“And the world Is gonna know your name. What’s your name, man?” “Alexander Hamilton.”

Except for the opening paragraph, this post was (mostly – there are some updates) written in 2008, years before “Hamilton” mania overtook the world. I almost can’t believe it’s happened. Thank you Lin-Manuel Miranda. Your musical is so important. I am glad it exists now. To all of you newcomers to Hamiltonia, I say, Welcome to a worthy lifelong obsession. Also: What took you so long?

It’s Alexander Hamilton’s birthday … probably. The year is in question (he would lie about his age), but January 11 is generally agreed-upon as the day he came into this fallen world.

You know what Alexander Hamilton feared the most, so much so that he was criticized as being a monarchist? He feared THE MOB. He feared MOB VIOLENCE. He feared people taking the law into their own hands. He feared the “politics” of revenge. He feared the blood frenzy of crowds. He stopped a mob on the verge of attacking the British loyalist president of what is now Columbia University. The crowd wanted to string the man up. Hamilton made a rousing speech against this sort of activity. This, of course, did not make him particularly popular with the blood-lust crowd. But as events would eventually unfold in France during THEIR Revolution, he was RIGHT.

So let’s get to it.


On this day, in 1755, Alexander Hamilton was born in the British West Indies. He was illegitimate (as John Adams sneered: “the bastard brat of a Scotch pedlar”). His illegitimacy was a stain on his birth, and he strove against that stain, that shame, for the entirety of his short life.


Take mankind in general, they are vicious – their passions may be operated upon. Take mankind as they are, and what are they governed by? Their passions. There may be in every government a few choice spirits, who may act from more worthy motives [but] one great error is that we suppose mankind more honest than they are. Our prevailing passions are ambition and interest. Wise government should avail itself of those passions, to make them subservient to the public good.

Hamilton’s also the one who said, at the end of his 6-hour long speech at the 1787 Constitutional Convention: “Decision is true wisdom.” This is part of the reason why he is one of the most important members of that founding generation – but it is also the reason people found him terrifying. Abigail Adams warned her husband, “That man is another Bonaparte.”

There is a contradictory dynamic within him that I find so compelling.

Also. He’s a bit hot.

Here’s a big post I wrote a while back about one of my pet obsessions: the election of 1800. People who somehow think elections are way dirtier now – and nastier – and that the past was somehow cleaner, and more polite, haven’t dug into the election of 1800. Both sides felt the literal SOUL of the new nation was at stake. Life or death stakes. Hamilton was central, and Hamilton was the definition of polarizing.

In 2004, the New York Historical Society (founded by the man himself) had a massive Alexander Hamilton exhibit and a friend and I went. You know what really got me? His DESK. I had to walk away because the urge to touch it was too overwhelming. Here’s a re-cap of our trip to the museum. Bill said something funny like, “I think this might be the first time I’ve gone to an exhibit like this where I’m with someone who knows MORE than I do about the topic.”

The following is a letter the 17-year-old Hamilton wrote to his father, describing the hurricane that hit St. Croix on August 31, 1772 – one of the worst in the recorded history of the island. A couple of days later, Hamilton showed a copy of this letter to Reverend Knox (a very important person in the story of Hamilton.) Knox was so impressed with the prose that he arranged to have it published in the “Gazette”. The letter was so well-received that Knox set the wheels in motion to send Hamilton to the colonies so he could get a college-level education. This move changed Hamilton’s life. Here is the Hamilton’s now-famous “hurricane letter”.

It began at dusk, at North, and raged very violently ’till ten o’clock. Then ensued a sudden and unexpected interval, which lasted about an hour. Meanwhile the wind was shifting ’round to the southwest … it returned with redoubled fury and continued so ’till near three o’clock in the morning. Good God! What horror and destruction. It’s impossible for me to describe or you to form any idea of it. It seemed as if a total dissolution of nature was taking place. The roaring of the sea and wind, fiery meteors flying about it in the air, the prodigious glare of almost perpetual lightning, the crash of the falling houses, and the ear-piercing shrieks of the distressed were sufficient to strike astonishment into angels.

