New Exhibit- Alexander Hamilton: Striver, Statesman, Scoundrel

The New York Public Library has announced a new free exhibit on Alexander Hamilton that they will be hosting from June 24, 2016 through December 31, 2016.  The library’s press release describing the exhibit states:

Alexander Hamilton: Striver, Statesman, Scoundrel features more than two dozen items on display from the Library’s collections, focusing on his ambitious early life, work as a statesman and creation of the Federalist Papers, as well as the scandals that marred his legacy. The exhibition also explores Hamilton’s volatile relationships with Aaron Burr, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison.

Some of the exciting highlights of the new exhibition include:

  • Hamilton’s draft of George Washington’s farewell address alongside Washington’s version
  • The Federalist (commonly known as the Federalist Papers) as originally published in a historic newspaper
  • Hamilton’s proposed plan for a U.S. Constitution
  • The Reynolds Pamphlet, in which Hamilton’s admits to an affair with Maria Reynolds
  • Letters from Hamilton to his wife Eliza, and  her sister Angelica Schuyler Church; correspondence Hamilton sent on behalf of Washington, and a letter he sent to Washington about the Newburgh Conspiracy
  • Letter introducing Burr to the Schuyler family
  • Broadside of the letter that incited the duel that led to Hamilton’s death

The exhibit is open to the public for free, and will be at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on 5th Ave and 42nd Street.  I’ll certainly be checking it out this summer!

Save the Date: Happy Birthday Hamilton 2015 Events!

The Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society is putting on its annual program of Hamilton events in New York City on January 9-11, 2015.  The flyer with a description of all the events is available here.  The schedule of events is citywide and open to the public.  All of the programs are extremely interesting and offer some new perspectives into Hamilton’s life.

I will be presenting two talks on January 9 and 10 (descriptions below).  The first talk will be at the Museum of American Finance about Hamilton’s experience as a young lawyer fighting discriminatory laws directed at the Tories of New York.  The second talk will be at Morris-Jumel Mansion in Harlem and discuss the high-profile criminal trial for which Hamilton and Burr teamed up to defend accused murderer Levi Weeks.

A ‘Bar Fight’ That Changed America: Alexander Hamilton, the Trespass Act, and the Case of Rutgers v. Waddington

When: Friday, Jan. 9th 2015 at 2-3:30pm
Where: Museum of American Finance, 48 Wall St, New York, NY

Pooja Nair, Esq. speaks on Hamilton’s role in opposing the Trespass Acts and upholding the rule of law in New York City and the United States. As a newly-minted lawyer after the Revolutionary War, Hamilton stepped into a firestorm of controversy by defending a Tory merchant in his firsthigh profile case. This case, Rutgers v. Waddington, took on the Trespass Act, whichhad been enacted at the end of the Revolution to strip Tories of their property. The results of the trial shapedthe development of New York City and was foundational tothe development of key principles of the American legal system.The talk is one hour, followed by a Q&A session. 

The Manhattan Well Murder

When: Saturday, Jan. 10th 2015 at 3-4:30pm
Where:Morris-Jumel Mansion, 65Jumel Terrace, New York, NY

Pooja Nair, Esq. will speak about the Manhattan Well murder trial, the first fully recorded murder trial in the United States. Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton teamed up for this dramatic case in 1800 for the defense of Levi Weeks. Weeks was accused of the murder of a young woman whose body was found in the bottom of a well built by Aaron Burr’s Manhattan Company. Come learn about this mysterious murder and the intense trial Burr and Hamilton worked together on four years before they met on the dueling grounds.

The talk is one hour, followed by a Q&A session.

Aaron Burr's strategim at the Weeks [i.e. Levi Weeks] trial

Final Cast of Hamilton at the Public Theater!

Broadway World reported last week that the full cast of Hamilton has now been announced.  Hamilton will be playing at the Public Theater from January 20-March 22.  Below is a brief look at the cast.  The actors come from a variety of different backgrounds, including Broadway, television, and film.

Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton

Leslie Odom Jr. as Aaron Burr

Phillipa Soo as Eliza Hamilton

Daveed Diggs as Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette

Christopher Jackson as George Washington

Brian d’Arcy James as King George

Renee Elise Goldsberry as Angelica Schuyler

Anthony Ramos as John Laurens and Philip Hamilton

Jasmine Cephas Jones as Maria Reynolds and Peggy Schuyler

Okierete Onadowan as Hercules Mulligan and James Madison

The Public Theater’s description of the show states:

From the creative team behind the Tony Award-winning In The Heights comes a wildly inventive new musical about the scrappy young immigrant who forever changed America: Alexander Hamilton. Tony and Grammy Award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda wields his pen and takes the stage as the unlikely founding father determined to make his mark on a new nation as hungry and ambitious as he is.

From bastard orphan to Washington’s right hand man, rebel to war hero, loving husband caught in the country’s first sex scandal to Treasury head who made an untrusting world believe in the American economy, HAMILTON is an exploration of a political mastermind. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Eliza Hamilton, and lifelong Hamilton friend and foe, Aaron Burr, all attend this revolutionary tale of America’s fiery past told through the sounds of the ever-changing nation we’ve become.

