Hamilton Summary

Hamilton Summary

Act I

The musical opens with a summary of Alexander Hamilton’s childhood, describing how a series of misfortunes led Alexander to leave his home in the Caribbean and sail to America to get an education. The ambitious, young Hamilton seeks out Aaron Burr and asks for advice on obtaining an accelerated course of study. When Burr tells him not to talk so much, Hamilton criticizes Burr for not having definite opinions. The two are joined by John Laurens, Hercules Mulligan, and Marquis de Lafayette. All except Burr think about the imminent Revolution, cheering, “raise a glass to freedom.”

We are introduced to the Schuyler sisters, who are in downtown New York City, enjoying the excitement of the revolution. Aaron Burr hits on Angelica, but she shuts him down. She then states that she has been reading Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, and is looking for a “revelation.” She expresses a desire for female equality.

Loyalist Samuel Seabury condemns the Continental Congress (and all patriots in general), but Hamilton criticizes Seabury’s condemnations. A message from King George III arrives at America, telling the colonists that he will do whatever he needs to do to keep the colonies under his control. The King sends General Howe and 30,000 troops to the New York harbor.

General George Washington recognizes that the colonists are at a severe disadvantage to the British troops. He is frustrated that the rebel troops keep retreating. Hamilton steals the English troops’ canons, showing that he is willing to take risks and break the rules for the sake of America. Aaron Burr introduces himself to Washington, offering assistance and advice, but ends up offending Washington by criticizing the current state of the colonial troops. Washington asks Hamilton to help him with war plans. Alexander recruits John Laurens, Hercules Mulligan, and Lafayette to aid the rebellion. He sets Mulligan up on the British side as a spy and writes to Congress to convince them to send supplies. He wants to use the element of surprise to defeat the British.

Sometime later, Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton are at a winter ball, and Burr tells Hamilton that if he marries a Schuyler sister he would be rich. Elizabeth (Eliza) Schuyler sees Hamilton and falls in love at first sight. She tells her sister, Angelica, that Alexander is the one, so Angelica introduces them. Alexander and Eliza write love letter for the next two weeks, and then become engaged.

On the day of the wedding, Angelica reveals to the audience that that she is in love with Alexander, but gave him to Eliza because he was poor and she was expected to marry rich, and because she knew Eliza was in love with him. As Hamilton’s friends congratulate Hamilton on his marriage, they ask Burr about a woman he has “on the side.” Burr admits that he loves a woman who is married to a British officer. Hamilton tells him to go after her, but Burr says he is “willing to wait for it.” Burr compares his life to Hamilton’s, noting that “Hamilton faces an endless uphill climb,” and he “wastes no time,” but Burr will wait to see what his own purpose is before acting.

Later, the American troops are dangerously low in supplies. Washington plans a surprise, night-time attack against the British. They are hoping for French aid. Washington makes Charles Lee second in command, but Lee proves unable to lead an army. Lee criticizes Washington, so John Laurens challenges Lee to a duel (though Washington clearly forbade it). Laurens shoots Lee in the side, so Lee yields. Washington is upset with Hamilton (who acted as Laurens’ number two). Hamilton insists that he should be in charge of a battalion, but Washington disagrees, saying it is too risky and that he need Hamilton to stay alive. Washington sends Hamilton home.

Eliza admits that she is pregnant and that she wrote to Washington, asking him to send Hamilton home. She expresses that Alexander is enough for her, but she wishes she could be enough for him.

Lafayette secures aid from France. The colonists will be able to defeat the British at Yorktown, but need Hamilton. Washington invites Hamilton back, and offers troops for him to lead.

1781 – The Battle of Yorktown. Hamilton, believing the possibility of a stray, accidental gunshot too risky, orders his men to remove the bullets from their guns as they make a surprise attack. After a week of fighting, the British surrender. As the British troops are escorted out of Yorktown, they sing a drinking song that goes, “The world turned upside down.” King George challenges America: “What comes next?” He tells them they don’t know how to lead or be independent.

Aaron Burr, who has married the woman he loves, meets his first and only child, a daughter named Theodosia (named after the mother.) Simultaneously, Hamilton meets his son, Philip. The two parents make similar comments, both expressing hope that they can build a country their respective child can “come of age with.” Both return to New York to study law, but Hamilton progresses much further and faster than Burr. Hamilton becomes a lawyer and works on the very first murder trial in America as an independent nation. Hamilton is chosen to participate in the Constitutional Convention. He shows up at Burr’s house in the middle of the night, asking if he would help defend the new constitution, admitting that Burr is a better lawyer than he. When Burr refuses to help write the Federalist Papers, Alexander calls him out for never having opinions and always standing to the side. Later, Hamilton recruits John Jay and James Madison to help write the Papers. Washington asks Hamilton to run the National Treasury Department. Angelica tells Alexander that she has married a rich (though boring) man, and is spending time with him in London for a while.

