I’m working on the requests, thank you all for being so patient! I wanted to draw the scene where Jefferson gives Phillip the Reynolds Pamphlet. Poor Phillip, it must have been hard him, he practically worships Hamilton.
The Ham4Ham with all of the children is so adorable. Kudos to Eliza for having eight children, she’s such an amazing women.
It was near the end of daycare, Alex was fighting with Thomas (as usual) and Mr. Washington was trying in vain to stop them. Vain was a word Alex taught Hercules, it sounded really important. Alex said that there were many ways to use the word “vain” but his favorite way is when you try really hard to do something but you fail. In fact, Alex and Hercules used it when writing the spy oath.
Today was a proud day for Hercules. Today was the day Peggy gra-ju-ated from spy training. He loved training Peggy, she was like a little spy sister to him, and she was going out into the real world to spy on strangers and make the world a better place. Today she was receiving her first o-ffi-shi-al a-sign -ment. Peggy was jumping up and down with excitement, the cer-ee-mo-ny was about to begin! Everybody gathered around to watch. Even Alex and T.jeff stopped fighting! That showed how much of a big deal this was. Mr. Washington breathed a sigh of relief. Then again Peggy was also jumping up and down with nervousness. Spy’s had a big re-spons-a-bil-i-ty. They needed to use the in-for-ma-shun they found to solve problems. But if you let the wrong person hear even a little of the in-for-ma-shun you found, it can create problems even bigger than the first. Peggy learned that the hard way. She cringed at the memory of when she accidently let Samuel know that Alex was going to prank Gorge. But that was then she was ready now.
Before you read, please understand that this is all just my opinion and perception. This rant isn’t attacking anyone, it’s just commenting on things I’ve seen and read in the past.
Warning: Mild Swearing
It’s been a little over eight months since I listened to the Hamilton soundtrack for the first time. That simple action was a monumental part of my life, not only musically, but artistically and socially as well. I’ve been drawing historical figures I wouldn’t have known about otherwise daily, and I have met so many wonderful people through this musical and this era in general. It’s been a wonderful experience, and I truly am lucky to be alive right now.
However, for every part of this community that makes me happy, there is a part that deeply saddens me. Today, I’d like to address one of those parts:
The treatment of Major General Charles Lee.
Now, I’ve listened to Hamilton countless times. The first couple times I listened to it, I was a little overwhelmed with all the characters and figures being portrayed and sung about. The style of music relays so much information and character at once that it takes a moment to process everything you are hearing. I couldn’t exactly find any characters to hold onto the first couple times I listened. However, now, the characters are quite clear to me.
In short, I like to group the existent characters of Hamilton into two categories: the “Main Characters” and the “Eight Minuteers”.
The Main Characters group is pretty self-explanatory. Heck, you could probably list all the main characters from Hamilton off the top of your head. These are the characters who do the most; the ones that sing a good handful of songs as well as change and develop over the course of the show. Characters including the likes of the Rev Set, the Schuyler Sisters (excluding Peggy), the Democratic Rebuplicans, and Washingdad. All of these characters have their own rising and falling arcs, whether noticible or subtle, and are usually the ones latched onto most by the common public.
Now onto the Eight Minuteers, as I call them. The name stems from probably the most popular character of its kind, King George III. In all, KG3 gets about eight minutes of stage time, a low-key joke in the Hamilton community and even in the cast itself. The “Eight Minuteers” label refers to characters that have about eight minutes or less of stage/singing time, characters like the aforementioned KG3, as well as Samuel Seabury, Maria Reynolds (though, I consider her, and Phillip to an extent, to be more middle of the road), George Eacker, Charles Lee, James Reynolds, and Peggy Schuyler (in all honesty, William P. Van Ness and Nathaniel Pendleton could also count, but they didn’t have any singing or speaking lines despite their stage appearances, and then we’d be getting to the category of “Historical Figures Mentioned but Established as Not Relevant”).
If there is one thing every Hamilton character has in common, it’s that there is a generally accepted portrayal and design for each character, modeled after their OBC actor. However, there is a slight disconnect with some of the portrayals of the Eight Minuteers…
There are two very major things in common between all of the characters I consider Eight Minuteers.
