacy. Look, when Britain taxed our tea, we got frisky. Imagine what gonna
happen when you try to tax our whisky.” First, Jefferson is hoping Hamilton never
becomes President. Some astute observers might think that he couldn’t be
President anyway, because he wasn’t born in the United States. But the provision in
the Constitution states, “No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the
United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the
Office of President” (emphasis mine). Since Hamilton lived here at the time of the
adoption of the Constitution, he could very well have been President.

As for the taxes on tea and whiskey, the British Parliament passed the Tea Act on
May 10, 1773, and the colonists got “frisky” at the Boston Tea Party on December 16,
1773, when chests of British tea were dumped into Boston Harbor.[9] And the
Whiskey tax was introduced by Hamilton as part of the “Public Credit” report
mentioned above. That appendix, titled “An Act Repealing Duties Laid Upon
Distilled Spirits Imported,” called for taxes on a number of alcoholic products,
including whiskey. (By the way, this act alone ran over 12,000 words.)

When Hamilton gets his turn in the battle, he goes back at Jefferson, and defends his
plan. He sings, “If we assume the debts, the union gets a new line of credit.”
Besides new taxes (like the one on whiskey), Hamilton also believed the federal
government could sell bonds to raise money. As the federal government paid back
foreign loans, they would be creating a line of credit enabling them to borrow more
money if necessary in the future.

Hamilton continues singing at Jefferson calling him “Mr. Age of Enlightenment”


and telling him, “Don’t lecture me about the war, you didn’t fight in it.” Hamilton
is right – Jefferson didn’t fight in the war; in fact, he remained largely away from the
fighting, except for one instance. Let’s look into his time during the war years –

Jefferson served in the Second Continental Congress as a delegate from Virginia in


1775 and 1776. He then went back to Virginia where he served in the Virginia House
of Delegates for Albemarle County. In this capacity, over the next few years, while
the war raged in other parts, Jefferson assisting in framing the state constitution and
revising the laws of Virginia. In 1779 he was elected governor of Virginia. During his
term the British army, under Benedict Arnold, invaded Virginia in January
1781. Jefferson fled Richmond (which he had recently made the new state capital),
and the British burned the town to the ground. As his term neared the end, he wrote
to Washington, pleading for his assistance. “Were it possible for this Circumstance
to justify in you Excellency a determination to lend us your personal aid, it is evident
from the universal voice that the presence of their beloved Countryman…that your
appearance among them I say would restore full confidence of salvation and would
render them equal to whatever is not impossible.”

Unbeknownst to Jefferson, the British were ordered to capture him and other
members of Virginia’s government. Jefferson was warned by a militiaman who rode
through the night and arrived at Monticello at dawn. Jefferson fled again, only
minutes before the British arrived. At Staunton, Virginia, where the State
government reconvened after fleeing the British, an inquiry into Jefferson’s conduct
as governor was held, centered largely on where the fault lay for the chaos
surrounding the British invasion. In the end, Jefferson was not condemned for his
actions; the assembly believed Jefferson did not have it in his power to do much
else.[10]

Jefferson’s wife died the following year, and Jefferson was “in a state of
insensibility,” and he actually fainted, remaining “so long insensible” that the people
surrounding him “feared he would never revive.”[11] Jefferson then disappeared
from the public view, even as his country neared the end of its war with the
British. He remained in his room for three weeks. The he rode on horseback around
the mountain and through the woods on and around his property. During this time,
it appears he even contemplated suicide. In October he wrote to his sister-in-law,
“This miserable kind of existence is really too burthensome to be borne, and were it
not for the infidelity of deserting the sacred charge left me [his daughter], I could not
wish it’s continuance a moment. For what could it be wished? All my plans of
comfort and happiness reversed by a single event….” Despite these feelings,
Jefferson was back into politics when he returned to Congress in 1783.

Getting back to the musical, Hamilton tells Jefferson, “We almost died in the
trench.” He’s referring to the attack on Yorktown in 1781 (which I covered in part 8
of this series).
When Washington finally breaks up the meeting (after Hamilton says Madison and
Jefferson are “useless as two shits” and tells them, “Turn around, bend over, I’ll
show you where my shoe fits.”), Jefferson and Madison remind Hamilton, “You
don’t have the votes.” This refers to the votes needed in Congress to pass
Hamilton’s financial plan. When he meets with Washington, the President tells
Hamilton, “You have to find a compromise.” That compromise will be made in
three songs time, in “The Room Where It Happens.”

The next part of this series, part twelve will cover four songs – “Take a Break,” “Say
No to This,” “The Room Where It Happens,” and “Schuyler Defeated.”

Notes:
[1] https://www.monticello.org/site/jefferson/paris
[2] Jefferson wrote in detail about the start of the Revolution in France in a letter
to John Jay dated July 19, 1789.
[3] In a letter dated July 9, 1789, Lafayette wrote to Jefferson “To Morrow I
present my bill of rights about the middle of the sitting. Be pleased to Consider it
Again, and Make Your observations.” The footnotes after the Declaration on this
page offer some more insight into Jefferson’s role in forming the document.
[4] It is believed now (and was believed even at the time) that Jefferson raped
Hemings, fathering at least six children by her. She was never granted freedom
by Jefferson.
[5] Especially notable were letters of October 13, 1789; November 30, 1789;
December 15, 1789; January 21, 1790; and February 14, 1790. Jefferson left
France on September 28, 1789 and arrived in Norfolk, Virginia on November 23rd.
[6] See here for an introductory note to the report. And yes, there was a First
Report.
[7] An introductory note to that report can be found here.
[8] There were various parts to Hamilton’s plans. Not all are mentioned here.
[9] Massachusetts wasn’t the only colony that had a tea party. There were tea
parties in New York (Manhattan) on April 22, 1774; Maryland (Annapolis) on
October 19, 1774; and New Jersey (Greenwich) on December 22, 1774.
[10] Meacham, Jon. Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power. New York: Random
House, 2012. Pages 137-142.
[11] Meacham, 146.

Part twelve will cover songs twenty-six and twenty-seven: “Take a Break” and “Say
No to This,” the steamiest song of the musical.

We left off with Washington telling Hamilton that he needed to find a compromise
to get his financial plan through Congress. This part will take us through Hamilton’s
life as he worked to get that plan passed.

“Take a Break” opens with Eliza and Philip singing to nine in French (and then in
English). Then Hamilton sings to his dearest Angelica with a spattering of Macbeth
references:

“Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty


pace from day to day. I trust you’ll understand the reference to
another Scottish tragedy without my having to name the play.
They think me Macbeth, and ambition is my folly; I’m a
polymath, a pain in the ass, a massive pain. Madison is Banquo,
Jefferson’s Macduff, and Birnam Wood is Congress on its way to
Dunsinane.”

The opening line here is taken directly from Shakespeare’s Macbeth as part of
Macbeth’s soliloquy in Act 5, Scene 5.[1]

As for Hamilton’s comparisons to the characters in Shakespeare’s play –

 Macbeth was a soldier, and a powerful man, as was Hamilton. When Macbeth
obtains the highest power, however, he rules as a tyrant. Hamilton’s enemies
think he will do the same.
 Banquo is ambitious, but does not generally act upon his ambitions. This is how
we see Madison in the musical.
 Macduff (Jefferson) is Macbeth’s (Hamilton’s) enemy.[2]

Different scenes in Acts 4 and 5 of the play explain the final part of this quote. In Act
4, Scene 1 it is said that “Macbeth shall never vanquish’d be until Great Birnam wood
to high Dunsinane hill Shall come against him.” What the hell does that mean? It
means that Macbeth believes he will never be vanquished, because he doesn’t see
how the forest (Birnam Wood) could ever be uprooted and moved up the hill. Too
bad Macbeth took the words literally. In Act 5, Scene 4 of the play we see Macbeth’s
enemies at Birnam Wood and “every soldier hew him down a bough and bear’t
before him.” And just like that, Birnam Wood becomes cover for the soldiers as they
approach Dunsinane. In the following scene a messenger comes to Macbeth to warn
him, “I look’d toward Birnam, and anon, methought, the wood began to move.” And
so Birnam Wood (Congress) is on its way to Dunsinane to vanquish Macbeth
(Hamilton). Okay, enough Shakespeare.

Hamilton’s letter-writing to Angelica (who is an ocean away) is interrupted by Eliza,


who calls for him to come see his son Philip play piano on his ninth birthday. This
would put us in the year 1791. As part of Philip’s song he sings, “I have a sister but I
want a little brother.” Lin-Manuel Miranda seems to ignore siblings when
convenient (he did the same with the Schuyler children). Philip was born in 1782, and
his sister, Angelica, was born in 1784. Before he was nine Philip already had two
brothers, Alexander Junior (born in 1786) and James Alexander (born in 1788).[3]

Eliza attempts to get Alexander to “take a break” and go upstate (to Albany, NY) to
stay with her father for the summer, but he demurs, claiming he has “so much on
my plate.” In the meantime, a letter arrives from Angelica for Alexander. In this
letter Angelica writes (sings), “In a letter I received from you two weeks ago I
noticed a comma in the middle of a phrase. It changed the meaning. Did you
intend this?…It says: My dearest, Angelica, with a comma after dearest.” In real
life, however, the author of this comma was reversed; it was Angelica who placed
the comma in the middle of a phrase and Alexander who questioned its intentions.
(The explanation of this song is turning out to be more of an English lesson than a
History lesson….)

In a letter dated October 2, 1787, Angelica wrote, “Indeed my dear, Sir if my path was
strewed with as many roses, as you have filled your letter with compliments, I should
not now lament my absence from America.” If punctuation matters, Angelica has
called Alexander ‘my dear’ which has a different meaning from ‘my dear Sir,’ which is
how it would read without the comma. Alexander responded in a letter dated
December 12, 1787, “You ladies despise the pedantry of punctuation. There was a
most critical comma in your last letter. It is my interest that it should have been
designed; but I presume it was accidental. Unriddle this if you can.” Who doesn’t
love eighteenth century flirtation?

Angelica next sings, “I’m coming home this summer at my sister’s invitation.” In
reality, Angelica and her husband left the U.S. in November 1789, following
Washington’s inauguration, and did not return until the spring of 1797,[4] so she was
not home in the summer of 1791.
When Angelica arrives in the musical, Eliza sings, “Angelica, tell this man John
Adams spends the summer with his family” (which was true) and Alexander
responds, “Angelica, tell my wife John Adams doesn’t have a real job
anyway.” John Adams felt his job as VP was largely insignificant and mostly
pointless. In one of his first conversations with Congress Adams said, “I feel a great
difficulty how to act. I am Vice President. In this I am nothing, but I may be
everything. But I am President also of the Senate. When the President comes into
the Senate, what shall I be?”[5] He complained often about the office of the Vice
President and its uselessness. In a letter to his wife Abigail, dated December 19,
1793, he wrote, “my Country has in its Wisdom contrived for me, the most
insignificant Office that ever the Invention of Man contrived or his Imagination
conceived: and as I can do neither good nor Evil, I must be born away by Others and
meet the common Fate.” And you wonder why they say, “Sit down John, you….”

Okay, there’s one last Macbeth reference before we move along to the next
song. Angelica sings, “Screw your courage to the sticking place.” In Act 1, Scene 7
of the play, Lady Macbeth uses those words to encourage Macbeth to murder the
king. After Macbeth asks, “If we should fail?” she says, “Screw your courage to the
sticking-place, and we’ll not fail.”

“Take a Break” goes right into “Say No to This” with an introduction from Aaron
Burr. Burr sings, “Someone under stress meets someone looking pretty. There’s
trouble in the air, you can smell it. And Alexander’s by himself. I’ll let him tell
it.” Hamilton’s affair with Maria Reynolds began in the summer of 1791, though it
wasn’t until 1797 that he told the story (which is really the thirty-seventh song of the
musical – “The Reynolds Pamphlet” – though we have to touch on some of the
pamphlet now). Hamilton was in Philadelphia (at 79 South Third Street), apparently
still with Eliza, “when Miss Maria Reynolds walked into my life.” Chernow wrote
that she appeared “as the mysterious Mrs. Reynolds” in the 1791 city directory, and
was “virtually the only person to appear without a first name.”[6]

Maria sings, “My husband’s doin’ me wrong – beatin’ me, cheatin’ me, mistreatin’
me. Suddenly he’s up and gone. I don’t have the means to go on.” In the Reynolds
Pamphlet, Hamilton wrote, “that her husband, who for a long time had treated her
very cruelly, had lately left her, to live with another woman, and in so destitute a
condition, that though desirous of returning to her friends she had not the means.”

Hamilton sings, “So I offered her a loan, I offered to walk her home.” This is not
the case. With Eliza at home Hamilton had to wait for a more opportune time. He
wrote in the Reynolds Pamphlet, “In the evening I put a bank-bill in my pocket and
went to the house.” Hamilton sang, “She lived a block away.” Her house was
located at 154 South Fourth Street – to walk from one to the other was probably
about five minutes. It’s more like two blocks though.
Next, Hamilton tells us that he said, “Well, I should head back home,” but “she
turned red, she led me to her bed, let her legs spread,” and said, “Stay.” Hamilton
wrote in the Reynolds Pamphlet, that when he arrived at the house, he “inquired for
Mrs. Reynolds and was shewn up stairs, at the head of which she met me and
conducted me into a bed room. I took the bill out of my pocket and gave it to her.
Some conversation ensued from which it was quickly apparent that other than
pecuniary consolation would be acceptable.” Hmmm….