A great part of the buildings throughout the island are leveled to the ground, almost all the rest very much shattered, several persons killed and numbers utterly ruined, whole families running about the streets unknowing where to find a place of shelter; the sick exposed to the keenness of the water and air without a bed to lie upon or a dry covering to their bodies; and our harbors entirely bare. In a word, misery, in all its hideous shapes, spread over the whole face of the country …

As to my reflections and feelings on this frightful and melancholy ocassion …

Where now, oh! vile worm, is all thy boasted fortitude and resolution? What is become of thine arrogance and self-sufficiency? Why dost thou tremble and stand aghast? How humble, how helpless, how contemptible you now appear. And for why? The jarring of elements — the discord of clouds? Oh! impotent presumptuous fool! Death comes rushing on in triumph, veiled in a mantle of tenfold darkness … On his right hand sits destruction, hurling the winds and belching forth flames: calamity on his left threatening famine, disease and distress of all kinds. And oh! thou wretch, look still a little further. See the gulf of eternal misery open. There mayest thou shortly plunge — the just reward of thy vileness. Alas! whither canst thou fly? Where hide thyself?

I look at my Diary Friday entries – written when I was 17 and I sound like a one-celled homunculit in comparison.

Hamilton wrote in 1780:

No wise statesman will reject the good from an apprehension of the ill. The truth is, in human affairs, there is no good, pure and unmixed. Every advantage has two sides, and wisdom consists in availing ourselves of the good and guarding as much as possible against the bad…

A national debt, if it is not excessive, will be to us a national blessing. It will be powerful cement of our union. It will also create a necessity for keeping up taxation to such a degree which, without being oppressive, will be a spur to industry.

“A national debt, if it is not excessive, will be to us a national blessing.”

Those words were a BOMB exploding through the colonies.

At the 1787 Constitutional Convention, Hamilton stood up and made a six hour speech. He spoke without notes. !!! People scrawled down what he said, so whatever we have of that speech is from those notes. How I wish I had been in that room. It was a rousing call to a strong central government, a rousing call for the states to give up their power and their identities, to submerge themselves into America. It was an insane speech. He seemed to be advocating for monarchical rule. His allies thought he had lost his mind. Another delegate to the Congress described Hamilton as “praised by everybody but supported by none”.

Here are some excerpts from that speech:

All the passion we see, of avarice, ambition, interest, which govern most individuals and all public bodies, fall into the current of the states and do not flow into the stream of the general national government … How then are all these evils to be avoided? Only by such a complete sovereignty in the general government as will turn all the strong principles and passions to its side.

In the context of the time, it is not surprising at all that people hated Hamilton, thought these were treasonous words. They had just thrown OFF the yoke of a monarch who had “complete sovereignty” … and now Hamilton wanted to put the yoke on again? Heresy,


In every community where industry is encouraged, there will be a division of it into the few and the many. Hence, separate interests will arise. There will be debtors and creditors. Give all power to the many, they will oppress the few. Give all power to the few, they will oppress the many. Both, therefore, ought to have power, that each may defend itself against the other.

When Hamilton moved to the plans for their new government it was the only time he used notes sketched out earlier. What he proposed as the set-up for the national government is basically what we have to this day (except for the “executive for life” thing, 45’s rantings about his “reign” and serving more than two terms notwithstanding.)

He went way too far out with some of his ideas. In my opinion – and I’ve read it all – this was his role, historically. I see him in that context. You always need someone like that, someone imaginative, bold, reckless, to push the boundaries OUT. But there’s a dark side to that. You get dictators from people like that. People were not wrong to fear him. We would have been in deep shit if Hamilton was our only founder. Vision like his must be tempered by cooler minds. But he brought very important and unique aspects to the table, all of which came from the authentic place of his own experience. Although St. Croix was also a British colony – therefore meaning his move to the mainland colonies was not, strictly, an act of immigration (Lin Manuel-Miranda kind of fudges this, to make his point – over and over again – in his musical – it’s the only “fudge” that irritates me). Was he really seen as an “immigrant”? He didn’t come from Russia or China. He moved around within the British empire. NEVERTHELESS: the fact of the matter is he was not born and raised in the original 13 colonies, he was perceived as an outsider. This worked against him. But it was one of his greatest strengths in the initial battle: He was not emotionally/psychologically/financially attached to any one colony, i.e. “state”. All the other “guys” (as I call them) had intense loyalties to their particular area. Hamilton did not. His view was higher, then, and wider. He always saw the separate colonies as a union, and he stands out, because of it. The other founders had a slower learning curve, it was harder to let go of regional allegiances. This was why Hamilton’s “national debt” plan was so controversial. Hamilton was impulsive, rash, brave (just look at his behavior during the Revolutionary War once Washington allowed him to fight. He took insane physical risks. He had no fear for his own safety. A death wish, even. A lot to prove.) There was literally no pause between thought and action (this is why he got into so much trouble.) Great men usually have a fatal flaw. This is not news. If they didn’t have the flaw, they wouldn’t be great. The fatal flaw brings them to greatness, and then brings them to ruin.

