Sometimes I think: surely Hamilton and Burr’s lives could not have been as intertwined as the musical says. Like, obviously it’s artistic license to make a better story.
And then I find out stuff like:
Hamilton confronted Monroe over the leakage of the supposedly
confidential documents. Monroe denied any responsibility. Hamilton
called him a liar and Monroe retorted that Hamilton was a scoundrel and
challenged him to a duel. Interestingly, the duel was averted by the
intercession of none other than Aaron Burr.x
Prior to this, Maria Reynolds had divorced James Reynolds; her attorney
in the proceedings was none other than Burr who would eventually kill
Hamilton in their infamous 1804 duel.
people are always like “oh taylor swift is just a vapid pop singer” “ugh she only writes songs about her exes” “all her songs have the same content” but i feel like those people are overlooking the fact that she wrote her hit 2015 single “bad blood” explicitly about the 1804 burr/hamilton duel
Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson had always kept their relationship secret from the public, their enemies, their friends and their family. Hamilton was still married to Eliza Schuyler and still had offspring with her, none of them getting his special ability. Both of their lives were normal, or as normal as an Immortal can get.
Immortal, the gift of living forever, or the curse of suffering with your long past. These were some of the most common types of humans on Earth. They gain this gift through hard work and it’s often a surprise when they find out.
Hamilton found out about his gift while on the battlefield with Washington. After finding out, his life seemed to have brightened. His life had become reckless. Everyone close to him, even Thomas, knew about his gift and they kept advising him not to mess with a Requirement.
Requirements, rare Immortals that can take the gift of other Immortals.
Well, that’s exactly what happened in 1804. He challenged a Requirement to a duel.
I’ve written a new musical entitled Hamilton; it’s opening on
Broadway this summer. There are lots of characters in the show, but I
want to talk about two of them in particular, Alexander Hamilton and
Aaron Burr. On the surface, these men had a lot in common: They were
both orphaned at a young age, though Burr grew up in wealth and
privilege in New England, Hamilton in poverty in the Caribbean. Both
prodigious students, revered commanders in the Revolutionary War, expert
lawyers, respected politicians, innovative businessmen, until 1804 when
one kills another in a duel. This duel is their most famous act,
linking them together forever.
The engine of my new musical is the fact that Hamilton and Burr both
hear that ticking clock of mortality at a very young age, and the way in
which they choose to live in the FACE of that knowledge puts them in a
collision course from the moment they meet. I’m going to sing a little
bit, so if you made a bet that I’d be rapping during the Commencement
address, your friend owes you money. Or points.
“If it had been possible for me to have avoided the interview, my love for you and my precious children would have been alone a decisive motive – But it was not possible, without Sacrifices which would have rendered me unworthy of your esteem. I need not tell you of the pangs I feel, from the idea of quitting you and exposing you to the anguish, which I know you would feel. Nor could I dwell on the topic lest it should unman me… . Adieu best of wives and best of women. Embrace all my darling Children for me.”
- Alexander Hamilton to Elizabeth Hamilton, July 4, 1804, to be delivered if he was killed in the duel with Aaron Burr on July 11, 1804
Letter from Aaron Burr to Alexander Hamilton
The first letter of the correspondence leading to the duel
18th of June 1804
I send for your perusal a letter signed Ch. D. Cooper which, though apparently published some time ago, has but very recently come to my knowledge. Mr. Van Ness, who does me the favor to deliver this, will point out to you that clause of the letter to which I particularly request your attention.
You must perceive, Sir, the necessity of a prompt and unqualified acknowledgement or denial of the use of any expressions which could warrant the assertions of Dr. Cooper.
At the climax of the Broadway musical “Hamilton,” Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton exchange a series of increasingly hostile letters in the song “Your Obedient Servant.” Burr enumerates a litany of perceived insults: Hamilton has called him “amoral” and “a dangerous disgrace” and blocked his political aspirations. “Burr, your grievance is legitimate,” Hamilton replies dismissively. “I stand by what I said, every bit of it/You stand only for yourself/It’s what you do/I can’t apologize because it’s true.” An outraged Burr feels he has been doubly wronged — first he is bad-mouthed and then his complaint is answered with a shrug. These irreconcilable differences came to a head on July 11, 1804, in a fatal duel in Weehawken, N.J.
The genius of “Hamilton,” which opened in February 2015, four months before Donald Trump announced his presidential campaign, was the way in which it made the stuff of history textbooks feel unexpectedly vivid, even contemporary. A year and a half later, the prospect of two political adversaries drawing pistols at dawn over unforgivable insults is perhaps not nearly so remote as we might wish. Trump is “unfit, and he proves it every time he talks,” Hillary Clinton said in the third presidential debate on Oct. 19. “No, you are the one that’s unfit,” Trump fumed. There was no handshake afterward. When the “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda hosted “Saturday Night Live” last month, he acknowledged the convergence in his rapped opening monologue: “And, yes, I’m right in my element/Who knew that ‘Hamilton’ would be so topically relevant?/The way that these grandstanding candidates be talking/They’re just a tweet away from facing off in Weehawken!”
