HamilTALONS: Washington on Your Side

In the song Washington on Your Side from Lin Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, Aaron Burr, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison are mockingly complaining about George Washington’s bias towards Hamilton. In the hook of the song, they imagine that “it must be nice, it must be nice / To have Washington on your side” (1-2). Burr, Jefferson, and Madison are all anti-Federalists or anti-centralized government, meaning that they believe that individual state governments should hold more power than the federal government. This is an ongoing debate between the Federalists, led by Alexander Hamilton, and the anti-Federalists, led by James Madison. At the end of Cabinet Battle #1, the Cabinet “agrees” to have America’s debt assumed, as opposed to having each individual state pay their own debt. Many southerners, including Jefferson and Madison, are opposed to this financial plan since the southern colonies had less or no debt due to a heavier reliance on slave labor; this financial plan is a big step towards a centralized government. Expectedly, the anti-Federalists are still unhappy with this decision, and they attribute the plan passing to Washington’s bias towards Hamilton. This song is crucial in the trajectory of the storyline since this is the point where Burr, Jefferson, and Madison’s anger builds up enough that they begin to actively work against Hamilton. They’re determined “to show these Federalists who they’re up against” by searching for evidence that Hamilton is doing anything immoral or treasonous (49). They spend hours investigating Hamilton’s financial records, in order to “follow the money and see where it goes” and eventually find records of Hamilton’s transactions to James Reynolds, which lead them to some rather troubling discoveries (54).

Connections to Historical Elements

As I discussed earlier, there has recently been a plan passed that would further centralize the American government; this is called the Funding Act of 1790.

https://www.sethkaller.com/view-item.php?id=1431

This act is designed to help states pay off their debt from the war, but as mentioned, some states don’t have any remaining debt but still have to pay the taxes implemented. In order to pay off the debt, new taxes are implemented, such as a tax on whiskey; this tax is briefly mentioned in Cabinet Battle #1 when Jefferson tells Hamilton “when Britain taxed our tea, we got frisky / Imagine what gon’ happen when you try to tax our whiskey” (25-26).

Bill of Rights
https://www.britannica.com/topic/Tenth-Amendment

When the anti-Federalists are concerned about Hamilton’s disregard to the Bill of Rights, they are mostly concerned with the Tenth Amendment: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people. Since the majority of the Bill of Rights favours a centralized government, this final amendment is added to acknowledge the views of the anti-Federalists.

Big Idea: Disparities in power alter the balance of relationships between individuals and between societies

This song is about Burr, Jefferson, and Madison’s unhappiness with Washington’s favoritism towards Hamilton; Hamilton is never even elected, Washington appoints him after seeing potential in him. The anti-Federalists see Hamilton as an “obnoxious, arrogant, loudmouth bother”, and they are tired of watching him “be seated at the right hand of the father” as he gets glorified by Washington and the general public (A Winter’s Ball, 4-5). Burr, Jefferson, and Madison all hold the very new, American mindset that hard work and determination are required to hold certain positions, and seeing Hamilton get an abundance of power largely because of Washington’s faith in him is upsetting to them. Watching Hamilton’s financial plan get passed is the final straw for these three anti-federalists; they’re sick of seeing Hamilton get favored over them, and it’s damaging their relationship with him. The unearned power advantage that Hamilton is given upsets the majority of politicians. Hamilton is already a generally disagreeable personality, but his assisted road to success afflicts not only his kinship with other politicians but also his reputation and image among them.

This Big Idea also connects to the newly passed financial plan as well as the ongoing argument about centralized government. Essentially, the cabinet is split over who should hold more power: the country, or the state. There have been previous disputes about the imbalance of power between the state governments and the federal governments, which is the birth of the anti-Federalist vs Federalist battle for hegemony. The anti-Federalists believe that the state governments should hold an almost equal amount of power to that of the Federal government, essentially making America a group 13 colonies, as opposed to one country composed of 13 colonies. On the other hand, the Federalists believe that America should function as a group, and the states should make smaller, less impactful decisions for themselves. In other words, many are in disagreement about how the power should be distributed between the state and the country.