It reminds me of that great EM Forster quote: “Don’t start with proportion. Only prigs do that.”

I believe Hamilton was the most far-seeing of the Founders, for better or for worse. He was not an idealist. He did not yearn for Utopia. His early life was brutal, much harsher than any of the other “guys.” Illusions were knocked out of him early. He saw reality. Or, he believed so strongly in the reality he saw he worked himself to the bone to bring it to pass. The fact remains: he saw where we were going. And he was right. From the evil of slavery to all of the economic challenges wrapped up in slavery. The colonies were still an agrarian society: land was power and prestige. Jefferson couldn’t imagine any other kind of world. Washington couldn’t imagine any other kind of world. They were rich but not city rich. They were farmers. Hamilton did and could imagine another kind of world, an urban world, a world of banking and finance. He knew the Industrial Revolution was coming. He knew that cities were on the rise, cities would become the center of commerce and finance and development. He understood that society would change drastically, and he wanted the economy to be flexible enough to deal with those changes. Because he understood urbanity was the future, he understood slavery had to go. But his criticism of slavery was not just economic. He was also the only Founder who was an abolitionist, from the start. Most of the “guys” understood that the situation was terrible, even as they participated in it. This is the complexity of this period. I always think of Jefferson’s comment: “I tremble for my country when I remember God is just.” He knew. But Hamilton was against slavery because it was evil, end-stop. His behavior bears this out.

Most of the commentary from his contemporaries wwew along the lines of: “Hamilton is frightening.” “Hamilton is dangerous and must be stopped.” Those guys didn’t agree on anything but they all agreed on THAT.

It is almost as though Hamilton dropped in from the future, and people like that always meet resistance.

Here is the ringing first paragraph of Federalist 1, written by Hamilton, published on October 27, 1787, in the “New York Independent Journal”, the first of 85 essays (written by Hamilton mostly, but James Madison wrote Federalist 10 – maybe the most famous of all of them, and the one I go to most often – and John Jay contributed 5 essays), eventually known as The Federalist Papers. The purpose of this onslaught was to put the case for the Constitution before the New York public for its review.

After a full experience of the insufficiency of the existing federal government, you are invited to deliberate upon a new Constitution for the United States of America. The subject speaks its own importance, comprehending in its consequences nothing less than the existence of the UNION, the safety and welfare of the parts of which it is composed, the fate of an empire in many respects the most interesting in the world.

That prose would have gotten MY attention, as I scanned the “For Sale” ads for ladies’ hats and buggy whips surrounding it.

Hamilton, as Secretary of Treasury, put forth a monumental report to Congress calling for a national bank (something he had been pondering for years). He wanted it to be run by private citizens, not the government. The bank had the power to issue paper money. Hamilton opposed the government running the printing presses to produce money. A quote from his report:

The wisdom of the government will be shown in never trusting itself with the use of so seducing and dangerous and expedient.

The following anecdote is key to understanding what seem to be the over-heated reactions of fear and loathing Hamilton inspired in his political contemporaries. To give you the proper context: he was answering criticism from his former Federalist Paper collaborator James Madison who said that Hamilton’s proposed Bank of America was un-constitutional. (Hamilton asked for a federal charter for the bank. Madison said there was nothing in the Constitution saying the government should fund corporations.) Hamilton pointed out the last article of the Constitution, the one about Congress being able to make “all laws which shall be necessary and proper”. Hamilton felt this was sufficient evidence.

BUT! The way Hamilton summed it all up was not calculated to assuage his enemies who feared his lust for power:

Wherever the end is required, the means are authorized.

You rang, Machiavelli?

