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tv   Charlie Rose  PBS  March 16, 2016 12:00pm-1:01pm PDT

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>> rose: welcome to the program. the ides of march are upon us as five states vote this evening in their primaries. tonight we bring you alexander hamilton, the man, history and hip-hop musical inspired by it. we talked to historian ron chernow. this was taped at the new york historical society in september. you and i both know alexander hamilton, the huge things he gave to the country are clearly his legacy. >> yeah. >> rose: but are both of these men known for as much as of the fact that there was this dual as any other aspect in the public imagination? >> in the public imagination, henry adams said this was the most dramatic moment in the early history of the republic, so they both ended up being defined by this moment, by the
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duel, and i hope between my biography and the spectacular show that people are going to realize that alexander hamilton, his accomplishments were so extraordinary and that he was a major founder on par with washington and jefferson and madison and we owe him a tremendous debt. i think he gave us the economic and financial maturity at the outset of the country that really enabled the federal government to succeed, that enabled the constitution to succeed. there was no announcement this combination of financial, legal, tech no contract skills and political theory to have done what he did as the first treasure sector. people often ask me, you believe
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your great man or woman theory of history? i said if you look at alexander hamilton, it's very hard to ive at that moment you could was have popped into that job and have done the job that he did. >> rose: alexander hamilton when we continue. funding for charlie >> rose: funding for "charlie rose" has been provided by: >> and by bloomberg, a provider of multimedia news and information services worldwide. captioning sponsored by rose communications >> rose: you're one of the biographers of people who shaped this country, not just politicians but business people as well. what brought you to hamilton?
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>> it seems comical now but at the time i started working on him, hamilton was the neglected and misunderstood founding father. he seemed to be fading into historical absecurety, which seems strange now that his name is up on the marquee of the broadway show. >> rose: and everyone wants to know more about him. >> absolutely. i thought hamilton's story was the most dramatic of any of the founding fathers. he was the only one not born in the original 13 colonies. here's a story of a penniless, orphaned, immigrant kid who comes out of nowhere and sets the world on fire, and his achievements were absolutely monumental. >> rose: before his achievements, you say he came out of nowhere. where is nowhere? >> he was born on the island ofevis, he spent his adolescents on st. croix and had a ghastly childhood. his father abandoned the family
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when alexander was is 1, his mother died when he was 13. he was farmed out to a first cousin who committed suicide a year late around was working as an impoverished clerk on st. croix when a killer hurricane hits the island. he publishes a description of it in a local paper that's so brilliant that the local merchants suddenly recognized this prodigy in their h midst and take up a collection to educate him in north america. when he came to north america, he didn't know a soul. was very smart.ry smart.letters you know, in fact, alexander hamilton was someone who radiated genius, if you spent even a few minutes in his company, you would be aware this is one of the most remarkable people you'd ever met. so he comes to what was then north america. he goes to preparatory school in new jersey, goes to kings college now in columbia in lower
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manhattan and acquires a series of powerful patrons. people seem to instantly recognize the genius of this young man. he had tremendous energy, charm, ambition, and, so, he immediately begins to soar in this new world but didn't know a soul when he came here. >> rose: whom did he meet? he met william livingston and alias bootenou, all of the generals immediately tried to recruit hamilton on to their staff. hamilton knew post-war glory would not go to fern who had written the most beautiful letters in the war but the person who was a battlefield hero. so when washington asked him to be his aide decamp and military secretary. he knew he couldn't resist that. >> rose: he knew that could be parlayed into a battlefield command. >> yes, but even though hamilton
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had immense respect for george washington, he was chafing throughout the revolutionary war because he wants his own command and becomes a source of friction with washington. >> rose: washington need him. washington needed someone to write letters instead of fight battles. george washington had 14 political masters and 13 state governors, so an immense correspondence. once the french were allies, hamilton not only handled the correspondence in english but also in french. >> rose: as a biographer he was easy to write about because he wrote so much? >> he wrote so much. in fact, alexander hamilton was a human word machine. he never lived to see the age of 50 but left behind 32 very thick volumes of papers. his editor at columbia university press harold syric
