Hamilton: The Election of 1800

The Election of 1800 once again highlights the significant flaw in the Constitution that the Electoral College did not originally use separate votes for president and vice president.  President John Adams, having destroyed all of his political support with some help for the much-maligned Hamilton, was out of the running, and in the vote tally for his successor, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr were tied.  Jefferson asked Burr to step aside and be vice president; Burr refused.  Thus the election was thrown to the House of Representatives, full of lame-duck Federalists, to sort it out with each state given a single vote on the issue.

In the musical, Hamilton, still in mourning for his son, repeats Eliza’s theme, “It’s quiet uptown,” and initially stands apart in the midst of the hoopla of both candidates and the ensemble, but inevitably Hamilton is drawn back into the political intrigue.

In a letter to Oliver Wolcott, Jr. around that time, Hamilton wrote:

“As to Burr, there is nothing in his favour.  His private character is not defended by his most partial friends.  He is bankrupt beyond redemption, except by the plunder of his country.  His public principles have no other spring or aim than his own aggrandizement.”

Hamilton had grave reservations about installing Burr, a man with questionable morals, with large debts who would be susceptible to bribery, and who appeared to have no principles at all as the leader of the country. Hamilton told his fellow Federalists that if they supported Burr, they would be signing their own death warrant.

In contrast, Jefferson had always argued passionately from a position of strong convictions, even if they were the polar opposite of Hamilton’s views on every topic.  Ironically, as Jefferson’s staunchest longtime critic, Hamilton found himself needing to undo many of the public accusations that he himself had made.  Perceptively, Hamilton realized that although Jefferson had long argued for the primacy of the legislative branch, Jefferson might change his tune if he was elevated to chief of the executive branch.  Similarly, Hamilton suspected that Jefferson’s unflagging support for France might be conveniently discarded when no longer needed as a counterweight to Hamilton and Adams’ sense of connection to England.  Both position shifts would indeed come to pass.

Hamilton threw his influence behind Jefferson, resulting (after 36 votes in the House) in Jefferson becoming president and the demonstratively untrustworthy Burr becoming vice president for Jefferson’s first term and to be discarded as soon after as was expedient.

In the lyrics of “The Election of 1800,” I’m amused by one ensemble member’s analysis of Burr, “He seems approachable, like you could have a beer with him.”  That was the reasoning behind numerous voters selecting George W. Bush as their president in 2004, so I asked the students what they would look for in a candidate they were selecting.  The responses included an understanding of the student voter as an individual, a lack of bias, and experience or competence in a position relating to the job.  Interestingly, our Kuwaiti student said that he valued independence in a candidate since so many government workers in his country are of poor quality.  I did note that competence was pretty far down on the list of desirable qualities.  I personally wish it were a higher priority.

I have done my best to resist modern partisan politics in the class, but in this case, that was the direction that the class wanted to go.  The students spoke of being in high school classes where every student was an immigrant, first generation American, or undocumented. In many of their classes there were no White faces in the room.  When a classmate voted for Trump in the 2016 election, they felt it as a personal betrayal of their lives and their existence.  When teachers refused to discuss the election, it was assumed that they, too, had voted for Trump, which felt like an even further betrayal of the students who they taught.  One student spoke about the cheerleaders, twirlers, and football players of her school who went to a neighboring school for a game shortly after the election.  What had been a friendly and welcoming environment the year before morphed into an ugly and hostile confrontation post-election.  One of the few White students in the school group was extremely disturbed and asked if that sort of aggression and antagonism was the norm.  Her classmates, who represented numerous ethnic minorities, sadly answered simply, “Yes.”  These were stories that the students obviously felt compelled to share and to have validated.  (I threw out the rest of the lesson plan at this point.)

I did not to disagree with the students’ experiences but instead presented a different perspective, particularly for the teachers.  I pointed out that although my students may be able to guess my political leanings, I feel it is very important for me not to impose my opinions on the students as a substitute for them deciding on their own.  My dual goals are to teach the students to think through situations independently and to make sure they took the time to understand people who have the opposite viewpoint.  It is quite possible that the students read the situation correctly that their teachers had voted for Trump, but it is also possible that the teachers felt that it would be inappropriate to mix partisan politics in a learning environment.

I’m not sure that I had articulated those goals to the students before, but I was happy to have the opportunity to reinforce that studying Hamilton has indeed been about standing in someone else’s shoes and understanding their perspective as well as gathering evidence and figuring out what you think without someone dictating it to you.

