Mizzou professor: ‘Hamilton’ message comes with historical price

Entertainment

NEW YORK, NY – JUNE 12: Lin-Manuel Miranda of ‘Hamilton’ performs onstage during the 70th Annual Tony Awards at The Beacon Theatre on June 12, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)

ST. LOUIS – Fans of the Broadway smash hit “Hamilton” figure to be in heaven over the Fourth of July holiday weekend as the musical comes to Disney+ starting Friday.

The film had been planned for a movie theater release in October 2021 but the coronavirus pandemic, which forced the cancellation of a national theater tour with a scheduled stop in St. Louis this spring, changed those plans as well.

The show’s creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda told USA Today, “More people will see the show on July 3, 4, and 5 than have seen it in the previous five years,” estimating that as many as 50 million people could stand to see it via streaming. “I’m really grateful that the wider world can see it in this way,” he added.

Count University of Missouri-Columbia history professor Jeffrey Pasley among those happy to see that period exposed to a wide audience, although he says it comes with a catch.

“It does so at the cost of misrepresenting most of the personalities and ideas involved. In particular, the exaggerated emphasis on Hamilton as an “immigrant” – he was a British colonist like all of the other Founders — and an opponent of slavery, based on extremely scattered evidence,” Pasley said in an email interview with FOX2.

The professor said the Broadway story “takes away from understanding his (Hamilton’s) real passions, creating a strong central state and working financial markets…Hamilton is Wall Street’s Founding Father, you might say, but that is not the message that the audiences come away from it with. Mostly the message is, what a cool, relatable guy. Poor John Adams gets totally removed from the story to make Hamilton look better.”

Pasley was among the editors and contributors to a 2008 book Beyond The Founders, published before Hamilton was conceived. As the name suggests, that work sought to look at early American political history away from the out-sized personalities of the well known leaders of the era.

“‘Hamilton’ is more or less the exact opposite of that, but maybe if people get curious about the election of 1800, it will help. Then we can talk about the Alien and Sedition Acts!” he wrote.

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