Alexander Hamilton's Complicated Relationship to Slavery

Alexander Hamilton's Complicated Relationship to Slavery

Alexander Hamilton abhorred slavery and at a few points in his life worked to help limit it. But any moral objections he held were tempered by his social and political ambitions. Throughout his life, like so many leaders of the time, he allowed or used slavery to advance his fortunes—both indirectly and through compromises he chose to make.

Hamilton's Early Life: Surrounded by Enslavement

From the moment he was born out of wedlock near a Caribbean waterfront frequented by ships transporting captives from Africa, Hamilton’s life was entwined with slavery. Growing up on the island of Nevis, young Alexander walked past slave auction blocks and the crowds who gathered in the public square to witness enslaved people being whipped. Amid an island of such natural beauty, there was no avoidance of slavery’s grotesque cruelty.

















Shortly before Hamilton’s father abandoned his family, he moved them in 1765 to St. Croix, where 22,000 of the island’s 24,000 residents were held in captivity to cultivate the “white gold” produced on sugar plantations. Even though Hamilton’s family had few riches, his mother at one time owned five enslaved people, whom she hired out to supplement her income, as well as four boys who served as her house servants. She bequeathed one of the boys, Ajax, to Alexander, but after her death in 1768, a court denied the inheritance because of Hamilton’s illegitimate birth and granted ownership of Ajax to his half-brother instead.

Hamilton spent his teenage years working as a clerk with the St. Croix trading firm Beekman and Cruger, which imported everything needed for a plantation economy—including enslaved people from West Africa. Hamilton watched hundreds upon hundreds of captives come ashore after making the Middle Passage and would have helped inspect and price those who were to be auctioned. A 1772 letter in Hamilton’s handwriting sought the acquisition of “two or three poor boys” for plantation work and asked they be “bound in the most reasonable manner you can.”

READ MORE: 5 Things You May Not Know About Alexander Hamilton

Hamilton Opposed Slavery, But Made Compromises

Using wealth built on the backs of enslaved laborers, a group of St. Croix businessmen, impressed with Hamilton’s potential, paid for him to be educated in the American colonies. After attending New Jersey’s Elizabethtown Academy, Hamilton matriculated at New York City’s King’s College, where 16 slave merchants served as trustees, and students such as George Washington’s stepson Jacky brought enslaved servants with them to school.

In his ambition to rise above his humble beginnings, Hamilton appeared to have frequently swallowed his anti-slavery sentiments as he pushed for acceptance into America’s colonial elite—most of whom enslaved people. Notably, while serving as George Washington’s trusted aide de camp during the Revolution, Hamilton was loath to broach the topic with the general, who enslaved more than 100 people at his Mount Vernon plantation.

Nonetheless, Hamilton held more progressive views than most of the Founding Fathers in regard to the equality of races. In 1774, he published his first major political essay, “A Full Vindication of the Measures of the Congress,” which drew direct comparisons between enslaved people and colonists oppressed by the British. And in 1779, he championed a plan proposed by his friend John Laurens to arm and enlist enslaved people in the Continental Army—and reward them with their freedom in return. (Washington himself had opposed the idea until the British dangled just such a lure.) “The dictates of humanity and true policy equally interest me in favor of this unfortunate class of men,” Hamilton wrote in an appeal on behalf of Laurens to the Continental Congress. “I have not the least doubt, that the negroes will make very excellent soldiers, with proper management,” Hamilton continued, adding that “their natural faculties are probably as good as ours.” His lobbying, however, failed to win support and Laurens' plan was abandoned.

READ MORE: The Scandal That Ruined Alexander Hamilton's Chances of Becoming President

Whatever distaste of slavery Hamilton may have had, he proved capable of overlooking it for love and country. In 1780, he married into the wealthy, slaveholding Schuyler family. General Philip Schuyler—father of Hamilton’s wife, Elizabeth—enslaved as many as 27 people who toiled in his Albany, New York, mansion and on a nearby farm in Saratoga.

As a New York delegate to the 1787 Constitutional Convention, Hamilton saw the need for compromise in order to establish a new, strong federal government, so he supported the so-called "three-fifths" clause, which counted each enslaved worker as three-fifths of a person for the purposes of determining state population. “Without this indulgence, no union could have possibly been formed,” Hamilton told the New York Ratifying Convention.

Two years earlier, Hamilton had been among the founders of the New York Manumission Society, which sought the gradual emancipation of enslaved people in the state. Hamilton served as the secretary of the organization, which established the New York African Free School and aided in the passage of a 1799 state law that freed the children of enslaved people. In spite of the society’s stated goals, more than half of its members owned humans. Hamilton helped devise a specific timetable for the society’s members to free their own enslaved workers—an initiative that went nowhere.

READ MORE: How Alexander Hamilton's Widow, Eliza, Carried on His Legacy

Did Hamilton Own Enslaved People Himself?

In the course of handling his in-law’s finances, the future U.S. treasury secretary was involved in the purchase and sale of enslaved servants for the Schuylers. In 1784, he attempted to help his sister-in-law Angelica reacquire one of her formerly enslaved people. Historians differ, however, on whether Hamilton's financial records refer to enslaved household workers owned by his in-laws—or by the Hamiltons themselves. A 1796 cash book entry recorded Hamilton’s payment of $250 to his father-in-law for “2 Negro servants purchased by him for me.” However, a ledger entry the following year noted the deduction of $225 from the account of Angelica’s husband, John Barker Church, for the purchase of a “negro woman & child,” suggesting the transaction could have been on their behalf.

Although there is no definitive proof, Hamilton’s grandson, Allan McLane Hamilton, claimed that those transactions had been for his grandfather himself. “It has been stated that Hamilton never owned a negro slave, but this is untrue,” Hamilton’s grandson wrote in a biography of his grandfather, originally published in 1910. “We find that in his books there are entries showing that he purchased them for himself and for others.”

While the historical record remains unclear on this point, it reflects the gap between Hamilton’s words and deeds. For such a voluminous writer, Hamilton left sparse notes about the issue of slavery. However, in his 1774 political treatise A Full Vindication of the Measures of Congress, Hamilton wrote that “all men have one common origin: they participate in one common nature, and consequently have one common right.” While hardly approaching the extreme paradox of Thomas Jefferson’s espousal of independence while enslaving hundreds of people, Hamilton’s relationship to slavery came with its own complex contradictions.


Hamilton and Slavery

By Michelle DuRoss University at Albany, State University of New York

Alexander Hamilton's biographers praise Hamilton for being an abolitionist, but they have overstated Hamilton's stance on slavery. Historian John C. Miller insisted, "He [Hamilton] advocated one of the most daring invasions of property rights that was ever made-- the abolition of Negro slavery. [1] Biographer Forest McDonald maintained, "Hamilton was an abolitionist, and on that subject he never wavered." [2] Hamilton's position on slavery is more complex than his biographers' suggest. Hamilton was not an advocate of slavery, but when the issue of slavery came into conflict with his personal ambitions, his belief in property rights, or his belief of what would promote America's interests, Hamilton chose those goals over opposing slavery. In the instances where Hamilton supported granting freedom to blacks, his primary motive was based more on practical concerns rather than an ideological view of slavery as immoral. Hamilton's decisions show that his desire for the abolition of slavery was not his priority. One of Alexander Hamilton's main goals in life was to rise to a higher position in society. His humble birth meant that he would not only have to work hard but that he would have to befriend the right people -- the wealthy and influential. During the eighteenth century, a large number of upper-class Americans held slaves. When Hamilton had to make a choice between his social ambitions and his desire to free slaves, he opted to follow his ambitions.