He went on:

If the end be clearly comprehended within any of the specified powers, and if the measure have an obvious relation to that end, and is not forbidden by any particular provision of the Constitution, it may safely be deemed to come within the compass of the national authority.

The story of the turbulent national debate about Hamilton’s financial plan for the country is amazing. (And Lin Manuel Miranda does an admirable job communicating all the variables in his musical – it’s an incredible feat of interpretation and clarity of portrayal: it’s a bullet-point version, for sure, but you really get what the big deal was.) I’ve read about this contoversary from all sides: Hamilton’s side, of course, and John Adams’ analysis of it, Adams’ letters to Abigail about it, Jefferson’s side of it, Washington’s side of it. If you don’t know all the ins and outs of the debate, I highly recommend delving in. It was truly an incredible time in our nation’s history, and it brings up all kinds of issues about finance and corporations that have intense contemporary relevance..

And about the duel with Burr.

The thought of a “glorious” death permeate his personal letters dating back to when he was a teenager. (“I wish there was a war.”) There are times when he is so cynical about his fellow man (due, in part, to his horrific upbringing) that he wants to end it all. He loses hope. He plunges from the heights into despair. Much of what happened to him came out of this death-wish (he maybe even had a premonition he would not make it to old age). While he was here on earth, he acted like he could HEAR the clock ticking down on his time. (Note: I wrote this before Hamilton the musical came out with its line: “Why do you write like you’re running out of time?”)

There were times he behaved in an incomprehensible manner. Like the so-called Reynolds pamphlet, where he defends himself in the middle of the first sex scandal in American politics (he was ahead of the times even there). You read the pamphlet and think, “Alex, why … WHY … are you publishing this?? Just say ‘I transgressed but I was also a victim of extortion.’ Don’t walk us through it step by step with purple prose about how she led you upstairs to the darkness of YOUR BEDROOM. Like: STOP!”

There was also his screed on President John Adams, where he declared Adams mentally incompetent and not fit for office. This was political suicide. It was so wrongheaded you gasp at Hamilton’s self-destructiveness. He went out in a blaze of martyrdom. It was the death knell for his career. His character was such that he followed his impulses – and when he was “on”? He was “on” like nobody else. But when he misjudged a situation? He misjudged BIG.

His battle with Burr was fierce and long-standing. Honor was a huge deal to Hamilton. He could not let an insult stand, maybe because of his illegitimacy, the scars left by his harrowing early life. He was very sensitive to any slur. (You can see why Lin-Manuel Miranda connected the Hamilton story to hip-hop and battle rap.) Hamilton felt disrespected by Washington. His resentment grew during his time as Washington’s secretary. He wanted to see ACTION in the war, not just sit and write 150 letters a day. There is a famous incident where Hamilton kept Washington waiting for 5 minutes because he had to talk to somebody else, and Washington was very angry and told Hamilton so publicly. Hamilton was so insulted by this he asked to be released from his duties immediately. If you insulted him by throwing an arrow, he responded with 25 cannon balls.

He had the presence of mind, though, at least early in his career, to know that Washington (and what he stood for) was very important to America and the union, so he tried to keep his personal feelings out of it. He was very concerned when he left Washington’s employ that the real reasons for his departure be kept private (he mentions it in a couple of letters). Washington’s image as a universally trusted leader was more important than Hamilton airing his grievances. Later in life, though, Hamilton was unable to hold his personal feelings back in such situations, and more often than not, he would make his feelings public. Honor, his integrity, his character – his very NAME – was something to be defended to the death. It HAD to be that way.

The duel with Burr must be viewed in this lifelong ongoing context.

On July 10, 1804, Hamilton wrote the following letter to his wife Eliza:

My beloved Eliza
Mrs. Mitchel is the person in the world to whom as a friend I am under the greatest Obligations. I have not hitherto done my duty to her. But resolved to repair my omission as much as possible, I have encouraged her to come to this Country and intend, if it shall be in my power to render the Evening of her days comfortable. But if it shall please God to put this out of my power and to inable you hereafter to be of service to her, I entreat you to do it and to treat her with the tenderness of a Sister.

This is my second letter.

