Historical Accuracy (Q&A):
Was Alexander Hamilton born a penniless, bastard child in the Caribbean who became an orphan?
Yes. The Hamilton true story reveals that he was born in 1755 on the Caribbean island of Nevis in the West Indian capital city of Charlestown. His mother and father were unmarried, and his father didn't want to be involved in his upbringing. His mother passed away when he was 13 years old. An avid reader and skilled writer, Alexander clerked for a trading company. After he managed to get a powerful essay published in a local paper, various leaders in the community paid for him to travel to America to pursue his education. Alexander enrolled at New Jersey's Elizabethtown Academy in 1772, and by 1773, enough people had taken notice of his academic ability that he received a scholarship to King's College (now Columbia University). He went on to publish political essays and give speeches in defense of the Boston Tea Party, becoming a champion for revolution and independence from England.
Lin-Manuel Miranda in the musical (left) and the real Alexander Hamilton depicted in a portrait by Walter Robertson (circa 1794).
Was Alexander Hamilton a womanizer?Yes. This was well known about Hamilton. John Adams famously (and vulgarly) once said that there weren't enough whores in Philadelphia to contain Hamilton's secretions.
How did Alexander Hamilton get to know George Washington?
While researching Hamilton's historical accuracy, we learned that after becoming the captain of an artillery company and distinguishing himself in battle, Alexander was invited to serve as an aide to General George Washington. He was given the rank of lieutenant colonel. He became Washington's right-hand man, negotiating prisoner exchanges, dealing with deserters, examining intelligence, heading diplomatic missions, and coaxing bullheaded generals. He would later serve as the first Secretary of the Treasury when Washington became the first President of the United States.
What historical works did Lin-Manuel Miranda use to create Broadway's Hamilton
While performing our fact check of the musical on Disney Plus, we discovered that Miranda based the show on author Ron Chernow's in-depth 2004 bestselling biography Alexander Hamilton.
Lin-Manuel Miranda based his play on Ron Chernow's bestselling book.
Is Alexander Hamilton's relationship with his sister-in-law, Angelica Schuyler, portrayed accurately?No. There's no real evidence to point to Alexander Hamilton and Angelica Schuyler having an affair, which the play hints at. Their relationship is the biggest liberty that Lin-Manuel Miranda takes when it comes to Hamilton's historical accuracy. Hamilton was a flirtatious man, and back then, it was much more common for men to be flirtatious with women. They would often write in a flirtatious manner to one another. As seen in the musical, Angelica and Hamilton did exchange letters, which were playful and flirtatious in nature.
We hear the socialite Angelica (Renée Elise Goldsberry) state that she can't be with Hamilton because he is "penniless" and she is expected to "marry rich" since she is the eldest daughter and has no brothers. Her desire for Hamilton is clear, but a fulfillment of that desire is essentially forbidden. In real life, Angelica had three brothers, so she would not have been shouldered with the responsibility of maintaining or improving her family's social status. In addition, Angelica was already married with two children when she met Hamilton. -Elle
At one point, the real Angelica wrote a letter to her sister Eliza, Hamilton's wife, asking if she could borrow him "for a little while." This was a playful exchange between two sisters and should not be taken literally, as some have done. Eliza was not horrified by her sister's comment, which was meant to be humorous. As for Hamilton biographer Ron Chernow, he believes that it's clear that Angelica was a better match for Hamilton than Eliza, stating, "It seems plausible that Hamilton would have proposed to Angelica, not to Eliza, if the older sister had been eligible." It's true that Angelica was buried alongside her brother-in-law and her sister Eliza.
Alexander Hamilton and Angelica Schuyler's affair of the heart in the Broadway musical is mostly fictional.
To learn more about Hamilton and Angelica, check out our video The True Story of Hamilton and Angelica Schuyler's Love Affair that is featured below. To be notified about our latest videos, follow us on YouTube.
Were all of the named characters in Hamilton white in real life?Yes. In answering the question, "How accurate is Hamilton on Disney Plus?" we discovered that the only character who was also a person of color in real life is Sally Hemings, who appears in the musical in a silent cameo. Hemings was an enslaved woman who had a sexual relationship with Thomas Jefferson.
Did Aaron Burr, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison expose Hamilton's extramarital affair with Maria Reynolds?
No. In real life, it wasn't Burr, Jefferson and Madison who exposed the fact that Alexander Hamilton had engaged in financial fraud to pay off Maria Reynolds' husband, Joseph Reynolds, to remain quiet about the affair. It was actually House Speaker Frederick Muhlenberg, future President James Monroe, and Rep. Abraham Venable of Virginia who approached Hamilton with the accusation. -Vox
Hamilton's 1791 affair with 23-year-old Maria Reynolds had lasted roughly nine months. Unlike Eliza, Maria was a stunning blonde from humble beginnings. Hamilton, then Secretary of the Treasury, had paid her husband repeatedly to stay quiet about the affair. It's true that Hamilton later published a lurid account of the affair, titled the Reynolds Pamphlet, in an effort to convince people that the payments were because of blackmail and not embezzlement. -Business Insider
It's true that Maria Reynolds' husband blackmailed Hamilton over the affair with his wife.