Some historians maintain that Hamilton's birth on the island of Nevis and his subsequent upbringing in St. Croix instilled in him a hatred for the brutalities of slavery. Historian James Oliver Horton suggests that Hamilton's childhood surrounded by the slave system of the West Indies "would shape Alexander's attitudes about race and slavery for the rest of his life." He also thought that Hamilton being an "outcast" on the island led him to sympathize with the slaves. [3] Horton relies solely on secondary information. No existing documents of Hamilton's support this claim. Hamilton never mentioned anything in his correspondence about the horrors of plantation slavery in the West Indies. Instead, Hamilton's impoverished childhood motivated him to spend his whole life trying to improve his position in society. If Hamilton hated the slave system in the West Indies, it might have been because he was not a part of it. He grew up surrounded by wealthy white families, while his remained impoverished. After his father deserted the family, Hamilton's mother supported Alexander, his brother, and herself. She died when he was a teenager leaving him to fend for himself. Within a year, he secured a job as a clerk for a local merchant, but Hamilton hated the lowly position. He wrote to his childhood friend, Edward Stevens, in 1769, expressing his desire for a war so that he could rise above his station. [4] Moreover, Hamilton's quest to climb the social latter influenced his choice of whom to marry. "In 1779, Hamilton sought help from his friend and former Washington aide-de-camp John Laurens, son of Henry Laurens, in finding him a bride who belonged to a wealthy family." In stating his qualifications for a suitable bride, Hamilton wrote: She must be young, handsome (I lay most stress on a good shape) sensible (a little learning will do), well bredÖIn politics, I am indifferent what side she may be of I think I have arguments that will easily convert her to mine. As to religion a moderate stock will satisfy me. She must believe in god and hate a saint. But as to fortune, the larger stock of that the better. [5] Although Hamilton told Laurens he was joking, a year later Hamilton married Elizabeth Schuyler, a member of a prominent New York slaveholding family. Someone opposed to slavery might have trouble marrying into a slaveholding family, but it did not appear to bother Hamilton. To be sure, Hamilton did not marry Elizabeth because he loved her his goal was to marry a wealthy woman and he succeeded in marrying into one of the wealthiest families.

Hamilton's involvement in the selling of slaves suggests that his position against slavery was not absolute. Besides marrying into a slaveholding family, Hamilton conducted transactions for the purchase and transfer of slaves on behalf of his in-laws and as part of his assignment in the Continental Army. In 1777, before he married Elizabeth, he had written a formal letter to Colonel Elias Dayton, relaying Washington's request that Dayton return a "Negro lately taken by a party of militia belonging to Mr. Caleb Wheeler." [6] Hamilton, Washington's aide de camp during the revolutionary war, remained close to Washington throughout his life. He served as his first Secretary of the Treasury and drafted some of his speeches, including the farewell address. Hamilton probably would not have wanted to offend Washington, who owned slaves, and he would have followed his superior's orders. Although the available evidence is silent on Hamilton's feelings toward performing this particular duty, his action suggest, at the least, his complacency. After his marriage, Hamilton intervened to retrieve his in-law's slaves. In 1784, his sister-in-law Angelica wrote to her sister Elizabeth explaining that she wanted her slave, Ben, returned. In response, Hamilton wrote to John Chaloner, a Philadelphia merchant who conducted business transactions for Angelica's husband, and stated, "you are requested if Major Jackson will part with him to purchase his remaining time for Mrs. Church and to send him on to me." [7] In addition, Hamilton also handled Angelica's husband John Barker Church's finances because the couple spent most of their time in Europe. Hamilton deducted $225 from Church's account for the purchase of "a Negro Woman and Child." [8] Hamilton wanted to be part of the upper class and his relationship with the Schuyler family and with George Washington made his wish possible it was more important to Hamilton to cultivate these relationships than to make a stand against slavery. To be fair, it should be noted that if Hamilton had adamantly opposed slavery enough to refuse aiding the purchase of slaves or the return of slaves, he would not have been able to maintain such influential friendships consequently, his stand on slavery would have had little impact on the abolition of slavery.

Scholars often point to Hamilton's support of John Laurens' plan to enlist blacks into the army as proof of his egalitarian views, which they claim supports the idea of Hamilton as an ardent support of abolition. Hamilton supported giving slaves their freedom if they joined the Continental Army because he believed it was in the best interest of America, not because he wanted to free slaves. When Laurens devised a plan in 1779 to admit blacks into the army, South Carolina was in dire need of soldiers to fight in the Continental Army. Although many leaders, including George Washington, worried about allowing blacks into the army, Hamilton backed Laurens' plan. Hamilton wrote to John Jay, then president of the Continental Congress, to explain the merits of the plan. He argued that he saw no other way of raising soldiers without admitting blacks. Hamilton realized that many people, especially Southerners, would disagree with the plan because they would not want to "part with property of so valuable a kindÖ"[9] Hamilton countered critics of the plan by claiming that the British would devise a similar plan and then the slaveholders would lose their property in slaves without any benefit. When left with such choices, Hamilton believed the slaveholders would naturally send their slaves to fight for the American cause. Hamilton argued that the only way to keep black soldiers loyal was to grant them their "freedom with their muskets."[10] The argument that Hamilton's support of Laurens' plan shows he was an advocate for the liberty of blacks ignores Hamilton's motivation for doing so. He wanted America to win the war and admitting blacks into the army seemed the best option at the time. In his discussion of Laurens' plan, Ron Chernow maintains that Laurens and Hamilton "were both unwavering abolitionists who saw emancipation of slaves as an inseparable part of the struggle for freedomÖ"[11] While their call to arm blacks may imply that they saw blacks as equal and wished all to be free, there is evidence to the contrary. According to John Laurens' father, John would never force someone else to manumit his slaves because he believed too much in property rights.[12] Hamilton has been accused of owning slaves, by scholars and his grandson, which suggests that any beliefs he has on the quality and natural rights of blacks did not always translate into action. It is possible that Hamilton did not own slaves but, even so, his involvement in slave transactions suggests a more ambiguous picture of Hamilton than the "unwavering abolitionist." Hamilton was motivated by practical terms more so than any ideology that espoused the equality of the races. That is not to say that Hamilton viewed the races as innately unequal, but that it did not dictate Hamilton's positions on policy. Hamilton, like Laurens, wanted to allow blacks into the army because they thought it was the only practical solution to the army's problems. Hamilton's membership in the Society for the Promotion of the Manumission of Slaves in New York has led historians to believe Hamilton was an abolitionist. Richard Brookhiser, Hamilton biographer and main curator of an exhibit on Alexander Hamilton at the New York Historical Society, maintains that Hamilton was an abolitionist. Brookhiser mentions that Hamilton was a founding member of the Society. He then asserts, "The society didÖsuccessfully push to make slavery illegal in New York -- a considerable achievement in a state where slavery was a real presence." He fails to cite evidence of the Society's impact on New York laws. Furthermore, he does not show any direct involvement of Hamilton in the quest for New York anti-slavery laws. [13] The Society's records lack substantial information about Hamilton suggesting that he did not play a dominant role in the society.[14] New York enacted legislation providing for the gradual emancipation of slaves in 1799, but did not abolish slavery until 1827, more than twenty years after Hamilton was killed in a duel. [15]

