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.
If there’s one thing almost everyone knows about Alexander Hamilton, it’s that his life ended in a duel with Aaron Burr in 1804. But few realize that, several years earlier, Hamilton was saved from another showdown with future President James Monroe by none other than Burr - an incident that somehow didn’t merit a mention in the musical.
Hamilton and his family became fixated on the idea that it was Monroe who leaked details of the Reynolds Scandal to the press. The two began to taunt each other through correspondence, each hinting that they should settle their differences with a duel, although they never went as far as issuing a formal challenge. Hamilton wrote incendiary prose on the subject:
If what you have said be intended as an advance towards it, it is incumbent upon me not to decline it. On the supposition that it is so intended, I have authorised Major Jackson to communicate with you and to settle time and place.
Fortunately for both men, Aaron Burr served as their intermediary, and he worked overtime to soften the hard edges of their words and convince them that neither of them really wanted to duel. As such, Burr prevented the needless slaughter of at least one Founding Father - only to later take one of those lives himself.
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.
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.
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.