Tony Award nominee Thomas Kail directs this new musical about taking your shot, speaking your mind, and turning the world upside down. HAMILTON is produced with the support of Jeffrey Seller, Sander Jacobs, and Jill Furman.

The New York Times noted that “the musical has been developed with support from commercial producers; if all goes well at the nonprofit Public, it is likely to transfer to Broadway during the 2015-16 theater season.”

T.R. on Hamilton

President Theodore Roosevelt is an iconic figure in American history.  The 26th President of the United States was also a noted soldier, environmentalist, and historian.  Roosevelt wrote a history of New York entitled New York: A Sketch of the City’s Social, Political, and Commercial Progress from the First Dutch Settlement to Recent Times.

Roosevelt described New York’s emergence as the “Federalist City” and Hamilton’s role in this:

“It was during this period of the foundation of the Federal government, and during the immediately succeeding period of the supremacy of the Federalists in national affairs that New York City played its greatest and most honorable part in the government of the nation. Never before or since has it occupied so high a position politically, compared to the country at large; for during these years it was the seat of power of the brilliant Federalist party of New York State. Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and at the end of the time Gouverneur Morris, lived in the city, or so near it as to have practically the weight and influence of citizens; and it was the home likewise of their arch-foe Aaron Burr, the prototype of the skilful, unscrupulous ward-politician, so conspicuous in the later periods of the city’s development.

Hamilton, the most brilliant American statesman who ever lived, possessing the loftiest and keenest intellect of his time, was of course easily the foremost champion in the ranks of the New York Federalists; second to him came Jay, pure, strong and healthy in heart, body, and mind. Both of them watched with uneasy alarm the rapid drift toward anarchy; and both put forth all their efforts to stem the tide. They were of course too great men to fall in with the views of those whose antagonism to tyranny made them averse from order. They had little sympathy with the violent prejudices produced by the war. In particular they abhorred the vindictive laws directed against the persons and property of Tories; and they had the manliness to come forward as the defenders of the helpless and excessively unpopular Loyalists. They put a stop to the wrongs which were being inflicted on these men, and finally succeeded in having them restored to legal equality with other citizens, standing up with generous fearlessness against the clamor of the mob.”

Roosevelt also described how Hamilton and New York complemented each other:

 Hamilton and Jay were the heart of the Federalist party in the city and State. Both were typical New Yorkers of their time,—being of course the very highest examples of the type, for they were men of singularly noble and lofty character. Both were of mixed and non-English blood, Jay being of Huguenot and Hollander stock, and Hamilton of Scotch and French creole. Hamilton, born out of New York, was in some ways a more characteristic New Yorker than Jay; for New York, like the French Revolution, has always been pre-eminently a career open to talent. The distinguishing feature of the city has been its broad liberality; it throws the doors of every career wide open to all adopted citizens.

Saving King’s College: Hamilton and Columbia University

Columbia University is one of the most distinguished educational institutions in the world.  US News ranks it as one of the top colleges in the country and it has a stellar reputation for academics and research.  (Not to mention, my little brother Sid graduated from Columbia a few years ago!) King’s College held a special place in Hamilton’s affections.  His two year experience as a student was a catalyst for his revolutionary ideas and the basis for some of the most important and long-lasting friendships, including his friendship with Robert Troup.  King’s College was a fundamentally Tory institution, and during Hamilton’s time there, college president Myles Cooper was vehemently opposed to the revolutionary sentiment in New York.

In fact, as David C. Humphrey writes in From King’s College to Columbia, 1746-1800:

“Probably half or more of all the King’s College students and alumni living in 1776 became loyalists.  so did Myles Cooper, four of the five other men who taught liberal arts at King’s between 1770 and 1777, and more than two-thirds of the governors who participated in policy making during the early 1770s.  The college leaders conceived of their institution as a bulwark of the established order, not as its critic.  On the very eve of the Revolution they sought to strengthen the college’s ties to the Crown.”

In Stand, Columbia: a History of Columbia University in the City of New York, 1754-2004, Robert McCaughey writes that “Tory loyalities and eight years out of operation had nearly consigned” King’s College to the “dustbin of history.”

James Duane, the first postwar mayor of New York City, who had come under scrutiny for siding with Hamilton in the Rutgers v. Waddington case and limiting the application of the Trespass Act of 1783, was a major advocate for saving the college.  Duane, along with George Clinton, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton, spearheaded an effort to reopen the college under the auspices of the New York state legislature.  In early 1784, Duane initiated a discussion in the New York Senate, and “on March 24, 1784, the senate received a ‘Petition of Governors of King’s College’ urging adoption of Duane’s proposal.”

The Columbia website states:

“In 1784, Hamilton and fellow state legislator John Jay (Kings College 1764) were instrumental in reviving King’s College as Columbia College. Hamilton served as a regent of Columbia from 1784 to 1787, and as a trustee from 1787 until his death on July 11, 1804, when he was shot in a duel by his political rival Aaron Burr. Hamilton is buried in the Trinity Church cemetery. The Alexander Hamilton Medal, presented each year by the Columbia College Alumni Association, is the highest tribute awarded to a member of the Columbia College community. Winners include Columbia president Dwight D. Eisenhower and alumni Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II.”