Hamilton's membership in the society did not conflict with his emphasis on property rights. Members of the Society could still own slaves. When the members convened on Feb. 4, 1785 to draw up their constitution, they created a committee to decide how the members of the society should act toward slaves they owned. Hamilton was part of the committee, which originally pushed for members to manumit their slaves. The committee's proposal was rejected and members were allowed to remain slaveholders. [16] Although Hamilton sat on committees and at times was chancellor of the Society, his attendance at meetings was sporadic. Moreover, the records of the Manumissions Society, along with Hamilton's papers, lack any real discussion from Hamilton regarding his thoughts on the society or what the society should strive to achieve. His membership gave him the opportunity to further interact with the top of New York society. The Society boasted an impressive list of upper-class New Yorkers, including John Jay and Robert Troup. Hamilton's involvement in the Society also elicited praise from his friend the Marquis de Lafayette. [17] Although the anti-slavery society in Pennsylvania explicitly pushed for the abolition of slavery, the anti-slavery society Hamilton belonged to advocated the manumission of slaves. [18] The Society said that people should free their slaves, not that they should have to free their slaves. Hamilton supported the freeing of slaves, but only if it did not interfere with the protection of property rights. Hamilton thought property rights should affect representation, which is one reason why he supported the three-fifths clause in the Constitution. Although he remained silent on this issue during the Constitutional Convention, he argued for it during the New York Ratifying Convention in 1788. Hamilton disliked the Constitution, but realized that no plan would be perfect. The Constitution was a compromise between the state delegates once they made their decision, Hamilton set out to gain support for it. He feverishly went to work writing a series of essays to persuade New Yorkers to ratify the Constitution and pled his case during New York's Ratifying Convention. Hamilton suggested that the more property one has, the more his vote should count. [19] Hamilton feared the lower classes and as a result he supported giving them less say in the government. Hamilton believed the wealthy had more virtues, while the poor more vices "Their [the elites'] vices are probably more favorable to the prosperity of the state, than those of the indigent and partake less of moral depravity." [20] Hamilton thought that the lower classes were lazy and would not contribute to the economic growth of the nation, whereas the wealthy, if they had vices, were greedy or vain – vices that would not be as detrimental to the prosperity of America. In Deficiencies of the Confederation, Hamilton proposed that Congress appoint officers of the state according to these qualities: "Congress should choose for these offices, men of the first abilities, property and characterÖ." [21] Hamilton noted during the Constitutional Convention that Britain's House of Lords is a most noble institution" because they have "nothing to hope for by a chance, and a sufficient interest by means of their property." [22] According to Hamilton, people with a substantial amount of property would provide stability. He believed that for people to be independent they must own property. Hamilton showed that he respected the upper class and wanted them in positions of power. Hamilton argued that since slaves were taxed they should count in representation, alluding to the popular revolutionary phrase "no taxation without representation." [23] He favored Great Britain and during the Constitutional Congress had suggested a system of government similar to the one in Great Britain where representation was limited to wealthy property owning men. [24] Hamilton's support of the 3/5 clause coincides with his belief that people with more property should have a greater say in how the country is run.

Hamilton accepted protecting slavery in the Constitution to ensure the union of North and South, which was necessary for the financial growth he envisioned. Since Southerners believed they needed the extra representation to protect their slave system, Hamilton recognized that the three-fifths clause was necessary to create the union – without the three-fifths compromise the South would never have agreed to the formation of the United States. They reasoned that without the clause, the North would dominate Congress and could destroy slavery. For Hamilton, the prosperity of America depended on the union of North and South. He maintained that the Southern States were an "advantage" to the North by pointing out that the Southern States possessed tobacco, rice, and indigo, "which must be capital objects in treaties of commerce with foreign nationsÖ."[25] The New York Evening Post , founded by Hamilton, contained advertisements for goods produced by slaves.[26] The advertisements in a New York paper further illuminate the interconnection between the North's and South's economy. Hamilton's position shows that he favored trade and that the North needed the South to maintain profits. He chose national economic power over taking a stand against slavery. Hamilton's actions regarding the Paris Peace Treaty of 1783 and the related Jay's Treaty of 1794 provide a complicated picture of his position on slavery. Hamilton initially criticized the British breach of the Treaty of 1783 and called for the British to return blacks carried off by the British. But Hamilton shifted his position to avoid confrontations with Great Britain and its diplomats, especially after his friend, John Jay, had secured a modified version of the Treaty. Moreover, he believed recognizing the Treaty would help secure America's position among nations and its economic prosperity. Hamilton also managed to reconcile his belief in the sanctity of property rights with his support of Jay's Treaty. The controversy surrounding the Treaty of 1783 relates to Article VII of the treaty. Henry Laurens, a prominent South Carolinian slaveholder who profited from the slave trade, urged Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, and John Adams, who were negotiating the peace treaty, to include a provision that forbade the British from taking slaves during their evacuation from America. Laurens request ended up as Article VII of the treaty, which stated: All prisoners on both sides shall be set at liberty, and his Brittanic Majesty shall with all convenient speed, and without causing any destruction, or carrying away any Negroes or other property of the American inhabitants, withdraw all his armies, garrisons, and fleets from the said United States.[27] [emphasis added] Simon Schama points out that the slave interest dominated the politics of the early republican period. "By inserting his article into the draft treaty Laurens was obliging not only his fellow Carolinians but the entire slaveholding class of the South who had made the revolutionÖ"[28] He explains that almost immediately the issue of blacks being carried off became a source of tension between Britain and America. When Washington met Guy Carleton on May 6 th , 1783, he began the conversation by discussing Article VII rather than questioning Carleton about the final evacuation from New York. According to Schama, Washington's face "reddened" when Carleton told him that blacks had already been evacuated with the British even though the British had been recording names so that the slaveholders would be compensated.[29] Despite his frustration, Washington denounced the idea that America should default on its part of the treaty because the British had broken the treaty by carrying off blacks. Washington did not want to resume fighting with Britain. Schama believes that Washington's position was in line with his realism.[30] Washington's response to the British carrying off blacks in violation of the Treaty of 1783 is similar to Hamilton's in its realism.

Hamilton also did not want to risk war with Britain, even though he supported the idea that the British violated the treaty by carrying off blacks. During the original discussion over the peace treaty, Hamilton had stated that the British needed to return blacks they took with them Hamilton argued that the taking of blacks after the war violated property rights. Hamilton presented a motion to the Continental Congress on May 26, 1783 that "protested against the seizure of Negroes belonging to citizens of the United States."[31] Besides Hamilton's public motion, he also made a similar comment in his private correspondence to George Clinton, governor of New York: Suppose the British should now send away not only the Negroes but all other property and all public records in their possession belonging to usÖshould we not justly accuse them with breaking faith. Is this not already done in the case of the negroes?[32] Hamilton considered the British carrying off blacks as a violation of the Treaty of 1783 and would have preferred the British to have upheld it. Nonetheless, when he realized that the United States could not regain the lost property of slaveholders, he accepted it rather than dissolve the treaty altogether. Hamilton disagreed with those, including James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, who considered the treaty void because of Britain's violation. He explained to Clinton "it has been said by some men that the operation of this treaty is suspended 'till the definitive treaty."[33] More than a year after Hamilton wrote the letter to Clinton, he remarked on his opponents' claims in his Second Letter from Phocion: That a breach of the treaty on the part of the British, in sending away a great number of Negroes, has upon my principles [Hamilton's opponents] long since annihilated the treaty, and left us at perfect liberty to desert the stipulations, on our part. [34]


She turned a spotlight on Alexander Hamilton's slave ownership. It put her on the national stage.