First, and probably most noticeably, is that all of them (besides Peggy) are perceived and seen as obstacles to the star, Alexander Hamilton. Please note how I referred to them as “obstacles”.
Second, and probably something that flies under the radar for a lot of people, is that these characters are very one-dimensional in the context of the show. With only one to three songs to work with for these characters to establish themselves, they are very flat, and usually exist to fulfill a single purpose in the context of the story, however big or small.
Do I have a problem with this? Of course not! The show is called “Hamilton”, and largely focuses on Alexander himself, as well as Aaron Burr and Elizabeth Schuyler. There will always be minor characters in media.
What I do have a problem with is how these Eight Minuteers are portrayed outside the musical, in fan works, be it art or writings or AUs.
Out of all the Eight Minuteers, Charles Lee seems to have it the worst. So, let’s talk about him, shall we?
Besides KG3, Charles Lee is probably the Eight Minuteer with the most time devoted to him. He gets about two to three songs, give or take (he speaks in the Meet Me Inside Workshop, and he is present in about half of it), which is rather generous, considering the time the other Eight Minuteers have to establish themselves.
What do we find out about Charles Lee throughout “Stay Alive”, “Ten Duel Commandments”, and “Meet Me Inside”?
Well, we learn quite a few things, in fact, and here is what I perceived my first time listening through: -he’s a general (wheee!!) -he seems to take his title for granted -he is confrontational -he makes some lackluster military calls -he dislikes Washington and his authority -he actively speaks out against Washington and his authority -he is honorable, accepting John Laurens’ challenge to duel -he has some sort of friendship/connection with Burr, as he agrees to be Lee’s second -he is a little cocky and overconfident -he shows weakness at times
Now, this was just my perception of Lee. Keep in mind, I hadn’t researched him at all the first time I listened through that trifecta of songs. This is the character I saw and envisioned.
Now, tell me, from those traits, do you get “furious, raging asshole who hates literally everyone”? Because I sure as hell didn’t get that.
Yet, I see this gross portrayal of Lee literally e v e r y w h e r e.
And it’s saddening.
Despite how disgusting this portrayal of Lee is to me, I can sort of understand why people write and draw him this way…? But it is quite a stretch.
Historically, Charles Lee was known to have a temper, known as “Boiling Water” to the Mohawks He could be very temperamental at times. Previously a British colonel, he, as well as his friend Horatio Gates, believed in their talents and were under the presumption that they knew best. Bold words, as they turned out to be two of the worst generals in terms of the American cause, however.
Was Lee’s infamous temper really captured in Hamilton so well to elicit such a gross interpretation?
Extremism and extrapolating without further research is never a good idea.
Researching the Truth
“Limitation” is the perfect word to describe the Hamilton fandom’s treatment of the Eight Minuteers. Characterizing these real historical figures based on their few minutes of stage time in a two hour-long musical?? Perfect.
Too bad it’s not.
Charles Lee is a villain. He opposed and stood in the way of Hamilton and Laurens, bad-talked Washington, and was apparently “inexperienced and ruinous”.
If only it were that simple. In detail, I wish to describe why characterizing him based on these events is foolish in terms of historical research as well as in the narrative.
1. Lee’s Washington Issues
One thing I always thought was a little lackluster in the musical was the portrayal of the war. Besides “Right Hand Man” and “Stay Alive”, the nitty-gritty of the war isn’t really shown. Of course, it’s only in Hamilton’s perspective, and we gotta make it to the political side of things by Act 2, but this always bothered me.
George Washington isn’t Jesus. There is a huge misconception that Washington was literally the best the Revolution had to offer, but this simply isn’t the whole truth. Yes, he was a really good general, and what he did was very noble and historical indeed, but a lot of history classes and the like focus on the few victories opposed to the many, many loses Washington suffered. Not to mention, the shaft several other generals receive in comparison to Washington, including the likes of Nathanael Greene, Henry Knox, and, dare I say, Benedict Arnold.
Lee’s dislike for Washington was actually mutual with many others at the time, including militia, soldiers, and congressmen bummed out at the lack of victories on the American front, as well as with his fellow general, Horatio Gates, and Joseph Reed. Washington wasn’t always the best, and several of his actions were quite questionable.