Hamilton sings, “I wish I could say that was the last time I said that last time. It
became a pastime.” He did write that they met frequently, and that “The
intercourse with Mrs. Reynolds…continued.” Then Hamilton received a letter from a
Mister James Reynolds:

“Dear Sir, I hope this letter finds you in good health and in a prosperous enough
position to put wealth in the pockets of people like me, down on their luck. You
see, that was my wife who you decided to” [Hamilton] “Fuuuu” Reynolds
continues in the musical, “Time to pay the piper for the pants you unbuckled. And
hey, you can keep seein’ my whore wife if the price is right. If not I’m telling your
wife.” Hamilton sings, “I hid the letter and I raced to her place.” Mr. Reynolds did
indeed write Hamilton a letter (dated December 15, 1791), and although he didn’t
use those words in the musical, that’s pretty much the gist of it. An interesting part
of what Reynolds did really write to Hamilton: “you took the advantage a poor
Broken harted woman. instead of being a Friend. you have acted the part of the
most Cruelist man in existance. you have made a whole family miserable.” Maria
wrote to him later on the same day that James “has swore that If you do not answer
It or If he dose not se or hear from you to day he will write Mrs. Hamilton he has just
Gone oute and I am a Lone I think you had better come here….do not rite to him no
not a Line but come here soon.” Despite this, a month later, Alexander claimed he
received another letter from Mr. Reynolds in which “Reynolds invites me to renew
my visits to his wife.”

In the end, Mr. Reynolds asks, “So?” and Hamilton responds, “Nobody needs to
know.” According to Hamilton’s account in the Reynolds Pamphlet, he received a
letter on the 19th from Mr. Reynolds,” the essence of which is that he was willing to
take a thousand dollars as the plaister of his wounded honor. I determined to give it
to him, and did so in two payments.”

Before closing I’d like to share an interesting letter from Alexander to Eliza, written
on August 21, 1791, while his affair with Maria Reynolds was still new. He wrote,

“You said that you would not stay longer at Albany than twenty days
which would bring it to the first of September. How delighted shall I be to
receive you again to my bosom & to embrace with you my precious
children. And yet much as I long for this happy moment, my extreme
anxiety for the restoration of your health will reconcile me to your staying
longer where you are upon condition that you really receive benefit from
it, and that your own mind is at ease. But I do not believe that I shall
permit you to be so long absent from me another time. Be chearful be
happy my beloved, and if possible return to your husband with that sweet
bloom in your looks which can never fail to delight him.”

How sweet of him, right?

[1] Macbeth’s Soliloquy (Act 5, Scene 5)


She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
[2] Much like a high school student studying Shakespeare and trying to figure out
what I just read, I turned to Sparknotes for the character information.
[3] Hamilton also had four more children – John Church (born 1792), William
Stephen (born 1797), Eliza (born 1799), and Philip (born 1802, and named after the
first Philip who was killed in a duel less than eight months before his birth).
[4] Hamilton’s letter to Angelica on her departure from the U.S. in 1789 can be
found here. The information on her arrival back in the U.S. can be found here,
specifically at the fourth footnote.
[5] Quoted from McCullough, David. John Adams. New York: Simon & Schuster,
2001. Page 402. McCullough wrote that the response came from Oliver
Ellsworth, “That whenever the Senate are to be there, sir, you must be at the
head of them. But further, sir, I shall not pretend to say.”
[6] Chernow, 364. Chernow tells us that Eliza was home when Maria Reynolds
first came asking him for assistance.

Part thirteen will cover songs twenty-eight and twenty-nine: “The Room Where It
Happens,” and “Schuyler Defeated.”

“The Room Where It Happens” (among my favorites of the musical) actually takes us
back a year from the previous two songs.[1] It begins with Burr asking Hamilton,
“Did ya hear the news about good old General Mercer?” When Hamilton responds
in the negative, Burr tells him, “You know Clermont Street? They renamed it after
him. The Mercer legacy is secure.” Hugh Mercer was a Scotsman who settled in
Pennsylvania. During the Revolution he was a general in the Continental Army. At
the Battle of Princeton (in New Jersey) on January 3, 1777, Mercer was wounded and
attempted to surrender to the British. Instead of treating him as a prisoner, the
British soldiers stabbed him multiple times with their bayonets, and also beat him
over the head and face with the butt end of their muskets. He lingered for nine days
before dying.[2] (Hence the line, “And all he had to do was die.”) Mercer Street is
located in one of the oldest areas of New York City. It runs about one mile, from
Canal Street in the south to East 8th Street in the north, parallel to Broadway. It was
initially called First Street prior to 1797, and then renamed Clermont Street. It was
renamed for Mercer in 1799,[3] so in reality Burr and Hamilton wouldn’t be discussing
the name-change in 1790.

After Burr asks Hamilton, “How you gonna get your debt plan through?” and asks
for details, Hamilton dismisses Burr by saying, “I’m sorry Burr I’ve gotta go,
decisions are happening over dinner.” I briefly discussed the debt plan in part
eleven of this series. This dinner happened at the house Jefferson rented at 57
Maiden Lane in New York. (That building no longer stands, but there is a bronze
plaque on the current building marking the “site of the former residence of Thomas
Jefferson.”)

Burr then sings, “Two Virginians and an immigrant walk into a room diametrically
opposed, foes. They emerge with a compromise, having opened doors that were
previously closed, bros.” Congress was debating the Assumption Bill (Hamilton’s
debt plan) and the Residence Bill (where the nation’s capital should be located
permanently) simultaneously. Jefferson, in a letter to James Monroe dated June 20,
1790, wrote that these were “two of the most irritating questions that ever can be
raised among them” in Congress. Of the Assumption Bill Jefferson predicted that it
was “probable that unless they can be reconciled by some plan of compromise, there
will be no funding bill agreed to, our credit…will burst and vanish, and the states
separate to take care everyone of itself.” He told Monroe, “This prospect appears
probable to some well informed and well-disposed minds.” Jefferson wrote to
Thomas Mann Randolph, Jr. (who married his daughter) on the same day in similar
terms admitting that a compromise must be reached – “The assumption must be
admitted, but in so qualified a form as to divest it of it’s injustice.”

As for the Residence Bill, Congress was debating moving the capital from New York
to Philadelphia. The delegations from the southern states were not pleased that the
capital would remain in the north. For his part, Jefferson wrote Monroe, “If this plan
of compromise does not take place, I fear one infinitely worse, an unqualified
assumption and the perpetual residence on the Delaware.” In other words, Jefferson
believed that if a compromise was not worked out, Hamilton’s debt plan would be
pushed through without question and the capital would be permanently moved to
Philadelphia (or some other place on or near the Delaware River in Pennsylvania or
New Jersey).

Jefferson wrote his idea of a proposal to Monroe and Randolph which included
“assuming to the creditors of every state a sum exactly proportioned to the
contributions of the state: so that the state will on the whole neither gain nor lose”
while also “fixing the temporary residence for 12. or 15 years at Philadelphia, and
that at the end of that time it shall stand ipso facto and without further declaration
transferred to Georgetown.”

It was around the same time of these letters, with both bills about to collapse,
sending the new nation into chaos, that the dinner between the two Virginians –
Jefferson and Madison – and an immigrant – Hamilton – took place at 57 Maiden
Lane in New York City. Why were these three men alone involved in such a
potentially nation-changing debate? Well, “Thomas claims” a number of things in
the musical. His account of the meeting was probably written in 1792 (though
maybe as late as 1794).

 First: “Alexander was on Washington’s doorstep one day in distress and


disarray.”

Jefferson really wrote, “The assumption of the state debts in 1790. was a
supplementary measure in Hamilton’s fiscal system. When attempted in the House
of Representatives it failed. This threw Hamilton himself and a number of members
into deep dismay. Going to the President’s one day I met Hamilton as I approached
the door. His look was sombre, haggard, and dejected beyond description. Even his
dress uncouth and neglected.”

 Next: “Alexander said, ‘I’ve nowhere else to turn,’ and basically begged me
to join the fray.”

Jefferson wrote, “He asked to speak with me. We stood in the street near the
door….He added his wish that I would interest my friends from the South, who were
those most opposed to it.”

 Then: “I approached Madison and said, ‘I know you hate him, but let’s hear
what he has to say.’”

Jefferson wrote: “On considering the situation of things I thought the first step
towards some conciliation of views would be to bring Mr. Madison and Colo.
Hamilton to a friendly discussion of the subject.”

 And finally: “Well, I arranged the meeting, I arranged the menu, the venue,
the seating.”

Jefferson wrote, “I immediately wrote to each to come and dine with me the next
day, mentioning that we should be alone, that the object was to find some
temperament for the present fever, and that I was persuaded that men of sound
heads and honest views needed nothing more than explanation and mutual
understanding to enable them to unite in some measures which might enable us to
get along. They came.”

Madison, who was the only man among the three actually in the Congress, opposed
Hamilton’s plan, but wanted the capital in Virginia. Burr sings, “Madison is
grappling with the fact that not ev’ry issue can be settled by committee.” After
being invited to dine with Jefferson and Hamilton, Madison responds “with
Virginian insight,” “Maybe we can solve one problem with another and win a
victory for the Southerners,” and says he’ll “propose the Potomac” for the capital
and “see how it goes.” Again we turn to Jefferson, who wrote that Madison
suggested “that the question should be again brought before the house by way of
amendment from the Senate, that tho’ he would not vote for it, nor entirely
withdraw his opposition, yet he should not be strenuous, but leave it to it’s
fate.” Jefferson then wrote that should assumption pass, “the pill would be a bitter
one to the Southern states,” and so it was suggested by one of the three men that
“something should be done to soothe them; that the removal of the seat of
government to the Patowmac was a just measure, and would probably be a popular
one with them, and would be a proper one to follow the assumption.”
In order to make the compromise happen, Madison spoke with the three men in
Congress who represented the districts where the new capital would be
located. Other Congressmen were likewise persuaded to switch their votes in favor
of the Assumption Bill.[4] But the move to the Potomac wouldn’t happen unless
Hamilton did some wrangling as well. Jefferson believed that Hamilton spoke with
Robert Morris of Pennsylvania and “obtained the vote of that state, on agreeing to
an intermediate residence at Philadelphia.”

Burr then asks Alexander, “What did they say to you to get you to sell New York
City down the river?” The Compromise of 1790 moved the capital from New York
City to Philadelphia, temporarily, and then to the Potomac on the Maryland-Virginia
border. In the end, whether or not the men knew at the time that “it doesn’t matter
where you put the U.S. capital” because the financial center of power would remain
in the north (“We’ll have the banks; we’re in the same spot”), it appears Jefferson
figured it out by the time he wrote this account, for he said of the compromise,

“It was unjust, in itself oppressive to the states, and was acquiesced in
merely from a fear of disunion, while our government was still in it’s most
infant state. It enabled Hamilton so to strengthen himself by corrupt
services to many, that he could afterwards carry his bank scheme, and
every measure he proposed in defiance of all opposition…which has since
been able to give laws and to change the political complexion of the
government of the US.”[5]

And if poor old Aaron Burr had been in that room where it happened, would the
compromise have turned out differently? Or would he still be waiting for it,
whatever it is? As we see in the next song, “Schuyler Defeated,” Burr was continuing
his political climb regardless.

Philip Hamilton opens the song saying that he sees in the paper that his grandfather,
“War hero Philip Schuyler loses senate seat to young upstart Aaron
Burr.” Schuyler, Eliza’s father, and Philip’s namesake, was a war hero, serving as a
major in the French and Indian War and as a General during the Revolutionary
War. Burr, however, was not a young upstart. At thirty-five (in 1791), he had already
served in the State Assembly (1784-1785) and, more recently, as the State Attorney
General (1789-1791), before he won the U.S. Senate seat. He served in the Senate
until 1797 (when Schuyler took back the Senate seat).

When Hamilton approaches Burr he asks, “Burr, since when are you a Democratic-
Republican?” Burr had mostly been allied with the Anti-Federalists from the
beginning, and the Democratic-Republicans were the post-Constitution
reincarnation of the Anti-Federalists. They were initially formed by Jefferson and
Madison in opposition to Hamilton’s policies. So when Hamilton sings, “You
changed parties to run against my father-in-law,” that’s not entirely accurate.

The song ends on a Biblical note when Burr warns Hamilton, “I swear your pride will
be the death of us all. Beware, it goeth before the fall.” Proverbs 16:18 reads:
“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

That fall won’t come in part fourteen, which will cover “Cabinet Battle #2” and
“Washington On Your Side,” but Hamilton’s life will start falling apart soon after.

[1] Philip turned nine in 1791 in “Take a Break” and the initiation of Hamilton’s
affair with Maria Reynolds in “Say No to This” also happened in 1791. This song
takes us back to 1790 when Congress was debating the Assumption and
Residence Bills – Hamilton’s debt plan and the permanent location of the U.S.
capital.
[2] Virginia Gazette (Williamsburg) of January 31, 1777, page 6. Mercer was
brought to the Clarke house, near where he was wounded, and there he stayed
until he died. Today the Battlefield is a State Park, and the Clarke House is a
museum. Mercer was buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia. A fort at
Red Bank, NJ on the Delaware River was named after him, and a number of U.S.
counties also bear his name, including one in New Jersey and one in Pennsylvania.
[3] NYC Parks.
[4] The three men were Alexander White and Richard Bland Lee of Virginia, and
Daniel Carroll of Maryland. See also this link.
[5] The constitutionality of the Residence Bill was debated soon after its
passage. See here for a long (about 15 pages) discussion of this. Besides this
background, the links to the written opinions, both those published in
newspapers and those written between the men involved, can be found here.