Act II

We meet Thomas Jefferson, who has been the ambassador to France. He returns to his home in Monticello. Washington asks him to be the Secretary of State; he is already Senate approved by time he returns. He goes to New York City and James Madison asks him to help stop Hamilton’s financial plan, which, he believes, would allow too much government control. Hamilton wants the federal government to “assume stat debts and establish a national bank.” Jefferson and Hamilton debate the plan. Jefferson argues that since some states, such as Virginia, already paid their war debts, they shouldn’t have to pay for other states’ debts too. He also points out that America just escaped a government with too many taxes, why would they want to establish federal taxes in America? Hamilton responds that assuming the debts would make America wealthier in the long run. He then condemns Jefferson for supporting slave labor in the South. Washington tells Hamilton he needs to find a compromise and gain more Congressional approval, or he will most likely be asked to leave Washington’s cabinet.

Eliza implores Alexander to take a break from work. She and Angelica are going upstate for the summer and they want him to join them. Hamilton insists that he can’t vacation with them because he needs to get his plan through Congress.

When Eliza and Angelica are gone for the summer, Hamilton meets Maria Reynolds, who appeals to Hamilton for help because she is being mistreated by her husband. Alexander lends her some money and walks her home. She offers herself to Hamilton and, although he prays for God to help him say no, the two begin an affair that lasts for a month. Hamilton receives a letter from Maria’s husband, James Reynolds, in which Reynolds blackmails Hamilton. Alexander pays James Reynolds to not tell anyone (especially Eliza) about the affair.

Later, Hamilton, Jefferson, and Washington have a private meeting to discuss Hamilton’s financial plan. Jefferson and Washington agree to the plan, as long as the national capital, which was in New York City at the time, is moved further south (right above Virginia, to modern-day Washington D.C.). Aaron Burr bemoans that he wishes he could have been in the room when and where the deal took place. James Madison, who was working with Jefferson, gets the votes Hamilton needs to push his deal through Congress.

Aaron Burr replaces Eliza’s father, Philip Schuyler, in the Senate, switching to the Democratic Republican Party to do so. Hamilton considered it a personal attack, but Burr insisted he was only taking an opportunity to advance his career.

Congress debates whether or not to aid French citizens in their Revolutionary War. Jefferson argues that France provided aid during the American Revolution and America promised to aid France. He furthers his argument, saying that France did not ask for land, only help with their revolution. Hamilton counters that France is too much of a mess, so getting involved could destroy America. He also argues that America received aid from and signed a treaty with the King, who is now dead, not the rebelling people. Washington agrees with Hamilton that the people don’t know who will lead them, making the situation too dangerous. Jefferson accuses Hamilton of betraying Lafayette. Burr, Jefferson, and Madison are upset that Hamilton “got Washington in his pocket.” The three agree to try and find some dirt on Hamilton by following the money to and from the treasury to see where it goes.

Washington tells Hamilton that Jefferson resigned to run for president and that Washington is stepping down. John Adams becomes president and fires Hamilton. Hamilton publishes a response, in which he criticizes Adams. Burr, Jefferson, and Madison find payments to James Reynolds, which, they believe, are evidence of some sort of illegal political/monetary gain. Hamilton proves to the men that he did not spend the treasury’s money and that he was paying to cover a sex-scandal, but, worried about what they could do with that information, he publishes “The Reynolds Pamphlet,” in which he admits to the affair. Angelica confronts Alexander about the pamphlet, telling him she stands by Eliza. Eliza burns the letters she wrote to Alexander to keep her privacy and to write herself out of the historical “narrative.”

Later, Philip Hamilton is a young adult who is vehemently proud of his family and his father. When he hears that George Eacker criticized his father, Philip challenges him to a duel. Alexander tells Philip to fire his gun in the air. At the duel, Philip starts to do as his father said, but Eacker fires before the count of ten, hitting Philip right above the hip. Eliza and Alexander are both at Philip’s side when he dies. After the tragedy, the two reconcile.

The Election of 1800 – Americans are disappointed with Adams’ presidency. Jefferson and Burr both run against him. Since it is clear that Adams will not be president, the race is between Jefferson and Burr. Madison suggests that Jefferson should try and get an endorsement from Hamilton. Burr openly campaigns against Jefferson, something unheard of at the time. When the time comes, the Federalist Party looks at Hamilton to see which way they should vote. Hamilton endorses Jefferson, stating, “Jefferson has beliefs, Burr has none.” Upset, Burr challenges Hamilton to a duel.

At the duel, Burr is paranoid that Hamilton is out to kill him. He notes that Hamilton “methodically fiddled with the trigger,” and was wearing his glasses “to take deadly aim.” Though Hamilton points his gun at the sky like the way he told his son to, Burr shoots him. In a soliloquy, Hamilton contemplates the legacy he leaves behind and his immanent death. Burr regrets killing Hamilton, saying, “the world was wide enough for both Hamilton and me.” Both Eliza and Angelica were at Hamilton’s side when he died.

The musical ends with Eliza telling the story of the founding fathers and doing everything she can to hold onto what is left of Alexander Hamilton.

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