Jessie Serfilippi, a 27-year-old novice historian, caused a stir and received national media attention after publishing an article on the Schuyler Mansion’s website recently that debunked the myth of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton as an abolitionist and documented his role as a trader and owner of enslaved people.

Paul Grondahl / Times Union Show More Show Less

2 of 9 Jessie Serfilippi, a self-taught historian and interpreter at Albany's Schuyler Mansion, found evidence in primary sources that Alexander Hamilton owned and sold enslaved people. Provided photo Show More Show Less

essie Serfilippi, interpreter, and Heidi Hill, site manager, on the second-floor landing in the Schuyler Mansion, where tours include new research on the slave-owning past of the Schuyler family and Alexander Hamilton.

Paul Grondahl / Times Union Show More Show Less

Jesse Serfilippi remains an unabashed fan of the “Hamilton” musical despite her harsh critique of Gen. Philip Schuyler’s son-in-law Alexander Hamilton as a slave owner.

Paul Grondahl / Times Union Show More Show Less

A view of the Schuyler Mansion in the city’s South End from its backyard garden. The state historic site’s staff are prohibited from commenting on whether they agree with Mayor Kathy Sheehan’s proposal to remove the statue of Gen. Philip Schuyler from in front of City Hall because he was an enslaver.

Paul Grondahl / Times Union Show More Show Less

Jessie Serfilippi, who has an MFA in creative writing and primarily writes fiction, stands beneath a portrait of Hamilton in the blue room, where Hamilton married Schuyler’s daughter, Elizabeth, on Dec. 14, 1780.

Paul Grondahl / Times Union Show More Show Less

ALBANY &mdash Jessie Serfilippi is an accidental Alexander Hamilton iconoclast.

The 27-year-old novice historian and part-time interpreter at the Schuyler Mansion recently published on the state historic site&rsquos website a scholarly essay about the Founding Father&rsquos largely overlooked history as a slave owner that caused an outsized stir.

&ldquoMy driving force was to make sure the story of the people Hamilton enslaved was not erased. I never anticipated all this attention,&rdquo Serfilippi said last Wednesday. She stood in the Georgian- styled red-brick mansion&rsquos blue parlor, where Hamilton married Gen. Philip Schuyler&rsquos daughter, Elizabeth, on Dec. 14, 1780.

Serfilippi saw Lin-Manuel Miranda&rsquos smash hip-hop musical, &ldquoHamilton,&rdquo three times on stage &ndash once on Broadway as a birthday gift from her father &ndash and has watched the film version repeatedly. She can sing all the songs on the soundtrack by heart and admits to being a fangirl.

On the other hand, as a scholar, Serfilippi is unafraid to bust the myth of Hamilton as an abolitionist and to call him out as a slave owner.

Serfilippi&rsquos 28-page research paper, &ldquoAs Odious And Immoral A Thing: Alexander Hamilton&rsquos Hidden History as an Enslaver,&rdquo was first reported on in October by the Daily Gazette. It generated a major story in The New York Times last month that set off tremors of reconsideration of the first Secretary of the Treasury and face of the $10 bill during a moment of national reckoning on race.

Smithsonian Magazine, Associated Press, the Guardian and other media outlets also picked up the story.

&ldquoWe feel the evidence is very solid. This is not new material, but Jessie looked at all the primary sources with fresh eyes and a sharp focus,&rdquo said Heidi Hill, Schuyler Mansion historic site manager and Serfilippi&rsquos boss. Hill and multiple state historians vetted Serfilippi&rsquos essay, which is standard procedure for articles they post on the mansion&rsquos website.

Using primary sources available online, Serfilippi dismantled the conventional view of Hamilton by a detailed study of his cash books and correspondence letters from Hamilton&rsquos father-in-law to his wife Elizabeth and other sources. After a thorough review of the evidence, she reached what she called a &ldquorarely acknowledged truth.&rdquo

She wrote: &ldquoNot only did Alexander Hamilton enslave people, but his involvement in the institution of slavery was essential to his identity, both personally and professionally. The denial and obscuration of these facts in nearly every major biography written about him over the past two centuries has erased the people he enslaved from history.&rdquo

Serfilippi&rsquos assessment of Hamilton puts her in direct conflict with historian Ron Chernow. The bestselling, Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer published "Alexander Hamilton," an acclaimed 818- page magnum opus that inspired the Broadway musical. In his biography, Chernow called Hamilton an &ldquouncompromising abolitionist.&rdquo

Chernow told The New York Times that Serfilippi&rsquos research &ldquobroadens our sense of Hamilton&rsquos involvement in slavery in a number of ways,&rdquo but he faulted her for overlooking his abolitionist involvement &ndash including Hamilton&rsquos early membership in the New-York Manumission Society, which promoted an end to slavery.

&ldquoShe omits all information that would contradict her conclusions,&rdquo Chernow told the Times.

Serfilippi is critical of Chernow and other biographers who foreground Hamilton as an abolitionist while giving only glancing references to evidence of enslavement.

Serlifippi wrote: &ldquoIn light of these primary sources, the majority of which are in Hamilton&rsquos own hand, it is vital that the myth of Hamilton as the &lsquoAbolitionist Founding Father&rsquo end.&rdquo

Meanwhile, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Annette Gordon-Reed, a Harvard law professor, used Twitter to praise Serfilippi&rsquos bold assertions.

&ldquoFascinating article,&rdquo she tweeted. &ldquoAlexander Hamilton as an enslaver broadens the discussion.&rdquo

Other notable historians also applauded Serfilippi&rsquos nonconformist take on Hamilton.

This is heady stuff for a self-taught historian. Serfilippi grew up in Bethlehem, graduated from the Academy of Holy Names in 2011 and earned a bachelor&rsquos degree in English and an MFA in creative writing, both from The College of Saint Rose. She is primarily a fiction writer, has published in small journals and is working on a young adult novel.

During an internship at the Albany County Hall of Records in 2015, Serfilippi randomly pulled a volume of Albany&rsquos Common Council minutes from 1790 and her eyes fell on an entry involving Alexander Hamilton. &ldquoNah, it can&rsquot be that guy,&rdquo she told herself.

Serfilippi&rsquos random connection to Hamilton was made, which intensified when she was hired in 2017 to lead tours at the Schuyler Mansion. She was influenced by discussions with Danielle Funiciello, a former site interpreter who wrote extensively on the women of Schuyler Mansion.

Funiciello is pursuing a Ph.D. in history at the University at Albany and is working on a biography of Angelica Schuyler Church.

Serfilippi was also motivated by the sold-out tours she led &ndash attendance doubled due to the so-called &ldquoHamilton&rdquo effect &ndash and questions that hung in the air about the complicated legacy with slavery of the Schuyler and Hamilton families.

&ldquoWe started hearing more questions about whether the Schuylers enslaved people, especially from children on the tours,&rdquo she recalled.