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Hamilton: Blow Us All Away/ Stay Alive/ It’s Quiet Uptown

We killed Philip on Friday.  It was very traumatic for the entire class.  There were tears.  I told the students that at least I packed the whole episode into a single class period rather than dragging it out over two sessions.  They were only slightly mollified.

At age 19, there was every evidence that Philip Hamilton was a chip off his father’s block.  Handsome and smart, he had been given all of the advantages of education and culture that his father had lacked, but he also had his father’s flaws of excessive pride and a quick temper (as well as being a ladies’ man.)  Philip and a friend overheard a young lawyer named George Eacker give a speech that blamed a recent diplomatic mess (the XYZ affair) with France on Alexander Hamilton.  Philip fumed over the insults and was primed for a confrontation.

In the musical, Philip encounters two women on the street.  (In the libretto, they are identified as Dolly and Martha, representing a sly dig from Lin-Manuel Miranda at the wives of Madison and Jefferson respectively.)  The actress playing Martha also plays the role of the Bullet throughout the show.  The Bullet is associated with death, and in this case, she tells Philip how to find the man who will ultimately kill him.

Historically Philip and his friend confronted Eacker at a theatrical performance, ironically a comedy called The West-Indian, a coincidental connection with Alexander.  Angered at the aggressive heckling from the pair, Eacker challenged each youth to a duel.  In the meeting with Philip’s comrade, four shots were exchanged with no injury, and the affair was settled.  Apparently far more vexed at Philip, Eacker met him later at the dueling ground in Weehawken, NJ.  (“Everything is legal in New Jersey.”)  Having been coached by his father to delope or “throw away his shot” by firing into the air, Philip did not raise his pistol. The two men stared at each other for several minutes with no action.  Eventually Eacker fired, and because duelists stand sideways to minimize their size as a target, the bullet entered Philip’s right hip, traveled through his body, and lodged in his left arm.  The wounded man was brought back to Manhattan and taken to Angelica Schuyler Church’s house where he died in agony about a day later.  The bass heartbeat in “Stay Alive” ends with Philip’s death.

By all accounts, Hamilton was absolutely devastated by the loss of his son, and although it is not mentioned in the musical, Philip’s sister Angelica Hamilton also loses her mind with the loss of her brother, and she is never mentally healthy again for the rest of her life.  “It’s Quiet Uptown” is narrated by Eliza’s sister, Angelica, who is the character in the show with the deepest empathy for both parents as they try to cope with the unimaginable losses they have experienced.  Alexander, a man for whom words have always been his passion and his salvation, is so wounded that he speaks in the words of others, such as Burr’s line, “You knock me out, I fall apart.”  Having not prayed since his prayers for strength went unanswered to say no to Maria Reynolds, Hamilton returns to church and becomes more religious.

Eventually Hamilton shifts his focus from what he has lost to what he still has as he tried to ease the pain for his wife, who has been through so much.  He sings to her, “Look at where we are.  Look at where we started… But hear me out.  That would be enough.”  These are Eliza’s themes, and at last he is singing her tune and is placing family above self.  At long last, Eliza takes her husband’s hand, the first physical contact they have had since Hamilton’s affair, and sings, “It’s quiet uptown.”  She has her husband’s undivided attention for the first time in her life, and their shared grief eventually brings Eliza to forgive Alexander for his infidelity.  They deal with their unimaginable loss together and Hamilton’s letters show a renewed concern and priority for his marriage.

We listened to “It’s Quiet Uptown” at the end of class, and there were definitely tears.  I had to let the students listen to “Nonstop” to put them back together again and cheer them up.  I’m impressed that a number of the students knew all the words and sang along.  We may have to have a Hamilton dance party at the end of the semester.

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Hamilton: “Immigrants- we get the job done”

In the second act of Hamilton, Alexander is frequently scorned as an immigrant behind his back.  I wanted to explore my students’ own family or cultural stories of arriving in this country, so I asked them to talk to their families and learn what they could.  The resulting discussion was brave, funny, and brutally candid.

Two of the students are first generation immigrants who were born in another country.  One is here on a student visa from Kuwait having left his entire family at home.  The other came to New York City from the Dominican Republic in January when she was five.  Her first memory is that it was so cold!  She made her first friend when a young boy asked her why she was dressed like it was summer, and he gave her his coat.

