Best of 2016: Hamilton’s Cabinet Battle #1 (As Kanye Rant Tweets)

We all know Kanye West isn’t afraid to hold back from saying what he wants both in life and on the Internet, and it was no different when he went on a rant against Wiz Khalifa – his ex Amber Rose’s ex. Naturally, we combined this Twitter rant with our recurring series Hamilton Explained, where we break down tracks from the hit musical’s soundtrack to give more background and insider info on the lyrics. Oh Kanye, history has its eyes on you, even a year later and years to come.


Hamilton Explained: Cabinet Battle #1 (As Kanye Rant Tweets)

Welcome back to Hamilton Explained! It’s been a minute. When the Hamilton soundtrack was released all of these historical and musical references were jumping out at me and I wanted to start unpacking some of them here. I wasn’t counting on a whole community of people doing this very thing over at Genius. Instead of duplicating the efforts from Genius (check out their annotations if you haven’t!) here’s Cabinet Battle #1, explained through tweets from Kanye West’s epic January 27, 2016 rant against Wiz Khalifa.

Stand with me in the land of the free
And pray to God we never see Hamilton’s candidacy
Look, when Britain taxed our tea, we got frisky

7th I am your OG and I will be respected as such

— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) January 27, 2016

Imagine what gon’ happen when you try to tax our whisky

6th don’t ever come out the side of your neck at me

— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) January 27, 2016

WASHINGTON:
Thank you, Secretary Jefferson. Secretary Hamilton, your response

HAMILTON:
Thomas. That was a real nice declaration

Welcome to the present, we’re running a real nation
Would you like to join us, or stay mellow
Doin’ whatever the hell it is you do in Monticello?

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Hamilton Explained: Guns and Ships

With only days to go before the release of Hamiltome (Hamilton: The Revolution if you’re not all up in LMM’s twitter), it feels like time to take a stab at explaining some more Hamilton lyrics before we have all of the answers right in front of us.

If you’re just joining us, you can catch up:

Since Guns and Ships has the fastest, hardest-to-catch raps in the whole show, we think it could use a little explicating. As always, please head over to Genius to check out the annotations there, too. We make an effort not to duplicate their comments but there’s obviously gonna be some overlap.

You know how it goes: lyrics are in italics. Our stuff’s in regular fonts. Ready? Everyone give it up for America’s favorite fighting Frenchman!

Guns And Ships

BURR:
How does a ragtag volunteer army in need of a shower

  • You don’t need us to explain that one: here, we are back to the cadence and rhyme pattern of Alexander Hamilton (How does a bastard, orphan son of a whore…). We even land on a similar rhyme (squalor/scholar vs shower/power).
  • But let’s go back to LMM’s explanation of the opening number: “the thing about Hamilton is he spoke in paragraphs. So the opening sentence of our show is this crazy, run-on sentence.” [Source] When we’re talking about the war, instead of Hamilton himself, the questions get more concise. After all, Burr didn’t mince words. Talk less, smile more.
  • “Ragtag volunteer army” sure does check out. Originally a collection of smaller militias, the Continental Army wasn’t established until a ways into the war. If you remember reading about another European helper, Baron Von Steuben, in high school, the army’s hit-or-miss training and discipline will ring a bell.
  • “In need of a shower”: we’ll let General Washington take this one — “Soap is another article in great demand–the Continental allowance is too small, and dear, as every necessary of life is now got, a soldier’s pay will not enable him to purchase, by which means his consequent dirtiness adds not a little to the disease of the Army.” — George Washington, Letter to the Committee of Congress, July 19, 1777 [source]

Somehow defeat a global superpower?

  • Global superpower: A fun anachronism (if you’re a history nerd, anyway.) “Superpower” describes nations that mastered the seven dimensions of state power (geography, population, economy, resources, military, diplomacy and national identity), and was first used in the WWII era to apply to the United Kingdom, the U.S. and the Soviet Union. [source] Through the lens of modern international relations, the British Empire was a major superpower during the 18th century – with thriving trade, an advantageous geopolitical position, and a lot of colonies. Some of whom hated them.

How do we emerge victorious from the quagmire?
Leave the battlefield waving Betsy Ross’ flag higher?

