tv History and Hamilton the Musical CSPAN August 27, 2016 2:00pm-3:49pm EDT
all this month in prime time and every weekend on american history tv on c-span 3. american history tv a panel of scholars examine the history covered by the music hamilton and discovers is significance in modern popular culture. they also talk about their relationship between academic entertainment history. and they talk about film production. this was part of the society for historians of the early american republic it annual conference. >> we should probably get started. a great many people will have a great deal to say. and we ought to do what we can to make that happen. welcome to the panel, the second panel on hamilton.
i am arby bernstein, i teach at city college at the colin powell for civic and global leadership. and i will spare you the rest. i would like to introduce my colleagues. i will introduce them in the order in which they will be speaking. we will be going down the row. mr. carp the professor of american history at brooklyn college. he is author of defiance of the patriots, the boston tea party, and the making of america. the boston tea party and the making of america. and rebels rising cities in the making of the american revolution. nancy is the author most recently of white trash, the 400 year untold history of class in america. which is just been reviewed by the "new york times" book review and the new yorker among other places. she is also the author of fallen founders, the life of aaron
burr, the finalist for the "l.a. times" book prize, and the coauthor with bernstein of madison and jefferson. her first book, self and citizenship in antebellum america was awarded the best book prize in 1999. she is a professer of american history at l.s.u. and writes regularly. heather is professer at chair of the departments of drama and dance. she is author of early american theater from the revolution to thomas jefferson, slavery and sentiment on the american stage 1787 and 1861, and the fortscoming, the best title, hideous characters and beautiful pagans. performing jewish identity on the antibellium stage. i agree. i'm looking forward to that one. she is also the author of many book chapters journal articles and editted volumes. andrew is professer of history and american culture studies.
he is the author of fighting over the founders, how we remember the american revolution -- which i had the pleasure to review for american political thought -- and founding corporate power in early philadelphia. professer carp will lead us off. >> the show about a moncrath and friend of a banker, pries and lying eyes. become the toast of sheer participants. a $10 man of action head of faction cut his life. i have a whole version of this that's entirely inverted but i knew when i started rhyming, i would get in a lot of trouble. so i will start by saying what we all confess how you've seen the show. i've seen it three times but never listened to the sound trak. the song remains impressed upon my memory. i also should confess that i
don't really care that much about the so-called founding fathers while i admire all the great works, let's face it, they're actors this their broader ensemble. so in other words i stand for nothing but i want to explain why i fell for the show just as some of its brightest critics did. the show focuses on one of the big six founding fathers. but what we need to know is how well and in what way does it engage with the broader history of the revolution. the story dispatches with his early years in the first song and bulk of the show takes us from 1774 through the revolution war, the constitution, the administrations and the election of 1800 and his death in 1804. how well does the show perform as history? some would say pretty well. consulting primary sources directly, quotes extensively and even uses facsimiles of them on stage. she broadened out to get a sense
of broader context. while referencing hip-hop. others would say that the show relies too heavily on his slavery credentials. and deemphasized or even cell briesed some of his militaristic. but the problem is there is little scholarly criticism of the initial biography back when it came out in 2004 which has left current critics poorly equipped to engage in the debate over the quality of the musical's history now. there was a debate over the exhibit which i think was there from 2004-2005 so we've been here before, but i've seen few recent references to that debate either. secondly, miranda told a story that focused on elite characters missing opportunities to show how the revolution affected by a
broader swath of the population, how the revolution engaged with broader social and political movements. as we know, when a stage or screen performance you need a robust narrative through-line and that demand is the gravity that keeps popular naretters toward the founders. and this is not much of an exception in this regard. this is why we keep seeing stories, which frustrates academics who find this too simplistic for understanding history finally he told a story with very fierce female characters who don't have a lot of agency and mostly respond to what the men are doing, although even here high lights the anachronism of the scholar church asking for women's equality. so there's interesting stuff. the movie, the patriot, is the history as godzilla is to biology.
so whatever criticisms, it is not this generation's patriot. it is better than that. and if i can venture its treatment of history and race. sir we're not slaves we work the land as free men. our faces melted off. i saw that movie in london. they're like a caricature of the french officer. so what does the show actually say about the revolution? we won the war. what was it all for? hamilton vaguely answers this question. about glory seeking immigrants. never mind his material advantages. challenging a distant tyrant. the show was designed to make americans feel pretty good. never mind the fate of the enslaved and dispossessed. and the constitution was about getting that country on a stable footing free from foreign entanglements and petty domestic interests. never mind the squeezed or the act.
overall the show serves up pretty vanilla stuff. but before the audience can interrogate any of this too deeply, you get swept up in the petty rivalries of the honor-bound elite and the hamilton family. the show becomes about character even invoking who you would rather grab a beer with from the 2000 election rather than policy. interestingly, the show has eliza speculate that he could have done so much more if he would only lives. but spends more time that his early death gave him time to shape his own legacy. although the show shows he would driven himself into irrelevance. i think protagonist, maybe hero, not so much. but we can debate that later.
criticisms of interpretation are completely valid and i want more of them. i'm not trying to argue that it's just a show and thereby beneath my high-brow criticism or we shouldn't sully ourselves with engaging with it because popular culture does matter to our audience students and nor would i argue on the other hand that somehow puts us to shame by presenting revolutiony history to a wider audience because that gives him too much credit. he as any arises achievements on our shoulders. we can and should be able to have it both ways. for what he gets right and gets wrong. in the end, is it good history is the wrong question. the audience knows it's not strict history because we're seeing
people break into song, sophisticated choreography. but we are asked to suspend belief and indeed in interesting ways. and this is vital to understanding the show and some of the really critics of the show haven't seen it so they don't get what's there in the lyrics or in the songs is interacting with what the actors are doing physically obstage or what the visual representations are doing to enhance your multilevel understanding of what's going on in the show. so there's a dramatic problem. so what is the right question? in the same way that american jews have traditionally asked of world events, but is it good for the jews? our tribes must ask is it good for historians? i would say yes. saying he was trying to earn our respect and he does deserve it for two reasons. one having to do with race and revolution. the new yorker reported early on that miranda was paying attention to the case in staten island and fergusen.
we're screaming rise up in my shot and a lot of people are feeling that way. so while some critics have been horrified that the show has no characters of color and instead a nonwhite cast playing white slave holders, the fact that the cast members are people of color allows miranda to construct the 18th century -- connect the 18th century revolution to current movements against police brutality, et cetera. to end the death with no defendants possibly referring to the nonindictment of police officers who caused fatalities. again the show has no nonwhite characters, so does the color conscious casting solve this problem or deflect from it like a stage musician? the show makes use of a kind of prophetic memory that reconfigures the past to imagine a better future. hamilton himself was not all that anti-slavery but miranda can
still craft a work of art that argues for racial injustice. if that's surreal and provocative or just a defensive eraysure of people or color. that's something else we can debate. but i say this sncht just about race or class and immigration status, it's also about the time-honored theme of broadway musicals. be true to yourself, follow your dreams. when he accepted the award, he quoted the show how lucky we are to be alive right now. had poigsy with the audience. great theater heightens our emotional responses, use it had word passionate last night. not just to the show itself but to the wider world. and that can be good for leading audiences to more eemple pa thetic broad-ranging and innovative investigation of the
past. i think it's important to way it treats history. uses imaginative interventions to fill gaps in the record just like we do. so i would argue the show actually enhances the public's understanding of the revolution. at the very least hamilton encourages audiences to explore historical inquiries further. during the past year i initiated the narratives of the revolution series interviewing authors to see how they use fictional treatments to illuminate the truths about the revolution while reaching audiences beyond your typical book club subscribers. so the astonishing live of octavia nothing. or chains and forge and the forth coming book ashes, writes these are both have black and female characters at their center telling a version that we would not otherwise have access to.