The vast majority of the students are second generation immigrants.  Their parents came to the United States from Haiti, Antigua, Jamaica, England, Portugal, Brazil, Puerto Rico, El Salvador, and Mexico.  They spoke of the challenge of getting immigration papers and of families that were broken up when one parent got papers and the other couldn’t.  One explained that her El Salvadoran mother arrived undocumented but immediately was given protected status.  Another spoke of a mother’s harrowing trip across the Mexican border with “El Coyote,” and who had subsequently been deported twice because she remains undocumented.  That has meant no family vacations involving airport security and a constant fear that a parent could be removed without notice.

Family was of critical importance in their journeys.  A child might be left in the home country until the parent was financially stable enough to care for him or her, or a child might be sent to the States to help her escape a natural disaster.  Many specifically joined family members who were already in the U.S. to have a place to stay and some form of support.  Birth order in a large family might mean needing to grow up early to take care of siblings or that money had run out to pay for legal immigration for the youngest of a large brood.

Some parents grew up in abject poverty, such as the father from Mexico whose parents were both gone by his age 12 or the grandmother in Puerto Rico who lost three children to starvation.  Other students observed alcoholism or abusive relationships that had affected their families’ lives either in the home country or after their arrival here, where there was a negligible support network to be able to escape.

In some cases, family members arrived to find thriving communities of immigrants to help ease the transition such as the Portuguese community in Hartford, the Middle Eastern community in California, the Puerto Rican community in New Jersey, or Chinatown in New York City.  In other cases, there was little or no connection among immigrants leaving the newcomers to make their own ways in the bewildering system of American schools and jobs.  One individual arrived in the States to find that the mother who preceded her had changed almost to be unrecognizable.  She refused to cook the familiar food of her homeland, but she equally didn’t embrace the celebrations and holidays of her new home leaving her daughter adrift.  Another mentioned meeting other immigrants from El Salvador, but there was no central place where those people gathered to celebrate their culture.

The ability to speak English had a considerable impact on immigrants’ ability to find jobs and integrate into the local culture.  Inability to speak English at all made it difficult to find a job, and those people ended up employed as unskilled labor.  There was a perception that speaking with an accent made people assume that you were less intelligent, regardless of your test scores or offers of scholarships.  One student recounted the story of her father who arrived with no English except, he thought, the ability to express his gratitude appropriately.  After completing a transaction in a store, he proudly announced, “Merci!”  The shopkeeper replied in a torrent of French, which bewildered the poor native of Portugal.

It was universally felt that immigrants had to work harder to make ends meet to pay for education, support for children back home, and to get a fresh start in their new country.  They spoke of low-wage poorly paying jobs of being house maids, home healthcare workers, factory workers, or restaurant chefs.

There were a few students who elected not to tell their stories, but instead wrote them to me as part of the homework assignment.  Thus I was gifted with the story of a student whose ancestors were slaves who were brought from Africa against their wills under unspeakable conditions and whose descendants still experience irrational hatred and discrimination and random acts of violence simply because of the color of their skin.  I was rather surprised that more students didn’t have similar stories, but I was acutely aware in reading the papers that this was the one story that was not full of hope.  America was not a promised land for this students’ ancestors, it was instead a land of oppression.

It was disappointing to one fair-skinned student who is a fourth- or fifth-generation immigrant to be able to contribute less to the rich tapestry of stories woven by her classmates.  I felt it was a healthy change that the children of immigrants were the norm rather than the exception. This assignment also prompted the students to talk to their families and learn more of their heritage, although at least one student suspected that her grandparents heavily censored what they told her to leave out the bad parts.

I look upon my students differently today, since each one has been launched through the hard work of parents and families who want a better life for their children.  Each has been sent to college full of the hopes and dreams not just of the students, but also of all the people whose sacrifices gave them this opportunity.  I am incredibly honored to be gifted with their stories.

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Hamilton: Burn

In “Burn,” Eliza stands alone on the stage and delivers her heartbroken response to the revelation of her husband’s affair in the Reynolds Pamphlet.  “Burn” is also the culmination of the fire imagery in the production that began when Hamilton announced his desire to “fan this spark into a flame,” and that appeared to be burning out of control in “Washington on Your Side,” as Jefferson and Madison commented, “If there’s a fire you’re trying to douse, you can’t put it out from inside the house.”

