Alexander Hamilton: the wrong hero for our age.

Author:Smith, Billy G.
Position:Critical essay
 
FREE EXCERPT

Alexander Hamilton may have been one of the few people who actually would not like the play Hamilton. He would not have objected to being the center of attention because he had an inflated ego--not quite as great as Donald Trump's, but what person's is? However, Hamilton would have been dismayed at the sight of himself singing, dancing, and intermingling on a stage with so many common, ordinary people. Even though he lived a rags-to-riches story, he wanted desperately to separate himself from his past and from the "rabble" (as elite Americans referenced the lower and middle classes at the time). Hamilton, the man, would have been made socially uncomfortable by singers and dancers of the common sort.

In political terms, Hamilton envisioned himself as a member of the wealthy, educated, rational part of humanity who should restrain the democratic "leveling" tendencies (Hamilton's term) that reverberated deeply during the era of the American Revolution. Among the most well-known Founding Fathers, Hamilton was the most conservative--to the point of being a reactionary. As the script glosses over, for example, Hamilton gave a six-hour speech at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 advocating that the new nation should return to a monarchy or at the very least have a president and senate elected or appointed for life--after which the stunned delegates moved along to other business. Alexander Hamilton, the real person, is thus not a good fit for America today, either socially or politically, making it all the more surprising and impressive that the musical has garnered him so much favorable attention.

It has been able to do so in part because of the power of the play itself; its production simply overwhelms audiences, leaving many of them stunned, not unlike the convention delegates in response to Hamilton's speech. Lin-Manuel Miranda and his creative team are extraordinarily hard-working geniuses, having produced one of the greatest pieces of art and entertainment of the early twenty-first century. The brilliant multiracial, multicultural casting of the play in a hip-hop musical style has reverberated intensely among Americans, akin to how the democratic, egalitarian spirit resonated during the American Revolution.

Many of the play's sentiments speak directly to our current political debates. The mutually congratulatory joint declaration by Hamilton and the Marquis de Lafayette that "[i]mmigrants: we get the job done!" (Miranda and McCarter 2016...

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