while i'm more ambivalent, because by contrast its principal subjects are well-known figures, i think the show benefits us as we study and teach the revolution by opening up questions about how we analyze and interpret the past. from four or five different songs, in the room, thomas writes we'll never really know what got discussed. saying i'm erasing myself from the narratives. we're being called out. you have no control who lives who dies who tells your story. in the world was wide enough. the history obliterates in every picture it paints. we're constantly trying to tell our students that history isn't a dead recitation but a lively conversation full of missing pieces, redactions, owe clusions, repeating stories and manipulation. hamilton the show confesses that its own portrayal is hardly the only way to tell the story. it deconstructs, remixes.
calling america an unfinished symphony. better fits as described an organicist. however tempted some might treat it as an essentialist show celebrating the vauls of elite propagnist. some, but the show strongly argues, it shouldn't the last stop. the audience should keep reading, keep learning, and keep looking for inspiration. it's up to us to carve out some of the spotlight to write our way out. but at the same time, hamilton has made the world wider for us and i think that's worthy of our respect. i would be honored to be your obedient servant. >> well, i feel like this is saturday night live so this is going to be the opposite view in a lot of ways about what has been said even though in certain
points i think we do agree. my take is that whether professional hist torns agree or not, hamilton has been widely praised. jodie of the "new york times" asserted without qualification that the musical was a rigorously factual period drama. the "washington post" credited the historical hamilton for envisioning the united states as the federal industrial democracy we have today. as opposed to jefferson's agrarian out openenism. they ignore that major and not so hip constituency were wealthy speculators. theater lovers on the internet ardently defend the production as a genuine article of history. charlie rose when he interviewed insisted that it was not only history but something that could and should replace all traditional historical interpretation. miranda demurd but that didn't stop growth.
publicity for the musical centered on the biography of hamilton. the same strategy was used for hbo's john adams, the mini series claimed to be based on david mcculloughs biography. it really wasn't. yet as jeremy meticulously demonstrated, the television production was riddled with flagrant errors. i don't remember anyone having a problem with sterns' careful survey not of a selective few of the factual errors. and i think it's not knit picking. and that's a critique that you get for pointing out what i think are more serious problems and errors with the musical. i see the musical as far less original than others claim it is. as i pointed out in my "washington post" piece burr's character relies on a well established
device used by his political enemies and later fiction writers. the plots in the musical is simple. his behavior is traced back to the loss of his parents which supposedly led him to lose his moral compass. the lyrics are quite explicit. and then he becomes the coming flip-flopper who waits to see, quote which way the wind blows, is developed along predictable lines. we call this type casting. in the end it makes for good opera but the real historical conditions that shape the relationship between hamilton and bur are irrelevant. for me the most flagrant bias is hamilton's personality is stripped of his less than desirable qualities. miranda has been quite open in saying that, hamilton is my man. americans have had a knack for turning them into heroes. some call it sheek, others to sustain patriotic pride. every generation reinvents the founders in its own image.
one reason i think hamilton is so popular is the powerful mixture of innocence and recklessness that is channeled through his character. theater goers treated to vigorous youth, brazen sex appeal, macho brashness, capped off by so-called genius, all wrapped up in a loving and whimscal portrait of hamilton who tells it like it is in the pounding nonstop rhythms of hip-hop. but as we know, as historians know, hamilton was far more calculating and at times could be utterly vicious. he had no love for the unwashed masses. that side never appears because it undermines what i think is still a historic story line. as written to me in an email, hamilton allows americans to overcome disillusionment with the founders when slavery enters the picture. so what is clear that hamilton
purchased slaves and his father-in-law owned as many as 27 slaves, his northernness, his caribbeanness, is conflated with abolitionism. but this slight of hand is what makes hamilton much less progressive than appears to be at first glance. as david summed it up, it desires to offer a view but really is offering a envelope for founders sheek. i would add it has to do with more politics. his hamilton is a simbol for the age of obama. listen to how nate silver writing described obama in 2009. he's the first president who is unmistakeably urban, pragmatic, superior, hip, stubborn, multicultural. as everyone knows the earliest trial run performance was in the white house. as a consequence of this act of trancference the historical hamilton is given obama like
quality, genius, pragmatic, concerned, stubborn, and clearly the most far-fetched attribute of all, hamilton is a hip multicultural pop star. by this calculation, if hamilton is like obama, then the american dream is really possible. we also have to seriously evaluate the medium. the world of theater relies on emotion creating, and a different take, creating a fantasy world in which the past is wrapped up in the warm glow of illusion. it is, i think, more man iplative than dry historical prose but clearly much more fun because its goal is not to be objective but to make the audience repress nationality and indulge in is he ductive power of playfulness. dancing and singing invites the audience. the harsh reality of the early republic is hidden as retold as a fairy tale. the founders are america's version of camelot and versions have been around since at least the
early 20th century. have we all forgotten 1776 so quickly? i a grew up loving tap dance. i'm certain but now i've been corrected, we are the only two on this panel who probably took tap dance lessons. my favorite danceers. but i never would confuse singing in the rain with an accurate history of early hollywood. i have a different take on the gender. i am actually troubled by what i see as the foe feminism. this is not an embrace of women's history miranda has relocated the more credible 18th century feminism of aaron burr his wife and daughter to the more conventional skilers. the reason is fairly obvious. hamilton must always be the progressive icon. i find it quite dismissive as warming the bed. this is the only reference to
her that without actually using her name and reduces his future wife to an adulterer and a mistress. if the same device used with sally who is merely mentioned in the interest of attacking everyson. so my question is, what could possibly be less progressive than to trash the women as a means to bring down the men? the larger difficulty is that this fake feminism is a common pattern what i call the molly pitcher syndrome. instead of talking about feminism, they create a fake heroic female character. the female lead is given qualities she never had. abigail was learned in latin. she was not. she was knowledgeable enough to tell her husband how to revive his defense strategy in representing the british officers put on trial for the boston massacre. and of course as in any hollywood show she has to be strikingly beautiful and witty.
enough to captivate even thomas jefferson while in france. the story line that's smart and beautiful women held their own with their male counterparts makes feminism look easy. it ignores the powerful resistance when it came to treating women as equals and sanitizes the thinking of most of the founders. why do we need them? why did it take nearly a century long campaign to secure the female vote? if the problem was already solved by the founders and the hip women of their generation. i strongly urge all to revisit hamilton's report on manufacturers published in 1791. in which it was quite clear that the classes to be exploited for factory workers were women and children even children of a tender age. why? because they were idle and contributed nothing of value to the economy. so yes, hamilton did anticipate our modern industrial economy,
but one built on the backs of poor women and children. i ask again, what could possibly be less progressive than advocating child labor? this is why the 18th century hamilton cannot be dragged into the 21st century without recognizing that it comes with some unpleasant baggage. now, several scholars have talked about the racial optics, about erasing the history of slavery. i would say that it erases all power dynamics, race, gender and class. hamilton has no desire to challenge the existing social hierarchy. he had to marry into the skyler family to secure his class reputation. his most powerful allies in new york are either marginalized or erased in the musical. his father-in-law and his british brother in-law. extremely important figure to hamilton. he's not there. and angelica we know is portrayed as unmarried.