Were the lives of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr as intertwined as the musical suggests?No. For example, there's no evidence that Aaron Burr was present at the duel between Hamilton's friend John Laurens and Charles Lee. However, the musical has Burr and Hamilton acting as seconds during the duel. Hamilton on Disney Plus also depicts the title character asking Burr to contribute to The Federalist Papers. Yet, in reality, there is no historical evidence that shows Burr was ever asked to contribute. As stated earlier, Burr was not one of the men who confronted Hamilton with embezzlement allegations, though the musical inserts him in that confrontation. These are all understandable deviations from the Hamilton true story, as they help to keep the focus on the main characters, in addition to making the duel at the end between Hamilton and Burr feel that much more pivotal.
Was the real Alexander Hamilton a staunch abolitionist?
Not exactly. While Hamilton's views on slavery stood in contrast to the views of his slave-owning contemporaries, including Thomas Jefferson, his position on slavery was never at the forefront of his political agenda. We do know that Hamilton was a founding member of the New York Manumission Society, which strived to make New York a state free of slavery. He also openly criticized Thomas Jefferson's views that African-Americans were biologically inferior. Yet, a review of Hamilton's public record from the 1790s until his passing in 1804 doesn't reveal much regarding the abolishment of slavery. It's fair to assume, as the musical does, that if Hamilton had lived longer, he would have done more to stand against slavery. After his passing in the musical, his widow Eliza sings that she, "speak[s] out against slavery / You could've done so much more if you only had time."
The musical is exaggerating Hamilton's anti-slavery stance so that we clearly see him as the good guy in the story. In reality, while Hamilton did possess moderately progressive views towards slavery, he had bought and sold slaves for his wife Eliza's prominent New York family, the Schuylers.
Lin-Manuel Miranda in Hamilton
on Disney Plus and the real Alexander Hamilton painted by Ezra Ames in 1802.
Did Alexander Hamilton really tell his son Philip to raise his gun in the air during a duel?Yes. After New York lawyer George Eacker gave a speech in which he criticized Alexander Hamilton, saying that Hamilton would be willing to overthrow Thomas Jefferson's presidency by force, Philip confronted Eacker four months later while Eacker was attending a play at the Park Theatre in New York City. Instead of apologizing for his comment about Philip's father, Eacker called Philip and his friend Stephen Price "damned rascals." It was at that point Philip and Price challenged Eacker to a duel.
The Hamilton true story confirms that Alexander told his son to raise his gun in the air and throw away his first shot. The technical term for throwing away one's first shot in a pistol duel is "deloping." The practice is used as a way to abort the conflict, hoping that the other person won't shoot a man who does not intend to engage. On the day of the duel, Philip attempted a delope but Eacker fired, mortally wounding Philip above his right hip.
Did Hamilton singlehandedly doom Aaron Burr's 1800 presidential run by casting the deciding vote in favor of Thomas Jefferson?
No. He didn't have that kind of power. However, a Hamilton fact check reveals that he did lobby the House Federalists to support Jefferson. -PolitiFact
Did Aaron Burr kill Alexander Hamilton in a duel?
Yes. The famous duel indeed took place, but it happened in 1804, not right after the presidential election of 1800. Hamilton reportedly attempted to abort the duel by way of a delope (firing in the air), as he had told his son to do. While it is believed that Hamilton shot first and fired away from his opponent, Burr returned fire, striking Hamilton in the abdomen. It is unclear whether Burr fired because he thought Hamilton was trying to hit him, or because he recognized the delope and fired anyway. It is true that Burr regretted killing Hamilton. According to author Ron Chernow, Burr would later refer to Hamilton as "my friend Hamilton — whom I shot."
Aaron Burr mortally wounded Alexander Hamilton in a duel on July 11, 1804.
Overall, how historically accurate is Hamilton?Albeit condensed and slightly exaggerated at times, the history showcased in Hamilton is largely accurate. Aside from Alexander Hamilton's fictional love affair with his sister-in-law Angelica, the majority of what's seen is factual. "I felt an enormous responsibility to be as historically accurate as possible, while still telling the most dramatic story possible," creator Lin-Manuel Miranda told The Atlantic in 2015. He said that when he did take dramatic license he made sure he was able to defend it to author Ron Chernow, whose biography provided the basis for the musical. Chernow himself was a consultant on Hamilton.
Regarding the accuracy of Miranda's musical, Chernow told the New York Times Style Magazine, "I think [Miranda] has plucked out the dramatic essence of the character — his vaulting ambition, his obsession with his legacy, his driven nature, his roving eye, his brilliant mind, his faulty judgment."
It's obvious that the show takes liberties by singing in hip-hop, pop, R&B, and other contemporary musical genres, in addition to using a modern-day vernacular, but that's a bit of a given if you're creating a hip-hop driven musical. There's also the obvious fact that the founding fathers were white, while the musical reinterprets them as men of color. Miranda said that he chose actors of color to represent the "old, dead white men" as a way to make the story more accessible to a modern-day audience. He described Hamilton as being "a story about America then, told by America now."