On April 13, 1787, Hamilton, Duane, and Jay’s efforts paid off and the New York Legislature approved a new charter that allowed the college more freedom and self-government than the more restrictive 1784 charter.   Robert A. McCaughey writes:

“In point of fact, the 1787 charter made the college substantially more private than King’s College under the 1754 charter or Columbia College under the 1784 charter.  None of its twenty-four trustees were to be state officeholders serving as ex officio members, and all replacements for future trustees were to be elected by incumbents.  The board was henceforth to be wholly self-perpetuating, as it would remain until 1908, when provisions were first made for alumni nominations to the board.  No less important in terms of the institution’s future identity, the charter explicitly linked for the first time governance and locale by its prepositional designation of ‘the Trustees of Columbia College in the City of New York..'”

This 1787 charter was the foundation upon which Columbia College was built, and which allowed the college to grow over time as an institution.

Hamilton Graveside Remembrance at Trinity Church (July 14, 2014)

On July 14, 2014, the AHA Society and Trinity Church, hosted a graveside remembrance in honor of the 210th anniversary of Hamilton’s death.  The event flyer states:

July 14th, 210 years ago, was the day of Alexander Hamilton’s funeral, in which a funeral procession led from his brother-in-law John B. Church’s home to Trinity Church, where he was buried. His funeral was one of the most attended funerals in New York City history.

Come join together in remembering Alexander Hamilton on the anniversary of his funeral in the Trinity Churchyard. This special program will include participation by the US Coast Guard, Sector New York, which was founded by Alexander Hamilton, and remarks by Peter Dodge, the President of the New York State Society of the Cincinnati. Mr. Dodge will speak on the history of the Society of the Cincinnati (of which Alexander Hamilton was a member and second President-General), plus the role the Society played in coordinating and leading the 1804 funeral procession for Alexander Hamilton.

The below video, created by Arthur Piccolo, a long-time Hamilton supporter and Chairman of the Bowling Green Association, is a great documentation of the events.

The Trinity Church webcast, containing the full talk by Dr. Joanne Freeman on Alexander Hamilton: Man of Honor is available here.  Dr. Freeman’s talk focused on the importance that Hamilton placed on honor throughout his life, from his childhood in the West Indies, to his conduct during the Revolution, and to the decisions that led to the duel with Aaron Burr.  Freeman has a very interesting perspective on Hamilton and is an engaging speaker, so I encourage you to listen to the whole lecture if you have an hour to spare.

Aaron Burr, Part 2

An interesting short film has been making its way across the film circuits.  Aaron Burr, Part 2, is a 9 minute comedic film that purports to retell the story of Hamilton and Burr’s duel from Burr’s perspective.  Much like Gore Vidal’s Burr, the film is filled with inaccuracies, but I think it raises some interesting dialogue points.  I’d be curious to know what It’s Hamiltime readers think.

The Atlantic’s description states:

Complete with iPhones, battle reenactments, and a very snarky first person narration, this short film is a hilarious take on the event that tarnished Burr’s legacy. Aaron Bur, Part 2 comes from director Dana O’Keefe. The film has been showcased in film festivals across the country, including SXSW and the Dallas Film Festival where it received the Jury Prize for best short film.

Film School Rejects states:

Why Watch?Dana O’Keefe and company take up the task of humanizing Aaron Burr, an incredible figure whose memory has been reduced to one label: the man who killed Alexander Hamilton. In this unconventional take on history, Burr is a man out of time, sliding between his pre-Revolutionary days fighting in Canada and a modern day New York City where hip hop hugeness paints his larger-than life with every slow motion step.

It’s tough to say why this works. Maybe it’s because Burr appears here as a ghost kept alive by the people that remember him, foolishly trying to set the record straight while lamenting what time has done to the world he knew. Maybe it’s the hipper-than-thou attitude it carries. Maybe it’s because it’s the kind of comedy that keeps a straight face. Or maybe it’s just because it’s really damned cool.

Short of the Week writes:

The effect is brilliant. Reimagined as a brooding anti-hero, Burr (Alex Kliment) enchants. It’s a crazy comparison, but with the culture obsessed as it is, Burr reminds me of a vampire, a historical Lestat. Beautiful, dangerous, he haunts the modern lanscape, filled with regret, damned by an unforgivable act committed ages ago.

Mirroring the theme, if History is a contested narrative, the narrative of the film is a contest between its various styles. Amazingly the film has been programmed as both a fiction and documentary film, playing reputable venues like SXSW, HotDocs, and being nominated for the Cinema Eye Honors, as one of the best documentary shorts of the year. With its archival images and historical re-enactments, it shares elements of films in the Ken Burns mode, however its playful style is much more in line with modern American fiction directors like Wes Anderson in its dramatic use of music, slo-mo, and on-screen text.

You can watch the film on Vimeo here.

True/False Film Fest also had an interview with director Dana O’Keefe about the film.