elite and ambitious new yorkers built family dynasties and good skyler loved both of his sons in-law maybe even more than his daughters. he needed hamilton and church to advance his interests. i think this is what drove hamilton. the musical completely fails to address his policies and ideas. how can he be a jean juss if his intellectual world is ignored? party differences mattered in the 1790s and yet the federalist party stands for nothing at all. if hamilton is to be the every man of the american dream, then he can't be what the real hamilton was. a virulent party man. now, the election of 1800 is distorted beyond recognition. the main point is that hamilton determined the outcome of the election. he supposedly voted for jefferson which led to the virginian's landslide victory and burr's defeat. in fact, hamilton did not
determine the outcome of the election or break the election tie. james baird is the only person who had that kind of influence and he didn't listen to hamilton. and what happened to all of hamilton's underhanded efforts to defeat john adams? i find it strange the musical calls hamilton, an orphan, a bastard, the son of a who but never identifies it was that gave him the title. hamilton's power grab and his self-interested actions in attacks adams are written out because their messy relationship would completely undermine the noble and tragic portrait of hamilton. as obvious the unrelenting immigrant policy is absent from the score to allow hamilton, who was born a british subject, by the way like nearly everyone else in the founders circle, to be the immigrant made good. now, a more accurate musical about the experience would be named gal tant.
here's the story of a swiss immigrant mocked for his french accent, hounded by the federalists. and it was him in mind crafted a constitutional amendment that aimed to deny immigrants the right to hold public office. isn't this the history americans need to know about? and by the way, he has a statue outside the treasury building as well. historians should discuss the obvious biases. you i've designed a course called american's founding mitses and the final assignment is to write a critique of john adams. isn't this what we should be teaching our students? history should be about dislodging misconceptions. at what point do we surrender to popular culture and reinforce the irs of professional history? many scholars here probably in this room probably think it's already too late. my point is let's stop calling it history when it's entertainment. the broadway hit musical is a
fictional rewriting of hamilton's life plain and simple. does that admission detract from its entertainment value? no. enjoy the music, laugh at the jokes. appreciate the social commentary on our current political environment. fictional heroic hamilton and his predictable foil bur steal the show. but the historical hamilton and burr are there in name only. thank you. [applause] >> now for something completely different. so in his 1857 fashions and followlies of washington's life, a political comedy, henry clay pits alexander hamilton against thomas jefferson as part of an argument between two warring politicians.
one hotly defends hamilton as a mighty genius who taught the doctrine of union and consolidation and claiming it would be a gross profabty to compare hamilton to jefferson. his opponent retorts, it was a everysoneion democracy that first developed and brought into action the power of the masses while both men lament the sorry state of the rising generation of young politicians, they also ignore the devicive issues of race and slavery that impearl the nation. yet slaves in this case white actors in black face, hover on the fringes of comedy including a slave named tom who was born in the same year that the constitution was ratified and who lingers in bondage as a symbol of its most serious failure. the play is one of nine dramas in the first half of the 19th century from 1802 to 1864 that
invokes hamilton either as a character or by reputation. yet obviously hamilton's theatrical youthfulness has persisted for more than two centuries. from the sat tirlle pages of john h nichols closet drama to the broadway triumph of the hamilton play writes have found hamilton political genius, a compelling subject in part due to this outsider identity that seems to have dogged his career. through their explorations of hamilton's life they illuminate critical moments in the nation's passionate and often painful debate about race, citizenship, and belonging. i'm particularly interested in the ways in which slavery cycles in and out of these dramatic conversations. and i can only begin to scratch the surface of these topics here but i hope we will have time to explore them in our
discussions. so during an 2008 interview about her study of aaron burr, nancy inesberg observed that history is created by the archives citing the often lopsided treatment that certain figures receive based on what remains in the written record and how those materials are interpreted by successive generation to scholars. theater historian diana taylor would argue that history is also created by the repertoire. the performances that are repeated and repsych 8d beyond what is preserved in the written record. and that these performances are equally vital in interrogating our history. and this is especially important when considering questions of racial representation in history where the archive often falls sile president. and it's critical i think to understanding the revolutionary impact of miranda's hamilton. in some ways miranda's memory project is similar to another
drama featuring alexander hamilton, this one from 1864. in the prolog play writes george henry calvert that the purpose of historical drama is to use imaginative power to give a more vivid embodiment that can be given. not to transform but to elevate and animate an enacted reality. nichols miranda and other playwrites have all used hamiltons, immigrants, and race to elevate the enacted reality of slavery's history in the united states. the 19th century stage shares the same uneasy relationship with representing slavery as many politicians and private citizens of the period. slave characters often fell into one of three categories expressing affection for their white owners and disavowing violence, playing amusing trick sters and only very rarely voicing any open anger at their enslaved status.
with very few exceptions such as the african grove theater in 18th new york. none of the slave characters witnessed by american audiences were portrayed by actors of color. thus, no matter what the rhetoric, whether pro or anti-slavery, it was voiced by white performers. and taking a stand on slavery proved dangerous for theater owners by box office failures or attacks on the playhouse. more than two centuries, miranda's hamilton bodies forth the complex racial identities of the post revolutionary and modern period creating kind of calculated friction between traditional representations of our white founding fathers and the men and women on stage in the richard rogers theater on broadway.
scholar and playwrite morton describes miranda's work as a moys ache, a play of mixed ancestries and what he calls hybridty in action. theater historians observe weaving a hip-hop into tradition means threading through afro caribbean and musical orlse, visual, and dance forms and practices. hamilton makes visible affro diaspora significances in american history in the face of a larger society, not the folks in this room, that rarely recognize it. miranda's musical and his color specifics, not color blind, casting, reminds audiences that who tells your story remains the critical challenge not only in representing but representing the history of race in early america. and his hamilton invites artists and audiences to invoke the
power of performance in reimagining our most familiar narrative as well as the stories of those whose lives have not been preserved in the archives. as observed, this racially conscious casting tells a story bound by race. issues of racial representation as well as questions of slavery and citizenship surface as we know in hamilton's very first number when jefferson described his youth and every day while slaves were being slaughtered and cross the waves he struggled and kept his guard up. yet inn spite these inclusions, his reference to slave to solders, his casual request that his lamb sally open his male. he comments what remains audibly silent in miranda's hamilton is the violent history of slavery. and she doesn't fault miranda. rather she sees it as a limitation of the genre, a
challenge that faces both the archive and the repertoire. in his notes for hamilton, miranda comments that hamilton's early life was marked by a first-hand view of the brutal practices of the slave trade. the challenge for miranda or any artist becomes how to represent or represent that brutality in a theatrical form. indeed, for more than a century play wrights of color have struggled to stage the country's history of racial impression, or in the words of former slave turned playwrite william brown to show what never can be represented about slavery. so take for example in the 20th century parks' drama the america play, which depicts a black abraham lincoln known as the foundling father, being assassinated over and over again in a kind of demonic carnival game.
and which presents citizens of color digging feverishly in the great hole of history, ie, the archives, to unearth archive documents that might conjures their long lost or deliberatively erased past. in another example, in his award-winning drama insurrecks, robert o'hara sends his modern day gay black protagonist back through history to the early 19th hestry to re-present the story of saves who fought in that. and wilson's gem of the ocean brings his free black citizen car ter back to the mythical sits of bones under the atlantic ocean to visit the men and women who died during the middle passage, death that left no names, in the archives. each of these artists has tried to imagine a way to stage the violent history of slavery and to put those stories in the mouths of nonwhite performers.