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used to joke he wand to dedicate the volumes to aaron burr, without which the project would have never been completed nu he didn't write about his youth? >> he wrote at length about everything under sun but never wrote a single line about his years in the caribbean, which constituted the first third of his life. he really tried to sla unpleasant stuff. alexander hamilton had often terrible judgment. he made glaring blunders in his life, particularly entering into
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this completely misguided afire with mariah reynolds in. ththe summer of 1771, hamilton s at home in philadelphia. a luring 23-year-old woman mariah reynolds spilled out a pathetic story how she'd been abandoned by her husband who'd taken up with another woman and asked hamilton for money. hamilton said he would bring money to the rooming house tonight. hamilton later wrote about what happened. he said in the evening i put a bank bill in my pocket and went to the rooming house, inquired for mrs. reynolds and was shown upstairs at the head of which she met me and conducted me to a bedroom. i took the bill out of my pocket and gave it to her. conversation ensued from which it was quickly apparent that other than pecuniary consolation would be acceptable. he had a way with words in the
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18th century and that was the start of the infamous reynolds scandal. not long afterwards, hamilton's wife eliza took the children to washington to stay in the schuyler mansion and hamilton started bringing reynolds into the house. hamilton was the treasure secretary, prime minister, controversial man. and in this little town he's shuffling back and forth between his house and mrs. reynolds' rooming house and having this affair. it was extraordinarily reckless and risky. >> rose: why was he so reckless and risky? >> i think there had to have been an element of sexual compulsion because very quickly who appears but mr. james reynolds, and far from ending the affair with his wife, begins to blackmail hamilton. >> rose: and he pays. and hamilton pays. and this goes on for a year before hamilton can finally wean
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himself away from this relationship and, gradually, the word got out among the jeffersonians what happened. they misunderstood it at first because they became aware that hamilton was making payments to a mr. james reynolds. they were convinced hamilton was corrupt which he was not. they said, ah-ha, he's paying money to james reynolds who is secretly speculating the treasury securities with inside information from hamilton, which is later on why information wrote a 95 page pamphlet and made the declaration saying the charge against me is in connection with james reynolds for purposes of improper pecuniary speculation. my real prime is an amorous connection with his wife, with considerable time with his knowledge and connivance, if not regally brought on in
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combination of husband and wife to extort money from me. as soon as james reynolds started black mailing him, he knew he was risking his marriage, career and everything. the affair was not revealed in the press until five years after the fact. >> rose: he also knew what he was dealing with. he was dealing with a woman who was a prostitute. >> who was a prostitute, who must have been extraordinarily alluring. hamilton made the statement, the variety and shapes which this woman could assume with and said she was quite an actress and every time he talked about ending the relationship she would fly into hysterics. hamilton says in the pamphlet that he thought her affection for him may have been genuine, at least one part of her. >> rose: ah... so he thought she had become genuinely attracted to him and wasn't just a pecuniary -- >> and he admitted this appealed to his vanity, and, so, he
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deceived himself that there might actually be some love involved there. then at one point in the pamphlet he said he decided on a gradual discontinuance of the affair,. >> rose: would withdraw slowly. >> as we all know, anyone who has an addiction, that this just becomes the cover story for further indulgence of the addiction. >> rose: but was this the only affair of his life? >> the only one we're certain of. there was a lot of speculation hamilton may have been having an aa fair with his sister-in-law angelica schuyler, who was extremely beautiful and elegant and sophisticated. but if you don't have any definite proof, and i'm somewhat doubtful of it simply because angelica was extremely close with sister eliza, hamilton's wife. the entire schuyler family
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adored alexander hamilton and if they felt he was having an affair with eliza's sister they wouldn't have adored him. >> rose: this is a pamphlet of some 900 pages. is this a way people communicated? >> this is a highly verbal air ray where fewer politicians were expected to write essays and pamphlets, almost a preferred form of political warfare. so hamilton would have felt comfortable publishing in pamphlet form. this was a literate generation of politicians. >> rose: observations on certain documents contained in number five and six of the year 1796 in twi charge of speculation against alexander hamilton, late secretary of the treasury, is fully refuted, written by himself. 1797. >> you know why he put that
