10 Things “Hamilton” Changed Or Exaggerated From Real Life

10 Things “Hamilton” Changed Or Exaggerated From Real Life

Angelica was actually the one who put that comma in the wrong place!


Burr was not Charles Lee’s second in the Lee/Laurens duel (but Hamilton was Laurens’ second).


One of the bigger creative liberties the musical takes is having Hamilton and Burr cross paths very often, especially early in life. For example, there’s no evidence that Hamilton approached Burr to defend the new Constitution, and Burr most likely did not attend Hamilton’s wedding, since it took place in a somewhat small parlor room in the Schuyler mansion.


Washington didn’t send Hamilton home after their quarrel. Rather, Hamilton quit his position on Washington’s staff.


In fact, their initial argument was about something much more trivial than Hamilton wanting a command. As Hamilton told it, Washington had called on him but he stopped to talk to Lafayette along the way, leaving the general waiting for 10 minutes. When Hamilton arrived, Washington was angry and told Hamilton that he treated him “with disrespect,” so Hamilton responded, “I am not conscious of it Sir, but since you have thought it necessary to tell me, so we part.”

Hamilton stayed on camp (but in a different building) for two more months and the two corresponded mostly by letter. Hamilton asked by letter one more time for a command, and when Washington refused, he quit.


There are more than “10 duel commandments.” In fact, there are 25!


The Code Duello was decided upon in Ireland in 1777 and was generally adopted throughout England and in the States. It contains 25 rules for dueling, which cover everything from who must apologize first to who loads the guns.


Angelica Schuyler was already married by the time she met Hamilton.


Angelica had already married John Church and had even had two children by the time she and Hamilton met. However, Ron Chernow notes in his biography of Hamilton that the two were almost definitely attracted to each other and wrote flirtatious letters.


It was Angelica who misplaced a comma in her letter, and Hamilton teasingly called her out for it.


In the play, Angelica sings about how Hamilton wrote “My dearest, Angelica” with a comma after dearest. In real life, Angelica was the one who wrote to Hamilton, “Indeed my dear, Sir if my path was strewed with as many roses.” Hamilton responded, writing, “There was a most critical comma in your last letter. It is my interest that it should have been designed; but I presume it was accidental. Unriddle this if you can. The proof that you do it rightly may be given by the omission or repetition of the same mistake in your next.” He teasingly ended that letter with, “Adieu ma chere, soeur,” which translates to, “Goodbye my dear, sister.” With a comma after “dear,” of course.


Considering how much he wrote, Hamilton wasn’t all that outspoken about slavery.


There’s very good evidence that Hamilton opposed slavery on moral grounds, as he was one of the founding members of the New York Manumission Society, which sought to emancipate enslaved people in New York. And in his letter to John Jay in support of John Laurens’ plans for Black battalions during the war, Hamilton wrote that, “… the dictates of humanity and true policy equally interest me in favour of this unfortunate class of men,” when suggesting that slaves should be able to earn their freedom by fighting against the British.

However, considering how much Hamilton wrote, he mentioned slavery fairly infrequently. This may have been because so many people that he worked with or was related to were slaveholders: He married into the Schuyler family (his father-in-law, Philip Schuyler, enslaved people) and became associated with influential slaveholders like George Washington. Additionally, there is a record of a transaction in which Hamilton paid his father-in-law for the purchase of two slaves, though it’s unclear whether Hamilton made that transaction for himself or on the behalf of Angelica and her husband. Additionally, Hamilton opposed abolishing slavery outright while the US Constitution was being settled, since he knew it would erode support for the Constitution from southern states. Considering how close he was to so many slaveholders and how he was quiet on the issue when it was politically inconvenient, it would probably be disingenuous to call him an abolitionist.


Martha Washington (probably) did not name a feral tomcat after Hamilton.


The original source of this rumor seems to be the “Diary of Captain Smythe,” which was supposedly a personal journal of a British captain. Even if this was a real diary from a real British soldier, the quote about Washington’s cat is part of a very clearly satirical passage mocking the Revolutionaries and shouldn’t be taken seriously. However, the rumor caught on and was reported in other places in later years. While it’s not impossible that the Washingtons had a cat named after Hamilton, the original source indicates that it was always just a joke.


Hamilton (probably) didn’t punch the bursar.


In Lin-Manuel Miranda’s book Hamilton: The Revolution, he wrote that biographer Ron Chernow argued against this line, saying that Hamilton “wasn’t needlessly violent.” But the rhyme between “Burr, sir,” “blur, sir,” and “bursar” was just “too good to pass up.”


Jefferson, Madison, and Burr weren’t the ones who discovered Hamilton’s affair with Maria Reynolds.


It was actually Frederick Muhlenberg, who then notified James Monroe and Abraham B. Venable. Of course, introducing three new characters into the play at this point would’ve been a lot to handle, so it was changed to the “Washington on Your Side” trio.


Hamilton might not have aimed at the sky in his duel with Burr.


According to accounts in the papers, both men “fired in succession,” but the people in attendance didn’t agree how long it took before the two men shot at each other. Hamilton had stated in advance to others that he intended to throw away his shot, so he may have aimed wide on purpose, or he may have accidentally fired when Burr’s shot hit him.

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