Part fourteen will cover songs thirty and thirty-one: “Cabinet Battle #2” and
“Washington On Your Side.”
Washington opens the second Cabinet meeting introducing the issue that needs to
be debated: “France is on the verge of war with England. Do we provide aid and
our troops to our French allies, or do we stay out of it?” The Cabinet meeting to
discuss the issue of neutrality occurred on April 19, 1793. Newspapers in the U.S.
published France’s declaration of war against England and Holland by April 6th,
although Washington and U.S. government officials heard rumors of war earlier than
that date.[1] (War was actually declared by France on February 1st.)

Washington tells his Cabinet that the decision on the matter “is not subject to
congressional approval; the only person you have to convince is me.” This is a
sketchy issue. According to the U.S. Constitution, although the President is the
“commander-in-chief of the army and navy of the United States,” (Article II, Section
2), it is Congress who has the power to declare war (Article I, Section 8). It is likely,
had Washington and the Cabinet decided to aid the French with troops and military
support, Congress would have to be convinced to do so and grant their approval.

Either way, Washington probably didn’t need convincing. He wrote to


Hamilton from Mount Vernon in Virginia on April 12th, “Hostilities having
commenced between France & England, it is incumbent on the Government of the
United States to prevent…all interferences of our Citizens in them.” He instructed
Hamilton, “for the United States to maintain a strict neutrality between the Powers
at war, I wish to have seriously thought of, that I may as soon as I arrive at the Seat of
the Government, take such steps, tending to these ends.”[2] On the same
day, Washington wrote Jefferson a similar letter, writing, “War having actually
commenced between France and Great Britain, it behoves the Government of this
Country to use every means in it’s power to prevent the citizens thereof from
embroiling us with either of those powers, by endeavouring to maintain a strict
neutrality. I therefore require that you will give the subject mature consideration.”

The “battle” gets underway with Jefferson again going first: “We made a promise,
we signed a treaty. We needed money and guns and half a chance; who provided
those funds?” (Madison answers: “France.”) In return, Jefferson continues, the
French only asked “that we’d lend a hand and stand with them if they fought
against oppressors.” Jefferson is referring to the Treaty of Alliance with
Francewhich was signed in 1778, when the U.S. was still fighting Britain for
independence. It doesn’t appear that Jefferson was as forceful in reality as he is in
the musical in his belief that the U.S. absolutely had to back France. In a letter to
Washington dated April 7, 1793, he wrote that it was his opinion “that we take every
justifiable measure for preserving our neutrality, and at the same time provide those
necessaries for war which must be brought across the Atlantic.”

When Hamilton gets his turn, he tells Jefferson, “You must be out of your goddamn
mind” if he thinks the country should meddle “in the middle of a mess…where
France is Queen and Kingless.” He reminds everyone that the treaty referred to by
Jefferson was signed “with a King whose head is now in a basket.” The French
monarchy was abolished on September 21, 1792. King Louis XVI was executed on
January 21, 1793 by guillotine. (Marie Antoinette didn’t lose her head until October
16th.) Hamilton is arguing that the treaty was signed with the King and his nation of
France, and not with whoever is now leading and running that country. Therefore,
the U.S. is not required to honor the treaty.

Before hearing any more, Washington cuts off the debate, taking Hamilton’s side
and saying, “We’re too fragile to start another fight.” The American army number
just over 5,000 men in 1793.[3] The Navy was pretty much nonexistent. Congress
didn’t authorize the reestablishment of the Navy until 1794, and the first three ships
weren’t launched until 1797.[4] Washington was not exaggerating. Jefferson does
not like Washington’s response, however, and presses Washington by asking, “Do
we not fight for freedom?” When Washington responds, “Sure, when the French
figure out who’s gonna lead em,” Jefferson replies, “The people are
leading.” Washington cuts him off to say, “The people are rioting.” The
people were rioting. Even before King Louis lost his head (but while he was
imprisoned), the people in France (in Paris and in the countryside) were rioting, some
over food shortages and others for political reasons. The King’s authority was
stripped from him, but it took months before a semblance of stable government
replaced him.

It isn’t surprising then, that Washington seems disappointed with Jefferson, telling
him, “It’s a little disquieting you would let you ideals blind you to reality,” and
then turns to Hamilton and tells him to “draft a statement of neutrality.” Jefferson
sided with the French revolutionaries. As mentioned in part 11 of this series, he was
minister to France from 1784 until returning home in 1789. Before leaving France, he
helped drafting revolutionary France’s Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the
Citizen and was present in Paris when the revolutionaries stormed the Bastille on July
14, 1789, kicking off the French Revolution.

The Proclamation of Neutrality was issued on April 22, 1793. As Secretary of State,
Jefferson’s signature was on the paper. (It was written by the Attorney General,
Edmund Randolph, who also gave a lengthy reply to Washington on the treaty with
France in regards to staying neutral.) Following the issuance of the proclamation,
Hamilton wrote a “Defense of the President’s Neutrality Proclamation.” After that,
Hamilton and Madison published letters in newspapers under the assumed names
of Pacificus and Helvidius, respectively defending and attacking the Proclamation of
Neutrality.[5]

After Washington steps away, Jefferson asks Hamilton if he forgot


Lafayette. Hamilton retorts, “Lafayette’s a smart man, he’ll be
fine.” Actually…although Lafayette was among the leaders of the National
Assembly, and he presented the “Declaration of the Rights of Man,” and he led the
National Guard of France, and he also tried to keep some sense of order, he
protected the King and the royal family on a number of occasions, and when the
Revolution turned, Lafayette looked to be a royalist to some in the rebellion. In fact,
a mob attacked his home in 1791 due to the belief that he sympathized with the
royals. The following year, he criticized the radical factions in a speech in Paris, but
then realized the radical factions controlled Paris. Around the time the monarchy
was abolished, Lafayette had become a wanted man. He attempted to escape to the
U.S. but was captured by the Austrians and imprisoned until further notice. While
imprisoned, the U.S. government sent money to Lafayette, but did not believe they
could assist him in any other way.[6] He remained imprisoned until 1797.

Following the Cabinet battle, Burr, Jefferson, and Madison get together to complain
about how Washington always takes Hamilton’s side. In the end, they decide on a
plan. That’s the premise of “Washington On Your Side.”

Jefferson signs, “Every action has its equal, opposite reaction.” This comes from
Newton’s Third Law, which states, “To every action there is always opposed an equal
reaction: or the mutual actions of two bodies upon each other are always equal, and
directed to contrary parts.”[7]

Then Jefferson blames Hamilton for the Cabinet being “fractured into factions.” He
says, “We smack each other in the press, and we don’t print retractions.” Along
with the Pacificus and Helvidius essays mentioned above, the men went at each
other in the press, if not directly (under assumed names) through
intermediaries. This continued even after both men left the Cabinet. It continued
after Washington’s Presidency. It continues today, though with different actors.

Burr and Jefferson together sing, “Look back at the Bill of Rights,” and Madison
chimes in, “Which I wrote!” and Burr and Jefferson say, “The ink hasn’t
dried.” Madison did write the Bill of Rights in response to calls from some states for
protection of individual liberties. Fellow Virginian George Mason, who refused to
sign the Constitution because it lacked these rights, is also credited alongside
Madison, though he rarely gets as much attention. Although the Bill of Rights was
written and submitted to the States in 1789, it wasn’t ratified until December 15,
1791 after the 10th of 14 states approved the amendments.

Madison sings, “He’s doubled the size of the government; wasn’t the trouble with
much of our previous government size?” I don’t know that Hamilton doubled the
size of the government, but size wasn’t the trouble with the previous government. If
Madison is referring to the government under the Articles of Confederation, the
problem was that the central government did not have enough power over the
States to be effective. If he’s talking about the British, which is what I assume, it
wasn’t their size that was the problem. It may have been taxation without
representation and other slights, but it wasn’t due to the size of the government. It
seems Miranda took artistic license here in order to make some kick-ass rhymes.

Jefferson complains how Hamilton was “centralizing national credit and making
American credit competitive,” and then decides, “I have to resign.” Madison and
Burr try to talk him out of it, but Jefferson stops them, stating, “If there’s a fire
you’re trying to douse, you can’t put it out from inside the house.” He follows up
saying, “If Washington isn’t gonna listen to disciplined dissidents this is the
difference, this kid is out.” Jefferson sent his letter of resignation to Washington on
December 31, 1793. Washington accepted the resignation on the following
day. Jefferson had written a lengthy letter in September 1792 stating that he wanted
to resign, and wrote another at the end of July 1793 regarding the
same.[8] Although Washington followed some of Jefferson’s suggestions, he mostly
sided with Hamilton, especially concerning Hamilton’s financial plans, which
Jefferson opposed. (Some of this plan was covered in part 11 of this series.)

The men then bash Hamilton signing, “This immigrant isn’t somebody we chose,”
and, “It’s time to show these Federalists who they’re up against (Oh!) – southern
motherfuckin’ Democratic-Republicans! (Oh!)” Hamilton – the immigrant – wasn’t
chosen by the people – he was appointed by Washington.[9] Before the Constitution
was passed, those in favor of its ratification were known as the Federalists and
included Washington, Hamilton, and John Adams. Those opposed to ratification
were known as the anti-Federalists, and included Jefferson and Madison. Burr was
seen to be on this side as well. Following ratification, the anti-Federalists mostly
lined up in opposition to Hamilton’s plans. Formed mostly around Jefferson and
Madison, the party became known as the Democratic-Republicans.[10]

They end the meeting determined to “follow the money and see where it goes,”
and “look for the seeds of Hamilton’s misdeeds.” This refers to the money paid to
Mister James Reynolds. As mentioned in part twelve of this series, according to
Hamilton’s account in the Reynolds Pamphlet, he received a letter from Mr.
Reynolds,” the essence of which is that he was willing to take a thousand dollars as
the plaister of his wounded honor. I determined to give it to him, and did so in two
payments.” The men didn’t know about any of this yet, but it is what Miranda is
alluding to with these lines. (This will be covered more in depth in part 16 of this
series.)[11]

Before the songs ends, Jefferson says, “The emperor has no clothes.” This comes
from the pen of Hans Christian Andersen in the short story, The Emperor’s New
Clothes. The essence of the story is that two swindlers posing as weavers convince
the king that they can make the finest clothes, but “clothes made of this cloth had a
wonderful way of becoming invisible to anyone who was unfit for his office, or who
was unusually stupid.” As the swindlers made believe they were weaving (because
they really had no thread), the king and his ministers were too embarrassed to say
they couldn’t see the cloth. When the swindlers were done, they helped to dress the
king in his new clothes (which didn’t exist), and he goes out to parade in front of the
town. Everyone in the town plays along until a little child says, “But he hasn’t got
anything on,” and then the whole town agrees. Not having any other choice, the
king continues as if he’s wearing the finest clothes and the people are too stupid or
unfit to notice.

Unfortunately for Hamilton, Washington is determined to step down as


President. When John Adams wins the Election of 1796, the downfall of Hamilton
begins.

[1] Daily Advertiser of April 6, 1793, page 3: “Declaration of War Against England
and Holland.” Jefferson also remarks about the “accounts of the last
week…announcing an actual declaration of war by France against England &
Holland” in a letter to Washington dated April 7, 1793. Washington had received
word of the declaration as early as March 29th.
[2] Washington arrived in Philadelphia on April 17th.
[3] Mahon and Danysh, 1972, p. 12
[4] Launching the New U.S. Navy, 2016.
[5] The letters were all published in the Gazette of the United States (in
Philadelphia). Pacifcus wrote seven essays between June 29 and July 27, 1793,
while Helvidius wrote five between August 24 and September 18, 1793. Two
more essays, written by Americanus, were published in Dunlap’s Daily Advertiser
(in Philadelphia) on January 31, 1794 and February 7, 1794.
[6] Unger.
[7] It was written in Latin, so it really states, “Actioni contrariam semper et
æqualem esse reactionem: sive corporum duorum actiones in se mutuo semper
esse æquales et in partes contrarias dirigi.”
[8] Hamilton wanted to resign in June 1793, and again the following year, but his
resignation was not effected. He served until January 1795 as Treasury Secretary.
[9] Hamilton was nominated by Washington for Treasury Secretay on September
11, 1789 and approved on the same day.
[10] The Federalist Party died out in the 1820s. The present-day Democratic and
Republican Parties have roots in the Democratic-Republican Party. The
Democratic-Republican Party was left as the only party following the demise of
the Federalists, but it soon disappeared as well as members fractured into two
new parties. The present-day Democratic Party was formed under the banner of
Andrew Jackson in 1829. The National Republican Party formed under John
Quincy Adams in 1825, but lasted only slightly longer than his Presidency before
warring factions broke into at least 4 other parties. These parties, formed in the
1830s and 40s, broke apart in the 1850s. The anti-slavery elements of those
former parties formed the present-day Republican Party in 1854. The other
elements disappeared shortly afterwards.
[11] Specifically it is discussed in the songs “We Know” and “The Reynolds
Pamphlet.”

Part fifteen will cover songs thirty-two through thirty-four: “One Last Time,” “I Know
Him,” and “The Adams Administration.” These songs cover Washington’s
retirement and the downfall of Hamilton during the Presidency of John Adams.