Guided Question

Look back to the Bill of Rights / Which I wrote / The ink hasn’t dried. (21-23)

The Bill of Rights is a newly signed document. The founding fathers all agreed on these rules, and Madison, one of the main writers, disagrees with the way that Hamilton is treating it. They say that Hamilton is abusing his power, and disregarding the Bill of Rights. This can be compared to the way that parliament felt towards King Charles before the English Civil War. Most politicians feel that Hamilton is abusing his power and therefore going against the Bill of Rights. The fact that Hamilton is an immigrant likely plays into his peers’ discontent. Since “the American dream” is still a relatively new concept, many don’t like the fact that Hamilton came from humble beginnings. 

I’m in the cabinet, I am complicit in / Watching him grabbin’ at power and kissing’ it / If Washington isn’t gon’ listen / To disciplined dissidents, this is the difference: /  This kid is out! (39-43)

This line shows that Jefferson is tired of watching Hamilton overpower himself. Jefferson feels that by watching Hamilton abuse his position without taking action, he’s complicit. He feels that he needs to take a stand in order to solve this injustice. Earlier in the song, Burr and Madison respond to Jefferson’s claim that “[he has] to resign” by telling him that “If there’s a fire [he’s] trying to douse / [he] can’t put it out from inside the house” (34, 36-38). They essentially mean to say that there’s no way to put an end to Hamilton’s wrongdoings without leaving the cabinet and pursuing a higher position. In this line, Jefferson states that he’s resigning from the cabinet by saying “This kid is out!” (42).

The emperor has no clothes. (63)

This line is an allegory describing the public’s refusal to publicly recognize Hamilton’s misdeeds. In Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, The Emperor’s New Clothes, the emperor is given a suit and told that it’s invisible to anyone who’s incompetent or undeserving of their accomplishments. In reality, there’s no suit, but no one, including the emperor, is willing to admit that they don’t see it. It would just take one person to point out the lies at hand, but no one is willing to be the first voice heard. In Hamilton’s situation, this line implies that everyone sees that Hamilton is unfit, unqualified, and incapable of the role he’s been given, but no one is willing to publicly admit it in fear of seeming foolish. Throughout this song, Burr, Madison, and Jefferson are talking about how they’re all unanimously tired of Hamilton, and they’re willing to work against him. When Jefferson says this line, he is essentially saying that the public agrees with their view and Hamilton, they just haven’t said it yet.

These three lines all relate to Burr, Madison, and Jefferson wanting to undermine Hamilton. All three of these quotes demonstrate how much power and influence mean to the revolutionists. This theme is evident in Hamilton and is mentioned many times through discussions of legacy. There’s also an underlying tone of annoyance towards Hamilton, an immigrant, being so high in the political system. The American ideology of “work hard for success” is a new idea and despite the anti-Federalists’ agreement with this philosophy, it’s also implied that they feel small amounts of dismay towards a poor, illegitimate, orphan immigrant working his way up the system; in Britain, Hamilton would never have been given such an influential platform. This implication is woven into many lyrics in Hamilton as well as Lin Manuel Miranda’s other work and may be a subtle comment on the current political climate in America.