The Scruples of a Christian have determined me to expose my own life to any extent rather than subject my self to the guilt of taking the life of another. This must increase my hazards & redoubles my pangs for you. But you had rather I should die innocent than live guilty. Heaven can preserve me and I humbly hope will but in the contrary event I charge you to remember that you are a Christian. God’s Will be done. The will of a merciful God must be good.

Once more Adieu My Darling darling Wife

Tuesday Evening 10 oClock

Joseph Ellis, in his wonderful book Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation, opens the book with the story of the duel between Hamilton and Aaron Burr on the riverside plain of Weehawken.

The statue of Hamilton, right near where I used to live. It hovers above the dueling plain where he took the fatal bullet. It’s a beautiful spot. Observation: This photo was taken when there was still a hole in the downtown skyline. My only complaint is: I wish he were facing New York, not turning his back. He helped create New York.

Joseph Ellis closes his chapter on The Duel with these words:

Oliver Wendell Holmes once observed that “a great man represents a strategic point in the campaign of history, and part of his greatness consists of his being there.” Both Burr and Hamilton thought of themselves as great men who happened to come of age at one of those strategic points in the campaign of history called the American revolutionary era. By the summer of 1804, history had pretty much passed them by. Burr had alienated Jefferson and the triumphant Republican party by his disloyalty as a vice president and had lost by a landslide in his bid to become a Federalist governor of New York. Hamilton had not held national office for nine years and the Federalist cause he had championed was well on its way to oblivion. Even in his home state of New York, the Federalists were, as John Quincy Adams put it, “a minority, and of that minority, only a minority were admirers and partisans of Mr. Hamilton.” Neither man had much of a political future.

But by being there beneath the plains of Weehawken for their interview, they managed to make a dramatic final statement about the time of their time. Honor mattered because character mattered. And character mattered because the fate of the American experiment with republican government still required virtuous leaders to survive. Eventually, the United States might develop into a nation of laws and established institutions capable of surviving corrupt or incompetent public officials. But it was not there yet. It still required honorable and virtuous leaders to endure. Both Burr and Hamilton came to the interview because they wished to be regarded as part of such company.


And finally, here is an excerpt from Ron Chernow’s magesterial biography Alexander Hamilton:

Hamilton was the supreme double threat among the founding fathers, at once thinker and doer, sparkling theoretician and masterful executive. He and James Madison were the prime movers behind the summoning of the Constitutional Convention and the chief authors of that classic gloss on the national charter, The Federalist, which Hamilton supervised. As the first treasury secretary and principal architect of the new government, Hamilton took constitutional principles and infused them with expansive life, turning abstractions into institutional realities. He had a pragmatic mind that minted comprehensive programs. In contriving the smoothly running machinery of a modern nation-state – including a budget system, a funded debt, a tax system, a central bank, a customs service, and a coast guard – and justifying them in some of America’s most influential state papers, he set a high-water mark for administrative competence that has never been equaled. If Jefferson provided the essential poetry of American political discourse, Hamilton established the prose of American statecraft. No other founder articulated such a clear and prescient vision of America’s future political, military, and economic strength or crafted such ingenious mechanisms to bind the nationa together.

Hamilton’s crowded years as treasury secretary scarcely exhaust the epic story of his short life, which was stuffed with high drama. From his illegitimate birth on Nevis to his bloody downfall in Weehawken, Hamilton’s life was so tumultuous that only an audacious novelist could have dreamed it up. He embodied an enduring archetype: the obscure immigrant who comes to America, re-creates himself, and succeeds despite a lack of proper birth and breeding. The saga of his metamorphosis from an anguished clerk on St. Croix to the reigning presence in George Washington’s cabinet offers both a gripping personal story and a panoramic view of the formative years of the republic. Except for Washington, nobody stood closer to the center of American politics from 1776 to 1800 or cropped up at more turning points. More than anyone else, the omnipresent Hamilton galvanized, inspired, and scandalized the newborn nation, serving as the flash point for pent-up conflicts of class, geography, race, religion, and ideology. His contemporaries often seemed defined by how they reacted to the political gauntlets that he threw down repeatedly with such defiant panache.

