Hamilton DOL #1, The Reynolds Pamphlet

Adam Crespi

June 8th

Song – “The Reynolds Pamphlet”

A:

Song #14 of act two in Hamilton the Musical, “”The Reynolds Pamphlet” by Lin-Manuel Miranda revolves around Hamilton’s scandalous affair with Maria Reynolds and the unique way Hamilton chose to address the problem. From the previous song “Hurricane” we learn that Hamilton is facing the backlash of an affair he is currently upholding with Maria Reynolds, the wife of James Reynolds. For almost a year Hamilton held an illicit relationship with Maria, paying off James to avoid the public finding out. In “The Reynolds Pamphlet”, Hamilton makes a rash decision to expose himself to the public by publishing a 95 page pamphlet outlining his affair and the reasoning behind it. The song revolves around the public’s reaction to Hamilton’s decision and how it affects his life.

Hamilton understands that for the first time in his professional life the public view of him will change from a positive one to a negative one and this scares him. Hamilton is aware of how his actions will be viewed in the future from the song “History Has its Eyes on You”, where Washington informs him of his own mistakes. As an individual who values how history sees him and the legacy he leaves, Hamilton is terrified by the thought that all he has done for America could be nullified in the public view because of this affair. This is our first glimpse into how much value Hamilton assigns the legacy he leaves and how strong his desire for a positive historical impact is.

In an attempt to combat this, Hamilton utilizes the most valuable skill he possesses, his ability to produce persuasive pieces of writing. The only reason Hamilton originally immigrated to New York was due to the wonderful piece of writing he crafted in Nevis and he hopes for a similar miracle. Hamiltons amazing skills of literature could not write him out of this situation and although the 95 page pamphlet was well constructed, there was no way a positive spin could have been put on the acts he committed. He attempted to perpetuate the idea that it was all extortion but in being honest Hamilton admitted,

 

*on James Reynolds

“My real crime is an amorous connection with his wife, for a considerable time with his privity and connivance, if not originally brought on by a combination between the husband and wife with the design to extort money from me.”

 

The public saw through this and attacked him, asking the question “You ever see somebody ruin their own life?” Understandably, few Americans took Hamilton’s side and most pitied “his poor wife”.

The Schuyler sister, Angelica, also has lines in “The Reynolds Pamphlet” discussing her obvious disdain for how Hamilton treated his sister Eliza. Angelica states that “[she] loves [her] sister more than anything in this life” which has obvious repercussions to her previous positive view of Hamilton. Angelica wants her sister to be happy and feels that Hamilton interrupts this from happening

Hamilton’s political enemies also rejoiced at the publication of the Reynolds Pamphlet. Due to Hamilton no longer being viewed with respect there was no worry of him becoming president. This is stated twice in the song.

“That’s one less thing to worry about

That’s one less thing to worry about”

Hamilton’s ruined reputation meant political success for others as Hamilton was essentially out of the political picture. He had “ruined his own life” in the eyes of the entire country, proving untrustworthy and admitting it publically to be judged by the whole world.

Hamilton’s worst nightmare of a tainted and negative legacy begins to form in The Reynolds Pamphlet”, creating a political situation where he was no longer seen in a positive way by history.

 

B:

“The Reynolds Pamphlet” has great connection to the socials curriculum concept that “disparities in power alter the balance of relationships between individuals and between societies”. The entire Hamilton-Reynolds scandal is driven by power disparities and the effect on America has been revolutionary. Although Hamilton is far more powerful than James Reynolds politically, James holds the power and thus manipulates Hamilton into providing him with large sums of money. This disparity of power defies the standard societal hierarchy and relates to similar to principles as the American Revolution. This will be further discussed in paragraph C.

Another interesting impact power disparities have on these events is Hamilton’s attempt to use writing for his advantage. Hamiltons talent for writing is a gift that few other Americans possess, giving him power and the ability to influence others with his writing. This power over others was what originally made Hamilton stand out and essentially rise in American politics and altered almost every one of his relationships. A great example of this were his love letters to Eliza where he enticed her with his extraordinary use of language.

The Reynolds Pamphlet was an unsuccessful attempt of Hamiltons in using this power. Citizens and readers of the pamphlet saw directly through his pretty words and rhetoric. This attempted deception added to the anger directed towards Hamilton. Citizens understood that Alexander Hamilton had a torrid affair” even when he attempted to excuse his actions with fanciful writing.

From examining the lyrics of Hamilton’s “The Reynolds Pamphlet” we can also determine what the American people of the time valued and sought as valuable traits for a leader. From the indecencies he has committed and how the public believes he should lose his chance at presidency because of this, we can infer that citizens value honesty and loyalty in a leader. When Hamilton publishes the Reynolds Pamphlet he no longer holds these traits and the Americans no longer see him as fit for leadership.

 

C:

Although “The Reynolds Pamphlettook place after the American Revolution has ended there any many ongoing effects and similarities to the American separation from the British Empire. Multiple lines throughout the song outlines how the American Revolution affected the lives and privileges of those involved.

