Tbh, you either get this or you don’t.
This blog is dedicated to the cattiness surrounding the New Republic, reflections on a group of intelligent yet fallible men who could agree on nothing and yet are often quoted as a group, and just in general Founding Douchebaggery &c.
This weekend, the play “At Liberty Hall” premiered in the Carriage House of Liberty Hall in Union, New Jersey. Liberty Hall was built by New Jersey’s first governor, William Livingston, who hosted Alexander Hamilton while Hamilton attended a preparatory school in Elizabethtown.
The play “At Liberty Hall” explores time-bending interactions between Alexander Hamilton as a young teen immigrant in Elizabethtown and a modern-day teenager with a similar background to Hamilton’s.
Jon Ciccarelli writes for New Jersey Stage about the play in “A Meet-Up in Time with ‘At Liberty Hall’ at Premiere Stages, Kean University”:
We often have been asked the question: “If you could have dinner with anyone alive or dead, who would it be?” or “If you could have a conversation with anyone, who would be they be? Such a fantastical scenario is very appealing as it usually implies our desire to connect with someone that we knew who has died or a historical person that we couldn’t possibly communicate with and who represents a time or place that we have an interest in. Even the idea of either traveling to another time or having historical people interact with us in the present is a staple of sci-fi and a plot device that never seems to go out of style from Mark Twain’s “A Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” to the current TV incarnation of “Sleepy Hollow”.
This mash up of time periods is on display in the special engagement presentation of “At Liberty Hall” running from Oct 16-19, literally at Liberty Hall Museum, the 1882 Carriage House in Union, NJ presented by Premiere Stages as part of the “Liberty Live” program. The story follows the meeting and friendship of two unlikely teenagers, Christian Rosario, a recently arrived high school student from the Dominican Republic and another teenager named Alexander Hamilton. The two teenagers naturally are dumbfounded by the circumstance of seeing someone out of time but soon find a common bond in shared experiences.
Playwright James Christy was inspired to write the piece by his 10-year old son who became very interested in American history and the founding fathers. “I started doing research into Alexander Hamilton’s story, his very difficult childhood. He’s the only founding father who was really poor and had to struggle to make something of himself. The fact that he has this real link to [the city of] Elizabeth and Liberty Hall made his story really attractive. I wanted to find links between teenagers of that time and now, show how they may have cared about similar things, had similar obstacles. We think of founding father’s when they’re older, I wanted to show Hamilton at this formative time in his life,” Christy said.
Photo Credit: Dave Thomas Brown as Alexander Hamilton and Jeffrey Sanchez as Cristian in James Christy’s At Liberty Hall, directed by Kel Haney, at Premiere Stages. Photo by Steve Hockstein.
"This device of having characters from different time periods interact opens up a lot of possibilities. We are inherently curious about what things were like in the past, and it’s fun to see the reactions of historical characters about how much the world has changed," added Christy on the story telling possibilities.
According to Clare Drobot, Premiere Stages producing associate and resident dramaturg, the group is very excited to present the world premiere of Christy’s play and as part of the special “Liberty Live” event.” The play was specifically commissioned for Liberty Live, Premiere Stages’ partnership with Liberty Hall Museum, and was written with this particular performance space in mind. ”At Liberty Hall” marks the second iteration of the “Liberty Live” initiative. Liberty Live partners Premiere, the professional theatre in residence at Kean University, with Liberty Hall Museum, the former residence of New Jersey’s first elected governor, said Drobot.
"Every two years, Premiere commissions a New Jersey resident playwright to write a new family-friendly play celebrating New Jersey’s rich history. Proposals were solicited from writers across the state, and the 2013-2014 project specifically challenged writers to dramatize the 350th anniversaries of the founding of New Jersey and Elizabethtown. James Christy’s play was selected and developed over the past year and a half, and had a staged reading at Premiere in November 2013. New Jersey has such a rich and varied history, and we are particularly interested in developing new work that brings that history to life. Jim has done a really wonderful job in finding the parallels between Cristian and Alexander Hamilton’s journeys, and their time-bending friendship exemplifies the unlimited possibilities of the American experience," Drobot elaborated.
On October 19, 1796 an editorial appeared in The Gazette of the United States, written by someone claiming the alias Phocion. In this editorial Phocion accused Thomas Jefferson of having an affair with his slave Sally Hemings. (Phocion was the alias used by Alexander Hamilton who wrote 25 editorials for the Gazette using that pen name). This was the first time that Jefferson was specifically accused of sleeping with one of his slaves. (In 1792 an editorial charged him with sleeping with “his concubine”, but didn’t specify who that concubine might be.)
There are certain conservative elements in America who like to pretend that talking about Jefferson’s affair with Hemings is something that only revisionist (where revisionist means leftist or socialist) historians have done and it’s a recent trend to tarnish the legacy of America’s Founding Fathers.
Nothing in politics is old, and Jefferson was being accused of this affair quite early on.