Hamilton was an exuberant genius who performed at a fiendish pace and must have produced the maximum number of words that a human being can scratch out in forty-nine years. If promiscuous with his political opinions, however, he was famously reticent about his private life, especially his squalid Caribbean boyhood. No other founder had to grapple with such shame and misery, and his early years have remained wrapped in more mystery than those of any other major American statesman. While not scanting his vibrant intellectual life, I have tried to gather anecdotal material that will bring this cerebral man to life as both a public and a private figure. Charming and impetuous, romantic and witty, dashing and headstrong, Hamilton offers the biographer an irresistible psychological study. For all his superlative mental gifts, he was afflicted with a touchy ego that made him querulous and fatally combative. He never outgrew the stigma of his illegitimacy, and his exquisite tact often gave way to egregious failures of judgment that left even his keenest admirers aghast. If capable of numerous close friendships, he also entered into titanic feuds with Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Monroe, and Burr.

The magnitude of Hamilton’s feats as treasury secretary has overshadowed many other facets of his life: clerk, college student, youthful poet, essayist, artillery captain, wartime adjutant to Washington, battlefield hero, congressman, abolitionist, Bank of New York founder, state assemblyman, member of the Constitutional Convention and New York Ratifying Convention, orator, lawyer, polemicist, educator, patron saint of the New York Evening Post, foreign-policy theorist, and major general in the army. Boldly uncompromising, he served as catalyst for the emergence of the first political parties and as the intellectual fountainhead for one of them, the Federalists. He was a pivotal force in four consecutive presidential elections and defined much of America’s political agenda during the Washington and Adams administrations, leaving copious commentary on virtually every salient issue of the day.

Alexander Hamilton’s grave. Taken by yours truly. I go sometimes to pay my respects. It’s a beautiful cemetery.

A complex man. A flawed man. A brilliant mind. He still has things to tell us.

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20 Responses to “And the world Is gonna know your name. What’s your name, man?” “Alexander Hamilton.”

  1. Sharon Ferguson says:

    Happy Birthday to your Dead Boyfriend…Mine is having his in February.

    I remember reading Ellis’ book several years ago…will have to pick it up again. Its a book I plan to have my daughter read later when we cover American history.

  2. Cullen says:

    Happy Birthday indeed.

  3. red says:

    Sharon – I’ll be doing a big post (of course) on your dead boyfriend. I’ve already compiled most of the quotes.

    Again: we need to double-date. In our imaginary Revolutionary-era past.

  4. Ken says:

    happy birfdA, alX.

    Sry bout teh duel. srsly.

    a2r0n brrr

  5. red says:

    Ken – I’m crying with laughter.

    Ahhh, the whole text-messaging founding fathers skit. It NEVER gets old.

  6. Kate says:

    Wow. This was completely fascinating. Got to read the whole ding-dong thing because croupy is having a nap.

    HOW the F do you do all this, Sheila? Your brains and zest for what interests you totally blow me away.

  7. red says:

    Ohhh, croupy!! Hope he feels better! I’m sure the ipecac is doing the trick.

    I’m kind of obsessed with Hamilton (obviously) – so I keep all of these quotes I like from him in its own notebook – so I have an easy way to track down the ones I like, or whatever.

    A lot of this is cut and paste from other posts too – so I didn’t put all of this together on the spot!!

    Glad you liked!

  8. ChrisN says:

    Outstanding post. Chernow’s book was undoubtedly the best I read last year. And I can honestly say that in my line of work, Hamilton’s initiatives in the early days of the Republic have an enormous impact on me every day.

  9. SFP says:

    Thanks for this. I’ll be sharing your link with my friend Wendy, who fell in love with Hamilton (same as I did) after reading Chernow’s bio.

  10. red says:

    ChrisN – Yes, the Chernow book is something else, isn’t it?

    Any book written on Hamilton from now on is going to have to contend with Chernow’s. It feels definitive to me. Like McCullough’s on John Adams. I mean … what is definitive to one generation is obviously up for grabs in the next … but speaking as a woman in the early 21st century, Chernow’s book is an unbelievable accomplishment. I’d been into Hamilton before it came out – Willard Sterne Randall wrote a book on Hamilton – which I had read, much shorter – and most of the stuff I learned about Hamilton was from what other people said about him.

    So to have him be the “star”, so to speak, of a massive book – was really awesome for me.

  11. dorkafork says:

    Hamilton was also quite brilliantly portrayed by Michael Cera of Superbad and Arrested Development fame.