“One Last Time” is about Washington telling Hamilton that he won’t be running for
President again and asking Hamilton to help write his Farewell address. At the start
of the song Washington tells Hamilton “Thomas Jefferson resigned this
morning.” As mentioned in the previous part, Jefferson sent his letter of
resignation to Washington on December 31, 1793. Washington accepted the
resignation on the following day. When Washington asks for a favor, Hamilton says,
“I’ll use the press, I’ll write under a pseudonym, you’ll see what I can do to
him.” Hamilton did take up his pen against Jefferson, but it wasn’t until
1796. Hamilton published twenty-five essays in the Gazette of the United
States under the name Phocion between October 14th and November 24th of that
year. Jefferson was running for President at the time, against John Adams. Chernow
wrote that these “essays contain the most withering critique that Hamilton ever
leveled at Jefferson as a slaveholder, and they hint heavily at knowledge of the Sally
Hemings affair.”[1]

Washington tells Hamilton, “I need you to draft an address.” This refers to


Washington’s Farewell address, which was delivered in 1796. James Madison
actually wrote a draft for a farewell address earlier, in 1792.[2] When Washington
decided not to retire, he didn’t need Madison’s address. In May 1796, Washington
discussed with Hamilton the preparation of a farewell address.[3]

Hamilton didn’t realize that Washington was retiring initially in the musical, and he
said, “Yes! He resigned. You can finally speak your mind.” Washington told
Hamilton, “No, he’s stepping down so he can run for President.” Miranda plays
with the timeline a bit here. Jefferson resigned at the end of 1793. He didn’t run for
President until 1796, when it was known Washington was stepping down.

Washington tells Hamilton that he wants to “talk about neutrality,” and “warn
against partisan fighting.” He touched on both of these topics in his farewell
address. Hamilton tries to convince Washington to stay on, saying, “you could
continue to serve.” This was true. There were no term limits from President at that
time and Washington could have continue to be reelected as President as many
times as the electors chose him.

Further along in the song[4] Washington quotes the Bible: “Like the scripture says:
‘Everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree and no one shall make them
afraid.’” This comes from Micah 4:4: “But they shall sit every man under his vine and
under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the Lord of
hosts hath spoken it.”[5]

Then, beginning with “Though, in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I


am unconscious of intentional error…” and ending with “…the ever-favorite object
of my heart, and the happy reward, as I trust of our mutual cares, labors, and
dangers” Washington’s real Farewell Address is proclaimed in the musical almost
exactly word for word.[6]

“One Last Time” comes to an end, and King George comes back on stage to sing “I
Know Him.” The King can’t believe that Washington is stepping down – “I wasn’t
aware that was something a person could do,” he sings – and he’s further surprised
when he learns John Adams will replace Washington. He sings, “I know him. That
can’t be. That’s that little guy who spoke to me all those years ago, what was it,
eighty-five?” Adams was named the first minister to Great Britain in 1785. In June,
as was the custom, Adams had to present himself to the King, “to make his Majesty
some Compliments conformable to the Spirit of his Credentials.” He wrote a letter
to John Jay describing the experience. Adams (who was about 5’7” in case you were
wondering about “that little guy”) said he was led to the King’ Closet and

“the Door was shut and I was left with his Majesty and the Secretary of
State alone. I made the three Reverences, one at the Door, another about
half Way & the third before the Presence, according to the Usage
established at this and all the Northern Courts of Europe, and then
addressed myself to his Majesty.”

Check out this note ->[7] to see what Adams said to King George. Adams believed
the King’s response[8] was positive.

[An interesting side-note regarding King George and John Adams: At the Staten
Island Peace Conference in September 1776, Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Edward
Rutledge met with Admiral Lord Richard Howe to discuss a possible end to the
hostilities. Finding that Howe’s “Commission contains no other Authority, than that
of granting Pardons,”[9] Adams responded that it was his determination “not to
depart from the idea of independecy.”[10] The meeting ended with no
accommodations being made, and the war resumed. Adams later found out that
before leaving from England Howe had been given a list of American rebels who
could be granted pardons, and Adams’ name was not on that list. Adams would have
been hanged.[11]]

To the delight of the audience, King George stays on stage for the next number,
“The Adams Administration.” Burr opens the song with, “How does Hamilton, the
short-tempered Protean creator of the Coast Guard, founder of the New York
Post, ardently abuse his Cabinet post, destroy his reputation? Welcome, folks, to
the Adams Administration!”

Hamilton didn’t “create” the Coast Guard, per se. Congress allowed for its
creation with the Revenue Cutter Service (its name before it was called the Coast
Guard), which was placed under the Department of the Treasury.[12] It was
Hamilton, though, who came up with the ideas of what exactly the Revenue Cutter
Service should look like. In a letter written by Hamilton to Washington in September
1790, a month after the Congressional act, he describes his vision.

As for founding the New York Post in 1801, Chernow wrote that the election of
Jefferson “had spurred Hamilton and his friends to found a new Federalist paper,
the New-York Evening Post, now the oldest continuously active paper in
America….Of the ten thousand dollars of start-up capital, Hamilton likely
contributed one thousand.” Hamilton and other Federalists used the paper to attack
Jefferson and other political enemies.[13]

And for abusing his Cabinet post and destroying his reputation, Burr is alluding to the
Reynolds affair (which we’ll talk about in the next part of this series).

Burr sings, “Jefferson’s the runner-up, which makes him the Vice President.” It
wasn’t until the election of 1804, when Jefferson and Burr tied, that voting for
President changed into what we know today. Before ratification of the Twelfth
Amendment in that year, Presidential electors simply casted two votes for President
(as per Article II, Section 1, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution). The candidate with the
majority of votes from the electors became President and the candidate with the
second most votes became Vice President.

Next Burr sings, “Adams fires Hamilton, privately calls him ‘Creole bastard’ in his
taunts.” The first part of this is not historically accurate. Hamilton wrote to
Washington On December 1, 1794 informing him that he would resign his position
Treasury Secretary as of January 1, 1795. Adams was not inaugurated until March 4,
1797. The second part of this, as far as I can find, it only partially true. I have been
unable to find a primary source where Adams used the exact phrase “Creole
bastard.”[14] However, as Chernow noted, Adams was “preoccupied with
Hamilton’s illegitimacy and foreign birth and could be quite heartless on the
subject.”[15] James McHenry, the Secretary of War under Washington and Adams,
recalled a conversation he had with Adams, in a May 1800 letter to the
President. During this conversation, besides calling Hamilton, “an intriguant—the
greatest intriguant in the World” and claiming he was “a man devoid of every moral
principle,” Adams also referred to him as “a Bastard.”[16] In a letter to Benjamin
Rush in 1806 (when he was no longer President, and Hamilton was dead), Adams
referred to Hamilton as “a bastard brat of a Scotch Pedler.” In a letter written to
Adams in 1811by William Cunningham, the latter wrote, “Against Gen. Hamilton you
have vented more, and fouler obloquy….You have said he was a bastard son of
Scotch pedlar.” And in 1815 Adams wrote a letter to Benjamin Waterhouse (a
renown Massachusetts physician) in which he referred to Hamilton as “the Scottish
Creolian of Nevis.”[17]

Burr sings, “Hamilton publishes his response.” As insults and attacks piled on in
private letters and public newspapers, it appears Hamilton was requesting the
President of the United States answer his demands for an explanation of what
exactly Adams had said, otherwise he would have to demand satisfaction. Hamilton
wrote letters to Adams on August 1, 1800 and again on October 1st. Adams
apparently never responded. Hamilton being Hamilton, wrote a pamphlet against
Adams which he thought he would privately pass around to influential Federalists,
hoping to sway them to vote for Thomas Pinckney (a Federalist who it was hoped
would be Vice President to Adams by a majority of the party). Parts of Hamilton’s
letter soon became public, however, and Hamilton decided to publicly publish the
pamphlet. The pamphlet, published October 24, 1800, and titled, Letter from
Alexander Hamilton, Concerning the Public Conduct and Character of John Adams, Esq.
President of the United States, was over 14,000 words and ran 54
pages. Unfortunately, Hamilton did not write in it, “Sit down John you fat
mother….”

Madison was elated. In the musical he says, “This is great! He’s out of power. He
holds no office. And he just destroyed President John Adams, the only other
significant member of his party.” Madison wrote to Jefferson on November 1st,
“What an important Denoûment has lately been made! Hamilton’s Attack upon Mr.
Adams….will be a Thunderbolt…. I rejoice with you, that Republicanism is likely to be
so completely triumphant.” On the 3rd he wrote to James Monroe of “the publication
of a pamphlet by Hamilton, the object of wh. is to decry Adams, & throw the British
or anti republican vote on Pinckney. I have not read it but am inclined to believe,
from what I have heard of the work, it will do their whole party more harm than
good.”

Jefferson counters, “Hamilton’s a host unto himself. As long as he can hold a pen,
he’s a threat.” In 1795 Jefferson wrote in a letter to Madison, “Hamilton is really a
colossus to the antirepublican party. Without numbers, he is an host within
himself.” Later in the same letter he stated of Hamilton’s writing ability, “We have
had only midling performances to oppose to him. In truth, when he comes forward,
there is nobody but yourself who can meet him.”

Jefferson closes the song by saying, “Let’s let him know what we know.” And that
is what the next part will cover – “We Know,” “Hurricane,” “The Reynolds Pamphlet,”
and “Burn.”

[1] Chernow, 512. Hamilton also wrote nicer things about Adams in the essays.
[2] The draft was at Washington’s request, and was enclosed with a letter dated
June 20, 1792 from Madison to Washington.
[3] Hamilton wrote Abstract Points to Form an Address on May 16, 1796. For a
brief explanation of the drafting of the address, see The Washington Papers.
[4] I initially typed “further down, further down” because I started singing it, but I
didn’t want to confuse anyone.
[5] That’s the King James Version. The New International Version says,
“Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one
will make them afraid, for the Lord Almighty has spoken.”
[6] The real part of the farewell address quoted in the musical reads: “Though in
reviewing the incidents of my Administration, I am unconscious of intentional
error–I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I
may have committed many errors. Whatever they may be I fervently beseech the
Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry
with me the hope that my Country will never cease to view them with indulgence;
and that after forty five years of my life dedicated to its Service, with an upright
zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself
must soon be to the Mansions of rest. Relying on its kindness in this as in other
things, and actuated by that fervent love towards it, which is so natural to a Man,
who views in it the native soil of himself and his progenitors for several
Generations; I anticipate with pleasing expectation that retreat, in which I
promise myself to realize, without alloy, the sweet enjoyment of partaking, in the
midst of my fellow Citizens, the benign influence of good Laws under a free
Government–the ever favourite object of my heart, and the happy reward, as I
trust, of our mutual cares, labours and dangers.”
[7] Adams wrote to Jay that he used the following words when addressing the
King: “Sir, The United States of America have appointed me their Minister
Plenipotentiary to your Majesty, and have directed me to deliver to your Majesty
this Letter which contains the Evidence of it. It is in Obedience to their express
Commands that I have the Honor to assure your Majesty of their unanimous
Disposition and Desire to cultivate the most friendly and liberal Intercourse
between your Majesty’s Subjects and their Citizens, and of the best Wishes for
your Majesty’s Health and Happiness and for that of your royal Family. The
Appointment of a Minister from the United States to your Majesty’s Court, will
form an Epocha in the History of England & of America. I think myself more
fortunate than all my fellow Citizens in having the distinguished Honor to be the
first to stand in your Majesty’s roy[al] Presence in a diplomatic Character and I
shall esteem myse[lf] the happiest of Men if I can be instrumental in
recommendi[ng] my Country more and more to your Majesty’s royal
Benevolen[ce] and of restoring an entire Esteem, Confidence & Affection, or in
bet[ter] Words, the old good Nature and the old good Humour betwee[n] People
who, tho’ separated by an Ocean and under different Gov[ern]ments, have the
same Language, a similar religion & kindr[ed] Blood. I beg your Majesty’s
Permission to add, that altho’ I ha[d ]some Time before been entrusted by my
Country, it was never [in] my whole Life in a Manner so agreeable to myself.”
[8] If it matters to you, Adams wrote that the King replied something to the effect
of, “Sir—The Circumstances of thy Audience are so extraordinary, the Language
you have now held is so extremely proper and the Feelings you have discovered
so justly adapted to the Occasion, that I must say that I not only receive with
Pleasure the Assurances of the friendly Dispositions of the United States, but that
I am very glad the Choice has fallen upon You to be their Minister. I wish you Sir,
to believe, and that it may be understood in America, that I have done nothing in
the late Contest, but what I thought myself indispensably bound to do, by the
Duty which I owed to my People. I will be very frank with you. I was the last to
consent to the Separation, but the Separation having been made and having
become inevitable, I have always said, as I say now, that I would be the first to
meet the Friendship of the United States as an independent Power. The Moment
I see such Sentiments & Language as yours prevail, and a Disposition to give to
this Country the Preference, that Moment I shall say, let the Circumstances of
Language; Religion and Blood have their natural and full Effect.”
[9] “[Tuesday. September 17th. 1776.] ,” Founders Online, National Archives
(http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/01-03-02-0016-0189 [last
update: 2015-12-30]). Source: The Adams Papers, Diary and Autobiography of
John Adams, vol. 3, Diary, 1782–1804; Autobiography, Part One to October 1776,
ed. L. H. Butterfield. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1961, pp. 420–
431.
[10] Qtd. in McCullough, 157.
[11] McCullough, 158.
[12] Sec. 62 reads: “Be it further enacted, That the President of the United States
be empowered to cause to be built and equipped, so many boats or cutters, not
exceeding ten, as may be necessary to be employed for the protection of the
revenue, the expense whereof shall not exceed ten thousand dollars, which shall
be paid out of the product of the duties on goods, wares and merchandise,
imported into the United States, and on the tonnage of ships or vessels.” It’s on
page 175 of the book if you click the link above.
[13] Chernow, 649.
[14] Chernow said Adams used the phrase, on page 522. If anyone finds where
Adams used it, please let me know.
[15] Chernow, 522.
[16] This conversation came at a time when Adams was forcing McHenry to
resign, believing he was partial to Hamilton. Adams did likewise to several other
members of his Cabinet. McHenry sent a copy of his conversation with Adams to
Hamilton.
[17] On January 9, 1797, Adams wrote to his wife of Hamilton, “Hamilton I know
to be a proud Spirited, conceited, aspiring Mortal always pretending to Morality,
with as debauched Morals as old Franklin who is more his Model than any one I
know. As great an Hypocrite as any in the U.S.” For her part, she wrote of
Hamilton on the 28th, “I have read his Heart in his wicked Eyes many a time. The
very devil is in them.”
Part sixteen will cover songs thirty-five through thirty-eight: “We Know,”
“Hurricane,” “The Reynolds Pamphlet,” and “Burn” – the ruin of Alexander
Hamilton’s public and personal life.