The homework assignment for this song was what I call annotations.  Rather than simply reading the text, the key is to interact with it, so the students are asked to write comments, questions, and definitions in the empty space around the lyrics.  Students will often add to these comments based on what we discuss in class, but for this song, which is barely over a page long, several of them had already written so much at the beginning of the class that there little empty space on the page.  I usually choose songs for the students to annotate based on which songs I myself have written extensive comments on, but this is the first time that their annotations approached the density of mine.  They’ve learned a lot this semester.

Burn annotations

One reason I chose to look at this song in depth is because of an excellent example of intertextuality.  In addition to the Bible and Shakespeare, a third major source of reference material that both Colonials and modern day people might have encountered is Greek mythology.  Eliza mentions that Angelica’s response to Hamilton’s actions was that Hamilton is an Icarus who has flown too close to the sun.  Several of the students had looked up the story of Daedalus, who made wings of wax and feathers for himself and his son to escape from the labyrinth of the Minotaur.  In spite of his father’s warnings not to fly too high or too low, the prideful Icarus soared to great heights, causing the sun to melt the wax holding the feathers together, and Icarus tumbled to his death.  The excess heat represents another dimension of a burn.

This scene of Eliza burning all the letters she wrote to her husband probably did not happen in reality, although after Hamilton’s death, Eliza did apparently destroy her letters to him as part of preserving his legacy.  Other than Abigail Adams’ extensive correspondence, there are few examples of large bodies of letters from women of the revolutionary time, and “Burn” thus illustrates the great challenge of telling history from the women’s perspective.

In destroying her correspondence, Eliza deliberately “erases herself from the narrative” and withdraws from participating in Alexander’s story.  She allows Angelica to be her voice, quoting from letters she received from her sister, and towards the end, she refers to herself in the third person as though she is a detached observer who is no longer directly involved.

For the first time in her story arc, Eliza acquires agency, or the knowledge that she owns her own actions and her own life.  The students pointed out that Eliza has discarded her previous helpless theme and she no longer asks if she can be enough to make her husband.  It may be true that you have no control who lives, who dies, who tells your story, but her choices are still significant to how that story will be written.  In Eliza’s case, eventually she will live AND tell the story.

I was intrigued that many of the students felt that Eliza calmly dealt with her husband’s perfidy.  I assume that their observations of hurt and betrayal have been of loud angry rages rather than the bitterly quiet closing off of one’s self, which Eliza demonstrates.  They suggested that Angelica would have confronted a cheating husband more vocally and directly (they really do love Angelica), whereas Eliza retreats into solitude.  Eliza, however, knows Alexander better than anyone else.  In burning her letters, she destroys words that her husband prizes so highly, which is possibly the most painful retribution that could have been dealt to Hamilton.

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Hamilton: We Know/Hurricane/The Reynolds Pamphlet

Adapting material from one medium into another requires a certain flexibility in the transfer.  Although diehard fans of source material such as the Harry Potter books or the Lord of the Rings trilogy might resent every minute deviation from the originals, sometimes compromises must be made.  The key in an adaptation is to cleave to the spirit of the original and strive to be faithful in the details.  Lin-Manuel Miranda specifically engaged Hamilton biographer Ron Chernow to ensure that his musical was as historically accurate as possible, but sometimes changes must be made to tell the story in a reasonable amount of time.

In the musical, it is Jefferson, Madison, and Burr who confront Hamilton with evidence that Hamilton has been making payments to James Reynolds, presumably embezzling government funds.  Miranda understandably did not want to bring in three additional characters for such a short piece of action in the show, so he used his established antagonists.  History tells us that it was actually Congressman Frederick Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania, Senator James Monroe, and Congressman Abraham Venable, both of Virginia who met with Hamilton to make the accusation.  Reynolds himself had been thrown in jail for misappropriation of Treasury funds, and he managed to negotiate his release based on his vague accusations against the Treasury Secretary that he promised to back up with evidence.

It was to the legislators’ great surprise when Hamilton laughed at the baseless accusation and instead indulged in a somewhat cathartic confession of his extramarital affair.  In “We Know,” Hamilton defends himself in a torrent of complex rhymes (courted me, escorted me, extorted me, sordid fee, quarterly, mortally, and orderly), using the word “check” with multiple meanings (“I kept a record of every check in my checkered history. Check it again against your list ‘n see consistency”) with the meaning of a power move in a chess game going unspoken, and three homophones of scent (“I never spent a cent that wasn’t mine. You sent the dogs after my scent, that’s fine.”)  Jefferson responds, “My God,” both in admiration of the rap and not knowing what to do with too much information.  Having established his innocence in stealing from the government, Hamilton hopes that the affair is finished, but historically Monroe allowed some of the letters to leak out, which reinforced the rumors.