  12. Keith Johnson says:

    Reminds me of my personal affinity for Mr. Hamilton in my teen years. I admired the man greatly, and eventually began identifying with him. My girlfriend at the time and I did some role playing, as husband and wife, Alex and Betsy. Because of my physical resemblance to a young Hamilton, I began portraying him at costume parties, which actually freaked some people out, even though other people were also dressed up. I guess I was simply too much into character and mannerisms, even to the point of mimicking Hamilton’s fine tenor voice. One slightly intoxicated young lady at a party began telling me, “You’re HIM! You’re pretending to be just in costume, but you’re the real thing, here observing us!” She then broke down crying, and friends of hers rushed over to her as she collapsed onto a chair, and began asking her what was wrong. That’s when I ceased my portrayals of Alexander Hamilton, back when I was 18 years of age.

  13. Cassandra says:

    //There are times when he is so cynical about his fellow man (due, in part, to his horrific upbringing) that he wants to end it all. He loses hope. He plunges from the heights into despair. Much of what happened to him came out of this death-wish (he maybe even had a premonition he would not make it to old age).//

    Not to make everything about Supernatural, but this is so very Dean. (Side note: at some point, I am going to write extensively about how Dean’s ending was a disservice to every fan who has ever dealt with a personal death wish – not suicidal feelings, per se, but a welcoming of the end if it happens to come – especially for a show that dealt with this so masterfully up until season 12, and a show that launched the Always Keep Fighting movement.)

    The descriptions of Hamilton’s writing and 6 hour speeches, etc., sounds very manic to me. I truly wonder if he had bipolar disorder (and if – and how – he may have self-medicated).

    • sheila says:

      // about how Dean’s ending was a disservice to every fan who has ever dealt with a personal death wish //

      Interesting – would love to hear it! I have conflicted thoughts but haven’t written them down – or even re-watched the episode.

      I think it’s highly probable Hamilton was bipolar. Ron Chernow makes that observation and I recognize the signs. The sheer VOLUME he was able to write – burning the candle at both ends – for long LONG stretches of time all of the writing brilliant – the PUSH of the Federalist Papers – you’re like “wait … how … HOW did you do all this” – and yes, it sounds very manic, and then he would have long stretches of lethargy bordering on hopeless “why bother”. Plus the death wish. (I believe he was what we would now call a trauma survivor from his harrowing childhood.) He was also promiscuous, another sign – and very careless once he was married (the sex scandal). He loved his wife very much but he was susceptible and, generally, horny. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but sleeping around is definitely one of the commonalities of people with that diagnosis. He wasn’t known for heavy drinking or anything like that. I think he white-knuckled it – using those seasons of manic productivity to the fullest, knowing a crash was coming. Hmmm. sounds familiar?

  14. I used to sit in Trinity Churchyard and have my lunch near that grave. Funny how connected it made me feel to Hamilton’s time.

    • sheila says:

      I know! I used to do the same thing – go and hang out there, read a book. I used to come into the city via the PATH – and the churchyard is basically right there. If I had half an hour to kill, I’d head to that churchyard. Any time I’m in that area, I still go to visit. The fact that people still leave flowers at his grave is very VERY moving.

  15. Bill Wolfe says:

    I wasn’t sure where the best place to post this might be. This is only tangentially related to Hamilton, but it’s an interesting tangent! This gentleman was present for a lot of interesting moments in history.


    • sheila says:

      while this is indeed fascinating – and thanks for alerting me to that interesting site – I got totally sidetracked by one of the first links in the blog post:

      // n 1788 when the “Doctors Riot” broke out: a violent mob, enraged by rumors of physicians stealing bodies from graves for medical experimentation, stormed the building. //

      what?? I need to know more about this!

  16. Count Pete says:

    If you haven’t encountered it, you might want to take a look at ‘On The Way’ by E.A. Robinson, which if not a great poem is the best one likely to be written about Hamilton and Burr, cast as the dialogue between them as they watch Washington ride by.

    • sheila says:

      Oh gosh I haven’t read it – thank you, I will seek it out! I’m reading the LOA edition of Thomas Jefferson’s papers now – or, I’ve been picking at it for the last year – and I am currently at the point where Burr has gone completely off the rails and everyone is struggling to respond to it. Like, he’s gonna lead an army against us? what is he planning?? Burr was wild dogging it, my God.

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