“One Last Time,” “I Know Him,” and “The Adams Administration,” the three
previous songs (covered in part fifteen of this series), covered the time period of
about 1793 to 1800. “We Know” and “The Reynolds Pamphlet” take place between
those years.

Miranda took artistic license with the people who were involved in “We
Know.” Hamilton opens the song with “Mr. Vice President. Mr. Madison. Senator
Burr. What is this?” I’ll attempt to make a long story short – James Reynolds and
two other men were imprisoned on charges of committing fraud against the U.S.
government. While in prison, and after they secured their release, Reynolds and one
of the other men (Jacob Clingman) began dropping hints that they had information
that concerned Hamilton committing fraud while he was Treasury
Secretary. Frederick Muhlenberg, who was a member of the U.S. House of
Representatives, had employed Clingman before his imprisonment, and received
some of the info regarding Hamilton from Clingman. As Muhlenberg continued to
receive more information, he began to believe the accusations against Hamilton. He
informed his fellow Congressmen James Monroe and Abraham Venable of what he
had heard. It was these three men – Muhlenberg, Monroe, and Venable – who
approached Hamilton on December 15, 1792, to question him about the accusations
leveled by Clingman and Reynolds.[1] Jefferson, Madison, and Burr were not
involved.

In the musical, the men sing, “[JEFFERSON] We have the check stubs from
separate accounts… [MADISON] Almost a thousand dollars, paid in different
amounts… [BURR] To a Mr. James Reynolds way back in seventeen ninety-
one….” When Hamilton wrote the actual Reynolds pamphlet, he stated, “On the
19th [of December], I received the promised letter the essence of which is that he was
willing to take a thousand dollars as the plaister of his wounded honor. I determined
to give it to him, and did so in two payments, as per receipts dated the 22d of
December and 3d of January.” Hamilton had provided other funds to Clingman and
Reynolds as well, but he defended these as loans in the pamphlet, and included the
proofs with his pamphlet in a series of appendices.

Hamilton tries to prove his innocence to the three men by showing them a letter. He
makes them promise them not to tell another soul what they saw, and after
receiving assurances, he produces a letter from James Reynolds. In the musical, Burr
reads from the same letter that was read in “Non-Stop.” “Dear Sir, I hope this letter
finds you in good health and in a prosperous enough position to put wealth in the
pockets of people like me: down on their luck. You see, it was my wife who you
decided to….” As mentioned in part twelve of this series, Mr. Reynolds did indeed
write Hamilton a couple of letters (dated December 15, and December 17, 1791), and
although he didn’t use those words, that’s pretty much what he was getting at.

Hamilton explains, “She courted me, escorted me to bed and when she had me in
a corner that’s when Reynolds extorted me.” In the Reynolds pamphlet, Hamilton
wrote,

“She told me the street and the number of the house where she lodged. In
the evening I put a bank-bill in my pocket and went to the house. I
inquired for Mrs. Reynolds and was shewn up stairs, at the head of which
she met me and conducted me into a bed room. I took the bill out of my
pocket and gave it to her. Some conversation ensued from which it was
quickly apparent that other than pecuniary consolation would be
acceptable.”

In the end, Jefferson and Madison say, “The people won’t know what we know,”
while Burr says, “Alexander, rumors only grow. And we both know what we
know.” In reality, although the men said they wouldn’t tell, Monroe eventually
leaked the information to Jefferson, who in turn leaked it to sordid newspaper man
James T. Callender, who published the information about the alleged scandals of
Hamilton (financial and sexual) in his pamphlet, History of 1796. This is what led to
Hamilton publishing his defense in the Reynolds Pamphlet. It also almost led to a
duel between Hamilton and Monroe.[2]

That leads into “Hurricane.” In this song Hamilton sings, “When I was seventeen a
hurricane destroyed my town, I didn’t drown; I couldn’t seem to die. I wrote my
way out. Wrote everything down far as I could see I wrote my way out; I looked
up and the town had its eyes on me. They passed a plate around, total strangers,
moved to kindness by my story. Raised enough for me to book passage on a Ship
that was New York bound.” On August 31, 1772, “the most dreadful Hurricanes that
memory or any records whatever can trace” struck St. Croix, where Hamilton
resided. Hamilton wrote a letter to his father (who was living on St. Kitts) describing
the hurricane and the devastation it wrought. An older acquaintance of Hamilton,
Hugh Knox (who was a minister, doctor, apothecary, and part-time journalist who
sometimes filled in for the editor of the local paper after he emigrated to St. Croix),
somehow saw the letter (maybe Hamilton showed it to him), and Knox thought so
highly of it that he persuaded Hamilton to have it printed in the Royal Danish
American Gazette.[3] And so there it appeared on the date of October 3, 1772. A
statement preceding the letter (probably written by Knox) stated, “The Author’s
modesty in long refusing to submit it to Publick view, is the reason of its making its
appearance so late as it now does.”[4]
Of this letter, Chernow marvels, “it does seem wondrous that a seventeen-year-old
self-educated clerk could write with such verse and gusto….but the description was
also notable for the way Hamilton viewed the hurricane as a divine rebuke to human
vanity and pomposity.” After the publication of this letter, the town did have its eye
on Hamilton, and they did help him out. Many people on the island, surrounded by
the devastation caused by the hurricane, inquired as to the author of the letter. (The
governor of the island was among these people.) A fund was started by local
businessmen to send Hamilton to North American for an education, and despite the
massive amounts of damage on the island, enough money was raised.[5]

Hamilton did not take a ship to New York, however. The vessel actually sailed into
Boston. Hamilton did proceed directly to New York though. He then spent some
time in New Jersey at the Elizabethtown Academy[6] before returning to New York
to attend college.

Hamilton then sings, “I wrote my way out of hell, I wrote my way to revolution, I
was louder than the crack in the bell. I wrote Eliza love letters until she fell. I
wrote about the Constitution and defended it well. And in the face of ignorance
and resistance, I wrote financial systems into existence.” This is a really quick
recap of his life, all of which was covered in other parts of this series. The crack in the
bell refers to the Liberty Bell. Although the bell cracked during a test strike in the
1750s and was twice recasted, the famous crack didn’t begin until sometime
between 1824 and 1846, long after Hamilton was gone.[7]

Hamilton continues, “I was twelve when my mother died, she was holding me. We
were sick and she was holding me.” In late 1767, Hamilton’s mother, Rachel, fell ill
with an unknown disease. As she lay with a fever, Hamilton also soon fell
sick. Eighteenth century medicine could not cure Rachel. Chernow wrote, “The
delirious Alexander was probably writhing inches from his mother when she expired
at nine o’clock on the night of February 19.”[8]

The song ends with Hamilton saying, “The Reynolds Pamphlet,” and the song by
that name immediately begins. Jefferson, Madison, and Burr sing, “Alexander
Hamilton had a torrid affair, and he wrote it down right there.” (And then
Madison shouts, “Highlights!”) They are referring to his tryst with Maria Reynolds
and the pamphlet he wrote defending himself against the charges of financial
impropriety while exposing his sexual impropriety.

The song continues with paraphrases from the actual Reynolds Pamphlet.

The words of the musical: “The charge against me is a connection with one James
Reynolds for purposes of improper speculation. My real crime is an amorous
connection with his wife for a considerable time with his knowing consent….I
had frequent meetings with her, most of them at my own house….Mrs. Hamilton
with our children being absent on a visit to her father.”

The words written by Hamilton for real: “The charge against me is a connection with
one James Reynolds for purposes of improper pecuniary speculation. My real crime is
an amorous connection with his wife, for a considerable time with his privity and
connivance, if not originally brought on by a combination between the husband and
wife with the design to extort money from me.” Further along in the pamphlet
Hamilton wrote, “After this [meaning the first meeting], I had frequent meetings
with her, most of them at my own house; Mrs. Hamilton with her children being
absent on a visit to her father.”

Angelica then shows up, saying, “I came as soon as I heard” (and the company says,
“All the way from London? Damn.) Angelica moved to London with her husband,
John Barker Church, in 1782. The Churches returned to the U.S. for George
Washington’s first inauguration in 1789, but returned to England soon
afterwards. John Church became a member of Parliament in 1790, and the Churches
remained in England until 1799, when they returned permanently to the U.S. In
reality, Angelica did not return to her sister as soon as she heard.

Everyone sings and taunts, “Well he’s never gonna be President now,” before
ending the song saying, “His poor wife,” and the keys of the piano take us into the
next song, “Burn.”

Eliza opens the song with, “I saved every letter you wrote me.” We’ll have to take
her word for it, because not many exist. If we skip ahead in the song a bit, towards
the end Eliza sings, “I’m erasing myself from the narrative. Let future historians
wonder how Eliza reacted when you broke her heart….They don’t get to know
what I said. I’m burning the memories, burning the letters….” Chernow wrote that
Eliza was “so self-effacing and so reverential towards her husband that, though she
salvaged every scrap of his writing, she apparently destroyed her own letters.”[9]

I have yet to find anything from Angelica telling Eliza, “Be careful with that one,
love He will do what it takes to survive,” and as close as I can find to “You have
married an Icarus, he has flown too close to the sun” is a quote from Angelica to
Eliza (taken from Chernow’s book) in which Angelica wrote, “…you see the penalties
attending the position of so amiable a man. All this you would not have suffered if
you had married into a family less near the sun.”[10]

The song ends with Eliza hoping Alexander burns. Things only get worse for the
Hamiltons as we near the end of the musical (and this series).
[1] For more detailed information, see the note at this link.
[2] The footnotes of this letter give more detailed information about what
happened. See also Chernow, 537-542. Eliza Hamilton never forgave James
Monroe for his role in exposing her husband’s affair with Maria Reynolds.
[3] Chernow, 36.
[4] The letter, also linked in the text above, is well worth reading.
[5] Chernow, 37.
[6] Chernow, 41-44. Hamilton met a number of influential Americans during his
time in NJ, including William Livingston, William Alexander (Lord
Stirling) and Elias Boudinot. It’s quite possible that he also met Aaron Burr, or
heard of him, during this time.
[7] It was irreparably damaged when it was rung for George Washington’s
birthday in 1846. See here.
[8] Chernow, 24.
[9] Chernow, 2. Founders Online lists only eight letters from Eliza to
Alexander and 112 from Alexander to Eliza.
[10] Chernow, 543. In Greek mythology, Icarus was given wings made of feathers
and wax by his father. He was instructed not to fly too close to the sun, lest the
wings will be melted by the heat. Icarus doesn’t heed the warning and flies too
close to the sun. His wings are destroyed and he falls to the sea where he drowns.

Part seventeen will cover songs thirty-nine, forty, and forty-one: “Blow Us All Away,”
“Stay Alive (Reprise),” and “It’s Quiet Uptown.”

The first line of “Blow Us All Away” is sung by Philip Hamilton: “Meet the latest
graduate of King’s College.” He then sings, “I’m only nineteen but my mind is
older.” Philip, the Hamiltons’ eldest child, graduated in 1800, although by that time
King’s College had been renamed to Columbia College.[1] He was born in January
1782, which would place this song sometime in 1801. (This is entirely possible – he
died in November of that year.)

Philip sees some women in the street and sings, “Ladies, I’m lookin for a Mr.
George Eacker, made a speech last week, our Fourth of July speaker. He
disparaged my father’s legacy in front of a crowd.” George Eacker was a New York
lawyer about a decade older than Philip. Eacker, who was a supporter of Aaron Burr
and of Thomas Jefferson, gave a 4th of July speech at Columbia College at the request
of the Officers of the Brigade of the City and County of New York and of the County
of Richmond. In the speech, Eacker criticized the Federalist Party, and attacked their
financial and military policies, which were largely Alexander Hamilton’s
ideas.[2] Chernow wrote that Philip probably wasn’t looking for Eacker, rather it was
likely that he saw him by chance.[3]

One of the women told Philip, “I saw him just up Broadway a couple of blocks. He
was goin’ to see a play,” and Philip says, “Well I’ll go visit his box.” On the evening
of Friday, November 20, 1801, Philip did meet Eacker at the Park Theater in New
York City. Chernow wrote that, ironically, the theater was showing a comedy
entitled The West Indian.[4] With a friend (named Price), Philip entered the box
where Eacker was watching the show with a male friends and two
women.[5] Another account stated that Philip and his friend loudly ridiculed Eacker
and his speech just outside of the box, hoping Eacker would overhear. Either way,
Eacker and Philip met in the lobby. In the musical, after Philip calls out Eacker, the
latter responds, “I didn’t say anything that wasn’t true. Your father’s a scoundrel,
and so, it seems, are you.” Depending on which account you take as true, Eacker
either attempted to ignore the men and muttered under his breath as he walked
away, or Eacker agitatedly approached Philip. Either way, the insulting word used
was “rascal” and not scoundrel.[6]

In the musical, Philip tells Eacker, “See you on the dueling ground.” According to
the account given by Eacker’s friends, he told Philip and Price, “You had better make
less noise; I shall expect to hear from you.” Price soon after asked Eacker to “appoint
the time and place of meeting.” According to Philip’s friends, Eacker declared as
they departed, “that he should expect to hear from them, and that if he did not, he
should treat them as blackguards,’ and they assured him that he should not be
disappointed.” Philip’s friends note that Price immediately sent an invitation to
Eacker.[7]

And so it was Price who first met Eacker on the dueling ground, on November 22nd,
and fought a duel in which neither was injured. They exchanged four shots and
declared the matter closed. The matter with Philip and Eacker, however, was not yet
settled. In the musical, Philip asks Alexander for advice, and the father responds,
“Did your friends attempt to negotiate a peace?” John Church (Angelica’s husband
and Philip’s uncle) and David Jones (a lawyer) attempted to negotiate a truce with
Eacker’s second, but, according to Chernow, “Since Eacker blamed Philip Hamilton
more than Price for the theater incident, he would not retract the word rascal even if
Philip apologized for his rudeness.”[8]

When the father asks the son where the duel will take place, Philip replies, “Across
the river in Jersey.” Since dueling was illegal in New York, almost all participants
rowed to the New Jersey side of the Hudson to fight. This particular dueling ground
was located near present-day Jersey City on a sandbar that was connected to the
mainland only at low tide.[9]

In the musical, Alexander tells Philip, “Alright. So this is what you’re gonna do:
Stand there like a man until Eacker is in front of you. When the time comes, fire
your weapon in the air. This will put an end to the whole affair,” claiming that
Eacker will “follow suit if he’s truly a man of honor.” This is confirmed in a letter
written by one of Philip’s former classmates after the duel. Thomas Rathbone wrote
to his sister: “On Monday before the time appointed for the meeting between E, & H,
General Hamilton heard of it and commanded his Son, when on the ground, to
reserve his fire ’till after Mr E, had shot and then to discharge his pistol in the air.”

