The PBS special, Hamilton’s America (beyond what I guess should be called a donation-wall), is really remarkable in and of itself. You get glimpses of the show, interviews, and locations. Brief interviews range from President George W. Bush to Senator Elizabeth Warren, and there’s a great shot of Lin-Manuel Miranda looking up at Hamilton’s statue in Grand Central Park. Miranda, working with Ron Chernow’s magisterial biography, has revitalized Hamilton’s place in American history. Hamilton is no longer an outsider, but an insider.
Besides writing Hamilton, Miranda played the lead role for several years. Oddly, I think Miranda identifies with Hamilton’s wife Eliza as much as he does Hamilton. Eliza, like Miranda and Chernow, worked to “tell his story,” to remember a remarkable life and story despite the vicissitudes of history (“history has its eyes on you”). The special ends with a special testimony by Miranda: “I felt like Hamilton reached out in history, and wouldn’t let me go until I told his story.” It’s a chilling statement, that Miranda felt compelled by this story to tell it with a tremendous libretto and music. Chernow begins and ends his biography with Eliza, who is the oldest living Revolutionary War widow. The musical, reflecting Chernow’s book, also ends with Eliza. (The lines are especially haunting where she wonders if Hamilton could have sooner ended the great moral catastrophe of America: “I speak out against slavery/ You could have done so much more if you only had more time.”)
And we are left, like Alexander, Eliza, Chernow, and Miranda, to witness to the fragility of history, asking “who lives, who dies, who tells you story?”