  • So, there’s quagmire – like a gross swamp – and quagmire, like a snafu. But quagmire is also used frequently to describe international conflicts that were caused by muddling where you shouldn’t. [See, e.g.] The “quagmire theory” explains how the U.S. unintentionally got involved in Vietnam, by a series of bad decisions that lead us further and further into the muck as we tried to negotiate several overlapping dilemmas. LMM’s probably using “quagmire” in the “big old mess” sense, but since we’re using other 20th century warfare terms, Burr could also be alluding to the fact that the US (or Britain??) shouldn’t have ended up in this position in the first place.
  • Ah, Betsy Ross, heroine of so many third grade history fair dioramas. She sewed, and possibly helped design, the American flag, and has a particularly adorable house in Philadelphia. [source]
  • Also also. This is fun:

Yo. Turns out we have a secret weapon!
An immigrant you know and love who’s unafraid to step in!

  • Both Hamilton and Lafayette are referred to as immigrants in Act I. Which, on one hand, of course they are. But it’s interesting because it feels almost like we don’t usually refer to anyone as an “immigrant” during the Colonial era. Yet, there were differences between colonists who were born in the (future) U.S.A. and those who came from abroad – even if only in familiarity with the country and its customs. LMM’s goal was to eliminate the distance between the audience and these historical figures, and a part of that is reminding us that then, as now, immigrants could be counted on to get the job done.

He’s constantly confusin’, confoundin’ the British henchmen

  • To name a few: Battle of Gloucester (thanks to excellent reconnaissance work, he helped uncover British positions and defeated Cornwallis – oh, and his leg was still busted from the Battle of Brandywine); Albany (he recruited the Oneida and dissuaded America from a poorly conceived attack on Quebec); Battle of Barren Hill (the outnumbered Continental Army had to retreat, so Lafayette had soldiers in the woods periodically fire on the British Army to make the colonists seem more prolific).

Ev’ryone give it up for America’s favorite fighting Frenchman!

  • This is true. Lafayette was SUPER POPULAR and beloved. Like, the precursor to the popularity of those French Women Don’t Get Fat and French Kids Eat Their Damn Dinner books that are so trendy now. There’s an entire Wikipedia entry about this time he came back to America to say hey. [source]

COMPANY:
Lafayette!

LAFAYETTE:
I’m takin this horse by the reins makin’
Redcoats redder with bloodstains

  • “Horse by the reins” is a popular expression, but maybe was included because artists LOVED to show Lafayette holding onto a pony:

To be fair, it was a popular pose with 18th century military guys. Like Georgian duck-lips.

  • “Redcoats” – the nickname of the British army, due to their snappy red coats.
  • During this line, I can’t help but think of Jay-Z (I know we’ve mentioned Empire State of Mind before, but whatever, it’s a modern classic): I make a Yankee hat more famous than a Yankee can. Lafayette makes a redcoat redder than his red coat can.

COMPANY:
Lafayette!

LAFAYETTE:
And I’m never gonna stop until I make ‘em
Drop and burn ‘em up and scatter their remains, I’m

  • Lin-Manuel Miranda has said that hip hop had to be the language of this musical because it allowed for more syllables per measure than any other genre. [source] This is the fastest verse, at 19 words in 3 seconds, which makes this the hardest one to sing along to but I’m trying; we’re all trying. [source]
  • Oh, look who’s better at English than all of those Englishman (an immigrant, of course!).

COMPANY:
Lafayette!

LAFAYETTE:
Watch me engagin’ em! Escapin’ em!
Enragin’ em! I’m—

  • We covered escapin’ em above (Battle of Barren Hill). How about engagin’ em and enragin’ em? The Yorktown campaign. Lafayette cut Cornwallis’ naval troops off, and again used his fun trick of random attacks by Continental troops to make their forces seem larger.

COMPANY:
Lafayette!

LAFAYETTE:
I go to France for more funds

COMPANY:
Lafayette!

  • Lafayette went to France in 1779, where he tried to persuade France and ally Spain to attack Britain. Also, his son was born that winter – named George Washington Lafayette.

LAFAYETTE:
I come back with more

LAFAYETTE AND ENSEMBLE:
Guns
And ships

  • Yes, but. France got very “the check’s in the mail” with the ships and the fleet took a while to arrive. Also included in the deal: General Rochambeau and 6,000 soldiers.

And so the balance shifts

  • The phrase “turning point of the American Revolution” was probably drilled into your head to describe the Battle of Saratoga at some point during AP US History. It was a pivotal victory, sure. But gaining a tactical ally in France helped tip the balance from “global Superpower” England and the “ragtag volunteer army in need of a shower.” Hundreds of years later, we still debate whether the U.S. could have won the revolution without French aid.

WASHINGTON:
We rendezvous with Rochambeau, consolidate their gifts

  • Rochambeau shows up in the colonies, hangs back for a long time because there aren’t enough forces to really do anything, kind of pulls an Emma Watson and chills at Brown for a while. He marches his guys over to rendezvous with Washington in Mount Kisco NY, home of the Ragtime house which is ALSO Samantha Parkington’s house, who knew. It did not exist in 1781. From there, they marched together to Yorktown. It was quite a trip.