In the play, Philip promises his father to follow his directions. Philip’s friends, in their
account, wrote that Philip “came to the determination to reserve his fire, receive that
of his antagonist, and then discharge his pistol in the air.” This was done, according
to his friends, “to submit to Mr. Eacker, to decide for himself whether he would still
proceed in the affair; with the intention, on the part of Mr. Hamilton to let it end
there, if Mr. Eacker should then see fit to make a suitable reparation for the violent
effects of his resentment.”[10]

The song ends with Philip saying “slowly and clearly aim your gun towards the
sky,” and the two men readying and counting to ten. A gunshot rings out after they
reach seven. Historically, Eacker did not fire early. In fact, Chernow wrote, “Philip
Hamilton heeded his father’s advice and did not raise his pistol at the command to
fire. Eacker followed suit, and for a minute the two young men stared dumbly at
each other. Finally, Eacker lifted his pistol, and Philip did likewise.”

Eacker shot Philip above the right hip, the bullet going through the body and lodging
in his left arm. (Philip was standing sideways so as to minimize the available target
for Eacker’s bullet.) Philip’s friends wrote of him, “In the shock of the wound, his
pistol went off in the air, evidently without deviation from the original resolution,”
with both sides agreeing that Philip’s “dignity and poise had been exemplary.”[11]

With that, “Stay Alive (Reprise)” begins. In this song, Philip is attended to by a
doctor and his parents before his death. Historically, Philip was “rowed with the
greatest rapidity” to New York, and was brought to the home of Angelica and John
Church. Here he was attended to by a prominent physician, Dr. David Hosack.[12]
In the musical the doctor gives his opinion and Alexander asks, “Can I see him
please?” The father and son then talk. After Alexander saw Philip’s face and tested
his pulse, Hosack later wrote, “he instantly turned from the bed and, taking me by
the hand, which he grasped with all the agony of grief, he exclaimed in a tone and
manner that can never be effaced from my memory, ‘Doctor, I despair.’”[13]Eliza
soon arrived, pregnant with their eighth child. In the musical she asks, “Is he
breathing? Is he going to survive this?” Philip lived through the night. Rathborne,
who visited Philip, wrote to his sister, “On a Bed without curtains lay poor Phil, pale
and languid, his rolling, distorted eye balls darting forth the flashes of delirium—on
one side of him on the same bed lay his agonized father—on the other his distracted
mother.”

By the end of the song, Philip dies, with his parents at his side in unspeakable
grief. Robert Troup wrote to Rufus King some days later, “Never did I see a man so
completely overwhelmed with grief as Hamilton has been. The scene I was present
at, when Mrs. Hamilton came to see her son on his deathbed…and when she met her
husband and son in one room, beggars all description! Young Hamilton was very
promising in genius and acquirements, and Hamilton formed high expectations of
his future greatness!”

In the next song, “It’s Quiet Uptown,” “The Hamiltons move uptown and learn to
live with the unimaginable;” the Hamiltons move to their home on the northern
end of Manhattan Island and attempt to put their lives back together. In reality, the
Hamiltons rented a country house somewhere in Harlem Heights in the fall of
1799. They liked the area, and between 1800 and 1803, Hamilton purchased 35 acres
in Harlem.[14] Their house was completed in 1802. He named this country estate
the Grange, which was the same as his family’s ancestral home in Ayrshire, Scotland,
and of his uncle James Lytton’s plantation in St. Croix. [15]

In the musical, Hamilton sings, “I spend hours in the garden.” To Richard Peters, a
Philadelphia lawyer, judge, and the founder and first president of the Philadelphia
Society for Promoting Agriculture, Hamilton wrote, “A disappointed politician you
know is very apt to take refuge in a Garden.” He asked for assistance and
recommendations as well, writing similarly to Charles Cotesworth Pinckney (a South
Carolinian planter, politician, and Revolutionary War veteran), “A garden, you know,
is a very usual refuge of a disappointed politician. Accordingly, I have purchased a
few acres about 9 Miles from Town, have built a house and am cultivating a Garden.
The melons in your country are very fine. Will you have the goodness to send me
some seed both of the Water & Muss Melons?” Hamilton grew flowers, trees, fruits
and vegetables.[16]

Hamilton later sings, “I take the children to church on Sunday.” Whether or not he
took them to church, Hamilton did spend more time with his children, and Chernow
wrote that Hamilton liked to gather “the family in the gardens on Sunday mornings
to read the Bible aloud.”[17] Hamilton was connected to the church, although it may
have been only because Eliza was more devout. Hamilton attended Trinity Church in
New York City. He also assisted them with legal issues. He wasn’t considered a true
member, however, because he did not receive communion. Eliza did though, and
the Hamiltons did have a pew at the church.

In the musical part of the cast sings, “They say he walks the length of the city.”
Manhattan Island, at its longest, is about 13 miles. It was probably nine or ten miles
from the Grange to Trinity Church. If Hamilton walked 20-minute miles, it would
take him over three hours to walk in each direction. It’s possible for sure, but I
haven’t found anything that says he did it. (Please share if you find anything.)

This song ends with “Alexander by Eliza’s side. She takes his hand.” And
forgiveness. It will lead us to the end of the story. The next part will cover the rest of
Alexander’s short life – “The Election of 1800,” “Your Obedient Servant,” “Best of
Wives…,” and “The World Was Wide Enough,” followed by one more part covering
the last song.

[1] The name was changed to Columbia College in 1784 after the American
Revolutionary War was won. The name changed again to Columbia University in
1813.
[2] The American Citizen, a New York City newspaper, was among the papers that
reprinted extracts from Eacker’s oration. They printed parts of the speech in their
July 24th edition. Eacker said of financial dealings, “A monied influenced, distant
from the general interests of the community was created; and to prevent the
murmurs of popular indignation from increasing to open complaints, a doctrine,
that a public debt is a public blessing, was industriously circulated. The specious
arguments of refined sophistry gave currency to the proposition and a plan is now
made, of which human reason cannot foresee all the consequences.” Of the
military he said, “To suppress all opposition by fear, a military establishment was
created, under pretended apprehension of a foreign invasion. This [unreadable
word], the most inauspicious to Republicanism, and hostile to Liberty, was
adopted under the unfavorable crisis of public panic.” These may sound rather
mundane, but by 1801 Hamilton had endured countless attacks from all angles,
and mindful of his father’s political legacy, Philip didn’t want to let it go
unchallenged.
[3] Chernow 651.
[4] Chernow, 651-2.
The theater was opened in 1798 and was located at 23 Park Row. It burned down
in 1848.
[5] Chernow said that Philip and Price “barged into” the box, 652. A note at this
link states that Price may be Stephen Price, a 1799 graduate of Columbia College.
[6] Chernow wrote that “rascal was a loaded word and often the prelude to a
duel” (652).
On November 30th, less than a week after Philip’s death, his “friends” published an
account in the Commercial Advertiser, a New York City Newspaper. On December
1st, Eacker’s “friends” published their side of the story in the American Citizen. In
the account given by Philip’s friends, “Mr. Eacker seized Mr. Hamilton by the
collar and exclaimed, ‘I will not be insulted by a set of rascals.’ Mr. Hamilton and
Mr. P[rice] severally demanded an explanation to whom he applied the epithet;
no positive reply was then made.” Upon removing to a tavern to continue the
discussion, however, “Mr. Eacker avowed his meaning to be that Mr. Hamilton
and Mr. P. were both ‘Rascals.’ The disputants shortly after separated.” Eacker’s
friends claimed that he was trying to ignore Philip and Price, but when their
agitation did not cease, Eacker stepped into the lobby saying, “It is too
abominable to be publicly insulted by a set of rascals.” When asked “Who do you
call damn’d rascals?” repeatedly by the men, Eacker apparently responded with
his address, letting the men know where he could be found. The men continued
to insist on Eacker explaining himself as to who the rascals were that he referred
to, and Eacker finally responded, “Well then you are both rascals.”
[7] The quotes are taken from the same two newspapers as above.
[8] Chernow, 652.
[9] Chernow, 652.
[10] Quotes are from the Commercial Advertiser, mentioned above.
[11] Chernow, 653. The quote from Philip’s friends comes from the Commercial
Advertiser. As a side note, Eacker died a couple of years later of consumption and
is buried in St. Paul’s Churchyard in New York City, blocks away from the
Hamiltons.
[12] Chernow, 653. Hosack also attended to Alexander after his duel with Burr.
[13] Chernow, 653.
[14] Chernow, 641.
[15] According to the link in the text, “The land on which Hamilton built the
Grange is located between the present-day Edgecombe Avenue and Hamilton
Place, and it extends from 140th Street to 147th Street.” John McComb, Jr., a
New York City architect and builder, who also designed New York City Hall and
Castle Garden on the Battery, designed the building. By 1889, Manhattan’s street
grid moved north, and 143rd St. was destined to go through Hamilton’s home. It
was moved that year next to St. Luke’s Church, which purchased the building
(“Hamilton’s Trees To Go,” New York Times, November 27, 1899). The porches
were removed before it was moved. By 1900, the State of New York voted to
appropriate funds to purchase the building and a plot of land that had belonged
to Hamilton on Convent Ave. between 143rd and 144th Streets, near a group of elm
trees planted by Hamilton (“To Buy Hamilton Grange,” New York Times, February
20, 1900). In 1962 the National Park Foundation purchased the house and
Congress authorized the Hamilton Grange National Memorial. By 2006, the
Grange was closed for architectural research so that it could be moved to a new
location at nearby St. Nicholas Park, on land that was once owned by Hamilton.
That was done in June 2008. Work wasn’t completed until 2011, when the Grange
was reopened to the public as a museum.
Image from the New York Times, July 12, 2006
[16] Chernow lays it out in some small detail on page 643.
Hamilton also planted a group of 13 elm trees on his property, on Convent Ave.,
near 141st St., to commemorate the union of the thirteen colonies. By 1899, the
property once owned by Hamilton had been broken up, and the trees were in
different states of decay (“Hamilton’s Trees To Go,” New York Times, November
27, 1899).
[17] Chernow, 644.

Part eighteen will cover songs forty-two to forty-five: “The Election of 1800,” “Your
Obedient Servant,” “Best of Wives and Best of Women,” and “The World Was Wide
Enough.” These songs take us through the last years of the life of Alexander
Hamilton.

Thomas Jefferson starts off the “Election of 1800” by singing, “John Adams shat the
bed. I love the guy….” Even before Adams won the Presidency he was not
particularly well liked by his peers. Once in power, he did a number of things which
upset his opponents and his own party. A series of laws in particular, the Alien and
Sedition Acts, were passed in 1798 in preparation for war with France. These laws
“tightened restrictions on foreign-born Americans and limited speech critical of the
Government.” It should be needless to say that many people, even those who may
have leaned towards the Federalists, were not please with some of these new
restrictions. Also damaging himself within his own party, Adams decided not to ask
for a war against France, instead engaging in what is known as the Quasi-War. As for
Jefferson saying he loves Adams, it’s widely known that the two men had a close
friendship prior to serving in the Washington Administration. However, by this point
the relationship was frayed, and the damage done by the campaign for the
Presidency made the severance complete.

Acknowledging that Adams was out of the race, Jefferson sings, “So now I’m facing
Aaron Burr with his own faction.” Burr didn’t really have his own faction. He was a
Democratic-Republican (like Jefferson), and it was expected (or hoped) by that party
that he would receive the second-most votes, next to Jefferson. As we shall soon see
in this song, the two men received the same number of electoral votes.

Madison suggests to Jefferson, “It might be nice, it might be nice, to get Hamilton
on your side.” As early as May 1800 (and maybe earlier), Hamilton and other
Federalists were working behind the scenes to have electors throw their weight
behind Charles Cotesworth Pinckney for President over John Adams, relegating
Adams back to the Vice Presidency, or removing him from office completely. On
May 7, 1800, Timothy Pickering wrote to William Loughton Smith:

“The only chance of a federal President will be by General C. C. Pinckney.


