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Tommy Bennett 9/16

After all the readings of “A People’s History of the United States”, I am learning to be very wary of how history is told as the reader may not be receiving the full story. I am now going to examine the way that “Hamilton” presents the legacy of Alexander Hamilton and how realistic it actually is or whether it romanticizes his legacy. “Hamilton” is extremely progressive in its use of people of color as the actors for the founding fathers to demonstrate that even though they aren’t mentioned in textbooks, people of color have existed in all times. The musical does a phenomenal job documenting his affair with Mariah Reynolds through songs like “Say No to This” and the “Reynold’s Pamphlet”. The musical doesn’t simply brush it off and allow Hamilton’s legacy to continue unscathed as many other historical sources would.

In terms of his views on slavery, Hamilton wasn’t perfect, but he was far more progressive than the average founding father. Hamilton supporting arming Black Slaves and allowing them to fight for their freedom in the revolutionary war. Hamilton was a member of the Manumission society which sought for a slow emancipation of slaves in the United States. In spite of these two moments in his life, Hamilton still signed in favor of the 3/5 compromise which equated African American slaves to 3/5 of a white person in order to move the legislation of the United States forward. ¬†Even more concerning was Hamilton’s handling of the Schuyler’s slave transactions and the possibility that he may have purchased slaves for his own household. It is not entirely certain whether Hamilton himself owned slaves or merely handled transactions for others. Hamilton’s grandson actually testified that records exist that state he did in fact own slaves during his lifetime. Nearly none of this is mentioned in the musical. While Hamilton’s slave crimes are much less extreme than that of say Thomas Jefferson, their exclusion does falsely romanticize history.

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4 Comments

  1. Margot Roussel Margot Roussel

    I also really enjoy how diverse the cast of Hamilton is. I feel like it has brought new light to the theater world and created many more opportunities. However, I do agree with you that Hamilton may have had some problematic behavior, but I wonder how Lin Manuel Miranda could have worked it into the musical because I wouldn’t have wanted a song where Hamilton spoke out against slavery if he didn’t actually do it and I dont think there should be a song where he talks about supporting slavery either. I just dont know how he could’ve included that part of his history.

  2. Zariah Chiverton Zariah Chiverton

    As you said, Hamilton was not perfect but he was better than the founding fathers. Should we still give him praise for being slightly less horrible or should we re-examine how we look at all of the founding fathers?

  3. Samuel Hussey Samuel Hussey

    I also liked how Hamilton recognized some of the harsh realities of this movement, like Hamilton’s affair as you mentioned, and the presence of slavery still in the colonies. One of the lines from the Battle of Yorktown song reads “We’ll never be free until we end slavery”. This does not forget about the millions of Americans who still remained in bondage after the revolution so we do not gloss over this fact. 1776 also does this by showing John Adams’ hatred of slavery and then unwillingly accepting defeat on his push to include rights for slaves in the Declaration of Independence.

  4. Jeffrey Sprung Jeffrey Sprung

    Due to our class discussions and after all our readings in “A People’s History of the United States,” I also was more cautious of the different ways in which the history of our Founding Fathers was presented in 1776 and Hamilton. I agree that Hamilton’s vote in favor of the 3/5 compromise was very problematic, but I am not exactly sure how Lin-Manuel Miranda could have incorporated this harsh reality to a greater level in Hamilton.

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