This cartoon was published in 1804 and portrays Jefferson as a cock and Hemings as the rooster. The cock was a symbol of revolutionary France, and Jefferson was often accused of unduly favoring France in foreign relationships
Federalist vs. Democratic-Republican Ideologies, from around 1790-1812
This is a general reference, since the biggest differences came from regional clashes: for instance, northern Republicans really supported their own party banks, and you weren’t likely to find too many antislavery southern Federalists.
Everyone, except for a few British generals riding desks in London, knew that with Yorktown’s surrender on October 19th the War in America was over. Like Viet Nam in America two hundred years later, the average Englishman had turned against it.
But what of the Americans loyal to the Crown? Does anyone remember the fall of Saigon in April of 1975? It was much like Saigon in Yorktown on October 20, 1781. There was a very serious attempt by the American command to hold all loyalists as traitors and punish them accordingly. The British had promised all slaves who escaped and came to their lines to work would be granted freedom. Former slaves were in a worse position than the average loyalist, who might get off with a fine and incarceration, as they would be returned to slavery.
Then there was the special case of Tarleton’s legion, all of whom were Americans and hated for the supposed atrocities committed during the Southern Campaign. The Americans most certainly wanted to hang Tarleton and his men.
Washington had agreed Cornwallis could keep the Bonita, a sloop of war, to convey messages to British forces elsewhere in the Colonies. On October 20, Thomas Nelson informed Cornwallis that slaves and loyal residents were attempting to take refuge aboard the ship. Cornwallis ignored the letter. Not only that, he arranged for as many slaves as possible and the entirety of Tarleton’s Legion to be evacuated from Yorktown to New York before the Americans caught on to the plan.
Cornwallis was finally exchanged for Henry Laurens, an American diplomat who was the last prisoner held in the Tower of London.
For most of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries white male historians and biographers dominated Jefferson scholarship. During the post-war period, Dumas Malone and Merrill Peterson were the most important Jefferson biographers. Both men, based at Jefferson’s University of Virginia, dismissed the Sally Hemings “legend”. Peterson believed that the story of the Jefferson-Hemings liaison had been fostered by Jefferson’s political enemies, embraced in the mid-nineteenth century by abolitionists and perpetuated in the twentieth century by African Americans pursuing a “pathetic wish for a little pride.” In 1970 Peterson articulated what has been called the “character defense” to dismiss the story. He wrote, “The evidence, highly circumstantial, is far from conclusive, however, and unless Jefferson was capable of slipping badly out of character in hidden moments at Monticello, it is difficult to imagine him caught up in a miscegenous relationship.” In other words the relationship between Jefferson and Hemings was impossible because it would have been completely out of character for Jefferson to have had sex with one of his slaves. Although such relationship were commonplace in the slave South, Jefferson was too good to engage in such behavior.
Merrill Peterson did not invent the character defense. Jan Ellen Lewis has persuasively argued that Jefferson’s white descendants, particularly his daughter Martha and his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, perpetuated the view that their ancestor was too good to have had a sexual relationship with Sally Hemings. Two of Martha’s children - Jefferson’s grandchildren - Thomas Jefferson Randolph and Ellen Wayles Coolidge went so far as to identify their cousins Peter and Samuel Carr as the likely fathers of Sally Hemings’s children, shifting the focus from their virtuous grandfather by providing morally flawed alternatives. The Carr brothers - Jefferson’s nephews - remained the favored candidates as potential fathers for Sally Hemings’s children throughout the twentieth century. In a closely argued essay written in 1960, which privileged an account by Monticello overseer Edmund Bacon, Douglass Adair sough to “prove” that Peter Carr rather than Jefferson was the father of Hemings’s children. He refused to accept Madison Hemings’s memoir, declaring, “Such behavior is completely at variance with Jefferson’s known character, revealing a hypocrisy, a gross insensitivity and a callous selfishness that he conspicuously lacked, whatever other failings are credited to him.” Adair found it unthinkable that Jefferson “the great Virginian” could have fathered Sally Hemings’s children. The “character defense” is a tautology: Jefferson was a great and good man therefore he could not have had a relationship with Sally Hemings because he was too good to engage in such behavior.
Dumas Malone, who spent the best part of four decades writing his massive six-volume biography of Jefferson, generally regarded as authoritative, also accepted the character defense as an explanation for the “miscegenation legend” and suggested that Jefferson tragically bore in silence the human burdens produced by the irresponsible sexual activities of his various relatives that were wrongly attributed to him. For most of the twentieth century the interpretation promoted by Malone and Peterson shaped and reflected the views of academic historians on the Jefferson-Hemings question. The character defense rests on the implied inferiority of Sally Hemings and her children. As Annette Gordon-Reed wrote, after DNA testing confirmed the relationship, “Traditional Jefferson scholars were simply ill-equipped to see the humanity of blacks as equal to that of Jefferson and his white family.”
I currently don’t sell anything and as long as you don’t profit from the images I don’t mind if you use them to give as gifts. And thank you :)
While I understand their importance, I am immediately skeptical of history books written for small children.