Additional notes on the significance behind the lyrics of “Washington on Your Side”

Works Cited

“Cabinet Battle #1.” Genius, 25 Sept. 2015, genius.com/7927272.
“Debt Assumption.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 4 Dec. 2017, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debt_Assumption.
Miranda, Lin-Manuel, and Jeremy McCarter. Hamilton: the Revolution. Melcher Media, 2016.
Smentkowski, Brian P. “Tenth Amendment.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 7 Feb. 2019, http://www.britannica.com/topic/Tenth-Amendment.
“The Emperor’s New Clothes.” Book Reports, http://www.bookreports.info/the-emperors-new-clothes-summary/.
“Washington on Your Side.” Genius, 25 Sept. 2015, genius.com/7927389.
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Independent Exploration: Canada – The 7 Years War

Historical Significance

The Battle of the Plains of Abraham was a monumental battle leading to the victory of the English over the French, creating an end to an age-old rivalry and consequently forming the nation of Canada. By studying the advantages on both sides, we can further understand the battle and its elements. The terrain of the battleground, as well as the history and nature of the opposing armies are all elements that can alter the battle in a crucial way. By analyzing the way that these affected the battle, we can truly understand all of the components that lead to the formation of our country. Historians can also look back at past battles such as this one and use them to prepare for the future.

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French fort

“dsc_1092”by bugg_tb is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Cause and Consequence

This battle began largely because of the 7 Years War and Britain and France’s were competing for power, Amidst the conflict in (and around) Europe, the war began to move overseas to New France and North America. The British and French had already fought battles and conquered forts in New France, but The Battle of the Plains of Abraham is arguably the most crucial battle of the 7 Years War. This was a main turning point for Britain’s possession of New France and eventually, the formation of Canada. Britain had always planned to obtain New France, and this battle was a crucial part of doing so.

But long-term goals weren’t the only catalyst for this battle. Britain and France had long been on opposite sides of the 7 Years War, which was mostly fought in Europe. Britain wanted to overtake France by acquiring commercial control in North America, especially with the opposing French and British fur companies. Britain wanted to not only gain revenue from the fur trade and transport from North America, but to lessen France’s revenue by driving them out of the fur trade. Since Quebec City was evidently a main hub of New France, it was undoubtedly the target for Britains attacks. While the French troops in New France were diminished and preoccupied with the war overseas, Britain decided to attack.

Hudson's Bay Furs Are Incomparable (1922)

“Hudson’s Bay Furs Are Incomparable (1922)”by pkdon50 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Battle of the Plains of Abraham was crucial in the formation of Canada; it’s safe to say that our nation may not have formed without it. This battle led to Britain’s possession of Quebec City in 1759, and they soon acquired Montreal in 1760 as well. Once Britain had possession of these two main areas of New France, it was no surprise that they seized New France in 1763. However, by this time, the French had already lain deep roots in the area. We can still clearly see the effects of the French settlements left behind, not only in Quebec, but also in Acadia and the rest of the country (eg. official language). There are still many people in Canada with the biological French roots left behind including Québécois, Acadians, Metis, and more. So in summation, this battle not only led to Canada becoming a country, but also laid down the roots that made, and still make Canada what it is as a nation.

Acadian Lighthouse
Acadian lighthouse

“Acadian Lighthouse”by Cynnerz Photos is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Ethical Judgement

From the research I’ve done, it seems as if this was a normal, common battle with the same ethical practices as any battle today. However, I’ve learned in the past that controversial parts of history are often ill reported on. One instance that stands out to me is the way that the New France inhabitants interacted with the indigenous people in the area. I know from previous knowledge that colonizers have a notoriously bad relationship with indigenous peoples, but I wouldn’t be able to infer this from many of the sources I’ve analyzed. This is just one example of many showing that history may not have occurred the way that we believe it did.

Our view of history is often distorted by the primary sources we learn from. For example, we learn a lot about New France and related topics through journals and diaries. But when people are writing accounts of their own lives, they often embellish and rectify their writing to make it seem as if they are in the right. The colonizers that wrote our primary sources may only include the “good” details of their lives, which is why journals/ diaries are a flawed source. Although not to say that we should never use these sources, because they often supply us with raw details we wouldn’t be able to access otherwise. But it’s important to ensure that we look at issues from both sides, and the perspective that journals are written from sometimes make this more difficult. Personal writings also tend to be riddled with biases, which are hard for the reader to see past.

