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Although Hamilton is not great history, as it does not paint a completely accurate portrait of Alexander Hamilton and the events of his life, it is an important piece of history because it opens the door for better dissemination of history in the future. ‘not saying no’ is different from him saying yes; Miranda’s portrayal of Hamilton falls into a major pitfall of historical writing by declaring Hamilton responsible for much of his successes but a victim of his failures. Furthermore, Miranda’s emphasis on Hamilton’s immigrant status is misleading, as it spreads a contemporary message and not Hamilton’s actual views. Throughout the musical, Miranda represents Hamilton as a proud immigrant who accomplished the American Dream through hard work. In Hamilton’s final monologue he reiterates this theme, calling America, “[a] place where even orphan immigrants can leave their fingerprints and rise-up.”² However, Hamilton was not a proud immigrant, but rather shunned his past and held many anti-immigrant beliefs.³ Miranda creates a piece of art which inspires its audience with popular themes, but at the cost of harming Hamilton’s historical veracity. Hamilton did not champion the musical’s theme that “Immigrants…get the job done,”⁴ but instead pushed John Adams to pass the Alien and Sedition Acts in order to imprison and deport foreigners.⁵ Here Miranda not only harms the historical truth of Hamilton’s story, but overtly uses it to spread a political message. Miranda retrojects contemporary themes onto Hamilton, increasing the timeliness of the musical, but muddying the history; Miranda’s modernizing of Hamilton epitomizes Joanne Freeman’s idea “that history is a story that we tell about ourselves.”⁶ Instead of emphasizing the story of Alexander Hamilton, Miranda unpacks the modern political landscape, which wrestles with whether the American Dream is still possible and with immigration policy. Furthermore, the race-conscious casting of Hamilton, where the characters are played predominantly by people of color, presents another historical problem, although one that is not as cut and dry as the other inaccuracies. Save for a brief non-verbal appearance by Sally Hemmings 36

in “What Did I Miss?” there are no named black characters in Hamilton, yet minorities fill the stage. The race-conscious casting empowers modern Americans to embrace American history as their own. At the same time, by representing the founding fathers as minorities, Miranda erases the history of slavery in America. Does the positive message created by the race-conscious casting outweigh the negatives of erasing the racism of the founding fathers and the contribution of African Americans? Well, it is hard to say whether the choice to cast people of color reflects a deeper truth about America as a nation of immigrants or if it erases a dark truth about America. But, this question points to a flaw in the historical probity of Hamilton. Even if the benefit added to the show through race-conscious casting is immense, the mere possibility that the decision could veil one of the worst historical atrocities in America’s history hurts Hamilton’s historical veracity. After examining the flaws of Hamilton, it is easy to forget Hamilton’s accuracy. A good historical piece is two-fold. One aim of history is to give the audience an elevated perspective on the world they currently live in. Thus, the flaws in Miranda’s retrojecting of themes in Hamilton are more permissible—though not completely—because they have substance to offer the audience. The other aim of history is to report the past as accurately as possible, such as Miranda’s seamless ability to weave historical facts and quotes into the songs of Hamilton. Miranda crafted the narrative of Hamilton to follow the major events in Hamilton’s life and stick closely to Ron Chernow’s lengthy biography of Hamilton. Additionally, the characters of Hamilton are complex depictions of real people with multi-faceted personalities. Miranda captures his characters’ thoughts and portrays them in song, such as his depiction of Burr’s mentality in the song, “Wait For It.” Lines like, “I’m not standing still / I’m lying in wait” accurately encapsulate how Burr steadfastly acted unobtrusively before

Profile for Rebuttal

Spring 2019  

We proudly present our first issue! The topics include abortion, the Iran deal, voter ID laws, targeted killings by governments, Hamilton: A...

Spring 2019  

We proudly present our first issue! The topics include abortion, the Iran deal, voter ID laws, targeted killings by governments, Hamilton: A...

Profile for rebuttal
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