as john ernest argues in his liberation his tor og if i, authors of color have been forced to tell crooked histories against dominant white narratives that have repeatedly misrepresented and misre-presented their experiences. and in deliberately dividing, i'm not just trying to be annoying, i question how rep tigs and restaging privilege or challenge depictions of race. carlson describes it as ghosting. suggesting that every performance is inevitably haunted by its predecessors or its real-life counter parts. and miranda's hamilton conjures a stage full of ghosts in terms of the founding fathers but it also hearkens back to a complex narrative of the way that slavery's history has been told on stage for two centuries. in the first american play to depict hamilton play wriggete nichols casts hamilton as a
conniving beterror of the revolution and has adams calling him creeol and says a would-be assassin of george washington and thomas jefferson and complicit in the uprising. nichols describes hamilton in terms very similar to miranda's opening lines as the bastard creole but without irony. and with theater about what hamilton's identity as a potentially racially marked immigrant outsider means for the future of the new nation. in seeing hamilton as the unasimlabble immigrant he diverges sharply from the best known example of the creeol character on the anglo american stage. the perennially popular drama the west indian, the show you couldn't kill with a meat axe. written in 1771, it tells the story of belle, a west indian plantation owner coming to meet his father, presented as
passionate and unrestrained, not like miranda's hamilton. has little awareness of social niceties. he literally lashes out when people refuse to make way for him in crowded streets excusing himself by saying, accustomed to a land of slaves, i proceed as a little too roughly to brush them away with my stick. while slave characters appear in the west indians they have neither lines nor names. they exist only to silently carry in the spoils of empires that he has brought and to serve as tangible symbols of his wealth. bell cur's land of slaves ghosted the american stage for decades after the revolution. nichols satirical piece recognized that questions of slavery and immigration remains unresolved even after the nation had declared its independence and created its constitution and scores of other national and anti-bell um dramas wrestle with
this rhetoric of slavery and citizenship spoken in play houses staffed by immigrants and slaves behind the scenes and often peoples with them in the audience. white bodies in black face, brown face, or red face, served as surrogates for those absent from the discourse on stage. much has been made of miranda's choice to re-present the history of the american revolution with a multiracial cast and the implications of having an acter play hamilton and thomas jefferson and george washington. do they become new surrogates for the founding fathers? are they ghosted by their white counterparts? or can they serve to expand the repertoire through their embodiment of america's complex racial history? perhaps the test for hamilton will be its tour and its legacy. if it changes casting practices on broadway, if it changes the questions we ask about who can
body forth our history or whose stories can be represented in the repertoire even if they don't exist in the archives then it will indeed be a revolution. i want to close with an epilogue about the repertoire and the revolution from 157 years before hamilton. on march 5, 1858 around the first anniversary of the dread scott decision and on the anniversary of the boston massacre, african american abolitionists and play write william cooper nell restaged the massacre down the hall and nell did it in part to commemorate scott and in part to object to a recent ruling. nells' restaging of the massacre used all black performers to protest their systemic eraysure from the history of the revolution. it also forecasts the day when actors of color might rise up
and claim their true rightings and privileges. in that, nell resembles miranda who has said that one of the reasons he became a play write because there were no parts for me. they have both literally and figuratively written themselves into the archives and the repertoire. thanks. [applause] >> so heather, you put this -- put hamilton in a longer chronological context. and i'm going to put it more in a much more contemporary context thinking about other similar productions which i think are a lot more similar than maybe we realize about hamilton. recently, the american public, as a lot of us know, has become increasingly enamrd of stories set during the founding period. and hamilton while unique in some ways i think fits within an emerging genre that makes sense whether in hollywood or new
york or broadway in particular and for anxious u.s. audiences at this particular cultural moment. we already know the outlines of the story and the settings are heroes with recognizable qualities. washington, adams, franklin, but indistinct in detail in the public imagination so writers can play with them. the actors are british. nobody likes slavery. the true brutality of which still is never shown, which of course is the reason why the patriots set in south carolina could only be produced in a way that was historicically absurd and women can be strong characters while standing by their men. plus, wigs, corsets. and by the way i used to work at colonial williamsburg and i do look great in breaches.
i just thought i would mention it. this is my moment. but -- and of course we already know the outline to the american revolution, or at least we think we do flt but there remains plenty of leeway for individual stories to parallel the broader historical event. these parameters, both structured and permeable, like those of any genre, render a show marketedly successful and be broad enough to allow for invention and outliars to provide interesting counter points. because the popularity and prevalence of these productions, they also provide the plotting through which the general public i think will increasingly understand the american founding. today i am just going to talk about three general elements that these productions share where hamilton fits in all this and why it's important. now, for the sake of brevity i'm not going to wade into the thicket of debates concerning
exactly what continues tutes a genre and how genres work because that's an academic subfield. rather, i'm going to use a definition by film critic de ateo thinks of genre as set of convention. culturally and historicically contingent. and text, whether movies or television series or in this case musical, are spaces that allow for engagement with one or more genres. in other words, for today i think most useful way to think of genre is not just as a category that we can put things in but as a set of conventions and particular time and place that say movie or novel or musical is both shaped by and perhaps shapes. hamilton's commonalities with and divergeance from previous stage and screen depictions indicate its creators were more than aware of these conventions and no doubt subsequent shows
or stage and screen will be made and watched with these conventions and hamilton in mind. so to talk about some of these. over the last 15 years, especially since 2010 the founding era and say the 1770s through 1800 has become a setting for a lot of big budget and prominent productions for film and television that play with these conventions. so i will go through some in chronological order. and you're probably going to be familiar with a lot of these. the crossing, the patriot, liberty's kids. benedict around. felicity. that went straight to dvd so i know you have that at home. john adams. turn washington 5. sons of liberty. book of negros, sleepy hollow fits into this for those of you -- that's a documentary series. no, it's not. and of course hamilton.
and my argument today about the recent coalesance of an american revolution or founding genre doesn't necessarily preclude our thinking about these earlier films as belonging. although we should note that those productions creators and initial audiences may have thought of them differently, perhaps as history films, the same way that many films of the late 19 40's at the time were considered melo dramas or detective or mystery or crime movies and only later were they thought and sort of -- about and lumped more broadly as film noir. so things can come out earlier and fit in effect those conventions and how people write and remake them. so here i'm going to talk about three major conventions. first, patriotism is the protagonist position of course and
it's assumed of all angelo americans. right? the good guys are indeed white american culture coded as good guys. heterosexual white men. in these productions markers of tory or british deviants. they're sort of painting these characteristics as being deviant. second, pate are thism consists of freedom which is definitions of liberty. let me take a survey here. who is for liberty? good. you're already with the protag nists. excellent. that's explained quickly on screen. right? now, if a character becomes a patriot, it's usually he, does so in reaction to british violence against people and property. why? because that's easy to portray quickly and easy to understand. even in the case of -- you brought up john adams. think about that series. when does he become a patriot?
when he sees the aftermath of the violence in battles of lexington and concord. oh i see violence. bad. why? because it's easily explained. that also happens to townsend's father in turn actually. and here we can be mindful for example of alexander rose who is the author of washington spies and a consultant to the turn show says history is complex and drama is simple. you have to find shorthand to convey a lot of information visually and quickly. and third and finally, in american revolution productions, resolution of conflict comes through unanimity resulting from expulsion of the deeant opposition. so in other words, just as the central ternings is the use of violence to establish order or in romantic commeddi the surrender of individual independence to traditional monogomy. or in monster films, loyalty over law.