LAFAYETTE:
We can end this war at Yorktown, cut them off at sea, but

  • Lafayette trapped the British by land at Malvern Hill while the French fleet blockaded the British. Yorktown didn’t stand a chance.

For this to succeed, there is someone else we need:

WASHINGTON:
I know

WASHINGTON AND COMPANY:
Hamilton!

  • Also Baron Von Steuben, whose forces Lafayette joined with, but who is not relevant to this musical production.

LAFAYETTE:
Sir, he knows what to do in a trench

 

  • Which maybe doesn’t seem like a Revolutionary War thing, but it is – the scrappy Americans and French dug a trench to help with the cutoff of Cornwallis’ troops. [source]

Ingenuitive and fluent in French, I mean—

  • Before there was spellcheck, there was A.Ham, who proofed Lafayette’s petitions for more supplies. [source]

WASHINGTON AND COMPANY:
Hamilton!

LAFAYETTE:
Sir, you’re gonna have to use him eventually
What’s he gonna do on the bench? I mean—

  • Hamilton was “manning George’s journal” and had to drop some major hints before he was handed a command of Lafayette’s light infantry battalion. [source]

WASHINGTON AND COMPANY:
Hamilton!

LAFAYETTE:
No one has more resilience
Or matches my practical tactical brilliance—

  • Or, as George says in the letter they’re singing about, “I am convinced that no officer can with justice dispute your merit and abilities.” [source]

WASHINGTON AND COMPANY:
Hamilton!

LAFAYETTE:
You wanna fight for your land back?

COMPANY:
Hamilton!

WASHINGTON:
I need my right hand man back!

  • This was a push-and-pull between Washington and Hamilton throughout the war: Washington wanted Hamilton as his “right hand man” while Hamilton wanted field experience.

WOMEN:
Hamilton!

LAFAYETTE:                                                        MEN:
Ah! Uh, get ya right hand man back                        Get your right hand man back!
You know you gotta get ya right hand man back      Your right hand man back!

I mean you gotta put                                           Hamilton!
some thought into the letter                                 Ha—
but the sooner the better                                     Ha—
To get your right hand man back!

  • There was a lot of letter drama in the 1780s. Hamilton delivered one of George’s letters for him, stopped to chit-chat with Lafayette, and Washington got pissy about it. So Hamilton flounced off and quit for like a handful of months until he got the Yorktown commission. [source]
  • “The letter, the sooner the better” – reference either to Please Mister Postman by the Marvelettes, or to the children’s rhyme (deliver the letter, the sooner the better, the later the letter the madder I getter… I think there’s more, I’m so old that I sent letters as a child so you’ll have to bear with me.)

WOMEN, MEN:
Hamilton, Hamilton!
Ha— ha—!

WASHINGTON:
Alexander Hamilton
Troops are waiting in the field for you
If you join us right now, together we can turn the tide
Oh, Alexander Hamilton
I have soldiers that will yield for you
If we manage to get this right
They’ll surrender by early light
The world will never be the same, Alexander…

  • Once again, we return to the style of Alexander Hamilton.
  • Solders that will yield for you – Washington’s hesitation about appointing Hamilton to a command wasn’t that he thought Hamilton wasn’t up to it. It’s that there were other, longer-serving officers who would take it as a slight. Appointing Hamilton required not only regular soldiers to yield, but also an officer to yield his expected promotion. [source]
  • “The world will never be the same” is a motif throughout the show, alluding not just to Hamilton’s desire to make a difference but to be KNOWN for making a difference. After their little falling out, real-life Washington also appealed to Hamilton’s ego.
  • The Battle of Yorktown was an important strategic victory, so the world really was never the same.

Hamilton Explained: Cabinet Battle #1 (As Kanye Rant Tweets)

Welcome back to Hamilton Explained! It’s been a minute. When the Hamilton soundtrack was released all of these historical and musical references were jumping out at me and I wanted to start unpacking some of them here. I wasn’t counting on a whole community of people doing this very thing over at Genius. Instead of duplicating the efforts from Genius (check out their annotations if you haven’t!) here’s Cabinet Battle #1, explained through tweets from Kanye West’s epic January 27, 2016 rant against Wiz Khalifa.

WASHINGTON:
Ladies and gentlemen, you coulda been anywhere in the world tonight,
but you’re here with us in New York City.
Are you ready for a cabinet meeting???