In “Hurricane,” Hamilton likens the natural disaster that affected his teens to the entirely man-made one he himself has created.  He reasons that writing has always saved him, getting him off St. Croix after his mother died and after the hurricane, winning him Eliza, gaining him a role in the American Revolution, expanding his influence through the Federalist Papers, and creating our entire financial system.  Under these lines plays the battle theme from “Yorktown,” recognizing that Hamilton is preparing to fight back.  The ensemble, playing the role of a Greek chorus, cautions him to “Wait for it,” but in the absence of the guiding hand of Washington or his cadre of friends from Act I, Hamilton decides that he will overwhelm with honesty and write his way out of this crisis as well.  Thus Hamilton’s greatest strength becomes a fatal flaw.  The impact of his later letters is foreshadowed as Hamilton reflects, “I couldn’t seem to die,” and Burr responds, “Wait for it.”

Hamilton then publishes the Reynolds Pamphlet, a 95 page document refuting the charges of corruption but confessing to his affair with Maria Reynolds.  In contrast, around the same time, Thomas Jefferson weathered accusations of having an ongoing liaison with one of his slaves (Sally Hemings), and by saying nothing, the rumors had no credence and it wasn’t until genetic testing was available in the 1970’s that the rumors were proven to be true.  (As a side note, I assume it was the ability to track the Y chromosome through multiple male generations that proved without a shadow of a doubt that Jefferson sired Sally Heming’s sons.  I did get to sneak a little science into this course.)  Back to the salacious gossip, Aaron Burr was also the other man in the affair Theodosia Prevost had while her husband was away with the British army.  (As another tidbit, Maria Reynolds would eventually divorce her husband, and her attorney was none other than Aaron Burr.)  Hamilton was the only one who thought that confession would have a positive impact on his reputation.

The students demanded that we listen to “The Reynolds Pamphlet” since their favorite, Angelica, returns to support her sister, Eliza.  Angelica demonstrates that regardless of her attraction to Hamilton, she is never helpless in his presence and gives him a piece of her mind.  In “Farmer Refuted,” a young Hamilton complains to his opponent, “Don’t modulate the key and then not debate with me.”  Angelica does exactly that and doesn’t give Hamilton a chance to respond.  We also listened to the cut song, “Congratulations,” which allows Angelica to rant at greater length.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cx3M59G-ax0

At the end of “The Reynolds Pamphlet,” the sad sound of the harp for the next song “Burn” enters in a different key, illustrating how out of tune Alexander is with his wife at this point in their lives.

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Hamilton: I Know Him/The Adams Administration

In class, we glossed over these two songs as being less important, but for our foreign-born students, I needed to include historical context so they could continue to make sense of the narrative.

President George Washington, by stepping down after two terms in office, began an unbroken record for a peaceful transfer of power in the United States that is among the longest in the world.  In “I Know Him,” King George is perplexed that anything of the sort would be possible or even desirable.  His Majesty does however, correctly identify the challenge for the man who follows Washington as chief executive, since “Next to Washington they all look small.”  In addition to being true figuratively in terms of charisma and reputation, George Washington at 6’2” was one of our country’s tallest presidents whereas John Adams at 5’7” was one of the shortest.

One of the flaws in the Constitution that emerged in the absence of Washington as a consensus candidate was the process for electing the president.  The man who received the largest number of votes became president, and the runner-up became vice president.  This process delivered John Adams of the Federalist Party as president and Thomas Jefferson of the Democratic-Republicans as vice president, which guaranteed conflict at the highest levels.

Adams was by all reports a prickly and vain individual who preferred his home in Boston over the hassles and scrutiny of being either President or Vice President.  This was a man with “an encyclopedic memory for slights,” according to Chernow, or in the words of Benjamin Franklin, “He means well for his country, is always an honest man, often a wise, one, but sometimes, and in some things, absolutely out of his senses.” It was inevitable that this volatile individual would butt heads with the driven but never politically or personally patient Hamilton.  Bostonian Adams instinctively looked down on Hamilton as a Johnny-come-lately who did none of the difficult work of getting the American Revolution off the ground, which was met by Hamilton’s equal disdain for a man who did not fight in the war.  The official rift between the two men began as a result of the original presidential election in which Hamilton arranged to have several electoral votes diverted away from Adams to ensure Washington’s victory.  That effort was unnecessary since Washington received all 69 votes whereas Adams was given a mere 34, which was a significant blow to his vanity.

