In an op-ed piece in today’s N.Y. Times (What ‘Hamilton’ Forgets About Alexander Hamilton, by Jason Frank and Isaac Kramnick, June 10, 2016) the authors decry what the writers of the super-smash hit musical “Hamilton” left out. Here is how they put it: “But the musical avoids an equally pronounced feature of Hamilton’s beliefs: his deeply ingrained elitism, his disdain for the lower classes and his fear of democratic politics.”
First, it is a fricking musical for Pete’s sake. Does one expect historical accuracy from Evita? from Peter Pan? Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat? Sheesh!
Apparently the authors were unaware that all of the framers had these opinions. Shopkeepers and farriers, even printers, were considered “middling men” and were not trusted to be part of the reins of government. The framers spoke frequently how to protect the fledgling republic from the participation of the middling sort, should they ever decide they should be involved. They all assumed that the government would be of the elite, the men (yes, men) most capable of rising to the various occasions that were sure to occur. Why, it should be men like themselves!
Is this a shock? Is this a character flaw in Hamilton? If it is, it was in all of the rest, also.
They all feared unbridled democracy, in fact democracy, a true democracy, was off the table almost immediately in their considerations. They assumed that were a democracy to be formed the “have nots” would tyrannically confiscate the wealth of the “haves.” Nope, not a democracy; a republic, yeah, that’s the ticket! If you look at the work they did, you can see that their concern for property (slaves, wives, children, land, etc.) was greater than their concern for liberty, that they felt that the elites, like themselves, were better as leaders and so should lead, and elections are best left to the elites. They created the Electoral College after all.
The authors of this op-ed were, I suppose, trying to arouse some sentiment that Hamilton wasn’t really a good guy, but all they did was to demonstrate their own ignorance.