The issue on the table: Secretary Hamilton’s plan to assume state debt
and establish a national bank.
Secretary Jefferson, you have the floor, sir

JEFFERSON:
‘Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’
We fought for these ideals; we shouldn’t settle for less
These are wise words, enterprising men quote ‘em
Don’t act surprised, you guys, cuz I wrote ‘em

8th I made it so we could wear tight jeans

— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) January 27, 2016

JEFFERSON & MADISON:
Oww

JEFFERSON:
But Hamilton forgets
His plan would have the government assume state’s debts
Now, place your bets as to who that benefits:
The very seat of government where Hamilton sits

HAMILTON:
Not true!

JEFFERSON:
Ooh, if the shoe fits, wear it
If New York’s in debt—
Why should Virginia bear it? Uh! Our debts are paid, I’m afraid

Don’t tax the South cuz we got it made in the shade

Oh niggas must think I’m not petty cause I’m the best that’s ever made music

— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) January 27, 2016

In Virginia, we plant seeds in the ground
We create. You just wanna move our money around

14th Nigga it’s called creativity #youshouldtryitsomeday

— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) January 27, 2016

This financial plan is an outrageous demand

Second, your first single was corny as fuck and most there after

— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) January 27, 2016

And it’s too many damn pages for any man to understand

3rd no one I know has ever listened to one of your albums all the way through

— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) January 27, 2016

Stand with me in the land of the free
And pray to God we never see Hamilton’s candidacy
Look, when Britain taxed our tea, we got frisky

7th I am your OG and I will be respected as such

— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) January 27, 2016

Imagine what gon’ happen when you try to tax our whisky

6th don’t ever come out the side of your neck at me

— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) January 27, 2016

WASHINGTON:
Thank you, Secretary Jefferson. Secretary Hamilton, your response

HAMILTON:
Thomas. That was a real nice declaration

Welcome to the present, we’re running a real nation
Would you like to join us, or stay mellow
Doin’ whatever the hell it is you do in Monticello?

If we assume the debts, the union gets
A new line of credit, a financial diuretic
How do you not get it? If we’re aggressive and competitive
The union gets a boost. You’d rather give it a sedative?
A civics lesson from a slaver. Hey neighbor

11th I showed you respect as a man when I met you

— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) January 27, 2016

Your debts are paid cuz you don’t pay for labor
“We plant seeds in the South. We create.”
Yeah, keep ranting
We know who’s really doing the planting

Bro first of all you stole your whole shit from Cudi

— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) January 27, 2016

And another thing, Mr. Age of Enlightenment

Don’t lecture me about the war, you didn’t fight in it

10th don’t you ever in your fucking life speak sideways about a nigga that’s fighting for us I do this for all of us

— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) January 27, 2016

You think I’m frightened of you, man?
We almost died in a trench

maybe I couldn’t be skinny and tall but I’ll settle for being the greatest artist of all time as a consolation

— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) January 27, 2016

While you were off getting high with the French

15th Nigga I tried to call you and you changed your number

— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) January 27, 2016

Thomas Jefferson, always hesitant with the President
Reticent—there isn’t a plan he doesn’t jettison
Madison, you’re mad as a hatter, son, take your medicine
Damn, you’re in worse shape than the national debt is in
Sittin’ there useless as two shits
Hey, turn around, bend over, I’ll show you
Where my shoe fits

Don’t ever ever ever come out the side of your mutherfucking neck bro or bruh or however you say it Mr. Waves

— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) January 27, 2016

WASHINGTON:
Excuse me? Jefferson, Madison, take a walk! Hamilton,
take a walk! We’ll reconvene after a brief recess. Hamilton!

HAMILTON:
Sir!

WASHINGTON:
A word

MADISON:
You don’t have the votes

JEFFERSON/MADISON:
You don’t have the votes

JEFFERSON:
Aha-ha-ha ha!

JEFFERSON/MADISON:
You’re gonna need congressional approval and you don’t have the votes

JEFFERSON:
Such a blunder sometimes it makes me wonder why I even bring the thunder

MADISON:
Why he even brings the thunder…

WASHINGTON:
You wanna pull yourself together?

HAMILTON:
I’m sorry, these Virginians are birds of a feather

WASHINGTON:
Young man, I’m from Virginia, so watch your mouth

9th me and Cudi created this shit

— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) January 27, 2016

HAMILTON:
So we let Congress get held hostage by the South?

WASHINGTON:
You need the votes

HAMILTON:
No, we need bold strokes. We need this plan

WASHINGTON:
No, you need to convince more folks

HAMILTON:
James Madison won’t talk to me, that’s a nonstarter

WASHINGTON:
Winning was easy, young man. Governing’s harder

HAMILTON:
They’re being intransigent

WASHINGTON:
You have to find a compromise

HAMILTON:
But they don’t have a plan, they just hate mine!

