The ten-dollar founding father and an American musical


Hamilton: An American Musical opened on Oct 19 in Chicago.

Haley McCoy, Editorials Editor

     Alexander Hamilton was the youngest founding father. The first Secretary of the Treasury, George Washington’s right hand man, the man who established the United State’s financial system: Hamilton is a part of history.

     Hamilton quite literally wrote some of the earlier parts of American history. He wrote 51 essays that brought the United States Constitution into fruition in the span of six months. Yet even as he wrote his way into the history books, America forgot him. He was the ten dollar founding father but that’s all we remember about the life of Alexander Hamilton.

     Enter Lin-Manuel Miranda.

     Miranda was on vacation when he picked up a biography for a bit of light reading. His first thought was that the life of America’s first Treasury Secretary embodied hip-hop. His second thought was that Hamilton’s life belonged in a musical. The next rational step for the playwright was then to write said musical. Seven years later Hamilton: An American Musical was born.

     Hamilton is a work of art. 45 songs, 14 characters, and countless rhymes and connect the young orphaned immigrant who wrote his way out of the Caribbean to the upstart founding father who bartered with Thomas Jefferson, fought with Aaron Burr, and never knew when to stop writing. The characters and moments Miranda worked with actually happened at one point in time, which makes the feat even more incredible.

     Each character has their own phrase or collection of phrases that appears throughout the musical. Hear Eliza Schuyler Hamilton singing how she’s helpless, watch Aaron Burr wait for it, whatever ‘it’ may be, and see Alexander Hamilton rise up, refusing to throw away his shot. The course of the musical can also be tracked through music genres. The colonies adapt rap and hip-hop during the revolution, their styles getting more advanced as time goes on. King George sings a break up song after the colonies declare independence. Thomas Jefferson comes home after the war and doesn’t realize the states have moved on to rap, so he starts singing jazz. It’s well thought out and impossible to even conceive.

     Aside from the revolution the musical portrays and the revolutionary way the story of Hamilton is told, Hamilton is historic for reasons beyond music. The musical was nominated for a record 16 Tony Awards, winning 11 in the end. Additionally, the company is made up of primarily people of color. Many of the founding fathers were slaveholders, but in this telling of their story, the main characters are played by black men, the children of immigrants, and three women of color.

     Regardless of how the story is told, the fact of the matter is that is it’s being heard. Hamilton was an immigrant who rose up from nothing to help found this nation but his enemies destroyed his reputation and America forgot to tell his story. Miranda has made certain that this man, who was an upstart who stuck his nose where it didn’t belong and made a lot of enemies in his lifetime, is remembered. The rest of the founding fathers’ stories are known, they grew old and were beloved. Hamilton now has the chance to rest with them.

     Alexander Hamilton is watching from the other side, a reference fans of the musical would understand. We can only guess what Jefferson and Washington think watching the story told in the way that it is, but it’s almost certain that Hamilton himself is smiling.