Ancestry.co.uk - The Times (London, England)_1297165776263

“Ancestry.co.uk – The Times (London, England)_1297165776263”by doustpauline of > \\whatwhenwhere/ is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

 

It’s also important to note that many secondary sources will only report on the facts that they choose to. This is another simple way that society’s view of historical events can be influenced by biases. For example, many sources may refuse to report on the colonizers’ mistreatment of the indigenous people. This is why it’s crucial to take information from myriad sources with different perspectives and viewpoints, instead of looking at a few sources with the same bias.  

To answer the question, I would say that my research points towards good ethical practices during this time period. However, it’s important to remember that research and our view of history are often convoluted by biases included in primary sources. It’s incredibly difficult to see through different biases when reading through journals and other writings, especially when we have very few other accounts to examine.

Inquiry Process

How did the British overcome the natural and terrestrial advantages of the French during the Battle of the Plains of Abraham?

The Plains of Abraham are right outside the walls of Quebec City. The battlefield was on a hill, with the higher end being away from the city walls. The British chose to position themselves closest to Quebec City, which was also the lowest ground. It’s a well-known fact that the lower ground is virtually always disadvantaged in a battle. This left the French with the higher ground, which gave them a huge terrestrial advantage. However, this advantage didn’t stop the British from coming out on top.

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Illustration and legend by Malcom Jones, 2005. Source: https://www.warmuseum.ca/cwm/exhibitions/gallery1/images/map3_31_lrg_e.pdf

It’s said that the British troops were much more prepared to battle than the French troops. This is largely due to the French’s preoccupation with the war overseas in Europe. When the British began invading New France, the French troops were unprepared, missing a number of their soldiers, and disorganized. The British, however, were extremely prepared. They also remained very calm throughout the battle; some sources describe them as le calme dans la colere” or “calm during anger”. In juxtaposition to the French’s disorganization and fluster, the British’s stoic exterior was an effective battle technique. The British formed a “wall” blocking the French from the city walls, and each soldier was replaced immediately after getting shot down.

Fire at will

“Fire at will”by gpparker is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

The biggest advantage that the French had was the group of indigenous people who were fighting alongside them. The French had made alliances with certain tribes, which revolutionized indigenous battles in many ways — some positive, some negative. In exchange, the tribes agreed to help the French in battles against the British. Due to their extensive experience with hunting, the indigenous people knew how to move around silently and without detection. According to French naval officer Louis-Guillaume de Parsacau du Plessis, “[the indigenous people] do not fight normally, but entrenched behind trees of a mound of earth. […] They conceal themselves so perfectly that it is impossible to see them, even in a completely cleared area”. This made them extremely skilled and valuable fighters, and they were highly beneficial for the French not only in The Battle of the Plains of Abraham, but in many other disputes as well.

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Indigenous person pictured with firearm

“HC03181”by Community Archives of Belleville & Hastings County is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

Despite this huge advantage for the French, the British still dominated the battle immensely. As previously discussed, the British were much more prepared for this battle, and this was the advantage that eventually put them on top. Although the French had the higher ground, the British’s lack of action prompted Montcalm to order the French to charge, subsequently abandoning the high ground and losing their advantage. It was during this charge that the majority of the 1300+ casualties occurred. It was also around this time that Montcalm was killed. This was essentially the charge that led to Britain’s possession of Quebec City. 

 

 

Works Cited

Eccles, William John. “Seven Years War.” Seven Years War | The Canadian Encyclopedia, 7 Feb. 2006, http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/seven-years-war.

Marshall, abitha. “Battle of the Plains of Abraham.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, 7 Feb. 2006, http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/battle-of-the-plains-of-abraham.

Stevenson, Robert. “Battle for Canada.” WarMuseum.ca – Wars on Our Soil, Earliest Times to 1885 – The Seven Years’ War, http://www.warmuseum.ca/cwm/exhibitions/gallery1/clash3_e.html.