You have distracted from my creative process

— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) January 27, 2016

WASHINGTON:
Convince them otherwise

HAMILTON:
What happens if I don’t get congressional approval?

WASHINGTON:
I imagine they’ll call for your removal

HAMILTON:
Sir—

WASHINGTON:
Figure it out, Alexander. That’s an order from your commander

Hamilton Explained: Ten Duel Commandments

We’re still listening to Hamilton non-stop, and it’s time to break down another song. Last time it was The Schuyler Sisters, and today I chose Ten Duel Commandments. As before, lyrics are in italics and lines that we’re expounding on are in bold. If I didn’t get an idea or fact out of the (finally not-so-useless) history and rap references swirling around my brain, the source is credited.

[MEN]
One, two, three, four

[FULL COMPANY]
Five, six, seven, eight, nine…

  • References not just the “ten duel commandments” but also the count to ten paces before turning and firing.
  • Repeated in Take A Break, The World Was Wide Enough, Blow Us All Away. [source: genius.com]
  • But also: the 1-9 count is repeated in French – only by Eliza with Philip – in Take A Break and Stay Alive (Reprise).

[BURR/HAMILTON/LAURENS/LEE]
It’s the Ten Duel Commandments

  • We all know this one:
  • But also: dueling WAS super-codified and regimented. A Code Duello was a treatise explaining rules in hand-to-hand combat, and the 10 Duel Commandments is just the last in a long line, after a few centuries’ break.

[FULL COMPANY]
It’s the Ten Duel Commandments
Number one!

[LAURENS]
The challenge: demand satisfaction
If they apologize, no need for further action

 

  • Satisfaction, in a dueling context, refers to restoring your honor after a slight or an offense.
  • But Lin Manuel Miranda wouldn’t just leave it there, of course. Notice how he weaves satisfied/satisfaction in other contexts throughout the show: in Angelica’s assertions in Satisfied, as well as Hamilton’s. There’s a running theme that Hamilton’s greatest strength and downfall is his inability to be satisfied with his station at any given point.
  • This extends to Burr, always clawing his way up the political ladder; as well as Angelica, who made a calculated choice to pass on Hamilton;  Phillip, who couldn’t let an insult rest; and, in later years, Eliza:

  • I’m not crying, you’re crying.

[COMPANY]
Number two!

[LAURENS]
If they don’t, grab a friend, that’s your second

[HAMILTON]
Your lieutenant when there’s reckoning to be reckoned

  • “The seconds’ duty, above all, was to try to reconcile the parties without violence. An offended party sent a challenge through his second.” [Source: PBS]
  • Laurens grabbed his friend Hamilton as his second in his duel against Lee. [source: Founders Online archive]
  • Double meaning time: a lieutenant is a subordinate acting in their superior’s stead.. but also, Hamilton was a Lieutenant Colonel.

[COMPANY]
Number three!

[LEE]
Have your seconds meet face to face

[BURR]
Negotiate a peace…

[HAMILTON]
Or negotiate a time and place

  • A part of every duel: in the Lee/Laurens duel, it was Edwards and Hamilton who met and negotiated a time and place (“half past three,” in a “wooded situae.” Quaint). [source: Founders Online archives]

[BURR]
This is commonplace, ‘specially ‘tween recruits

[COMPANY]
Most disputes die, and no one shoots

 

  • Burr’s right: dueling was downright trendy in the 18th century, especially among the young men of the British gentry. I’m picturing 1700s-style Rich Kids Of Instagram who would be wearing pastel shorts and Oxford shirts with rolled sleeves today. Just a couple bros, their firearms, and their tender, tender egos.
  • By the late 18th century, dueling was particularly popular among members of the military. ‘Tween recruits.

Number four!

[LAURENS]
If they don’t reach a peace, that’s alright
Time to get some pistols and a doctor on site

[HAMILTON]
You pay him in advance, you treat him with civility

[BURR]
You have him turn around so he can have deniability

  • Part of the typical Code Duello included having a surgeon on site, preferably one with experience with gunshot wounds. Again, the goal was not to have one guy shoot the other guy dead, just to prove that you had the balls to face getting shot dead to uphold your “honor.” BROS. EGOS.

    [Source: Pistols At Dawn: A History Of Dueling]

  • Dueling was illegal, and by turning around the doctor could not be called as a witness (or, presumably, hailed as an accessory).

[COMPANY] Five!