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written by himself, because most of the writing that hamilton did in the press was anonymous using roman pseudonym. so this was a novelty and i think he knew the impact that would have, he wasn't hiding behind a pseudonym. this was i alexander hamilton am publishing this statement. added power to it. >> rose: he had an interesting experience back in the island, because he saw slavery first hand. >> he saw slavery first hand. he was working at trading house where once a year they'd import 200 or 300 slaves from west africa and slavery was particularly brutel in the caribbean. when they arrived on the sugar islands, their life expecty was only three to five years so turned hamilton into an abolitionist during the revolutionary war. he championed the cause for nine
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slave who wanted to pick up a musket for the revolutionary war and joint the abolition n.i.s. society. he saw what happens to slaves who ran away, their hands and feet would be cut off. it was really a very terrible experience. >> rose: he wrote his way off the island. >> absolutely. he wrote his way off the island through this letter he published about the hurricane and came to north america armed with a few letters of introduction to powerful people. hamilton was so impressive. >> rose: why was that? alexander hamilton was someone who sparkled in person. he was so verbal and charming and outgoing. he sparkled in print. he was always spouting all the time. >> rose: smart words. very smart. >> rose: observations on
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everything. >> yeah. >> rose: opinions on everything. >> he came to north america and he didn't have a title, he didn't have land, he didn't have slaves, he didn't have a family, he had no claim to fame. he had a top-notch brain, he had a magical facility of language which he used at every point in his life. >> rose: but he appreciated the powers, the confidence and the brain and presence he had and gave him confidence even to the point of taking risk. >> he had an almost overwheeling confidence, took dangerous scandals sometimes as in the affair with mariah reynolds, but the achievements i think were all built on a fragile psychological base that there was an underlying insecurity about him. he had had such an abnormal
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childhood. also, he was illegitimate. what the stigma was in the 18th century to being illegitimate and whenever anyone accused him of that, he went berserk, so in spite of the great show of confidence, under the surface, i think he was a troubled and insecure individual you mentioned george washington but aaron burr and thomas jefferson became friends as well. >> burr was probably the first friend hamilton made when he came to the north american colonies. aaron burr tried to get a spot on george washington's staff. after the war, they were on wall street. start their careers as lawyers at the same time. >> rose: same firm?
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no, but there were cases they argued on the same side and cases that they argued opposing each other but they were considered the two bright young lawyers in new york. >> rose: but different in many ways. >> different in many ways. hamilton was someone who was constantly spouting opinions deeply principled, very, very interested not only in politics but in policy. aaron burr was someone who played things close to the best, was always reluctant to commit himself to any opinion. he was afraid if he went on the record with any opinion that someone would come after him and he couldn't change -- >> rose: sounded like the modern-day politician. >> very much, whereas hamilton was very outspoken and very fearless. burr was extremely discreet. >> rose: hamilton sounds like donald trump. >> well, it's interesting because hamilton's enemies thought he was this character. in the five years he spent
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writing the book, found he was opposite and could never keep his mouth shut and his opinions to himself. his life and thoughts were an open book. >> rose: so everybody could see everything about him. >> and what he believed in, he believed in very, very deeply and was willing to fight for those things. >> rose: did he admire thomas jefferson? >> that's a hard one to say. i think, certainly, you know, he admired jefferson as a political philosopher and as the main author of the declaration of independence. >> rose: so he was a write arse well. >> yes. >> rose: talent with a pen, great mind, interested in the world around them. >> there was certainly mutual respect. but there was a clash of personalities. jefferson was a very portly, society of -spoken virginian. jefferson did not like
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confrontation. hamilton loved confrontation and had a sers for political combat. thomas jefferson, if you said something that disagreed with his politics, he wouldn't challenge you on it, he would just make a mental note, record it in his secret diary and get back at you later. alexander hamilton would immediately confront you and he loved to debate in person and on paper. but i think the split between jefferson and hamilton is on the one hand a political split, a debate we're having. jefferson represented weak central governor, low taxes. hamilton represented strong central government, liberal interpretation. >> rose: and urban-rural, too. absolutely. jeffersonen foresaw an america that had traditional agriculture in small towns.