in american production, it's about the establishment of american consensus through exclusion. now, hamilton gauges with all three of these conventions in ways that both confirm and to some extent a limited extent expand them. in terms of my first convention, who are the protagonists? the revolutionary men establish their bone a feeds several places but think in the song winter's fall or when hamilton bur and friends sing saying they are reliable with the ladies. and they're contrasted favorably against the flamboyantly fopish king george who in tone and demeaner more plays the king. and samuel seeingering. so it's taken as a given with the opposition cowardly brewton and efemnant. in terms of the second convention that heroes fight for libertarian strain of freedom as
with other examples of genre all hamilton's protagonists either embrace abolition or remain silent. we can think of so many produckses recently in which that's true. as has been talked about yesterday and today alexander mocks jefferson's civic lesson from a slaver and after death, alexander could have done so much more, which i don't know why you take issue with that because he actually did almost nothing when he was alive. so he could have done a lot more. maybe that's just a valid statement. and it's the third convention i suggest the establishment of united nation, a united states, through the exclusion of others that hamilton has played with in two noteable ways of course have generated the most conversation. one of course is in its definition of who is included and whose
not. hamilton's intentional convention of people of color and using hip-hop seems to defy my suggestion of genre not including hament iten's otherwise conventional story lines. but to think about this again when miranda first publicly performed the rap that opens the musical in the white house in 2009, you probably -- if you've watched this he actually got big laughs for introducing it as someone who embodies hip-hop secretary alexander hamilton. and of course why is that? why is that funny or why do we find that a contradiction because we do have those expectations about by whom the founders will be portrayed and how, and of course that's how genres work. through a collection of these conventions that allow for quick recognition and for surprise when one of them is flouted.
now, i do want to talk about the objections of various critics. and i think none is more direct than reed in his piece, and some of you probably read it, entitled black actors dress up like slave traders and it's not halloween. and that sums up a good deal of his position, of course. that hamilton's casting of people of color merely provides as cover for traditional white reading of the revolution. and we've talked about that and that's -- i don't disagree with that at all. but i also think we shouldn't entirely discount the effect that hamilton's casting has had on its extremely diverse audiences. the cast unprecedented sales success. it was number one on the billboard rap chart for a while, serving as the inspiration for countless internet mashups, characters appearing in television shows, magazines. anyone who has -- how many
people are parents of adless gts in this room? so you've heard it at home. so -- and the way it displays its conventional story it allows in some ways people of color to see themselves belonging to the founding and vice versa. similarly, hamilton's ahistorical, emphasis on hamilton and the pride in nonnative status. immigrants, we get the job done. brings immigrants into the founding. again, it's complete anachronism. but these inclusions can change the perceptions of viewers concerning who belongs to founding. this is a big debate for example, i don't know if any are familiar with liberties kids, a pbs show. that was a big debate. how do we show a found for kids who don't see themselves in the found sng so it's a serious question to grapping with. of course, the dramatization of
the cabinet debates and other political battles in the second act. i completely agree with critics is that a lot of it is devoid of the actual issues in the debate. but at least -- and in some way trivial lieses it but at least admits that americans did have sincere and passionate divisions among people who were not patriotic. but as other people pointed out it follows that familiar path trod by nearly all other popular depictions of the founders giving audiences comfortable tropes on which to rely at the same time it defies just a few of those generic conventions. so why is this important? well, again, i'm not talking today merely to create a category or a box that we can say, oh, there's a founders film. we just put it in there. but to suggest that we think of
it as one of the latest and most influential what i think is an emerging category of cultural productions that very much condition how the general public perceives the founding period. and i think -- i predict that we're going to see a lot more of these productions because of course the cultural industry is very much a copycat industry. something successful. we make more of them. and people will watch them. why? because they are familiar. because people can see a 1r5-second preview and know what that story is going to be about. and i think it should be of great interest to us, as teachers and scholars of the early republic, because these current settings shape how the general public perceives what the founding was about, who participated in it and what what it means. especially because this is a point you've all brought up on
how visceral these -- and emotional the connections that these create in people's minds. that these impressions are far more memorable than most of what the public -- may i be her edcal here? some of this stuff is even more visceral and exciting than some of our own writing. even mine. even mine. so and of course there's even been psychological research showing that someone will show a history film to students and the professer or teacher will say all these things are wrong about it. but when you test students afterwards what do they remember? they remember what they saw. and as you know, also just sort of important for us as citizens and as residents of the united states when people see the founding on screen or on stage they project that on to their
ideal vision of our society and how it should work and who belongs. there was recently another big national meeting going on in cleveland recently. as we can see from today's politics, there are questions about who belongs and how we engage in conversation are the heart of what we debate about the american revolution and our current american politics. [applause] >> i'm going to come in for a few minutes and i will begin with the question that all these papers pose. what should we think about plays and films based on veering from history? these papers offer answers to that question.
it was a pleasure to ponder them and to struggle to find contrasts and commonalities among them. when i was preparing for this, i was talking with one of my colleagues, and he told me it's simple. when you watch a play, you have to decide what your mindset is. if you seek entertainment, you go with what entertains you. if you're going to assess it is history, that is a different matter. that is a nice approach but i think it misses what some see as a danger. does a play's fictionalizing of history impose on non-historians away to see that history? negating whatever good we do. i'll give you one example, not from our field. i know renaissance historians who go ballistic over "man of all seasons." and there's historians who hate "wolf hall."
i can't resolve that one. i would like to begin with nancy isenberg's critique of "hamilton" and other pseudo-historical works. she throws cautionary buckets of cold water on the rest of us. i agree with some of her colleagues who too readily ignore the popularized history and works of entertainment. i, too, think we must be more vigilant about the resulting distortions of the past. in particular about the all too frequent tendency to turn 18th century founding guys into contemporary heroes. i do admit, however, that i find her equation of lin manuel miranda's "hamilton" with barack
obama more ingenious. but one thing does worry me. like a soccer referee wielding a red card, isenberg words that dramatists off the field of history. yet, for centuries, novelists, including such people as mark twain and herman melville, have appropriate history for some of their most interesting work. given the inevitability of such appropriations, aren't these impossible goals? no play can fully capture history. a standard formatted movie script is 100 plus pages. you cannot cover any subject fully in that space. those who write learn no book
can capture any subject fully. we don't stop writing books. nor will dramatists stop writing plays and scripts. if we do not just reject "hamilton," how do historians assess it fairly without asking too much? writing as an historian, andrew -- he argues that the three conventions help to drive that genre. patriotism, even prospective americans, libertarian version of liberty or freedom. reacting to bad things by people trying to deny that freedom that binds americans to the good cause. and unanimity among americans, excluding those bad things, as a critical factor in victory of that good cause.
yet, he argues, "hamilton" also challenges some of these contentious, reshaping them while affirming them. the fascinating mix of forcing us to think about, for example, who gets to claim inclusion in the story of the revolution, and the divisions among them, does much to explain its power and influence. benjamin karp's paper resonates with andrew -- writing as an historian of origins and irrelevant, he seeks to contextualize "hamilton," assessing what he gets right and wrong. he stresses it's addressing of racism and cites its open invitation to its audience to engage in what stories to tell and who stories to tell and what forms the stories take. the play itself teaches that "hamilton" should not be "the last stop on the viewer's journey."