[LEE] Duel before the sun is in the sky

  • Before the sun is in the sky: duels were conducted at dawn for a few reasons. First, to prevent rash decisions: from the Irish Code Duello – “Challenges are never to be delivered at night, unless the party to be challenged intend leaving the place of offense before morning; for it is desirable to avoid all hot-headed proceedings.”
  • Second, at dawn, neither party had the advantage/disadvantage of the sun being in their face.
  • Third, police were often in bed.
  • And finally, it would be harder for witnesses to spot the duelers.

[COMPANY] Pick a place to die where it’s high and dry

  • Hamilton and Burr’s duel site – also used by Hamilton’s son Phillip – fits the description. This might be an old-school application of the mom-tested rule that when splitting a piece of cake, one person gets to cut it and one gets to choose. In the Code Duello, one party chose the ground and the other the distance. If you choose soggy oceanfront property to duel on, you just up your own chances of getting stuck in the mud or staggering into the water.
  • The Weehawken site, for instance, was chosen because it was a high ledge only accessible by water – choosing a high location might have meant that a Colonial villager didn’t accidentally stumble upon your duel.
     
  • “This line mirrors Biggie’s line of “Don’t get high on your own supply.”” [Source: genius.com]

Number six!

[HAMILTON]
Leave a note for your next of kin
Tell ‘em where you been.

Pray that hell or heaven lets you in

  • Two drafts of Hamilton’s final note to Eliza exist. You wouldn’t want to tell your wife beforehand, because (a) no way is she going to let that go down, and (b) plausible deniability.
  • From Hamilton’s letter: “Heaven can preserve me and I humbly hope will; but, in the contrary event, I charge you to remember that you are a Christian. God’s will be done! ” [source: Trinity Wall Street.org]
  • And also: “Fly to the bosom of your God and be comforted.  With my last idea; I shall cherish the sweet hope of meeting you in a better world. Adieu best of wives and best of Women.  Embrace all my darling Children for me.” [source: it’s hamiltime!]
  • Great, now we’re all crying.

[COMPANY]
Seven!

[LEE]
Confess your sins.

Ready for the moment of adrenaline when you finally face your opponent

  • The colonies, at this point, are mostly Mainline Protestant – just Catholic-y enough that absolution before death was kind of a thing.
  • The opponents would arrive separately to the site so only saw each other shortly before go time.

[COMPANY]
Number eight!

[LAURENS/LEE/HAMILTON/BURR]
Your last chance to negotiate
Send in your seconds, see if they can set the record straight…

[BURR]
Alexander

[HAMILTON]
Aaron Burr, sir

  • Just a nice little callback to Aaron Burr, Sir earlier in the show.
  • As we mentioned earlier, Edwards was actually Lee’s second, but whatever, this works.

[BURR]
Can we agree that duels are dumb and immature?

[HAMILTON]
Sure
But your man has to answer for his words, Burr

[BURR]
With his life? We both know that’s absurd, sir

  • Fun fact, unless you’re Alexander Hamilton: the man was not that keen on dueling. In the Lee/Laurens duel, he tried to advocate against it and then successfully stopped a second shot from being fired after Lee was injured. [Source: Founders Online archive.]

[HAMILTON]
Hang on, how many men died because Lee was inexperienced and ruinous?

[BURR]
Okay, so we’re doin’ this

  • Oh, when he shit the bed at the Battle of Monmouth (see: Stay Alive)? Literally hundreds, all because Lee wouldn’t follow directions. From George Washington. Who by all accounts was pretty good at leading things … you know, like revolutions and America. [Source: History Net]

[COMPANY]
Number nine!

[HAMILTON]
Look ‘em in the eye, aim no higher
Summon all the courage you require
Then count

[MEN]
One two three four

[FULL COMPANY]
Five six seven eight nine

[HAMILTON/BURR]
Number

[COMPANY]
Ten paces!

[HAMILTON/BURR]
Fire!

  • The Code Duello said that you couldn’t play chicken and fire at the air.
  • But of course, Hamilton threw away his shot, and even stated his intent to do so before the duel.

Hamilton Explained: The Schuyler Sisters

True to our promise, we’re becoming a Hamilton blog. Okay, maybe not full time, but you didn’t really think we’d stop at one post, did you? We’ve both been playing the cast recording nonstop, and new references and allusions rise up in the songs every time we listen. I’m sure we’ll keep discovering more, but we’re ready to start unpacking some of the many-layered references in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s lyrics.

First up – our introduction to the O.G. Kardashians, the Destiny’s Child-Made-Entirely-Of-Beyonces, the It Girls Of The Eighteenth Century… the Schuyler Sisters. Lyrics are in italics, the lines that I’m elaborating on are in bold, and our comments are next to bullet points.

