May 24, 2019

Horse 2551 - Who Is The Real Villain Of Hamilton?
Sydney has secured the rights to the hit blockbuster musical Hamilton after NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian intervened to lure the producers to the Harbour City.
There was an intense battle between Sydney and Melbourne to stage the wildly successful hip-hop musical, which follows the story of Alexander Hamilton, one of the founding fathers of the United States.
- ABC News, 22nd May 2019

“Get your education, don’t forget from whence you came, and
The world's gonna know your name. What’s your name, man?”

The announcement was made on Twitter this week by none other than Lin Manuel Miranda himself, that Hamilton the musical would be touring in Sydney in 2021. This is one of those rare occasions when I would actually like to go to the theatre but unless I am able to get an injection of cash, them the only way that I'm ever going to see this thing is to wait for it to be turned into a movie.
In the meantime, I estimate that I have heard the soundtrack at least half as many times as I have heard the soundtrack of Disney's Frozen; which is an awfully large number of times. In both instances, I have heard them coming up through the floor from the hairdresser's shop below where I work; and also in both instances, involuntarily.

I have read a pretty good biography of Alexander Hamilton and have encountered him throughout many tomes on the subject of American history but the place where I have read his own voice the most, is through the Federalist Papers, of which he wrote 51 of 85. I have also incidentally read through that infamous packet of papers called the Reynolds Pamphlet, in which he is both being blackmailed and responding to that blackmail over an affair that he was carrying on.
Armed with both the musical and the words which flowed from the end of his own pen, I have come to the conclusion that the villain of Hamilton, both the musical and the life upon which it is based, is Alexander Hamilton himself. He was his own worst enemy and he actively sabotages himself. Thus, Hamilton the musical should be properly viewed as a classical tradgedy, in that although Hamilton was indeed shot by Aaron Burr, it was Hamilton who not only did not take the necessary steps to prevent his own downfall but actually provoked Burr into doing it.

For all the talk about the intent of the founding fathers in the writing of the US Constitution, if you bother to map out the Federalist Papers to the final document, you find that the prime author was probably Alexander Hamilton himself. I have to say though, that I think that the US Constitution is a rubbish bit of legislation and that Hamilton probably wasn't thinking much beyond getting his mate Washington into power. I reckon that as the Junior Delegate for New York to the Constitutional Convention, he probably ranted like a moron, grandstanded like a charlatan, and was given the job of writing the majority of the document because everyone else grew listless of him and tired of his hectoring.

We know a great deal about what the man thought because of his prolific letter writing. We know that he was hideously hawkish and wanted to use military power to settle disputes. I suspect that just as he'd hectored the Constitutional Convention to give him his preferred mode of government, that he'd probably also hectored Washington into giving him a military command 15 years earlier.
Hamilton rises from sprog on an outpost, to working as a clerk, then being in the military and then being a lawyer.
I bet that if they'd let him, Hamilton would have also liked the idea of making George Washington the King of the United States, since that was the expected model of government. I guess that he was also probably stumping for the equivalent of patronage, if indeed that's possible in a republic¹.

The big problem that Hamilton had politically was that he was a total knave and that everyone knew it. John Adams succeeded Washington, mostly because he was quite a peaceable fellow, who was still passionate about the unfolding project of the experiment in democracy. Hamilton on the other hand is openly saddened by Washington's stepping out of the office and I suspect that had he had a tilt at the White House himself, he probably would have wanted to be dictator/president/king for life.

Then there's Hamilton's use of people for his immediate purposes and nothing more. The musical doesn't delve much into it but while in the musical Hamilton respects Lafayette, history reports that when France approached the fledgling America for help in its own military engagement, Hamilton was as much for not going to war alongside France as he was for France going to war alongside America.

If as Sir Humphrey in Yes, Minster suggested, that governmental departments' power is measured by the budget and staff that it controls, then Hamilton was a borderline power crazed maniac. His staff at the Department of Treasury spilled into the hundreds; while Jefferson had 12 members of staff at Justice; while the rest of the US Government at the time was administered by departments of single and barely double digits of staff.
He was an uncontrollable power maniac. His department was twice as large (staff wise) as the rest of the government. With Hundreds of members on his staff (while Jefferson had 10 and Knox had 6) he gave the impression that he was attempting to make his authority as large as possible and ultimately control the Government.

The whole second act kind of tells of how Hamilton's use of people for his own purposes where expedient, spills into his personal life. I don't know to what degree he had a thing for Angelica Schuyler but it makes for an interesting plot device. We absolutely know of his affair with Maria Reynolds because he published the letters in various New York Newspapers; though truth in point, the vast majority of the letters are in fact his to the editors of newspapers in which he is trying to defend his fiscal fidelity rather than his actual marital fidelity, which has already failed. Suffice to say that he was found guilty in the court of public opinion and was forced to resign his position at the US Department of Treasury.
If anyone is the hero of Hamilton The Musical then in my not very well paid opinion, it is Eliza Hamilton. Apart from forgiving him and accepting him back, she spent the rest of her life in more acute public service; and was instrumental in establishing the first proper orphanage in America, as well as joining the abolitionist movement. Eliza Hamilton spent more of her time after Alexander's death, trying to clean up the consequences of his failure to address critical things while he was alive.

The set of circumstances that drove Aaron Burr to fight him in a duel with pistols, is completely glossed over. The truth was that Hamilton had insulted Burr in front of prominent businessmen who might have funded Burr's 1804 run for the Governorship of the State of New York. Duelling is an idiotic pass time to begin with² but it was made all the more possible by the US Constitution which Hamilton was largely influential in writing. If the Second Amendment hadn't been included, then all sort of evils would have never have happened at all.

Granted that Hamilton was pretty important in the beginning of the nation of the United States but had he not had a musical, he would have probably faded into as much apathetic obscurity as John Adams.
I think that Hamilton The Musical is possibly the most important single piece of musical theatre in the twenty-first century³ but even so, it still carries that strange tension that its eponymous character is probably the villain of the piece; hidden in plain sight.

¹This is subtly different from pork barrelling.
²If there had been a Cartoon All-Stars To The Rescue in the 1800s, it might have advised kids not to go Duelling.
³Aside: Horse 2552

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