Hill, the mansion site manager for 15 years, credited an intensive 2013 summer training program at Yale University that focused on historical biases for giving her confidence to dig more deeply into the extent of slavery within Albany&rsquos most revered families &ndash including the Schuylers. Hill helped build exhibits around startling statistics previously ignored.

In 1790, there were 217 households in Albany County that owned five or more slaves of African descent with a total of 3,722 slaves, the most of any county among New York state&rsquos 21,193 slaves counted in that year&rsquos census. The Schuylers enslaved 13 people at the Albany estate that year, slightly fewer than the Van Rensselaer household.

Hamilton&rsquos meticulous accounting in his personal ledgers was among Serlifippi&rsquos most damning evidence in her research.

&ldquoThese cash books make it evident that the enslavement of men, women, and children of African descent was part of both Hamilton&rsquos professional and personal life,&rdquo she writes. Hamilton was both an owner and trader of enslaved people. In a 1784 cash book entry, Hamilton documented the sale of a woman named Peggy for 90 pounds to a physician, Dr. Malachi Treat.

And in 1797, Hamilton recorded a purchase of a &ldquonegro woman and child&rdquo at a price of $225 for Angelica Schuyler Church and her husband, John Barker Church.

Upon his death in 1804, the property of Hamilton&rsquos estate was valued by his executor: a house worth 2,200 pounds, furniture and library valued at 300 pounds and enslaved servants worth 400 pounds.

After two years spent documenting Hamilton&rsquos slave-owning past, Serfilippi is shifting focus.

&ldquoGeneral Schuyler enslaved 40 people during his lifetime and we know very little about their lives,&rdquo she said. &ldquoI want to tell the stories of Lewis the coachman and Silva the cook and the others. We should not allow them to be erased from history.&rdquo


How Alexander Hamilton Screwed Up America

Having now endured a more than two-year orgy of adoration for the Broadway hip-hop musical, Hamilton, the public surely deserves a historical corrective. Historian Brion McClanahan's latest work on the Revolutionary period, How Alexander Hamilton Screwed Up America, is being released Monday.

Ron Paul, the Libertarian and Republican candidate for president and longtime U.S. Representative from Texas, has written the foreword, which he graciously shared in advance with Reason.

The central government has always been the greatest threat to liberty in America, but most Americans don't understand how modern America became the warfare state. How did the president acquire so much unconstitutional power? How did the federal judiciary become, at times, the most powerful branch of government? How were the states reduced to mere corporations of the general government? Why is every issue, from abortion to bathrooms to crime to education, a "national" problem? The people have very little input into public policy. They vote, they rally, they attend "town hall" meetings, but it does very little to stop the avalanche of federal laws, regulations, and rules that affect every aspect of American life. We have a federal leviathan that can't be tamed, and Americans are angry about it. They want answers.

Certainly, the Framers of the Constitution did not design our system this way. They intended the checks and balances between the three branches of government and also between the states and the central government to limit the potential for abuse, but somewhere along the way that changed. Who or what changed the system? It wasn't Barack Obama or George W. Bush. It wasn't even Franklin Roosevelt, his cousin Teddy, or Woodrow Wilson. They certainly helped, but as Brion McClanahan argues in the following pages, the architects of our nationalist nightmare were none other than Alexander Hamilton and a trio of Supreme Court justices: John Marshall, Joseph Story, and Hugo Black. Identifying the source of the problem is essential for correcting it.

Hamilton has become one of the more popular figures in America for the Left and the Right, so accusing him of making a mess of the United States is certainly shocking. But it is also accurate. Hamilton's constitutional machinations created the outline for literally every unconstitutional federal act, from executive and judicial overreach to the nationalization of every political issue in the country. He lied to the American public about his true intentions before the Constitution was ratified and then used sly doublespeak to persuade others that so-called "implied powers" were part of the plan from the beginning. We would not have abusive unilateral executive authority in foreign and domestic policy, dangerous central banking, and impotent state governments without Hamilton's guidance. Hamilton is the architect of big government in America.

Marshall, Story, and Black certainly acted as co-conspirators. Marshall's landmark decisions could have been written by Hamilton. His reading of the Constitution was at odds with how the document was explained to the state ratifying conventions in 1788. Marshall's interpretation would have led the people to reject the document. His belief in federal judicial supremacy and unchecked national authority has been the keystone to every subsequent outrageous federal ruling, from Roe v. Wade to NIFB v. Sebelius. Marshall is the reason the Supreme Court now takes center stage in every political debate in America, but he did not accomplish this alone.

Marshall's protégé and right hand man Joseph Story codified Marshall's vision for federal judicial supremacy as a popular legal scholar and law professor. Even today, law students across the country are taught Story's version of federal power. Story's message is simple: the federal government is supreme (even if it isn't), the state governments are subservient to the central authority, and the federal court system is the final arbiter in all constitutional questions. When these law students become lawyers and judges, they echo Story's teachings. With a legal profession so infested with a version of American political history contradictory to the actual record, it is no wonder the federal judiciary has become a mere rubber stamp in the expansion of federal power.

Black put the finishing touches on the Hamiltonian coup. As a member of the Supreme Court in the mid-twentieth century, Black participated in the final transformation of America from a federal union that respected state powers to a unitary state with unlimited control over the lives of individual Americans. You can't pray in public schools, control who uses public bathrooms, regulate pornography, or keep common standards of public decency because of Hugo Black. His insistence that the majority of the people of the states had very little influence over the social standards of their own communities delivered a death blow to the original Constitution. Thanks to Black, Americans now believe every issue is national, no matter how local in scope.

McClanahan has done a service to those who love liberty and respect the original Constitution as drafted and ratified by the founding generation. By knowing how we went wrong and who drove America off the rails, Americans can begin to repair the damage done to our political system. Unrestrained nationalism is a curse, but there is an antidote: liberty and federalism. If we start to cultivate liberty and freedom in our own communities and insist that our elected officials pursue the same agenda by disengaging the general government from Hamilton's desire for unchecked national power, we could salvage real America from the ruins of Hamilton's America. Education is the first step, and reading this book is a nice place to start.


The Hidden History of Cities

Every city has a hidden history. The 17th-Century founding of New Amsterdam crowded out thousands of Lenape people, who for centuries had lived the land now known as New York City. Chicago’s proud architecture says nothing about the devastating ecological toll its construction took on the region’s forests and prairies in the 19th Century. And the ever-spreading development of Los Angeles is silent about the political war over water rights that preceded the city bursting forth in the early 20th Century.

Washington, DC, has its own secret stories. In fact, this city has no business being here.

While histories of Washington often begin with the establishment of the capital in 1790, in actuality Native Americans had occupied the banks of the Potomac River for 4,000 years. By the end of the 18th Century Georgetown and Alexandria had become thriving Colonial ports, after displacing many tribes of Algonquians to outer Virginia and Maryland. As the seat of government of a fledgling nation, the marshy plot of land wedged between the Potomac and Anacostia rivers was an unlikely choice. The largest city in the country, New York, was twice the size of any city in the South and already served as the Continental Congress’ meeting place. Alexander Hamilton, a New Yorker, solicited support from Virginians Jefferson and Madison to propose the Residence Act, which created the capital city in Washington. As the new Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton wanted to consolidate considerable debts racked up by the states during the Revolution. The North owed more than the South, which had become wealthy from the exploding sugar and cotton industries, wholly dependent on slavery. Some Northern states already had abolished slavery, and the South feared losing power. Hamilton proposed a compromise: the South would assume debt from the North if the capital were moved to the border of Virginia and Maryland. An avid abolitionist, he nevertheless helped strengthen the institution of slavery by putting the nation’s center of power in the South. Historically, the very existence of the city is bound up with “America’s original sin.”

The Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), which opened this Fall, makes all this explicit in its exhibits but also implicit in its very presence on the National Mall. In recent months, much has been written about the museum, but little if any media attention has thoroughly addressed the building’s complicated relationship with the city.

The location itself speaks volumes. The building stands on land once home to slave markets, common along the Mall in the early 19th Century. Slaves built many of the iconic structures along the Mall, including the White House and the Capitol, dubbed the “Temple of Liberty,” as well as the Smithsonian itself, as research recently discovered. Martha Washington is believed to have provided the slaves who quarried stone for the original building, James Renwick’s “Castle.” Andrew Jackson, one of ten US Presidents who were slave-owners, presided over the Smithsonian’s founding in 1836, and Jefferson Davis, soon to be president of the Confederacy, sat on the Board of Regents and actually served on the committee overseeing development of the Castle, so the museum itself has a tainted past that it reportedly has been reluctant to acknowledge.

Originally, the west end of the Mall was under water. Prior to the McMillan Plan of 1901, which proposed a significant extension westward, the NMAAHC site was at the mouth of Tiber Creek, below the Washington City Canal, which cut off the Mall from downtown. According to the historic preservation report prepared for the Smithsonian during the development of the new museum, the whole space south of the canal was “undesirable and received little attention.” For much of the 1800s, Congress leased the land for cattle grazing, and the canal itself became an open sewer. While the museum site is ostensibly the last remaining space on the Mall, it is nevertheless a precarious plot of land—historically, ecologically, politically, and symbolically.

The report also emphasizes the site’s relationship to the original L’Enfant Plan (1791), “a principal tenet” of which was the “reciprocity of sight” between major public buildings or memorials along the Mall, grand gestures inspired by Versailles. The most important examples are the vistas between the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial and between the White House and the Jefferson Memorial. At the intersection of these two visual axes is the Washington Monument, and the NMAAHC sits just northeast of this crossing—central but not centered.

The new building’s metaphorical associations with these other structures is poignant. The Capitol’s “Temple of Liberty,” built by slaves, faces west toward a shrine to the man who ended slavery. A century later on the steps of that shrine, Martin Luther King staged the historic “I Have A Dream” speech, and the new museum’s placement off the central crossing of the Mall embodies that speech’s reference to African Americans inhabiting “the corners of American society.” The tiny temple to Jefferson, the slave-owner who authored the Declaration of Independence, faces northward to the White House, occupied at the time of the museum’s opening by the first Black president and now soon to be occupied by his successor, whose relationship with the African American community has been contentious, to say the least. (Major reviews of the NMAAHC generally occurred prior to the 2016 presidential election, after which the symbolic relationship between the museum and the White House has become all the more complex.)

In the middle of this ensemble is a monument to the “father of the country,” whose wife’s slaves built the very institution operating the new museum. Beyond the Lincoln Memorial, across the Potomac, lies Arlington National Cemetery, established after the Civil War at the former home of Robert E. Lee, who both owned slaves and called the practice “a moral and political evil.” These ironies are not lost on the museum’s designers and planners, of course: framed views from the upper floors highlight these historical complexities. “History is played out in front of your eyes,” says David Adjaye, the lead architect. While this complicated heritage existed before the new museum appeared, the building’s presence now serves as a powerful and permanent reminder.

Washington remains the supreme paradox among cities. As the capitol of the “world’s oldest democracy,” its plan and its most prominent architecture nevertheless invoke European legacies of autocrats and aristocrats, so its image inevitably represents a struggle between freedom and power. The new museum, the most important building to appear on the Mall in decades, prods the city’s troubled past and conflicted image—just by coming into being.

The next article in a series on the NMAAHC: “The Space of Resistance.”


To understand the US's complex history with slavery, look to Thomas Jefferson

S teve Light looked at the tourists gathered on the east portico and asked what words come to mind when they think of Thomas Jefferson. “Declaration of Independence,” ventured one. “President,” said another. “Library,” offered a third. No one mentioned slave owner.

But the tour guide, describing Monticello’s grand house on a hill and 5,000-acre plantation that grew mainly tobacco and wheat, did not mince words. “It’s important to remember this house is not possible without enslaved labour that supported Jefferson’s lifestyle. So Jefferson’s a complicated guy. If you want to understand the United States, you probably have to understand Thomas Jefferson.”

Not every country in the world embraces such a self-critique or subtle understanding of founders and heroes. Jefferson has been back under the microscope this week in the wake of neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan violence in nearby Charlottesville, Virginia. Donald Trump, decrying the removal of Confederate statues, tweeted: “Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson – who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish!”

It is true that both Jefferson and Lee owned slave plantations in Virginia. But most historians find the comparison absurd: Jefferson (1743-1826) helped create the United States, whereas Lee was a traitor who took up arms to destroy it. Nevertheless, the third US president’s reputation has risen and fallen over time, and Monticello – the only former home of an American president to be granted UN world heritage status – is a beautiful, living museum that strives to reflect the moral ambiguity of his legacy.

Tour manager Light led the group into what Jefferson called his “essay in architecture”, drawing on ancient Rome, and an entrance hall decorated with Native American tools, weapons and clothing as well as antique maps, mineral samples, antlers, horns and bones of extinct animals. A cannonball-sized weights-and-pulley system worked as a seven day calendar clock over two floors. Busts included Jefferson’s political nemesis Alexander Hamilton, “now a Broadway star,” Light said.

Next, in the south square room, a copy of the Declaration of Independence, authored by Jefferson, hangs in a frame. It includes the words, “all men are created equal”. Light explained to the tour group that Jefferson opposed slavery, calling it a “moral depravity” and a “hideous blot” that presented the greatest threat to the survival of the new nation. Yet for all his unquenchable curiosity and exquisite reasoning, he owned 607 enslaved men, women and children during his lifetime and freed only five in his will.

His writings also suggested that black people were inferior in “body and mind”. Light told the group: “Jefferson’s ideas have been used by generations to support the institution of slavery, the Jim Crow laws and, very plainly, racial ideas today.”

Next are the library and cabinet room, like stepping into the mind of this Enlightenment polymath who believed reason and knowledge could improve human condition. There are books, an octagonal filing table with drawers labeled for alphabetical filing, an astronomical case clock, telescope, orrery (model of the solar system), a revolving book stand that allowed Jefferson to read and reference five books at a time and a copying machine he used to duplicate his numerous letters as he wrote them.

But for visitors to Monticello, about 120 miles from Washington DC, there is also recognition of the brutal, unpaid labour that made this personal laboratory and genteel life of the mind possible. In this it is a metaphor for America itself and the glittering cities, soaring skyscrapers and industrial might inextricably bound with centuries of exploitation.

Last year Monticello, with the National Endowment for the Humanities and University of Virginia (founded by Jefferson), hosted a public summit on the legacies of race and slavery. It has also launched an app, “Slavery at Monticello”, and is restoring Mulberry Row, the principal plantation street that was the center of life for free white and black people, indentured servants and slaves. Work is under way to preserve or reconstruct its dwellings, workshops and storehouses.