The Schuyler Sisters

[BURR]
There’s nothing rich folks love more
Than going downtown and slumming it with the poor
They pull up in their carriages and gawk at the students in the common
Just to watch ‘em talk

  • In 1773, Alexander Hamilton began studying at King’s College – now Columbia University – in New York. King’s College was “overwhelmingly loyalist” at the time. [source]
  • The Liberty Pole in the Common (City Hall Park) was a popular site for debates between the Loyalists and Patriots. [source]
  • As a student, Hamilton wrote treatises, delivered speeches, and was known to frequent the Liberty Pole in the common. [source, source]
  • From genius.com: similar in flow and topic to Melle Mell’s verses in Grandmaster Flash classic The Message. [source, source]

Take Philip Schuyler, the man is loaded

  • The Schuylers were a prominent Dutch American family, and Philip’s wife was Catherine Van Rensselaer of the absurdly-wealthy-and-influential Van Rensselaers. Colonial power couple, right there. [source]
  • And his house was pretty legit:schuyler

Uh oh, but little does he know that
His daughters, Peggy, Angelica, Eliza
Sneak into the city just to watch all the guys at

  • The Schuyler sisters, raised in the pretty good mansion pictured above, stayed with their aunt and uncle for a time in Morristown, NJ. At the time, Philip was serving in the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. [source] They met officers in Morrisown, a revolutionary hotspot. [source]

[COMPANY]
Work, work
[ANGELICA]
Angelica!
[COMPANY]
Work, work
[ELIZA]
Eliza!
[PEGGY]
And Peggy!
[COMPANY]
Work, work
The Schuyler sisters

  • The repeated “work, work” in the chorus is a bit reminiscent of Do You Love Me by The Contours – possible coincidence. [source]

[ANGELICA]
Angelica!
[PEGGY]
Peggy!
[ELIZA]
Eliza!

[COMPANY]
Work!

  • A Rap Genius user suggests that this might be a tribute to the roll call in Hairspray’s The Nicest Kids In Town. [source]

[PEGGY]
Daddy said to be home by sundown
[ANGELICA]
Daddy doesn’t need to know
[PEGGY]
Daddy said not to go downtown
[ANGELICA]
Like I said, you’re free to go

  • I haven’t tracked down evidence of the Schuyler sisters gallivanting through New York – although TBH if it was a stealth sneak-out like Angelica’s describing, I guess I wouldn’t find that anyway. But since New York City was occupied by the British during the war, Philip Schuyler probably wouldn’t have wanted his daughters there. [source]
  • But—look around, look around
    The revolution’s happening in New York
    [ELIZA & PEGGY]
    New York
  • The repeated New York, New York sounds a bit reminiscent of the Alicia Keys chorus in Empire State Of Mind.

[COMPANY]
Angelica
[SISTERS & COMPANY]
Work!

[PEGGY]
It’s bad enough Daddy wants to go to war

  • Gen. Philip Schuyler was chosen as a major-general by the Continental Congress in 1775, and went on to aid the colonists in their instrumental victory at the Battle of Saratoga.[source]

[ELIZA]
People shouting in the square

  • During the Revolutionary War era news and treatises were often read in public (town criers, anyone?) and public debates were common, as mentioned in the first verse. Imagine a live-action internet comments section.

[PEGGY]
It’s bad enough there’ll be violence on our shore
[ANGELICA]
New ideas in the air

[ANGELICA & MALE ENSEMBLE]
Look around, look around—

[ELIZA]
Angelica, remind me what we’re looking for

[ALL MEN]
She’s looking for me!

[ANGELICA (COMPANY)]
Eliza, I’m looking for a mind at work (work, work)
I’m looking for a mind at work (work, work)
I’m looking for a mind at work (work, work)
Woa-oah
[SISTERS]
Woa-oah
[SISTERS & COMPANY]
Work!

  • A twitter user pointed out that “looking for a mind at work” seems to be a West Wing reference:

This was also mentioned on genius.com. [Which I always thought was called Rap Genius??]

  • Lin-Manuel Miranda has confirmed West Wing as an influence in writing Hamilton. [source]

[BURR]
Ooh, there’s nothing like summer in the city
Someone in a rush next to someone looking pretty

  • Potential allusion: The Lovin’ Spoonful’s Summer In The City – Hot town, summer in the city / Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty

Excuse me, miss, I know it’s not funny

  • Potential allusion: Jay-Z’s Excuse Me Miss. Not convinced because the flow sounds nothing like that one, but this verse definitely sounds like … something? Right? Anyone?

