Fact Check: What Changes Does Lin-Manuel Miranda Make to American History in His Hit Musical Hamilton?
Hamilstans rejoice! On July 3, the landmark Broadway show is hitting the small screen thanks to some Disney magic — and by that we mean the company’s Disney+ streaming service. For the very first time, your ticket to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s genius adaptation of historian Ron Chernow’s 2004 biography Alexander Hamilton will cost just $6.99 (the platform’s per-month rate).
If you’ve been living under a rock since 2015, we’ll bring you up to speed. Drawing heavily from hip hop, R&B, pop, soul and show tunes, Hamilton, the musical about the "ten-dollar Founding Father," made waves for casting non-white actors as important historical figures, allowing the show to be about "America then, as told by America now." With 11 Tony wins (out of its record-breaking 16 nominations) and a box office gross of $613 million already, the show is one of Broadway’s all-time most successful musicals. And it’s garnered quite the fan following. In fact, according to Variety, a premium-price ticket for Hamilton during the holiday season can run as high as $1,150 a seat. Needless to say, a more accessible way to "be in the room where it happens" has been a long time coming — and we’re happy more folks will get the chance to see Miranda’s musical.
But, whether you’re a Hamilton newbie or a longtime fan, it’s important to note that Miranda couldn’t possibly fit all of Alexander and co.’s life into a two-hour-and-forty-minute show. Important moments in history are cut, condensed or altered to fit within the logistical constraints, or to emphasize certain narrative beats. That said, in this Fact Check, we’re taking a look at a few of the ways Hamilton diverges from what’s written in the history books. So, whether you’re raising a glass to the film version of Hamilton or not, don’t throw away your shot to learn more!
Did Angelica Schuyler Regret Her Decision to Forgo a Romantic Relationship With Alexander Hamilton?
MAYBE: Every Broadway musical worth watching knows that an unrequited love story is a must. Full of drama, near misses and opportunities for songs about longing, love stories that don’t unfold with ease are the stuff of Tony Awards. When it comes to Hamilton, Miranda decided to hone in on the love triangle between Alexander and two of the Schuyler sisters, Angelica and Eliza.
Was Philip the Only Child of Alexander and Eliza Hamilton?
NOPE: Speaking of kids who didn’t make it to the stage, Angelica, Eliza and Peggy’s siblings weren’t the only ones to end up on the Broadway version of the cutting room floor. In the musical, Alexander and Eliza seemingly have one son, Philip Hamilton, the child who is fated to die an early and tragic death in a duel, years before his father would face the same fate.
Was Everything Really Legal in New Jersey?
NOPE: In the musical, as in real life, Alexander’s eldest son Philip challenges New York lawyer George Eacker to a duel. Why? Well, as Hamilton suggests, Eacker gave an Independence Day speech in which he reportedly disparaged Alexander, encouraging Philip to defend his father’s honor in a duel.
Was Alexander Hamilton a Leader in the Fight for Abolition?
NOPE: In the musical, Alexander is portrayed as a fierce abolitionist, pro-immigrant and an egalitarian. While this portrayal of the once-"young, scrappy and hungry" ten-dollar Founding Father makes for a great reclamation of a bigoted and oppressive American past, it isn’t accurate. In "Correcting Hamilton," an article for the Harvard Gazette, historian Annette Gordon-Reed points out these inaccuracies.
Did Thomas Jefferson Really Win the Election of 1800 in a “Landslide”?
QUITE THE OPPOSITE: In the musical, Thomas Jefferson goes toe-to-toe with presidential incumbent John Adams in the Election of 1800. Often referred to as the Revolution of 1800, this landmark election is portrayed as a landslide victory in Jefferson’s favor. But this is far from the truth.
Martha Washington Named Her Feral Tomcat After Alexander Hamilton, Right?
SADLY, NO: While so many quotable lyrics have come out of Miranda’s musical, many Hamilton fans have a soft spot for a bit of trivia about Martha Washington’s feral tomcat. In the show, Aaron Burr is describing Alexander as a bit of a ladies’ man, stating that the First Lady "named her feral tomcat after [Hamilton]," who, in turn, smugly says, "That’s true."
And Peggy — Was She Actually Just a Third Wheel?
ABSOLUTELY NOT: As the musical states, "who lives, who dies, who tells your story" factors into how you are remembered — not just as an individual, but in the annals of American history. Earlier on in the musical’s meteoric rise, the Schuyler Sisters’ eponymous jam gained a lot of traction. It’s a bop — and it’s one of the few songs in the show that puts women at its center.