In one of the rebuilt cabins, which includes a bed, an information panel is entitled provocatively: “Not so bad?” It says: “John and Priscilla Hemmings lived in a cabin similar to – or even better than – the dwelling of many poorer free whites. Yet the material comfort suggested here did not lessen the enslavement of the Hemmingses. All enslaved people, as property, endured the constant threat of sale and separation from their families subject to the needs and wishes of their owners, a reality that no poor free person had to endure. Physical violence and force were hallmarks of bondage but the threat of separation to enslaved families was an equally powerful and devastating aspect of the American slave system.”

Descendants of the Hemmings have slept in this reconstructed dwelling, part of an ongoing project at Monticello to engage the families of Jefferson’s slaves. Niya Bates, public historian of slavery and African American life at Monticello, recalled: “There were 10 people in this cabin, it was the hottest night of the summer and they could hear animals outside. There was a sense of ‘Wow, these spaces are uncomfortable.’”

Next year, Monticello will open the restored quarters of Sally Hemings, an enslaved woman, to the public. Hemings had at least six children, now believed to have been fathered by Jefferson many years after the death of his wife. Hemings’s name became publicly linked to Jefferson’s in 1802, when a newspaper alleged that she was Jefferson’s “concubine” and had borne him a number of children. A 1998 DNA study genetically linked Hemings’s male descendants with male descendants of the Jefferson family.

Bates said: “I was eight when Sally Hemings’s DNA came out and I remember people fighting tooth and nail in the grocery store. A lot of people just denied her relationship with Jefferson ever existed there were his descendants and people who have this in their oral history. The DNA just backed it up.”

Bates, 27, who is African American and grew up in Charlottesville, added: “Charlottesville has always had a complex racial history. People are unwilling to deal with racism in an intimate way with their friends and family. But we’ve had the Monticello descendants uniting with Jefferson’s white descendants and trying to reconcile. What we can do is have communities come together.”


Hamilton despised slavery but didn’t confront George Washington or other slaveholders

A young Alexander Hamilton arrived in New York City at King’s College, today’s Columbia University, during a time of fervor and unrest that sounds a lot like today.

In 1773, Bostonians had just chucked their tea into the harbor. Even New York, a more crown-friendly town, crackled with talk of revolution. Eighteen-year-old Hamilton ditched his plans to study medicine and threw himself into reading Enlightenment philosophers, arguing with friends and hustling to rallies in the city.

It’s this environment that launches “Hamilton,” the musical, and casts the central character as a fresh kind of Founding Father — immigrant, outsider, activist. The Broadway show’s debut on TV for the July 4 weekend — streaming on Disney Plus, beginning Friday — puts a new lens on the most patriotic holiday at a time when American values are under painful scrutiny.

With Black Lives Matter rising and statues of white slave owners falling, it might feel good to watch “Hamilton” and think of an ethnically diverse, hip-hop past. The reality, of course, was way more complicated.

Slavery was “a system in which every character in our show is complicit in some way or another,” creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda told NPR’s Terry Gross this week. “Hamilton — although he voiced anti-slavery beliefs — remained complicit in the system.”

Hamilton doesn’t appear to have ever directly owned any enslaved people. He grew up working-class on the Caribbean islands of Nevis and St. Croix, where black people outnumbered white people more than 10 to 1. His mother died when he was no more than 13 (his date of birth is uncertain, 1755 or 1757) and left him and his brother two enslaved workers. But because the boys were born out of wedlock, they received no property.

When he arrived at King’s College, Hamilton had only been in America for a year, sent by island businessmen who took up a collection for him after being impressed by his intelligence and drive.

In New York he was surrounded by posh classmates — including a nephew of George Washington — whose families owned slaves or who brought enslaved servants along with them. Hamilton was known to despise slavery, but he also really liked having influential friends.

When he invoked the topic in his fiery early writings, it was to slam British loyalists as “enemies to the natural rights of mankind … because they wish to see one part of their species enslaved by another.” Meaning, the colonists were treated in the worst possible way — like slaves.

Hamilton left school before graduating to join the upstart Continental Army. There the charismatic networker made his ultimate connection, becoming aide and surrogate son to Washington. That alone required Hamilton to set aside his feelings about slavery, because Washington owned more than 100 people back home in Virginia.

But when the British began offering freedom to any enslaved people who would join the royal cause, Hamilton saw an opportunity. He urged Washington to let black soldiers fight for freedom. Hamilton touted the idea in an extraordinary letter to John Jay in 1779.

“I have not the least doubt, that the negroes will make very excellent soldiers, with proper management,” he wrote. Some say black people are inferior, he continued, but “their natural faculties are probably as good as ours.” And he stressed that “an essential part of the plan is to give them their freedom with their muskets. This will secure their fidelity, animate their courage, and I believe will have a good influence upon those who remain, by opening a door to their emancipation.”

It was a strikingly progressive stance for the time. The line about “natural faculties” is often compared to the views of his political rival, Thomas Jefferson, who denigrated black intelligence in his “Notes on the State of Virginia.”

Annette Gordon-Reed, a historian who has written extensively about Jefferson and his relationship with the enslaved Sally Hemings, has argued that it’s not entirely fair to paint Hamilton as the good guy on the question of race. Hamilton, she noted in a Harvard interview in 2016, managed slave sales for his wife’s family. When he was very young, he also kept the books for a Caribbean trading company that engaged in the slave trade.


Why ‘Hamilton’ Has Heat

What’s the story behind a show that’s become a Broadway must-see with no marquee names, no special effects and almost no white actors? Erik Piepenburg explains, in six snapshots, why “Hamilton” has become such a big deal.

“One of the most interesting things about the ‘Hamilton’ phenomenon,” she wrote last week on the blog of the National Council on Public History, “is just how little serious criticism the play has received.”

Ms. Gordon-Reed was responding to a critical essay by Lyra D. Monteiro, in the journal The Public Historian, arguing that the show’s multiethnic casting obscures the almost complete lack of identifiable African-American characters, making the country’s founding seem like an all-white affair.

“It’s an amazing piece of theater, but it concerns me that people are seeing it as a piece of history,” Ms. Monteiro, an assistant professor of history at Rutgers University, Newark, said in an interview.

The founders, she added, “really didn’t want to create the country we actually live in today.”

Ms. Gordon-Reed — who is credited with breaking down the resistance among historians to the claim that Thomas Jefferson had a sexual relationship with Sally Hemings — wrote in her response that she shared some of Ms. Monteiro’s qualms, even as she loved the musical and listened to the cast album every day.

“Imagine ‘Hamilton’ with white actors,” she wrote. “Would the rosy view of the founding era grate?”

Historians are generally not reluctant to call out the supposed sins of popularizers. When Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” arrived in 2012, a number of prominent scholars blasted it for promoting a “great man” view of history and neglecting the role African-Americans played in their own emancipation.

While the most recent critiques of “Hamilton” have focused on race, some scholars have also noted that it’s an odd moment for the public to embrace an unabashed elitist who liked big banks, mistrusted the masses and at one point called for a monarchal presidency and a Senate that served for life.