It is proposed to run him with Mr. Adams; and as So. Carolina & part of
North Carolina will vote for him, if the New England States also keep him
on their votes, Mr. Pinckney will be elected. The Carolinians it is supposed
will vote for Mr. Jefferson as well as Gen. Pinckney.”

The Federalists were willing to give Jefferson the Vice Presidency again if they could
hold onto the Presidency, even if it meant throwing Adams under the bus. At a
meeting of the Federal Party in May, it was agreed that the South Carolinians would
vote for Pinckney no matter which party’s electors gained the vote – “if federal of
course for Adams & Pinckney, if antifederal for Pinckney & Jefferson.” (It turned out
later, however, that Pinckney refused to sanction the agreement.) [1]

Later in the song, there is an exchange between Burr and Hamilton: “[B] I’m going
door to door. [H] You’re openly campaigning? [B] Sure! [H] That’s
new. [B] Honestly, it’s kind of draining.” Interestingly enough, the April 28, 1800
issue of the Daily Advertiser, a New York City newspaper, ran a paragraph which
read:
“Aaron, it is said–travels every night from one meeting of Republicans to
another, harranguing and spiriting them up to the most zealous
exertions. Many people wonder that the Ex-Senator and the would be
Vice-President can stoop so low as to visit every low tavern that may
happen to be crowded with his dear fellow citizens.–But the prize
of success to him is well worth all this dirty work.”[2]

As the cast sings to Hamilton, “If you had to choose, if you had to choose,”
Madison tells Jefferson, “It’s a tie!” Jefferson responds, “It’s up to the delegates,”
and Madison says, “It’s up to Hamilton.” Each elector was to cast two votes for
different candidates. The candidate with the highest number of votes became
President, and the candidate with the second-highest became Vice President. This
left room for the intrigue mentioned above. After the votes were tallied, there was a
tie – Jefferson and Burr each received 73 electoral votes. The Federalist plan failed at
getting either of their candidates elected, and they didn’t get Pinckney more votes
than Adams (65-64, with one going to John Jay, who wasn’t even in the running).
Later in the song Hamilton sings, “The people are asking to hear my voice, for the
country is facing a difficult choice. And if you were to ask me who I’d promote—
Jefferson has my vote.” In October, Hamilton published a letter “Concerning the
Public Conduct and Character of John Adams, Esq. President of the United
States.” (It runs over 14,000 words and 50 pages – if you expected it to be short, are
you even a real Hamilton fan?) As noted in an introductory piece to the letter, it’s
nearly impossible to tell the effect of the letter on the election results, but “many
contemporaries and historians have asserted that the Letter helped to prevent
Adams’s re-election, to widen the division among Federalists, and to destroy the
party as a national political organization.” It is believed that Hamilton destroyed any
future chances at gaining a political office after this letter was published, as his
friends and enemies attacked him for it.[3]

There are two letters (at least) that claim Hamilton preferred Jefferson to Adams. In
one letter, which Hamilton wrote in May, he shares his belief that “Under Adams as
under Jefferson the government will sink. The party in the hands of whose chief it
shall sink will sink with it and the advantage will be on the side of his
adversaries.” By December, while the results of the election were still unknown a
friend of Hamilton’s wrote to Rufus King, “General Hamilton makes no secret of his
opinion that Jefferson should be preferred to Adams.”[4]

As for his reasoning, in the musical Hamilton sings, “But when all is said and all is
done Jefferson has beliefs. Burr has none.” Hamilton wrote and received a number
of letters after publishing his attack on Adams, some of which asked for his opinion
on whether or not Jefferson was preferred to Burr. I’ll focus on two in
particular. First, in a letter to Theodore Sedgwick dated December 22nd, Hamilton
wrote:

“The appointment of Burr, as President would disgrace our Country


abroad. No agreement with him could be relied upon. His private
circumstances render disorder a necessary resource. His public principles
offer no obstacle. His ambition aims at nothing short of permanent power
and wealth in his own person. For heaven’s sake let not the Fœderal party
be responsible for the elevation of this Man.”

On the following day, responding to Harrison Gray Otis, Hamilton wrote: “Burr loves
nothing but himself; thinks of nothing but his own aggrandizement, and will be
content with nothing, short of permanent power in his own hands.”

Madison finally informs Jefferson, “You won in a landslide.” Since there was an
electoral tie, the House of Representatives decided the election. The vote was
scheduled to take place on February 11, 1801. On the sixth day and thirty-sixth
ballot, James A. Bayard, a Federalist from Delaware and the lone elector from his
state, broke the tie by casting a blank ballot. How was it a landslide
then? Federalists in Maryland and Vermont, where the representatives had been
tied, also cast blank ballots, allowing those states to cast votes for Jefferson. South
Carolina, which had voted for Burr in each ballot before the last, also cast blank
ballots. Therefore, what had been thirty-five straight ballots where Jefferson
received 8 votes and Burr 6 (with no results from two states), on the thirty-sixth
ballot became 10 votes for Jefferson and 4 for Burr (two states still didn’t have
votes).

After Burr congratulates Jefferson, and tells him he looks forwards to their
partnership (and is mocked), Madison and Jefferson have an exchange: “[M] It’s
crazy that the guy who comes in second gets to be Vice President. [J] Yeah, you
know what? We can change that. You know why? [M] Why? [J] ‘cuz I’m the
President.” Although Jefferson couldn’t change that on his own, Congress could do
so by using the Amendment process, and they did. The 12th Amendment was passed
by Congress on December 9, 1803 and ratified by the requisite number of States on
June 15, 1804. By this Amendment, electors were required to denote their votes for
President and for Vice President separately.

Jefferson ends the song asking Burr for a favor that’s sure to get him upset: “Hey,
Burr, when you see Hamilton, thank him for the endorsement.”

“Your Obedient Servant” begins with some familiar bars, and Burr singing parts of a
letter to Hamilton: “Now you call me ‘amoral,’ a ‘dangerous disgrace.’” He ends
the letter singing, “I have the honor to be Your Obedient Servant A dot
Burr.” Hamilton didn’t write those things, but in the lead-up to the duel, Burr wrote
Hamilton on June 18, 1804, and included a letter from Charles D. Cooper to Philip
Schuyler. Cooper asserted that Hamilton had declared “Mr. Burr to be a dangerous
man, and one who ought not to be trusted with the reins of government,” and that
he “could detail to you a still more despicable opinion which General Hamilton has
expressed of Mr. Burr.” This letter was printed in the Albany Register in April. In his
June letter, Burr asked Hamilton for a “prompt and unqualified acknowledgment or
denial of the use of any expressions which could warrant the assertions of Dr
Cooper.” Burr’s letter was indeed signed, “I have the honor to be Your Obt Svt A.
Burr.”

It wasn’t the first time Hamilton had spoke ill of Burr. Earlier in the year, for
example, in a speech Hamilton had delivered in February at a meeting of the
Federalist Party, Hamilton said of Burr, “If he be truly, as the fœderalists have
believed, a man of irregular and insatiable ambition; if his plan has been to rise to
power on the ladder of Jacobinic principles, it is natural to conclude that he will
endeavor to fix himself in power by the same instrument.” But unlike then, this time
Burr did not ignore Hamilton.

In the musical, Hamilton responds to Burr. Besides “I have the honor to be Sir Your
obed. servt A Hamilton” there is not much of the same language used. What does
come close is in the musical are two lines Hamilton sings: “Even if I said what you
think I said you would need to cite a more specific grievance,” and “I don’t wanna
fight, but I won’t apologize for doing what’s right.” In reality, Hamilton responded
to Burr’s letter on June 20th. In the real letter, Hamilton questions “the meaning of
this declaration” (the one in the paragraph above, with the word despicable), and
then enters the realm of semantics.

“’Tis evident, that the phrase ‘still more dispicable’ admits of infinite
shades, from very light to very dark. How am I to judge of the degree
intended? Or how shall I annex any precise idea to language so indefinite?
Between Gentlemen, despicable and more despicable are not worth the
pains of a distinction. When therefore you do not interrogate me, as to the
opinion which is specifically ascribed to me, I must conclude, that you view
it as within the limits, to which the animadversions of political opponents,
upon each other, may justifiably extend.”

Hamilton also wrote,

“I cannot reconcile it with propriety to make the acknowlegement, or


denial, you desire—I will add, that I deem it inadmissible, on principle, to
consent to be interrogated as to the justness of the inferences, which may
be drawn by others, from whatever I may have said of a political opponent
in the course of a fifteen years competition.”

Towards the end of the letter, Hamilton wrote,

“I stand ready to avow or disavow promptly and explicitly any precise or


definite opinion, which I may be charged with having declared of any
Gentleman. More than this cannot fitly be expected from me; and
especially it cannot reasonably be expected, that I shall enter into an
explanation upon a basis so vague as that which you have adopted.”
Burr did not like Hamilton’s reply. In the musical he sings, “Careful how you
proceed, good man; intemperate indeed, good man. Answer for the accusations I
lay at your feet or prepare to bleed, good man.” Burr replied to it on the 21st,
writing, “Having Considered it attentively I regret to find in it nothing of that
sincerity and delicacy which you profess to Value.” He called out Hamilton’s
ambiguity, saying, “The Common sense of Mankind affixes to the epithet adopted by
Dr Cooper the idea of dishonor.” Burr ended his letter, “Your letter has furnished me
with new reasons for requiring a definite reply.” (He still closed his letter, “I have the
honor to be sir your obt st A. Burr.”)

In the musical Hamilton responds, “Burr, your grievance is legitimate. I stand by


what I said, every bit of it. You stand only for yourself, it’s what you do. I can’t
apologize because it’s true.” In reality, Hamilton’s representative during the dispute
with Burr, Nathaniel Pendleton, a lawyer, wrote that Hamilton

“told Mr. V. N. [William P. Van Ness, a New York City lawyer, was a loyal
supporter of Burr. In the lead-up to the duel, Van Ness acted as Burr’s
representative in negotiations with Hamilton] that he considered that
letter as rude and offensive, and that it was not possible for him to give it
any other answer than that Mr. Burr must take such steps as he might
think proper.”

Hamilton initially refused to answer Burr’s letter with a written


response. But Hamilton responded on the 22nd, “If by a ‘definite reply’ you mean the
direct avowal or disavowal required in your first letter, I have no other answer to give
than that which has already been given. If you mean any thing different admitting of
greater latitude, it is requisite you should explain.”

It appears Burr had had enough. In the musical he challenges Hamilton – “Then
stand, Alexander. Weehawken. Dawn. Guns. Drawn.” Burr wrote Van Ness on the
22nd or 23rd the he was

“obliged to conclude that there is on the part of Mr H. a setled &


implacable malevolence, that he will never cease in his Conduct toward Mr
B. to violate those courtesies of life & that hence he has no alternative but
to announce these things to the world which consistently with Mr Bs ideas
of propriety can be done in no way but that which he has adopted. He is
incapable of revenge, still less is he capable of imitating the Conduct of Mr
H. by committing secret depredations on his fame & character—but these
things must have an end.”

With the men attending to business, there was time enough for them to cool their
heads. A couple of days after writing Van Ness the above, before Hamilton could
receive those words, Burr wrote Van Ness again, “If it should be asked whether there
is no alternative, most certainly there is; but more will now be required than would
have been asked at first.”

But through Pendleton and Van Ness, Hamilton again requested Burr to be more
specific in his charges, arguing that “he cannot consent to be questioned generally as
to any rumours which may be afloat derogatory to the character of Colo. Burr
without specification of the particular rumours, many of them probably unknown to
him.” Closing this letter, Pendleton wrote,

“he disavows an unwillingness to come to a satisfactory, provided it be an


honorable accommodation. His objection is to the very indefinite ground
which Col. Burr has assumed, in which he is sorry to be able to discover
nothing short of predetermined hos[t]ility.”

Claiming Hamilton was being evasive and defiant, Van Ness wrote Pendleton,

“Col: Burr disavows all motives of predetermined hostility. A charge by


which he thinks insult is added to injury, he feels as a gentleman should
feel, when his honor is impeached or assailed, and without sensations of
hostility or wishes of revenge, he is determined to vindicate that honor at
such hazard as the nature of the case demands.”

Hamilton, in the musical, replies, “You’re on.” In a statement written by


Hamilton before the duel (to be used only in an unfortunate event), Hamilton stated,
“The disavowal required of me by Col Burr, in a general and indefinite form, was out
of my power, if it had really been proper for me to submit to be so questionned; but I
was sincerely of opinion, that this could not be.”

The next song, “Best of Wives and Best of Women,” is based on a letter Hamilton
wrote to Eliza on July 4, 1804. The final line, “Best of wives and best of women,”
comes directly from that letter. Here it is in full:
“This letter, my very dear Eliza, will not be delivered to you, unless I shall
first have terminated my earthly career; to begin, as I humbly hope from
redeeming grace and divine mercy, a happy immortality.

If it had been possible for me to have avoided the interview, my love for
you and my precious children would have been alone a decisive motive.
But it was not possible, without sacrifices which would have rendered me
unworthy of your esteem. I need not tell you of the pangs I feel, from the
idea of quitting you and exposing you to the anguish which I know you
would feel. Nor could I dwell on the topic lest it should unman me.

The consolations of Religion, my beloved, can alone support you; and


these you have a right to enjoy. Fly to the bosom of your God and be
comforted. With my last idea; I shall cherish the sweet hope of meeting you
in a better world.

Adieu best of wives and best of Women. Embrace all my darling Children
for me.