Line #1

You could never be satisfied

God, I hope you’re satisfied

You will never find anyone as trusting or as kind

From Hamilton’s illicit actions that incited the Reynolds Scandal and Angelica’s reaction in the lyrics above, we can understand that Hamilton is not easily satisfied, even in relationships where he gets trust, kindness and from Eliza especially, money. Eliza is an extremely rich Scheluyer sister and although this is not the only reason Hamilton marries her, it certainly plays a part. After marrying Eliza, Hamilton possesses old money and now has power at his disposal, which he uses to rise socially and politically in the American government. Similar to how the 13 Colonies established themselves in a new continent with British help, Hamilton established himself in American politics with Eliza’s help and guidance. After Hamilton has built himself a strong political base, he no longer needs Eliza and she now stands in the way of Hamilton furthering his political career. After all Eliza has done for Hamilton, he is still not satisfied and dislikes how she wants him to spend more time with family. Because of this Hamilton no longer needs her and moves on to better things. This is exactly what the 13 Colonies felt to Britain and in turn what triggered the American Revolution. British settlers had founded the colonies, provided monetary, political and societal support and helped the development in the form of an investment. For the time and resources invested in the colony, the British expected a monetary payoff, just as Eliza expected Hamilton’s loyalty. Once the colonies were well enough off to support themselves, they felt as British taxes and laws were only hindering them, just as Hamilton thought of his wife Eliza. The American Revolution was fought between colonists and the British who essentially gave the colonists soil to live on. This also helps explain British anger with the colonies retaliatory actions against them. Would you want your child running away when you ask them to do the dishes?

This idea that power expectations changes overtime connects to the socials big idea discussed earlier and provides insight into how power affects relationships between individuals and nations alike.

 

Line #2

You ever see somebody ruin their own life?

The line “You ever see somebody ruin their own life”, sung by political rivals of Hamilton, is a great representation of how British citizens viewed the decision the 13 Colonies made to leave. To the British this was pure stupidity. The colonies had little to no chance of becoming rich economically and Britain was doing amazing things for them with military protection. The British saw the negative impact losing the 13 Colonies would have on them and worked hard to prevent separation. The British attempted to convince the 13 Colonies not to leave through violence and through persuasive words. The Americans are going to “ruin their own life” and why would the original creators of the colony desire that? Of course most Americans saw freedom as a wonderful thing and the wants and fears held by Americans vs British clashed heavily.

By comparing the British viewpoint to American ideas of freedom we can gather interesting insight into the American Revolution and how contrasting opinions create conflict. This is similar to how Hamilton disagreed with almost everyone who believed he committed horrible treason to his wife and the conflict created because of this.

 

Line #3

Well, he’s never gon’ be President now (never gon’ be President now)

Well, he’s never gon’ be President now (never gon’ be President now)

Well, he’s never gon’ be President now (never gon’ be President now)

That’s one less thing to worry about (that’s one less thing to worry about)

After the American revolution, the American people had to form a new government to keep order in their newly formed nation. However due to the unique social situation spread across 13 Colonies and the beliefs of the colonists, America did not want to be a monarchy. Monarchies simply do not work, proven multiple times throughout Europe and especially in England and France. To combat another revolution occurring, Americans decided to implement a representative democracy. In the beginning, members of each colony were elected by civilians and formed together with other colonies to form the continental congress. This congress would work together and decide on laws for themselves and the people of newly formed America. The power to vote was given to members of society that were thought of as “members of society”(1) at the time, rather than the British parliament at the time where all colonies and most people lacked any representation at all. This new American electoral system of democracy was revolutionary and led to more diversity of opinion in politics and provided a fair platform for ideologies and ideas to clash. This new system formed by the American Revolution and the platform it provides for politics gives Hamilton a political career and forces him to care for the public opinion of him, something never seen before in government. In “The Reynolds Pamphlet”, Hamilton throws any chance of being seen positively and thus any chance at being elected president by the people. Scandals like this had no effect on leaders elected by the divine right of kings and the publication of the Reynolds Pamphlet marks a new age in the governmental power of the people. Previously the citizens and parliaments had no power to dethrone a king over a small illicit crime but now, with an electoral system, any loss of face can cause a political career to end, just like Hamiltons. The line stating that “that’s one less thing to worry about” comes from Hamilton’s political rivals who are given space to thrive now that he is disliked by the public. Without the electoral system created as a result of the American Revolution political competition would be nonexistent and Hamilton would have never been able to become president in the first place.

 

To conclude, Hamilton’s “The Reynolds Pamphlet” was an invaluable showing of Alexander Hamilton’s personality traits, wants, fears and values. By examining “The Reynolds Pamphlet” we are exposed to in depth connections between the Hamilton -Reynolds scandal and the American Revolution, demonstrating how similar yet different history can be and reinforcing the age old saying, history repeats itself.

 

  1. In this time the only members of society considered “members of society” were white men. People of colour and women were not given the right to vote.

 

https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Hamilton/01-21-02-0138-0002

https://www.lyrics.com/lyric/32212206/Hamilton%3A+An+American+Musical+%5BOriginal+Broadway+Cast+Recording%5D/The+Reynolds+Pamphlet

 

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