Wilson, Shane. “Wolfe vs Montcalm.” Early Canada Historical Narratives — Battle On The Plains of Abraham, http://www.uppercanadahistory.ca/wm/wm8.html.

Wheel of Revolution

Wheel of Revolution

2. The Olympics was a revolutionary idea where athletes from all over the world could unite and compete in a variety of events. Now, this biennial event is still extremely relevant in today’s society. Since the first modern Olympics, it’s become a common tradition in society. Like many common traditions, the Olympics started off on a smaller scale, but more and more people began to catch on and participate until nearly the entire world was staying tuned updated. Although there are few international events of the Olympics’ caliber, this basic trajectory for the spread and normalizing of a tradition is common in society.

3. Although this event isn’t necessarily positive or negative, it’s evident that it’s still relevant in today’s society. Although there’s a large variety of effects caused by the Olympics, the most prominent effects have been either societal or economic. The Olympics is widely regarded as a respected sporting event, where people from all around the world compete. Cities and countries hope to host Olympic events because of the economic benefit it produces. Overall, I think that we can say that the effects of the Olympics have been mostly positive, not necessarily for individuals (although many athletes benefit from it) but for our society as a whole.

Sourcing a Significant Personal Object

Inquiry Question: What is the story of a cutout newspaper advertisement for Wicked?

When asked to provide a significant object, I decided to select a cutout newspaper ad advertising a Vancouver production Stephen Schwartz’s musical Wicked. When I was younger, I cut this page out of a local newspaper prior to attending the production. Years later, I still remember the experience of watching the production. This is a primary source since it’s a legitimate, original page from the newspaper.

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Source: Just by examining the front of the cutout, we can determine that it was produced and printed by the Vancouver Sun newspaper, based in Vancouver. We can also see that the production company is called Broadway Across Canada. However, it’s much more difficult to determine the year of production. Using outside sources, we can infer that this was printed sometime between May 28th and June 29th, 2014.

 

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A program and ticket from the production

 

Context: During the 2014-2015 Broadway Across Canada season, other touring productions included The Book of Mormon and Flashdance – The Musical. Out of the other productions that year, Wicked had the longest running time, as well as historically, the best sales at the theatre. These reasons, amongst others, may have motivated a strong advertisement campaign. Typically, full-page newspaper ads are used for businesses with large scale advertisement campaigns. This may explain why there was such a large advertisement for this production in the newspaper. 

Description: From the perspective of someone who doesn’t know the plot of the musical, the poster may contain confusing elements. Facial expressions, colours, and shapes might seem intriguing to the target audience, and may ultimately attract more customers. In addition to this, fans of L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz may draw parallels between the classic story and certain aspects of the advertisement. The green-skinned figure dressed in classic “witches garb” placed in juxtaposition with the fair-skinned figure dressed in white can easily be compared with the characters in Baum’s novel. These iconic elements could’ve been included to catch the eye of any potential consumers who are interested in the musical’s connections with The Wizard of Oz. 

Inferences about Perspective: The designer of this advertisement was likely associated with Broadway Across Canada. Presumably, the main purpose of this source was to attract customers and many elements of the ad are included for this purpose. The ad includes the dates and location of the shows, as well as a positive review. Beneath the main logo, there is a message urging viewers to purchase tickets as well as resources to do so. Since this is a fairly recognized logo, the advertisement likely relies heavily on the colours, logo, and title to catch attention. Other information provided is likely to make sales. 

Inferences about Inquiry Question: By examining this source, I thoroughly explored the reasoning behind the composition of this advertisement. It was interesting to think deeply about marketing a show I’m familiar with, as I needed to think about key elements advertisers would want to market to their audience. After analysis, I wonder how much advertisements such as these affect the overall image of brands. Although this artifact has been displayed on my wall for years, I had never given it so much thought.