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hamilton saw banks, large cities, in other words, a country that looks very much like the country we inhabit today. signing it was likely hamilton who was the profit of america's future rather than jefferson when it came to the economy. >> rose: and what was washington's observessization of both -- observation of both of them? >> washington saw quickly they had opposing views. washington did not want monolisting views in his cabinet. he welcomed the interplay of ideas. he had respect for both of them and thought they were both necessary and spurred to realize how deep and bitter the animosity between them came. he was quite startled when he realized it was almost pathological, the infighting in washington's cabinet between these to men. and he appealed to both men to be civilized in the way that they were treating eacher, but
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by that point things had gone beyond -- >> rose: we're talking about who are at what age now? washington? >> washington was, you know, 25, 30 -- 20 years older han hamilton. jefferson was 12 years older than hamilton. >> rose: he was very young. he was very, very young. >> rose: from the other people shaping the country. >> hamilton is really the boy wonder of the american revolution. so he's 22 when he becomes washington's aide decamp and chief of staff of the revolution. only 34 years old when he becomes treasury secretary. and hamilton treasury department with the customs inspectors and revenue collectors were larger than the government combined. jefferson starts at the state department with half a dozen people. hamilton starts with hundreds of people because the most
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important thing, the country was bankrupt. we had to collect revenue. that's why hamilton was more like the prime minister than merely a treasury secretary. >> rose: was his ambition to be president? >> his ambition i think certainly was to be president. a lot of people imagined that because he was foreign-born that he could not be, but in the constitution it says that you have to be at least 35 years old, native born or a citizen of the united states for at least 14 years at the time of the ratification of the constitution. hamilton had been here for 15 years, so actually he could have been president. it was the one prize that he didn't get. >> rose: do you believe these men thought of themselves as immortal? that they thought and understood that they were hi historic characters? >> i think absolutely they did. it's interesting, i wrote a biography of george washington, in the middle of the revolution
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when he was complaining to the continental congress he needs more manpower and money that he gets a special appropriation from the congress to hire secretary to create a beautiful edition of wartime papers and when the revolution over at great expense he buys these large trunks in order to ship all the papers back to mount vernon. he didn't let them travel by water. he knew his place in history. they were very aware they were making history. >> rose: but at the same time he had some sense that he should give it up after two terms. >> well, washington actually, when he became president, he thought he would serve as a yeat or two, resign, establish the validity of the new government and move on. then one crisis after the other. >> rose: does that mean washington didn't have the ambition the rest of them had? >> washington was very ambitious but felt he already sacrificed so much of his life to the cause. in fact, during the eight and a half years of the revolutionary war, george washington only saw
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mount vernon once three days before the battle of yorktown. >> rose: did everybody know about hamilton's affair? >> gradually the word got out, so it was known in jeffersonian circles, but the risks hamilton was taking were extraordinary because it happened in philadelphia, the population of philadelphia at the time was about 35,000, 40,000 people. hamilton was slipping out in the flight, going a block or two away to mrs. reynolds boarding house, very often because eliza and the children were at the schuyler man shun in albany, very often he brought mrs. reynolds into his own house. how could he have imagined that he would not escab detection? it wasn't like he was in new york or philadelphia today with millions of people. >> rose: you had said, it's amazing he would not have been more careful knowing the enemies he had and knowing the tenor of the times he lived in where people would eviscerate you if they had an opportunity to get
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something on you. >> charlie, we tend to think that the press is rough today, the style is rough and tumble in american politics, nowhere near where it was then. the reynolds affair was revealed by a jeffersonian hit man known as james p. calendar in 1797, and five years later when calendar wanted to get a post master job from jeffersonen and jeffersonen rebuffed him, calendar turned around and revealed jemps b's rerelationship with sally hemmings. so everything was fair game in those days. there's a certain image that americans have that the founding era, because we had these philosophy kings, that it was a golden age, and people wore wigs and buckled shoes and everyone was courtly and genteel. it wasn't like that at all. these men were passionate, argumentative and insanely opinionated. >> rose: then there was a duel. >> yes. >> rose: the long relationship