now, again, we turn to something completely different. any chance to invoke monty python is good, especially when they play with history. an expert on drama, heather situates "hamilton" in the context of a rich context of plays. in her many points about the story, she points out that what so many critics have seen as new and challenging features of "hamilton" echo previous works from a previous century. recall the 1858 play in boston, reenacting the boston massacre with an all-black cast. nathan's remarkable paper reminds us of the question asked by the closing song, "who lives, who dies, who tells her story?"
resonates with whose revolution it really is and what kind of revolution it is. now, i'm going to risk trespassing on nathan's field with a parallel by the other papers. i propose another way of understanding "hamilton." drama's best re-shaper of history, william shakespeare. we should see "hamilton" as shakespeare history. think about julius caesar, he reshapes geography and includes such anochronisms as a striking clock. but what works as history is his place human core. the dying roman republic, struggling to navigate political forces. senator assassins seeking to restore the aristocratic
republic their victim shattered beyond repair and the cold, ruthless men who replaced the republic with an empire. "hamilton" is firmly grounded in its human core, presenting it skillfully. hamilton's ambition, and self-destructiveness. first, political and psychological complexity. the virginian aristocratic hauteur pervading thomas jefferson. the schuyler sisters' quest to become part of the narrative in a male political world. in the world of "hamilton," politics is a human pursuit and reflecting its participants' human reality. "hamilton" teaches that politics is and must be hard work -- a valuable lesson we need now more than ever.
i'd like to invoke in this connection, the song "one last time," which its rights a quandary facing george washington as a leader of a revolution who knows he must up aside from power and figures out a way to do so. if you conclude as i do, that we need not worry too much about hamilton's reshaping of history, why not? i submit we need not worry, because we need not worry about our students accepting the play as historical reality. in my experience, students in middle schools, high school and college are fascinated not just by the play but by the history of which it draws. they are not content to settle for the story of "hamilton". they want to know the story giving rise to the stories. this play has spurred their desire to learn as the play
"1776" did. growing out of that reality in today's classroom is the likely impact of "hamilton" on our profession's future, like the impact of "1776." that play drew many of us, including me, to the history of the revolution and the early republic. 10 to 20 years from now, maybe sooner, we may see a similar influx into our profession of young scholars who saw or listened to "hamilton" and never got over it. if those of us who were drawn into the field, have done some good in our writings and teachings, maybe our field also will benefit from byproducts of that remarkable contemporary version of shakespeare history, "hamilton." thank you. [applause] >> given that this is a roundtable, we hope -- a
rectangular table, we should talk amongst ourselves and figure out what we want to say to each other to enlighten you. once we do that, we will open up to questions and this gentleman holding a microphone has got the microphone and please do not ask a question unless you are holding the microphone. we are going to emulate that awful show "survivor." anybody want to start? go for it. >> i meant i'm happy to throw it up into the audience. >> does anyone want to throw it open to the audience and we will see what happens? let's try that. does anybody want to ask a question? i see one man who is -- >> i want to riff off of what you had to say in terms of shakespeare.
i taught westerns for a dozen years and i taught them as commentaries on 20th-century cultural history. whether they got it right is completely irrelevant. in that context, i would like to put "hamilton" in a context. you mentioned the "book of negroes." i have been horrified to find that most people in this country of my complexion do not know about it. this is a wonderful novel which bet screened as a miniseries from the point of view of a black woman who was enslaved in africa who lives through the revolutionary period. i first read it when i was writing my own book. i've been scooped by a novelist. my point here is that that book is just as powerful as "hamilton" and is more accurate. that is not the point. because "hamilton" takes his place along with that along with such absolute turkeys as "jefferson in paris," in terms
of the conversation about race in the country. i would locate the play in terms of what larry hill does. i want to call everyone's attention to "birth of a nation." the one about southhampton county virginia in 1831. it will be re-released in the autumn and i encourage everyone to see it. i encourage everyone to see with that film has to say. >> thank you for that. i would like to respond briefly and say that in some ways what you're saying also references a film we also and a book that many of us have read and that is "12 years a slave." i remember one of the most horrifying things about the
cultural response and that was a comment by certain right-wing commentators that this was just ignorable because all it is slavery porn. i don't know what slavery porn is. all it was saying was, i don't want to know the truth about slavery. it makes me feel icky. fine, we have to feel icky. we want our students to feel icky. anybody else? >> i both agree and disagree. i have several thoughts. that's that i see it may be as more of a continuum of memory with maybe disciplinary history at one end and maybe some films are trying to capture some sort of memory and some not.
for example, "hamilton" is attempting to wrestle with memory. as opposed to something like -- i don't know if any of you have seen "sons of liberty." you can learn all you need to know about it by hair. one it shows franklin in the 1770's and even then they show him bald. why? because that is what we recognize as audiences. it does not care what he looks like. the other is they start out with, ben barnes, plays sam adams. in the first shot you see him with the beautifully manicured scruff and everything. and he's, what, 32 when that was shot? so this beautifully manicured chin.
for those of you have seen the portrait of samuel adams. he did just have one, but another two or three chins. so, some of the things i totally agree with you, there are a lot that is really just about the present. so, i think it's sort of a continuum of memory. but it's like, i'm sorry. >> i wanted to take up a word you used. not in a bad way. the word prophetic. >> wait, actually -- >> i lied. he used prophetic. and used it well. i was intrigued that you use that because that is a tradition that starts again very immediately after the revolution in american drama.
they start prophesying. they use the history to prophesy. whether it is the indian and says when john smith says "i foresee a day when this nation will separate from the old corrupt influences of europe." they are forecasting this idealized future, and they're using their own history to try and show you, the seeds were always there. >> and it's not just here. at least twice rush rights to adams that -- there are prophecies. and adams takes them as a great come from it because the prophecies make him into a here. thank you, i hope that works. it may be prophecy. but the theme of prophecy is everywhere. >> is that not part of the problem? part of the problem of the seeds being planted, we assume is going to be a gradual release of these virtues that trace back to
the founders. it's a narrative like because we want to assume the evolution of progress. in fact, our history discounts that. even in the basic rule of suffrage, it is not a gradual expansion of the right of suffrage. so, part of the problem is exactly what you're talking about. shakespeare history, nobody calls it history. we call it literature. it's an english department. the other thing is to think about how these powerful narratives eclipse important elements that we as historians spend time recovering, talking about, things have to be part of the narrative and the power, there is no doubt the power is about podcasting, it is about the music -- and typecasting. is it what we want people to believe? the question i will ask of "hamilton," does it inspire us
to go out and change the world? >> i have to say, it inspired some of my students. >> i'm saying they are different narratives. i would give a countervailing narrative that would offer a much more radical critique of the founders, their failures, what they did not do that would inspire people to maybe take a different political stance. i think we can assume that this narrative are the musical encompasses everything we wanted to, that it embodies a certain political values that some of us here obviously like it. that's fine. but i think we have to always stay on our critical best because popular culture is about diminishing a more radical political perspective. especially when it becomes widely popular. we know different people have different invitations of what "hamilton" means. it can be interpreted in a conservative and comfortable way. that is a problem. we feel comfortable. we should not feel comfortable
about our past. we should want to have a narrative that provokes us at all times and -- i do not want to diminish race is very important but i do not want to diminish class and gender which seems to get thrown out of the window. that should be part of the discussion when we talk about politics and power. >> if i can piggyback on what you're saying, it seems like there are brechtian moments, where he is stepping outside and critiquing. i wonder to what extent those moments are illegible to all audiences and to what extent people just assume that is cool, because we are used to people breaking the frame and hopping back in the frame. the brechtian idea is we agitate, you should leave the theater ready to do something, rather than going that was nice.
i'm humming it. i think he is working with that. it may be that one subsumes the other, depending on the perspective of the audience member, or it has overwhelmed that entirely. there is a really brilliant movie. i can't remember a title. it is about a play within a larger story and it is all about the engagement of creating the fiction, creating the story, the engagement of the actors' problems and talking to the audience and it is really -- of course, it is british. very effective critique of this dynamic. i think it's an important dynamic to talk about the production of meeting. there are gestures of it but not enough because you have to actually, you have to deconstruct the myths you have celebrated. i think it is a very celebratory story. what "hamilton" symbolizes is being celebrated. in the musical.