But your perfume smells like your daddy’s got money
Why you slummin’ in the city in your fancy heels?
You searchin’ for an urchin who can give you ideals?

[ANGELICA]
Burr, you disgust me

[BURR]
Ahh, so you’ve discussed me
I’m a trust fund, baby, you can trust me

  • A play on “trust fund baby” – a rich kid with family money.

[ANGELICA]
I’ve been reading Common Sense by Thomas Paine

  • Thomas Paine’s Common Sense was a 1776 pamphlet that you probably read or learned about in American history. It was extraordinarily popular and was influential in drumming up popular support for the Patriots’ cause. [source]

So men say that I’m intense or I’m insane

  • One Burr biographer described Angelica as “witty, intelligent, and rambunctious,” which is a nicer way of saying it anyway? [source]

You want a revolution? I want a revelation
So listen to my declaration:

[ALL SISTERS]
“We hold these truths to be self-evident

That all men are created equal”

  • Declaration of Independence,  1776: “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal […].”
  • Its words were echoed 70 years later at the Seneca Falls Convention, in the Declaration of Sentiments (We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal). Which will be relevant in like two seconds.

[ANGELICA (COMPANY)]
And when I meet Thomas Jefferson (unh!)
I’mma compel him to include women in the sequel

  • So, there’s that: the words of the Declaration were an important part of Americans’ continued fight for independence. Maybe not an intentional reference, but still interesting.
  • As for the Thomas Jefferson part: Angelica Schuyler Church carried on extensive correspondence with Thomas Jefferson. From his letters to her, it looks like she at least tried to talk politics, to little avail. Jefferson wrote: “You see by the papers, and I suppose by your letters also, how much your native state has been agitated by the question on the new Constitution. But that need not agitate you. The tender breasts of ladies were not formed for political convulsion.” [source] Can’t win ’em all.
  • Aaron Burr, however, would have agreed with Angelica: he was really into Mary Wollstonecraft. [source]. But he was still kind of a dick, though.

[WOMEN]
Work!

[ELIZA]
Look around, look around at how
Lucky we are to be alive right now

  • This could be a reference to the ‘look around, look around, look around’ part of June Is Bustin’ Out All Over from Carousel, which I forgot was like 10 minutes long. [source] Probably not, because Carousel just doesn’t feel like an influence here. Plus “look around” is like …. kind of a common expression.
  • Okay, now we’re heading into repeat lyrics, so it’s a good time to mention that I grabbed the lyrics from genius.com, where folks collaborate on explaining and breaking down lyrics. No doubt more will be added there over time, so you may want to look back in a while. [source]
  • Official lyrics are here.
  • And finally, we can both vouch that dropping $20 on the iTunes album was two Hamiltons well-spent.

[ELIZA, PEGGY]
Look around, look around at how
Lucky we are to be alive right now
[ALL SISTERS]
History is happening in Manhattan and we
Just happen to be in the greatest city in the world

[SISTERS & COMPANY]
In the greatest city in the world!

[ANGELICA (ELIZA, PEGGY) ((MEN))]
Cause I’ve been reading Common Sense by Thomas Paine
(look around, look around)((hey, hey, hey, hey))
So men say that I’m intense or I’m insane
(the revolution’s happening in)((hey, hey, hey, hey))
[ANGELICA (ELIZA, PEGGY) ((WOMEN))]
(New York) You want a revolution? ((look around, look around))
I want a revelation (In New York, woah)
So listen to my declaration ((the revolution’s happening))

[ALL SISTERS (WOMEN) ((MEN))]
We hold these truths to be self evident
(look around, look around) (hey, hey)
That all men are created equal
(at how lucky we are to be alive right now) (hey, hey)

[ALL SISTERS & COMPANY]
Look around, look around
At how lucky we are to be alive right now
History is happening in Manhattan
And we just happen to be
[WOMEN (MEN)]
In the greatest city in the world (in the greatest city)
[COMPANY]
In the greatest city in the world!

[COMPANY]
Work, work
[ANGELICA]
Angelica!
[COMPANY]
Work, work
[ELIZA]
Eliza!
[PEGGY]
And Peggy!
[COMPANY]
Work, work
[ALL SISTERS]
The Schuyler sisters
[COMPANY]
Work, work

[ALL SISTERS (COMPANY)]
We’re looking for a mind at work (work, work)
Hey (work, work)
[ANGELICA (COMPANY)]
Woah-ah! (work, work)
[ELIZA & PEGGY (COMPANY)]
Hey (work, work)
In the greatest city

[ALL SISTERS]
In the greatest city
In the world!

[COMPANY]
In the greatest city in the world!