(James P. Pinkerton’s article appeared in American Conservative, 8/15.)
The musical portrays him as a hip Master of the Universe. But there was much more to him than that.
So how does the musical Hamilton hold up, three years after its debut? That is, from its beginnings in the Barack Obama-Hillary Clinton era to today, in this Age of Trump? As we shall see, things have changed.
The historical Alexander Hamilton, of course, is timeless. As aide-de-camp to George Washington during the Revolution, as the most prolific author of TheFederalist Papers, as our first treasury secretary—indeed, the most influential figure in President Washington’s cabinet—as the face on the $10 bill, and, more broadly, as the thinker who gave his name to a whole tradition of economic and political thought, Hamilton has always been a bold-print name.
Yet the debut of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton off-Broadway in February 2015 proved that there was yet more oomph in the Hamilton brand. The show was an immediate hit; later that year, it moved to Broadway, where it has established itself as a seemingly permanent ticket- and T-shirt-selling phenomenon. Since then, Miranda, author and original star of the show, has seen his opus win 11 Tony Awards, while he himself has won the Pulitzer Prize.
At the time of its opening, observers were startled and intrigued by four things about the show.