Ever yours

A H”[5]

And so we arrive at the duel, on July 11, 1804. In the song “The World Was Wide
Enough” Burr sings, “We rowed across the Hudson at dawn. My friend, William P.
Van Ness signed on as my— number two! Hamilton arrived with his crew:
Nathaniel Pendleton and a doctor that he knew.” The former negotiators became
the seconds in the duel, and each wrote “regulations” for the
duel, Pendletonbefore Van Ness. Chernow wrote[6] that the parties rowed across
the Hudson River separately around 5 AM. Burr arrived at the dueling ground in
Weehawken around 6:30, and Hamilton arrived just before 7 AM. They were each
accompanied by their seconds while Dr. Hosack waited out of sight in order to have
deniability. (Burr sings later in the song, “The doctor turned around so he could
have deniability.”)

Burr says, “Hamilton drew first position.” Chernow wrote that after the seconds
marked out ten paces, they “drew lots to choose positions for their principals.”
Pendleton won, and he “oddly decided that Hamilton would taken the northern
side…[which] meant that Hamilton would face…the morning sunlight.”[7]

Burr sings, “He examined his gun with such rigor. I watched as he methodically
fiddled with the trigger.” In a joint statement by William P. Van Ness and Nathaniel
Pendleton on the duel they wrote after positions were drawn, both “then proceeded
to load the pistols in each others presence, after which the parties took their
stations.” A little later in the song, Burr sings, “They won’t teach you this in your
classes But look it up, Hamilton was wearing his glasses Why? If not to take
deadly aim?” Chernow wrote that when the men were lined up, Pendleton asked if
they were ready. Hamilton called out to stop. “In certain states of the light one
requires glasses,” he is quoted as saying, apparently referring to the sunlight
reflecting off of the Hudson. Chernow continues, “He lifted his pistol and took
several sightings, something that might have misled Burr about his intentions. Then
he fished in his pocket for spectacles, put them on with one hand, and aimed the
pistol in several directions.”[8]

Before that line in the musical, Burr sings, “My fellow soldiers’ll tell you I’m a
terrible shot.” Chernow claims the opposite; he wrote that Burr was “a superb
marksman who had killed several enemy soldiers during the Revolution.” Chernow
also quotes Charles Biddle, a friend of Burr’s, who said of Burr, “perhaps there was
hardly ever a man [who] could fire so true and no man possessed more coolness or
courage.”[9]

Then it was time. Burr sings, “Look him in the eye, aim no higher. Summon all the
courage you require. Then count—” The joint statement by Van Ness and
Pendleton stated, “asked if they were prepared, being answered in the affirmative he
gave the word presentas had been agreed on, and both of the parties took aim, &
fired in succession.” There was no count.

Following Hamilton’s soliloquy in the musical, Burr says, “He aims his pistol at the
sky—Wait!” Van Ness and Pendleton continued, “The pistols were discharged
within a few seconds of each other.” Van Ness and Pendleton did not agree on who
fired the first shot.

Two days after writing the joint statement, Pendleton wrote an amendment on
which he stated, “Mr. P. expressed a confident opinion that General Hamilton did not
fire first—and that he did not fire at all at Col. Burr. Mr. V. N. seemed equally
confident in the opinion that Gen. H. did fire first—and of course that it must have
been at his antagonist.” Pendleton stated the Hamilton had previously told him that
he would not fire at Burr. Pendleton wrote, “After he was wounded, and laid in the
boat, the first words he uttered after recovering the power of speech, were,
(addressing himself to a gentleman present, who perfectly well remembers it)
‘Pendleton knows I did not mean to fire at Col. Burr the first time.’” Hamilton
supposedly also told those in the boat while rowing back across the Hudson, “Take
care of that pistol—it is cocked. It may go off and do mischief,” which Pendleton took
to show that Hamilton” was not sensible of having fired at all.”

Van Ness wrote his own amendment, two days after Pendleton’s, in which he stated,

“The pistol of General Hamilton was first discharged, and Col Burr fired
immediately after, only five or six seconds of time intervening. On this
point the second of Col Burr has full & perfect reccollection. He noticed
particularly the discharge of G H’s pistol, & looked to his principal to
ascertain whether he was hurt, he then clearly saw Col Bs pistol
discharged.”

So perhaps we will never know who fired first, although Chernow wrote that Burr
later inadvertently admitted that he know Hamilton wasted his shot.[10]

Burr sings, “I strike him right between his ribs.” Chernow wrote, “The bullet had
fractured a rib on the right side, ripped through Hamilton’s liver and diaphragm, and
splintered the second lumbar vertebra, coming to rest in his spine.”[11]

Burr then sings, “I walk towards him, but I am ushered away.” In the joint
statement the seconds wrote,

“Col: Burr then advanced toward Genl H——n with a manner and gesture
that appeared to Genl Hamilton’s friend to be expressive of regret, but
without Speaking turned about & withdrew. Being urged from the field by
his friend as has been subsequently stated, with a view to prevent his being
recognised by the Surgeon and Bargemen who were then approaching.”

Next Burr sings, “They row him back across the Hudson. I get a drink.” As the
oarsmen rowed Hamilton back across the Hudson, Hosack attended to him. Hosack
stayed with Hamilton after he was brought to the home of William Bayard, a wealthy
merchant in New York. For his part, Burr rode back to his home after returning from
New Jersey. There he had breakfast with his cousin without even mentioning the
duel. Besides one letter to Hosack inquiring about Hamilton’s condition, it doesn’t
appear Burr was too concerned with what he had done.[12]

Burr sings, “Angelica and Eliza were both at his side when he died.” Chernow
wrote that “in Hamilton’s last hours, more than twenty friends and family members
pressed into his chamber.” The morning of his death, Eliza “lined up all seven
children at the foot of the bed so that Hamilton could see them.”[13]

At the end of the song, Burr sings, “When Alexander aimed at the sky, he may
have been the first one to die, but I’m the one who paid for it; I survived, but I
paid for it. Now I’m the villain in your history.” Burr was indicted in New York for
fighting a duel. The coroner’s jury did find Burr “guilty of the murder of Alexander
Hamilton” and Burr headed to Georgia to avoid arrest. Later in the year, a Bergen
County, New Jersey, jury indicted Burr for the murder of Hamilton.[14]

After Burr was out as Vice President, he was arrested and charged with treason for
trying to incite a war with Spain. His critics swore Burr’s motives were more
malicious – to split the western territories from the U.S. and take part of Spanish-
held territory in the area and make himself the leader of this new nation. Either way,
he beat those charges, but headed to Europe to escape his troubles. He returned to
the U.S. in 1812, but never returned to the same prominence.

To end the song, Burr sings, “I should’ve known the world was wide enough for
both Hamilton and me.” Chernow wrote that while Burr was reading a scene in
Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy in which the life of a fly is spared, Burr was said to
have remarked, “Had I read Sterne more and Voltaire less, I should have known the
world was wide enough for Hamilton and me.”[15]

[1] The quote and other information in this paragraph come from this link, which
is the same link as is in the text.
[2] Page 3.
[3] Since I can’t describe this letter any better than the introductory note does it,
here’s what it says: “Hamilton divided his Letter into three parts. The first section,
which consists of forty-nine printed pages in the original pamphlet, is a critical
review of Adams’s political career with the major emphasis on what Hamilton
considered Adams’s mistakes as President. This section is followed by three
printed pages in which Hamilton attempted to defend his own acts and motives.
The pamphlet concludes with four paragraphs which can at best be described as
incongruous, for in this final section Hamilton states that he did not wish
the Letter to be interpreted as an attempt to deprive Adams of any electoral
votes.”
[4] Both of the quotes are taken from the same introductory note as is linked in
the text above.
[5] Hamilton wrote Eliza a last letter on the 10th.
[6] Chernow, 700-1.
[7] Chernow, 701.
[8] Chernow, 702.
[9] Chernow, 691.
[10] See Chernow, 704 for the explanation.
[11] Chernow, 704.
[12] Chernow, 705 and 714-5.
[13] Chernow, 708.
[14] Chernow, 717-8. The NJ indictment was later tossed because Hamilton died
in NY.
[15] Chernow, 722.

Part nineteen will cover the final song of the musical: “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who
Tells Your Story.”

Washington starts singing this song, but it is with Jefferson that we have our first real
historical reference. He sings, “I’ll give him this: his financial system is a work of
genius. I couldn’t undo it if I tried. And I tried.” In his reminiscences, James A.
Hamilton, son of Alexander, recalled a conversation with Albert Gallatin, Jefferson’s
Secretary of the Treasury. Gallatin is supposed to have said: “Mr. Jefferson after my
appointment said to me: Gallatin your most important duty will be to examine the
accounts and all the records of your Department in order to discover the blunders
and frauds of Hamilton and to ascertain what changes may be required in the
system.” To do this, Jefferson told Gallatin he “may employ whatever extra force
you may require.” Gallatin told James Hamilton that “the task was performed
thoroughly – occupying much time. All the accounts and correspondence were
looked into, and thus I became a master of the whole system and all its
details.” When Gallatin approached Jefferson to deliver his verdict, he said, “I have
found the most perfect system ever formed – any change that should be made to it
would injure it – Hamilton made no blunders – committed no frauds. He did nothing
wrong.”[1]
Madison then credits Hamilton for raising up the country from bankruptcy to
prosperity, before Eliza puts herself back in the narrative. She sings, “I interview
every soldier who fought by your side.” Chernow wrote that in the first decade
after Alexander’s death, Eliza “embarked on a single-minded crusade to do justice to
her husband’s achievements….She turned to her son, John Church Hamilton, to edit
Hamilton’s papers and produce a massive history that would duly glorify the
patriarch.” Chernow wrote that Eliza bothered politicians “with detailed
questionnaires, soliciting their recollections of her husband.” She even travelled to
Mount Vernon to borrow letters that Alexander wrote to Washington.[2] He does
not mention, however, Eliza interviewing soldiers specifically. John Church
Hamilton’s work was finally published in 1879.[3]

Eliza also sings of Angelica helping to tell Hamilton’s story, and then sings, “She is
buried in Trinity Church near you.” Although Angelica and Alexander are buried in
the churchyard of Trinity Church, they are not near each other. Hamilton is buried
with Eliza and Philip at his side, near the fence on Rector Street. (Hercules Mulligan
is close by.) Angelica, though, is on the opposite side of the church, near Trinity
Place, in a vault purchased by the sons of Robert Livingston. (Or so it is believed.)[4]

Continuing Eliza’s story, she sings, “I raise funds in D.C. for the Washington
Monument.” Chernow wrote, “Eliza aided her friend Dolley Madison in raising
money to construct the Washington Monument.”[5] Her name, along with Mrs.
Madison, Mrs. Adams, and Mrs. Polk were listed as “Lady Patronesses” for a
“National Birth-Night Ball,” the proceeds of which were “to be applied to the
erecting of the proposed Monument to Washington.”[6] Eliza was also present, “in a
conspicuous position” with Dolley Madison, at the ceremonial laying of the
cornerstone of the monument on July 4, 1848.[7]

Eliza says, “I speak out against slavery.” Chernow wrote that Eliza was a
“committed abolitionist,” and after she moved to Washington, D.C., in 1848 (at age
91!) she “delighted in entertaining slave children from the neighborhood, and she
referred derisively to the slaveholding states.”[8]

Eliza then asks if she can show what she’s proudest of and sings, “I established the
first private orphanage in New York City,” continuing, “I help to raise hundreds of
children.” This actually happened shortly after Alexander’s death. In 1806 Eliza co-
founded the New York Orphan Asylum Society with a group of Evangelical
women. It was the first private orphanage in New York City, and Eliza sat on the
board and was a director (second diresctress) for a number of years. From 1821 until
1848 she was “first directress with the chief responsibility for the 158 children then
housed and educated at the asylum….She oversaw every aspect of the orphanage
work.”[9]
Eliza was praised during her lifetime, as well as after her death, and rightfully
so. One obituary author wrote of her, “Her benevolence was most exemplary, and
one of the finest manifestations of it was her habit, to within a few months of her
death, of making occasional visits to all the schools of the city, and she never did so
without imparting some moral lesson which showed how deep an interest she took
in the welfare of the country which her husband had contributed so largely to make
free and independent.”[10]

The last line of this last song is “Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?” Ron
Chernow is a wonderful storyteller, and each biography he has written is well worth
reading. I don’t have to speak of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s talents; his musical has given
life to historical figures both large and small, and he has told their stories, however
briefly or detailed. And I hope that I’ve done a good job presenting some extra facts
behind Chernow’s and Miranda’s amazing works. I thank you for taking your time to
read this history.

[1] p 23
[2] Chernow, 727.
[3] Letters to and from Alexander (as well as other Founders) can be found at the
site Founders Online, administered by the U.S. National Archives.
[4] Robert Fulton of steamboat fame is also buried in this vault (he married into
the Livingston family), although he also has a monument on the opposite side of
the church. The aforementioned Albert Gallatin is buried near
Angelica. Unsurprisingly, Angelica’s death did not receive the same attention as
her sister and brother-in-law. A paper in her hometown, the Albany Register,
noted her death: “Died – At New-York, on Sunday evening last, Mrs. Angelica
Church, wife of John B. Church, Esq. and daughter of the late Gen. Philip
Schuyler, of this city, in the 58th year of her age” (Friday, March 11, 1814, p.
3). This was copied in a number of other papers, including some in New York City.
[5] Chernow, 730.
[6] Daily National Intelligencer (Washington, DC), February 21, 1848, p1.
[7] Daily National Intelligencer (Washington, DC), July 6, 1848, p. 4.
[8] Chernow, 730.
[9] Chernow, 728. He wrote, “She raised money, leased properties, visited
almshouses, investigated complaints, and solicited donations of coal, shoes, and
Bibles.” The orphanage still operates today under the name Graham Windham.
[10] Daily National Intelligencer (Washington, DC), November 11, 1854, p. 3.