The Hamilton musical may have set the theater world alight and reignited modern interest in the life stories of the Founding Fathers, but questions about Hamilton’s historical accuracy have lingered since it first hit the stage. In short, it’s as historically accurate as any other musical ever produced, and pays a lot more attention to detail than most - but that doesn’t mean Lin-Manuel Miranda didn’t leave a boatload of pertinent Alexander Hamilton facts on the cutting room floor and out of the script.
Some critics claim that Hamilton whitewashes history and simplifies what should be a complicated and controversial legacy, and those arguments are not without merit. It’s also true, however, that Miranda left out some of the most interesting events and occurrences from Alexander Hamilton’s life, and that’s a little more inexplicable.
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Hamilton Was With Peggy Schuyler When She Perished, And That Set Up More Conflict With Burr
While it is true that both Eliza and Angelica Schuyler were by Alexander Hamilton’s side when he perished, something that doesn’t get a mention in the musical is that, several years earlier, Hamilton was there when their sister Peggy passed on.
Peggy and Alexander had struck up a true friendship through correspondence during his marriage to Eliza. When she fell ill in 1799, he was there to keep her company and update her sisters on her condition, and he continued to regularly visit her over the next two years. In 1801, he sadly wrote:
On Saturday, My Dear Eliza, your sister took leave of her sufferings and friends, I trust, to find repose and happiness in a better country. Viewing all that she had endured for so long a time, I could not but feel a relief in the termination of the scene. She was sensible to the last and resigned to the important change.
After Peggy’s passing, Hamilton threw his energy into her widowed husband’s campaign for governor of New York - something that brought him into further conflict with Aaron Burr, and provided further fuel for their eventual duel.
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The Hamiltons Had Eight Children In Total, And Alexander Jr. Went On To Aid Aaron Burr’s Second Wife In Their Divorce Proceedings
The Hamiltons’ first son, Philip, is a major character in the musical, and their first daughter, Angelica, gets a mention, but the couple also had six other children - each of whom expanded on the family legacy in their own way. But it was Alexander Jr. whose actions would provide the perfect bookend to his father’s story.
While popular retellings claim that Alexander Jr. represented Eliza Jumel, Aaron Burr’s second wife, in her divorce proceedings, that’s not exactly what happened. Instead, Jumel and Alexander Jr. conspired to cheat Burr out of some land in the divorce settlement with a paper transaction that put the property in Hamilton’s name until the agreement was final, and then handed it right back to Jumel.
Burr passed away the day the divorce was finalized, meaning that the last thing he experienced in life was being ripped off by Alexander Hamilton Jr. - an event so poetic that it’s hard to believe it wasn’t included in Hamilton.
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One Of Hamilton’s Sons Became Secretary Of State, And His Youngest Son Became A Supporter Of The Underground Railroad
All of Alexander and Eliza Hamilton’s children found success in their own way, but a couple of them stand out from the crowd of eight as particularly high achievers. James Alexander, their fourth child, studied law and proved quite adept at it, eventually becoming a district attorney and then briefly serving as secretary of state - a role his father once coveted - under President Andrew Jackson.
Philip Hamilton II, named in honor of his late brother, also became a lawyer, but he’s better remembered as an abolitionist. Philip’s son, Allan McLane Hamilton, recalled in his memoirs that his father had secreted away escaping slaves at their estate as part of the Underground Railroad movement.
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Hamilton Was The Senior Officer Of The US Army After Washington's Demise
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical makes a big point of Alexander Hamilton’s desire for militaristic glory, and then it makes the claim that his career was dramatically ended by the Reynolds Scandal. What it fails to mention is, post-scandal, Hamilton became the effective commander-in-chief of the US Army.
During the Adams administration, war with France looked like a distinct possibility, so John Adams asked George Washington to come out of retirement to help raise and train a new set of armed forces. Washington reluctantly agreed and named Hamilton his second-in-command under the title of Inspector General - something that Adams signed off on with the following words:
Know Ye, That reposing special Trust and Confidence in the Patriotism, Valour, Fidelity and Abilities of Alexander Hamilton I have nominated and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate do appoint him Inspector General of the Army with the rank of Major General in the Service of the United States.
After Washington passed in late 1799, Hamilton served as the Army’s senior officer until he gave the position up six months later.
- Photo: Hamilton / Disney+5306 VOTES
The 'Adams Pamphlet' Was The Real Nail In The Coffin Of Hamilton's Career
The Hamilton musical seems to imply that the "Reynolds Pamphlet," and the subsequent outing of Alexander Hamilton's torrid affair that came with it, ended his political career - leaving him with no other recourse but to go be quiet uptown.
In reality, however, Hamilton remained an active and influential force in the Federalist Party for years, until the publication of a different pamphlet, which heavily criticized a candidate in the election of 1800, brought Hamilton's time in politics to a close - and, no, it wasn't about Aaron Burr.
The so-called "Adams Pamphlet" was directed at then-incumbent president John Adams, who also happened to be the leader of Hamilton's own party. In it, Hamilton pulled no punches, opening with:
Not denying to Mr. Adams patriotism and integrity, and even talents of a certain kind, I should be deficient in candor, were I to conceal the conviction, that he does not possess the talents adapted to the Administration of Government, and that there are great and intrinsic defects in his character, which unfit him for the office of Chief Magistrate.
From there, Hamilton went on a multi-page rant laying out each of his issues with Adams. The effect was two-fold, and catastrophic for Hamilton's future political aspirations. Not only did it result in him being shut out of the Federalist Party completely, but it also helped ensure that Thomas Jefferson and the Democratic Republicans would win the election, putting Hamilton's enemies into power. The Federalist Party dissolved.
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Hamilton Bought And Sold Slaves Even Though He Was A Public Abolitionist
Alexander Hamilton was an outspoken abolitionist who appears to have held a lifelong disdain for slavery, likely brought on by his involvement in the trade at a young age in the Caribbean. When forming the Constitution, however, Hamilton would be forced to compromise on abolition again and again in an attempt to preserve the Union - and that’s not the only time he compromised on slavery.
While there is no hard evidence that Alexander and Eliza ever had slaves in their household, Eliza’s family certainly did. Furthermore, Alexander helped buy and sell slaves for the Schuylers on multiple occasions, which does seem rather hypocritical. This has led some, like historian Annette Gordon-Reed, to criticize Hamilton the musical for overlooking its protagonists’ complicated views on slavery. As she writes, “In the musical, only Jefferson is shown as a slave holder. But Madison owned slaves too, and so did George Washington.”