And what did Lee do?
Questioned it. Spoke out against it. Exercised his freedom of speech against questionable authority, a right the entire country was currently fighting for.
Sure, Lee wasn’t the best himself and deserves criticism just as much, but times were tough back then. Disagreeing with Lee’s beliefs shouldn’t be taken out on him in this demonizing way. If Washington deserves every bit of respect for everything good he did, then he deserves every bit of criticism for the wrongs he sometimes did as well.
And that’s what Lee did, criticized.
2. “Inexperienced and Ruinous”
“Hang on, how many men died because Lee was inexperienced and ruinous?”
I hate Hamilton for saying that… so much that I want to write a coffee shop AU fanfic DEMONIZING HIM!!
Jk, fighting this situation with forced irony isn’t doing anyone any justice.
Anyways, this line from “Ten Duel Commandments” has also been contorted in a way that gives free reign on hating Lee. However eloquent Hamilton can be with his words, he’s just plain wrong with this statement.
The Battle of Monmouth was on a scorching hot day, and Lee had his doubts when his section of the army was closing in on the British. He retreated after the first volley of gunfire, sensing danger on his own terms, resulting in humiliation, arrest, and a court martial. Men died that day, but I can only imagine how many men’s lives were saved on that day thanks to Lee’s cowardly decision.
The claims of Lee being “inexperienced and ruinous” are stretches, to say the least. It sounds to me like Hamilton himself was part of his own fandom, hating on Lee.
The word “inexperienced” is just a loaded lie, though, I wouldn’t be surprised if Hamilton knew this and purposefully used this word to belittle Lee. Lee was anything but inexperienced, as he was part of both the British and Polish army before joining the Continental army, as well as fighting in the Seven Years’ War. He definitely wasn’t lacking in experience.
Describing Lee as “ruinous” has a different connotation, I will admit. However, describing Lee’s faults as “ruinous” would only be fair if actions and wrongdoings by other the generals were categorized in the same way. Everyone did things that they probably regretted back then. Wartimes are tough and are very different than peaceful times; a small decision can mean life or death for many people. Lee, and all the other generals for that matter, didn’t just make decisions based on the moment, but also based on how they thought they would be perceived in the present and future. But, sometimes, lives on the line mean more than perception.
My apologies, Lin-Manuel Miranda, for systematically dissecting this specific line of dialogue that you probably just phrased in this way so it could rhyme.
3. Opposing Ham and Turtle
This could be tied to Lee’s opposition with Washington, as said opposition is what causes him to be in hot water with Hamilton and Laurens, but, jeez, does this last point really seal the deal as to why Lee is treated so harshly, yet shouldn’t be treated so harshly.
He opposed two main characters, oh boy. Spoke out against their dad, got challenged to a duel, got shot. Living the dream.
Now, I have no idea if Hamilton and Laurens are the key ingredient to this demonizing, but they definitely seem to be the icing on the cake.
I’d like to kindly remind you of a certain word I used to describe the Eight Minuteers earlier. What was it again… oh, yeah!
“a thing that blocks one’s way or prevents or hinders progress.”
Charles Lee was an obstacle in Hamilton’s (and to an extent, Laurens’) path. His promotion didn’t allow Hamilton into a higher position, and his actions continuously pissed our starring man off.
But, in being an obstacle, did Lee do any good?
H e c k y e a h .
For Laurens, look no further than his line, “I’m satisfied” following their duel. Arc complete in terms of Laurens’ development in the show, as well as contributing to much bravery and self-sacrifice following later on.
For Hamilton, Lee was an obstacle to overcome and strengthen his opposition to authority that he didn’t believe in, something to comes into play much throughout Act 2.
Lee was even used to forward a learning experience for the audience. Through Lee, and “The Ten Duel Commandments”, we learn about duels and the main etiquette surrounding it, something that really comes into play during Act 2 (rip my tears).