>> any questions from the audience? i see several hands. you're already up. i'm sorry. >> i'm going to preface this question by saying i have not seen the musical. but i understand that a significant portion of it is a love story, it involves eliza and maria reynolds and that is one of the levels on which works as a musical, as a story. i'm interested in that aspect and how it interfaces with history. my reading of hamilton the person is that he was a profoundly emotional man. for whom emotion was a significant driver of his actions. i'm curious. that issue has been left largely on the table both by this panel and last night's panel. it is lurking under the subtext. but what about the emotional history of the revolution and the early republic?
why and how did people fall in love, express their love, how did it manifest itself in their lives? were the motivated to action by the sight of violence? is that accurate? why are we leaving that issue on the table? >> that can get tricky because our understanding of what love means and what 18th-century peoples understanding of what love means, it takes a lot of effort to translate that are on her or anything else. so, i don't know, i mean, it is so easy to quote from, it's interesting because miranda talks about the people who write to him about trying to shift the relationship. and all of the things that modern audiences want to read into 18th-century corresponded because they do not get how people of the 18th century are
using some of that emotional language. i think that would take a lot of hard work to translate for a 21st century audience how 18th-century people are experienced in certain emotions. i'm negating the specifics of what you're talking about which is "hamilton" because is relationship with these -- his relationship with his woman because i do not really care. you are asking the more interesting question about how we or the artists recapture the emotional landscapes of the 18th century. i think that is just as challenging as recapturing the politics. i think that is what historians of emotion are trying to work on these days. >> there is one emotion, to answer quickly, that the play does try to address. and that's not love but fear. is this going to work? is this experiment going to fail?
why are you opposed to me? you are going to ruin everything. >> the 1790's are all about. nightmares about how the country is going to explode. >> exactly. the failure of the stream. and different understandings of what that dream might be. let the play does get at that import and emotional reality and leaves my students wanting to ask about it and explore. i'm not sure how to explore the one you're talking about because, friendly, i am puzzled by it. i want to keep thinking about it. >> we have -- >> then we're going to get that microphone over there. >> i'm, the play is wonderful and disturbing simultaneously. one of the things we focused on the most is the political and cultural work that the play does in contemporary america. and on that - by the audience that attend and see it. i saw it. and i was surrounded by a very affluent, very white crowd. it will be interesting to see how the play is different when the audience is new york city
public school kids. i was struck how the play can change with a different contexts seeing "the book of mormon." if i had a few more drinks i might argue it is more historically accurate than "hamilton." really offensive in so many ways. but a central part of that musical is about orlando. we saw it like two days after the horrible events. and when orlando is celebrated as this place, it gave you chills and i sensed in the audience that the play -- it wasn't completely transformed but it meant something different from it's meaning two weeks ago. but that's really all about -- and i think that makes it really interesting and it makes drama volatile genre because it is not fixed.
the performance matters. it is ephemeral but affecting. my question is, where does history fit into that? because what we see is often a historical uses of the past. so often in american culture. we -- hold all kinds of cultural makers responsible. the question really is, i have been interested in everything that has been said today and yesterday, but, you know, can we get more precise maybe about how history really should intervene? can we do it better? than, than miranda has done it? we celebrate his artistic genius and so forth -- could we be more precise about
where historians can intervene so that the cultural and political work that's being done is more historically accurate and can we infuse these stories that are doing good with a little bit more, say, integrity? >> we are not going to happen hundred percent control over that because some artists are going to check with us before they go out -- we can't have 100% control over that. >> i am going to start a kickstarter campaign. everybody puts in 100 bucks and we are going to get our own musical. >> my question is about the dominican nature of this play. lin manuel has done two plays. "in the heights" and "hamilton." as a dominican -- >> he is puerto rican. >> my understanding is dominican. i may well be wrong. i have seen the play but i am a little old for the hip-hop styles.
i didn't quite get it. i was wondering about that particular caribbean nature of this work. it may have a lot less to do with the history of alexander hamilton and history of the american revolution and more to do with how people of color from the caribbean fit into the united states. black americans like myself are willing to be black americans. the caribbean people have a different identity. they become black when they come to the united states. >> this came up during the plenary session. >> miranda has said the play is more autobiographical than historical. this is this issue i'm time to raise again. where are we drawing the line between fiction and nonfiction? why is it we can't embrace the fact that fiction is fiction? and that it tells a good story,
it is powerful. people respond to it differently. but i think this is more about what andrew was talking about -- there is a political agenda about marketing that was to give at the label history because that is part of the appeal. when people go to see it, they are expected to get history. hbo. somebody changed the wikipedia entry because they had watched the "john adams" hbo and they have learned the truth and i got e-mails from people who said i saw miranda, i don't need to learn anything else. i know it is nice to be optimistic and think it is going to take us down the road to greater historical knowledge and inquiry, but that is not inevitable. the power of politics of hollywood is not about embracing history. >> i'm from the new york historical society. one thing that came up in last
night's panel we concluded that lin manuel miranda wouldn't really have the opportunity to revise his work. one way we can look at his positions as what he left out from the public theater production and the broadway production. it was the. whiskey rebellion. correct me if i am wrong but my recollection is that that song "one last time" was sung as hamilton and washington are putting on their uniforms for one last time to put down a rebellion by fellow americans. and i think that is what gets left out. if i'm -- >> when i saw it on broadway. i had seen it as "one last ride" twice. it was one of the things that miranda talked about. he said one of the problems was that he was losing the audience's attention span during that song.
i don't want to mischaracterize what he said. but that was my recollection. it is too bad, because it did show another dimension to washington and hamilton. oh, wait, that's how they now think about the revolutionary tradition? now they're on the other side. it's too bad. the name of the song is different. it was "one last ride" in the public theater and then it became "one last time" and it became about the farewell address. >> isn't a perfect example about the way the play system -- a completely federalist version of the whiskey rebellion. [inaudible] you can't even imagine that
anyone would ever think that. and that is the case again and again and again, the federal sport of you. -- the federalists'point of view. after what brian said last night, i wonder if maybe we need to go back because -- annette made the point that the play is bringing back the interpretation we have been trying to kill. some of us have not been trying to kill it. some of it have given it a second life through this production. it's got all those attributes that some of us criticize. 15-20 years ago. for those of you who are too young to remember, it's founders chic. i've got four things. just so we are all on the same page. i'm not going to rap them. what will see are a lot of the same things.
i think they reinforce each other. number one, it is celebratory of the founders. number two, it's neo federalist. celebratory of particular founders. it gives a neo-federalist interpretation of every aspect of the 1790's. and it's the privileging of character and personality over political issues and context. the focus on questions of leadership and looking at things from the father's perspective. celebratory, character, neo-federalists. and the fourth thing is that the idea that the good founders were anti-slavery. they would have done more. so it is brought up in the very first scene as lawrence and hamilton imagine themselves as anti-slavery freedom fighters.
