“Hamilton,” the Broadway musical that broke the record for Tony nominations, won 11 Tonys, a Grammy and a Pulitzer Prize, has also done more to teach American history and bring focus to our Founding Fathers than any text book or lecture hall in decades.
The musical is based on a biography of Alexander Hamilton, the U.S. Treasury secretary and guy on the $10 bill. Stay tuned for the musical about Oliver Hamilton, the East St. Louis Township supervisor being eyed by the FBI for running up big bills.
Like so much of history, the Fourth of July has been boiled down to just a few paragraphs, and far too many Americans have either forgotten or never bothered to commit to memory the risks, the intrigue, or the character of our revolutionaries.
Today we celebrate the ratification of our Declaration of Independence, but the treaty ending the war wasn’t signed until 1783, more than seven long, costly and damaging years later. After the colonists won their freedom, the hard work to create a nation began. George Washington took the oath of office another six years later in 1789, and it was during his eight years in office that the rest of our Founding Fathers developed ugly traditions such as competitive factions of political parties, negative campaigning and scandalmongering.
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Many of our most respected leaders from the late 1700’s, with the clear exception of George Washington, worked very hard to work against each other, jockeying for position and power.
Despite the lure of absolute power, our new nation’s checks and balances worked to limit corruption. They still work most of the time.
Our country’s precarious first few decades have proven to be patterns that repeated from time to time in our 240-year history. So here we are in 2016, with a whole lot of ugly and no Founding Fathers to balance the score.
On that note, Happy Independence Day.