Alexander Hamilton “was more a man for the 1 percent than the 99 percent,” said Sean Wilentz, a professor at Princeton and the author of “The Politicians and the Egalitarians,” to be published in May.

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Turning him into “an up-from-under hero,” he added, “seems dissonant amidst the politics of 2016.”

“Hamilton” itself, by contrast, is right in tune with today’s debates about immigration and Black Lives Matter. The show, which famously began hatching after Mr. Miranda read Ron Chernow’s biography while on vacation, portrays Hamilton, who was born on Nevis, as a penniless immigrant outsider from the Caribbean who rose through sheer brilliance and drive.

In a telephone interview, Mr. Chernow, who is the show’s historical consultant, said the criticisms by Ms. Monteiro and Ms. Gordon-Reed were based on “an enormous misunderstanding” of the show, which dramatizes “a piece of political history at a very elite” — and all-white — “level of society.”

Casting black and Latino actors as the founders effectively writes nonwhite people into the story, he said, in ways that audiences have powerfully responded to. (The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History has created a curriculum for 20,000 low-income New York City public school students who will be able to see the musical, in a program funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and subsidized by the show.)

“This show is the best advertisement for racial diversity in Broadway history and it is sad that it is being attacked on racial grounds,” Mr. Chernow added by email. (A publicist for “Hamilton” said Mr. Miranda was not available for comment.)

The show does include one named black character, Sally Hemings, who appears in a quick cameo that lands mainly as a dig at Jefferson. (The slaveholdings of the Schuyler family, which Hamilton married into, go unmentioned.) The show, Mr. Chernow said, also makes clear that black soldiers fought in the Revolution.

Ms. Monteiro, in her article, points out that other historical African-American individuals could have figured in the story.

The show depicts John Laurens’s plan to create a battalion of slaves who would fight in exchange for freedom, which Hamilton supported. But it omits, Ms. Monteiro noted, the known role of individuals like Cato, a slave who worked as an anti-British spy alongside his owner, Hercules Mulligan, an Irish-immigrant tailor whose espionage exploits are celebrated in the musical.

And then there’s the question of Hamilton the “uncompromising abolitionist,” as Mr. Chernow puts it in his book. He was a founding member of the New York Manumission Society, created in 1785, which among other things, pushed for a gradual emancipation law in New York State.

In the show’s last song, his widow, Eliza, sings that Hamilton would have “done so much more” against slavery had he lived longer.

But Ms. Gordon-Reed, in an interview, said that while Hamilton publicly criticized Jefferson’s views on the biological inferiority of blacks, his record from the 1790s until his death in 1804 includes little to no action against slavery.

Race and slavery, she added, are invoked directly in the show mainly to underline Hamilton’s “goodness,” especially in contrast to Jefferson. But Hamilton the ardent lifelong abolitionist, she said, is “an idea of who we would like Hamilton to be.”

Other historians are more supportive of the show’s treatment of the subject. Eric Foner, the author most recently of “Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad,” said he wished the show had complicated its populist portrait by noting Hamilton’s elitism and dedication to property rights, which were “more important to him” than fighting slavery, Mr. Foner said.

But Hamilton, he said, was an abolitionist by the standard of the founding period. “There was a real contrast with Jefferson,” he said.

R.B. Bernstein, a historian at City College of New York who has written extensively about Jefferson, credited “Hamilton” with keeping the subject of slavery simmering underneath its jam-packed story. But race and slavery, he added, were not the only important, or timely, aspects of the show.

“It’s about how hard it is to do politics, about how people of fundamentally clashing political views tried to work together to create a shared constitutional enterprise,” he said. “And right now, that’s a message we really need.”


22 Alexander Hamilton Quotes that Probably Didn’t Miss their Shot

If you were going to make a list of “people who have lived really, really full lives,” Alexander Hamilton would probably appear somewhere on that list. You can decide where he goes, but the guy was one of America’s Founding Fathers –which means all of us Americans are probably putting him up there just by default. Regardless of your opinions on America (even Americans seem to be up in the air on it), it’s hard to say Hamilton didn’t do a lot of… stuff. Instrumental to the US Constitution, he also basically built the foundation for banks–as well as founding the Federalist Party and Coast Guard. Not to mention service during the American Revolution and going out in a duel. Wild. The drama around banks was kinda funny–honestly you could turn American history into a petty sitcom. So here are some quotes from one of America’s pivotal figures that probably didn’t miss their shot.

For those interested in Alexander Hamilton’s life, we hear there’s a pretty good Broadway production about it.

On Knowledge

“Men give me credit for some genius. All the genius I have lies in this when I have a subject in hand, I study it profoundly. Day and night it is before me. My mind becomes pervaded with it. Then the effort that I have made is what people are pleased to call the fruit of genius. It is the fruit of labor and thought.”

“The art of reading is to skip judiciously.”

“I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be.”

On People

“When avarice takes the lead in a state, it is commonly the forerunner of its fall.”

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”

“I never expect a perfect work from an imperfect man.”

“A well adjusted person is one who makes the same mistake twice without getting nervous.”

“Those who stand for nothing fall for everything.”

“Strut is good for nothing.”

“To all general purposes we have uniformly been one people each individual citizen everywhere enjoying the same national rights, privileges, and protection.”

“Men are rather reasoning than reasonable animals, for the most part governed by the impulse of passion.”

On Government & Politics

“Give all the power to the many, they will oppress the few. Give all the power to the few, they will oppress the many.”

“A nation which can prefer disgrace to danger is prepared for a master, and deserves one.”

“Why has government been instituted at all? Because the passions of man will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice without constraint.”

“Who talks most about freedom and equality? Is it not those who hold the bill of rights in one hand and a whip for affrighted slaves in the other?” **Hamilton’s relationship with slavery was quite complicated .

“For in politics, as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution.”

“Vigor of government is essential to the security of liberty.”

“The inquiry constantly is what will please, not what will benefit the people. In such a government there can be nothing but temporary expedient, fickleness, and folly.”

“Unless your government is respectable, foreigners will invade your rights and to maintain tranquillity you must be respectable.”

On the American Constitution

“The complete independence of the courts of justice is peculiarly essential in a limited Constitution.”

“Constitutions should consist only of general provisions the reason is that they must necessarily be permanent, and that they cannot calculate for the possible change of things.”

On Banking

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


Philip Hamilton Musical Alexander Hamilton: Hamilton, new york, new york.

'hamilton' musical characters in act i. Hamilton tracks the life of alexander hamilton from the time he arrived in the us as an immigrant from the virgin islands through his (spoiler alert but there's also a strong vein of pop musicality that runs through his work. Newsies, cats, wicked, the 25th annual putnam county spelling bee, bombay. Cory in fences (pioneer theatre company) O espetáculo, inspirado pela biografia de 2004 alexander hamilton do historiador ron chernow, alcançou aclamação da crítica.

Alexander hamilton hamilton animatic 13+. @disneyplus, broadway, london, sydney, and on tour! Hamilton an american musical full lyrics.

President obama and the first lady hosted the broadway cast of the musical hamilton at the white house monday for a workshop and q&a session with area. Hamilton does not have an overture. Y'all say philip hamilton isn't bolder than alaxander but philip seduce 3 women challenge some one to a duel and got shot in one song took alax a whole musical.

Coming to la and hamburg, germany. This production for the time of its exhibitions managed to collect many positive reviews from critics. Hamilton, new york, new york.


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