they get to be the black soldiers as opposed to those running the dumb war. lawrence is the pivot character. there's something real going on. and at the end, angelica saying he could've done more. that idea that, all that is straight out of joe ellis. slavery is the crown jewel of the founding fathers. that the idea that hamilton vs. jefferson encapsulates the entire political history of the early republic and the real drama was one went on between them, not constituencies. so, i -- so, like, dan and i have been going back and forth about this for months. the key moment, when you said, i do not really care about the founders, you gave it away.
some of us still do. ben cares about everything else about history. no, he did not care that much. i still care. >> i'm the only person at the table who does not have the name of the founder or the word founders of the book they have published. >> true. >> i'd like to say one other thing. two things. one is this. joe ellis? please. no, i don't taken seriously. i haven't taken them seriously for years. >> [inaudible] >> david, please. i did not say i took lin manuel miranda seriously as is his story but i'd certainly do not take joe ellis seriously. i had to read "the quartet" and it caused me great pain. i had to say so in very tactful
ways in the "new york times" book review. it reduces everything to the foreground. that's wrong. it is misleading. it is bad history. i am not prepared to say that we should avoid the founders cul-de-sac as ben said. that phrases going to haunt me the rest of my career. >> sorry. >> no. i also don't think we should be plastering campaign buttons or over stickers on our books. i'm not for the founding guys. i found them interesting. good scholarship of the sort we want to encourage does that. we try to introduce that to our students. and whenever i teach about this stuff, i do mention "hamilton."
this is a play, this is not history. it may illuminates certain things. i think "one last time" really does illuminate that moment when washington says "i've got to give up power for good reasons." those ideas are there in the song. but, at the same time, i tell them reach beyond this play. they do. students will do that. and this includes middle school students. i do not think worry about federalism coming back and scholarship is not something to worry about. most of us are going to try to tell the truth about people who try to for such substitutes for historical understanding on our readers.
>> if i can briefly respond? [inaudible] nobody did it in response to chernow. you have gotten call and -- mccullough and chernow. reviewing each other's books. nobody is saying this is new federalist propaganda. just the we all know better and this is out there. we talked about this before. we disagree. i see a long-term push. i don't think some of the folks celebrating the musical realize that much it is based on chernow. and what a wall street view of hamilton and the founders that it is. i mean, i'm just repeating. we have a version of it coming. another angle from john last night. apparently, a lot of us don't really care about the issues of the 1790's. >> a lot of us have very different views.
>> we don't want to have the argument? >> there is a power dynamic. we are not as powerful as hollywood. let's put this in perspective. the -- don of the narrative is not us. let's not fool ourselves. it is not just flowers bloom. some flowers have more power. because that is the way america works. so, it is not an equal playing field. we have to deal with, i think when something becomes so powerful so popular, we have to engage with it and we have to explain why it's different and put the politics back into it because it is not just about the politics of character. and the hamilton whose character is presented is not the real hamilton. that needs to be reintroduced to the story because i actually think it is important to to understand the founders with all
their flaws, not just remembering what we want to remember or shading it the way we wanted to highlight, because they become a symbol and they have been icons, they have been symbols. and that is historically true. it is not that this is new. in terms of making "hamilton" into the new symbol. he is the new flavor of the month. we had john adams before. now we have moved on. and that is going to keep happening. we cannot stop that. and we have to engage and we have to teach the lessons that are distinguished what real historians do as opposed to popular culture. our knowledge matters and we have to defend it. >> if i can jump on that, i want to make a distinction between hollywood and broadway, because while lin manuel miranda is extraordinarly powerful on broadway and it may be made into a movie, but making it into a movie is going to compromise it in a way and change it in a way
that will have a profound effect on it. i do not know who remembers "rent." when "rent" was live, "rent" was a hit. when "rent" was transferred to film -- >> bombed. >> it wasn't as successful. the fact it would change from night to night, whether you had a tragedy that would reshape it. for several, those of you saw the tonys may remember the guns at the performance because they did not want to put that on stage. there's a profound change in the way it is being staged, the way it is contingent on a particular historical moment. so, i think the broadway live-ness is actually having a real impact on the way that people are re-inscribing these visions of the founding fathers because they can see them two or three feet away and they can illegally film them on their cell phones and take it and view
it over and over and rehearse that. they can start embodying it. one of the things i'm going to be interested to see is at what point the emotions that are being conjured by this play become unintelligible to us. so, has anyone ever read a 19th-century melodrama? excellent. have you read those and thought, people in the 19th century were idiots. at some point, the emotions that are being involved, the ways they are working, they become ok to us. we lose that lexicon. i'm wondering if the same thing will at some point happen with the way "hamilton" is working on his current audiences. >> also, a return to power for the way it is interpreted by the power brokers, the people defining what it means also has more power than us. and even the audience and how they experience it. do they get, go to your blog and you get to explain. we are always in the world with the powerbrokers are going to
tell us why it is significant and how it is read. we have to contend with that. yes, we may be a voice to counter that. but i do think that, as i said, the play removes this from a certain power dynamic that i want back in the story about history and also how we interpret these productions because we are not the most powerful critics. that needs to be understood as part of the debate as well. >> i actually, i just had a quick comment. we spent all this time focusing on alexander hamilton. the title of the play of "hamilton." what nobody has mentioned and they did not mention it last night and nobody here mentioned it -- is that the play does not end with alexander hamilton. the play ends with -- chernow's book ends with a list of eliza's accomplishments.
and i wonder personally, why do we never bring that up? i know a lot of it has to do is we do not have a lot of -- i get that. why don't we pay attention to the fact that this is about more than one hamilton? it is about what she does. i have not had the privilege to see the show. at the end, when she is looking and she sees alexander for the last time, she gasps and they are not sure if she is seeing hamilton or it is because she has seen the audience. >> chernow wants to really turn -- elizabeth skyler into nancy reagan. she's also, the hamilton family are part of the production of creating the memory of hamilton. in fact, very effective. some founders have good people who preserve their papers, preserve, re-create their identity. and the hamiltons were skilled at that.
and elizabeth skyler hamilton was in the forefront of playing that role, which is a traditional role of women, protect the reputations of their dead husband, dead soldiers, the dead family honor, the dead family legacy. >> i completely agree. and i would add to that, probably because the way i read it is it still really about him. i mean, they want -- he wants to make it about her. but it is still really about him, how he could've done so much more. it is a beautiful, poignant song about how when she sees the orphans she is helping, she sees their eyes. it is a beautiful song but it is still about him. to me, that is how it functions in the musical. >> we have run out of time.
so, i want to thank everybody on the panel. [applause] i want to thank the audience. and i hope we've cast light rather than shedding heat, especially today. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2016] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> coming up this weekend on american history tv on c-span3, the abraham lincoln presidential library foundation published a book of music by public figures and ordinary americans, celebrity or responding to lincoln's gettysburg address. the editor of gettysburg reply, responds, reads passages from the book tonight at 8:50 p.m. eastern . >> his presence resonates from the words he has written and the
artifacts and documents he has left behind for our posterity. he was a symbol yet deeply complex man who looks at complex issues plainly and purely. he accepted and spoke the truth. many believed lincoln transcended all other presidents who have served before him and since. his great american story has reached and continues to reach across borders and oceans, races and religions, politics and party lines. >> then at 10 p.m. on real america, the march in washington. on august 28, 1963, the u.s. information agency filmed the march on washington and produced a documentary for foreign audiences. sunday at 4:30 p.m. eastern, this year is the 40th anniversary of the nasa viking landing on mars. historians recently discussed