Speaking of Lee and duels, narratively, his role concerning duels is v e r y important. During “Ten Duel Commandments” and “Meet Me Inside”, Hamilton and Burr are in the position of seconds, onlooking the duel with curiosity and vigor, but this also cruelly foreshadowing their own demises. Their attitudes on duels change very much between this time and the famed duel that Hamilton and Burr, themselves, are directly part of (even between now and Phillip’s duel, to an extent). Burr’s attitude especially; I argue it’s the focal point of the musical as much as Hamilton himself is, as Burr transforms from a wormy negotiator, trying to defend both Lee’s and everyone’s sense of honor, to an honorable yet flawed murderer.
So, in short, Lee’s opposition and existence was a driving narrative force in three main characters’ personal arcs. Considering the emotional weight of the climax that the entire musical builds up to (aka “The World Was Wide Enough”), Lee is very, VERY important.
His opposition was important.
And, to be an opposition, he needed character.
An arguably despicable character, yes, but he served a very noble purpose, both in history and in the musical.
Demonizing and Villianizing
Demonize (v) - to portray as wicked and threatening.
Why? Why do this to him?
There is one last, major point I would like to bring up concerning Lee, and it involves about a certain question that is asked a lot in the Hamilton community:
Who is the true villain in Hamilton?
I see a lot of blogs and polls asking and discussing it, and they usually are very interesting. Most lists include the likes of KG3, James Reynolds, and George Eacker, and, those few, interesting fans that point out that Hamilton, himself, could be considered the villain of his own musical.
However, sometimes I see a certain someone also discussed… yep, my boi Charles Lee.
I’ll be as blunt as Eacker was at seven: I hate it when people say that Charles Lee was or might’ve been a villain, because he really wasn’t, folks.
If my huge historical paragraphs earlier didn’t convince you of such, let me put something into perspective for you:
In the context of the musical, compare Lee to KG3, Eacker, and Reynolds.
Compare a general who was speaking his mind and made a few military mistakes to a king who was a tyrannical ruler, a man who was a blunt, alleged murderer, and a con man who manipulated and blackmailed people for money.
…see the difference?
I hope so, because I sure as hell see a difference.
So, why do I care?
Honestlee (LOL I’M FUNNY), my want and drive to protect Lee in this regard stems from a couple things:
Firstly, I always have had an intense appreciation for minor characters in many forms of media. They may be “minor characters”, but they aide the story in huge ways with their contributions. Lee just happens to be at the forefront for me, but I could have defended any of the other Eight Minuteers in a similar regard if I wanted to. Lee also seems to be treated with the most, ah, vigor in the fandom(?), out of all the Eight Minuteers.
But, most importantly to me, my drive to protect him through my words and research comes from my respect for the real dude.
The real Charles Lee.
As much as I love Jon Rua, he isn’t the real Lee.
All the people in the musical were real, and the musical, itself, is just a glorified historical AU.
Charles Lee was a real person, with real feelings and real actions. His personality shouldn’t be constrained to that of a few lyrics and a couple songs. And research concerning him shouldn’t be limited to his love of dogs and his anger management issues.
Lee had a very long and interesting life, and, like it or not, he helped with the American cause. For that, he has my utmost respect, as does everyone else who served during those tough times. And, as such, I try to portray him in a way that doesn’t glorify only a single part of his personality.
So, you might be asking, where am I going with this? Am I going to police all content produced about Lee so he is portrayed to my liking? Am I going to flag and block people who don’t portray him correctly? Am I now a LJW, a Lee Justice Warrior??
N o .
I’m for freedom of speech, especially in the writing and artist world. Write and draw Lee however you please. We all perceive thing differently, and I respect that, at the very least.
My intention with this blog/rant was just to call to attention the way Lee has been treated, and how this portrayal can be seen as rude and disrespectful, to an extent.
To be fair, shipping him with fellow generals and colonels is also kind of disrespectful… but the entire Hamilton fandom is filled with gay, so what can you do? Hhh I’m not beside all of this, I’ll fully admit.
Long story short, please, take into consideration the real lives and personalities of the Eight Minuteers (and the main characters, as well) before you write and produce content concerning them.
Present them as characterful and multifaceted, just as they are portrayed in the musical.
Before shelving them as villains or throw-aways, research them; learn about them.
A lot of us wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for them.