Hamilton did not serve in the cabinet as part of the Adams Administration, but considering that Secretary of Treasury Oliver Wolcott, Jr.; Secretary of State Timothy Pickering, and Secretary of War James McHenry each owed primary allegiance to Hamilton, his influence remained substantial.  The thin-skinned Adams repeatedly insulted Hamilton to his face to the point that the equally prideful Hamilton published a “Letter Concerning the Public Conduct and Character of John Adams,” deeming him unfit for office on account of lack of sound judgment, eccentricity, inability to persevere, and vanity beyond bounds.  Thus the two most significant members of the Federalist Party mutually destroyed each other leaving the field clear for the rise of the Democratic-Republicans and Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe as the next three presidents.

My Beloved Husband, who is British but periodically contemplates becoming an American citizen, has been somewhat dismayed by all these historical details that he’s never heard of.  He asked me plaintively if all Americans know about this part of the country’s story, and I assured him that even I with a better-than-average grounding in U.S. history didn’t know most of this information until I started researching for this class.  He felt better than he hadn’t missed anything in the standard version.

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Hamilton: One Last Time

“One Last Time” represents the end of the professional component of the extremely productive and mutually beneficial relationship between Washington and Hamilton.  Hamilton behaves like a squabbling child at the start, “Sir, I don’t know what you heard but whatever it is, Jefferson started it,” but it is obvious that although Hamilton’s wife and sister-in-law struggled to capture his attention, his mentor and patron was instantly gifted with his undivided attention.  In this video from the Mount Vernon archives, Ron Chernow, who wrote biographies of both men, describes the relationship between the two. http://www.mountvernon.org/digital-encyclopedia/article/alexander-hamilton/

When Washington was contemplating stepping down after a single term as President, he asked James Madison to draft a final address.  Washington eventually continued on for a second term, so he stuffed Madison’s work in a drawer.  Four years later when Washington was tired of the partisan squabbling, tired of being away from home, and tired of being hailed as an important personage with parades and 13-gun-salutes wherever he went, he made the final decision to step down.  He asked Hamilton to draft a farewell address for him, sending Madison’s original as a starting point.  The ever-thorough Hamilton sent Washington two versions, one based on Madison’s work and an original entirely drafted by Hamilton.  Unsurprisingly, Washington chose the version written by the individual who had been his Right Hand Man through both war and peace.

The farewell address letter, which was never intended to be a speech, emphasized the importance of the country remaining neutral in foreign policy and avoiding partisan fighting in the government.  It was published in both newspaper and pamphlet form in September 1796.  In January 1832 in the midst of the Civil War, it was read publicly in Philadelphia to commemorate the 130th anniversary of Washington’s birth, and a tradition emerged in both houses of Congress to read the address publicly on Washington’s birthday.  Although the House ended that tradition in 1984, the U.S. Senate continues the practice to this day with the responsibility alternating between members of each party.  When I was a fellow in the Senate, I learned about the tradition and wrote a blog piece about it.  (Apparently the students hadn’t registered it when I mentioned my Capitol Hill sabbatical at the start of the semester, and the general reaction to this revelation on Friday was, “Can you BE any more cool?”)

I saw Hamilton on Broadway without knowing anything about the production, and as “One Last Time” progressed, I suddenly realized they were talking about Washington’s Farewell Address.  I hadn’t realized that Hamilton wrote it, and when Hamilton started speaking the actual text of the address with Washington’s melody rising above it, I was deeply moved.  Ron Chernow’s comment about this original pair of Founding Fathers is equally relevant to the performance on stage. “Their two voices blended admirably together.  The result was a literary miracle.”  Hamilton provided the words, but it required Washington’s heart and charisma to make them sing.  That simultaneous spoken/sung lyric was Lin-Manuel Miranda’s nod to “Yes We Can,” a Barack Obama campaign video that used the same device.  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SsV2O4fCgjk).

When President Obama prepared to deliver his final State of the Union address, he tweeted, “One Last Time.”  The video that is available of the performance is from the East Room of the White House, where a portrait of George Washington looked out over a Black man playing the role of the first President singing to the first Black president of our country.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uV4UpCq2azs

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