So I’ve been trying to figure out how to write this post since the first time I listened to the soundtrack of Hamilton.
Don’t get me wrong, I think this musical is fantastic. The music is wonderful. The concept is brilliant. My childhood crush on Lafayette was reinforced. I discovered I have marginal talent at rapping.
But I didn’t feel the way about it that everybody else seemed to. I couldn’t quite figure out why at first. Then, while watching Colbert interview Daveed Diggs(Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson), it struck me.
I liked Hamilton. It made me laugh. It made me cry. It was a source of contemplation.
But it did not come as a revelation of the Revolution.
As I said before, I had a childhood crush on Lafayette. Also, Captain”I have not yet begun to fight” John Paul Jones.
Talking about Nathan Hale can bring me to tears. Has for years.
At the age of ten, I felt PERSONALLY BETRAYED when Benedict Arnold tried to hand West Point over to John Andre and the British. It still makes me sad to think that, if Arnold had died of his wounds at Saratoga, we would remember him as a hero.
I think of Ben Franklin the way you’d think of a crazy uncle who is actually a bit of a genius.
The point is, the founding fathers have never been just statues, or names in a book, to me. I know their stories, not just their accomplishments.
I didn’t need a ground-breaking musical to change my perception of the past, because innumerable books, museums, TV shows, and movies already had.
Which is probably why I immediately had questions. Questions that had me bringing home historical books in stacks. Questions that led to more questions which led to more books. Because I wanted to know the truth. I wanted to know the stories that weren’t told, that I hadn’t learned before. I wanted to be sure I was remembering the stories I knew correctly.
Now, I could be nit-picky, and point out all the historical inaccuracies, or the places where opinion seemed to trump fact, or the dozens of figures missing from the story. (Lin-Manuel, you missed out on a perfect opportunity to have Baron Von Stueben drop the sickest cadence that ever was!)
I could talk about the common misconception that George Washington was a father figure to Hamilton and Lafayette.
I could talk about how Hercules Mulligan took all the credit for the spy work that helped us win the battle of Yorktown, while his slave Cato(who was also a spy) and the Culper Ring were ignored.
I could talk about all the other officers who were also passed over for promotion by the idiots in Congress.
I could go on and on.
But I won’t. That is a discussion to be had face to face, preferably over tea or coffee and scones.
And I also get it. When dealing with history, there’s a fine line between poetic license, and revisionist history. I have no business deciding where someone else should draw the line. That line looks different depending on the amount of research the observer has done. That line is why I’m terrified to write historical fiction. I’m sure if I tried, I’d fall so far down the rabbit hole of the historical section, it would explain my resemblance to random 18th century French women.
Also, strangely enough, Queen Mary(the one who married William of Orange, not the bloody one).
I guess all this was just my way of saying that, just because I don’t rave over the genius that went into the musical Hamilton doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. But I respect both art and history too much to leave it there. Pieces like this deserve to be discussed and examined openly, with no fear of censure on any side. Otherwise, it’s just entertainment.
I encourage you to question this musical. I encourage you to question what you thought you knew. And I encourage you to go find your own answers.
Don’t throw away your shot.