Grievance is the animating theme of this election and the natural state of at least one of the candidates; Trump is a public figure whose ideology, such as it is, essentially amounts to a politics of the personal grudge. It has drawn to him throngs of disaffected citizens all too glad to reclaim the epithet “deplorable.” But beyond these aggrieved hordes, it can seem at times as if nearly everyone in the country is nursing wounds, cringing over slights and embarrassments, inveighing against enemies and wishing for retribution. Everyone has someone, or something, to resent — and often rightfully so.
Americans tend to think of rights and grievances in completely different ways — one as a near-mystical birthright and the other as an unjustice that demands a response — but they are each part of our political origin story. In 1774, the First Continental Congress sent a Declaration of Rights and Grievances to King George III, protesting that Americans had “a right peaceably to assemble, consider of their grievances, and petition the King; and that all prosecutions, prohibitory proclamations, and commitments for the same, are illegal” — a missive that set the stage for revolt and the Declaration of Independence two years later. A grievance was understood to be a wrong so grave, so serious, that it must be in violation of its twinned opposite, a right. It was the other inalienable principle claimed by the new nation.
Those founding documents were a blueprint for how a grievance could be transmuted, through democratic institutions, into a right.
Since then our politics, and our evolving constitutional rights, have been shaped by the articulation and settling of grievances writ large. Slavery was listed as one of the “grievances” in Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence, but struck from the final version; it would take the 13th Amendment to begin to right that wrong. And half the population didn’t appear in the founding documents at all. Abigail Adams, the wife of John Adams and a future first lady, wrote to her friend Mercy Otis Warren in 1776 that she had sent “a List of Female Grievances” to her husband in Philadelphia, where he was working with the Continental Congress to draft the laws of the new nation. “I even threatened fomenting a Rebellion in case we were not considered,” Adams wrote, “and assured him we would not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we had neither a voice, nor representation.”
Trump likes to tell his roaring crowds that “we won’t have a country anymore” if he isn’t elected. The country he warns against losing is, of course, the very country that Lamm warned against losing; Trump’s candidacy takes that complaint to its logical conclusion. The good old days. Populism. Nationalism. Nativism. All of these are more palatable ways of serving up the same dish: “The issue of white grievance,” Bill O’Reilly said on his Fox News show in April, discussing Trump’s supporters, “is not going away.”
This us-against-them movement found its willing avatar in Trump, a man whose motivations — even to run for president — are personal animus, personal gain, a flouting of the rules of engagement and civility, equal-opportunity insults for all. “We have a bunch of babies running our country, folks,” Trump said at a rally in North Carolina on Oct. 21, referring to President Obama and the first lady. “We have a bunch of losers.” It’s a grudge match with no aim higher than his own standing. “It’s him or me!” Aaron Burr howls in the song “The World Was Wide Enough,” near the end of “Hamilton,” in which he narrates the duel and its aftermath. Grievance begets grievance. The personal is political. And history can be hijacked by the consequences.
Hamilton was just 47 when he was killed in the infamous 1804 duel with Aaron Burr. He’s buried in the cemetery of Trinity Church, where he owned a pew (No. 92), and where five of his eight children were baptized. His grave is marked by an elegant white marble pyramid, surrounded by four urns. Visitors leave offerings on top of the base: roses, lilies, pebbles and coins.
His widow Eliza, who outlived Hamilton by 50 years, is buried at the foot of his monument.
“She tends to get more gifts than he does,” notes Trinity archivist Anne Petrimoulx. “I think the musical makes people identify more with Eliza than with Alex.”
“We’re close,” Petrimoulx says with a laugh. “We’re tight!”
Self-described history nerd Stacy Kmentt of Chicago has come to the cemetery as part of what she calls her “pilgrHAMage” — “ham” as in “Hamilton.” She’s been making the rounds of various Hamilton historic spots in the city, and here she slips off her canvas shoes and places them gently on Eliza’s grave for a quick photo.
She’s written a message on them in cursive, using gold, acrylic glitter paint. On one shoe, she’s written “who lives, who dies”; on the other, “who tells your story?” It’s the title of the final song of the musical, the big emotional finish of Hamilton.
“Just how much he accomplished in his short life is phenomenal,” Kmentt says.
And that observation provides a handy motivational tool. Just think: WWHD? Kmentt agrees. “Every time I’m sitting around doing something lazy, I’m like, 'what would Hamilton be doing?’ He would not be sitting around watching endless YouTube videos or Netflix, that’s for sure!”
Is it just a coincidence that @linmanuel is leaving Hamilton (July 9th) on what is basically the anniversary of the Burr/Hamilton duel (July 11, 1804) and that the show continues without @linmanuel in the lead role on the anniversary of Hamilton’s death (July 12, 1804)? Because if it is not coincidental, it’s one more perfectly poetic aspect to the legacy of Hamilton: An American Musical.