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with aaron burr. >> yes. >> rose: how could that happen? >> it's very hard for modern readers to understand dueling. dueling resolved around honor, you were protecting your honor, because alexander hamilton felt he had been born into dishonor as an illegitimate child, he was a natural convert to this whole dueling culture which was particularly prevalent among politicians which hamilton was and also among soldiers. hamilton was a major general at the time of the duel with aaron burr. it's hard for us to understand, but the duels were -- >> rose: he was major general hamilton. >> major general hamilton. >> rose: i can appreciate this is a dueling culture, it's about honor and you don't not meet the challenge. >> right. >> rose: here are two men, they're not ordinary politicians, they have a lot to lose. >> they have a lot to lose. they also thought they had a lot
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to gain. >> rose: a lot to gain? well, both burr and hamilton at that point were politicians with their careers in decline. burr was a vice president, but jefferson decided to drop burr from the ticket in 1804. burr came back to new york, tried to become a new york governor. hamilton blocked him. so burr was feeling very frustrated. seemed like at every turn alexander hamilton was there blocking his path. hamilton's career was in decline. he had been damaged by the reynolds scandal of the 1800 election. he wrote a letter to john adams that also damaged hamilton's reputation. so here were two politicians with their careers in decline, thought they'd establish their courage and manhood on the dueling ground, because these duels were conducted in secret, but the press avidly followed them afterwards. so it was interesting because
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hamilton no longer believed in dueling. he had developed a principled opposition to dueling, but he thought the republican still believed in dueling and if he spurred burr's challenge for a duel that people would consider him a coward and he would lose his value as a soldier -- >> rose: and his son died in a duel. >> his son died in a duel in new jersey two and a half years earlier and that was one reason why hamilton finally came to believe duels were barbaric but claimed the public still believed in duels. >> rose: who usually won duels, the person who could shoot the straightest? >> well, think of duels, charlie, as a violent form of conflict resolution. think of them as the 18t 18th century equivalent of a liable suit. someone slanders you. you would then send a friend who
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was a second, to try to get an apology or a retraction. so most of the so-called affairs, honor never went to the dueling ground. even at the dueling ground the objective wasn't to kill the other person because if you did, could be prosecuted as a murderer. burr was charged with murder. so the objective on the dueling ground was to try to wound the person and the second would come out and negotiate a settlement. >> rose: so you didn't soot to kill. >> you didn't shoot to kill. burr, obviously, did soot to kill, whether it was intentional or not, we don't know for certain, but we do know from a lot of anecdotal evidence that aaron burr, unlike alexander hamilton, was taking a lot of target practice in the days and weeks leading up to the duel. hamilton, according to his second, hamilton picked up a pistol a few days before the duel and just let it drop. so hamilton didn't take any target practice.
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hamilton probably had not fired a weapon since the revolutionary war. >> rose: does anything he wrote before suggest strongly or prove that he, in fact, wasted his shot and shot in the air? >> well, hamilton's second, nathaniel pendleton, verified first in that hamilton just spasmodically fired the gun. burr's second said hamilton fired first. whoever was right, the one thing everyone agreed upon including aaron burr is hamilton's bullet hit a tree branch 12 feet above the ground and 4 feet wide of burr. they're just standing ten yards apart. >> rose: only ten yards. ten yards is not very far.
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>> yeah. and, so, unless hamilton was wasting a shot, the bullet would never have gone up -- >> rose: maybe his arm came up spasmodically? >> well, you know, one scenario, if burr fired first and hamilton in excruciating pain, you know, squeezes the trigger involuntarily, wincing from pain. >> rose: but if hamilton fired first. >> if hamilton fired first, he wasted the shot because we know where the bullet went and his second actually sawed down the tree branch afterwards to preserve it. this is very, very interesting because hamilton founded the new york post. at night the editor would come to hamilton's house and hamilton would dictate editorials. this is a copy to have the new york post. the first announcement of hamilton's death. the interesting thing is -- i was going to say there were no pictures, no illustrations in those days. >> rose: this is the actual new york post. >> the actual new york post. looks a little different. but it says here that -- as in
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this writing, that alexander hamilton is still alive. but then suddenly it says, we stopped the press to announce the melancholy knowledge that general hamilton is dead. sort of a banner headline, the most they could do. >> rose: they called him general hamilton. was he known as general hamilton? >> after the revolutionary war, he was h h often called col. hamilton. hamilton loved things military so he often was called general hamilton. he became major general after jefferson was president. >> rose: what was this? a letter from aaron burr. not a particular historical -- a
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little hard to decipher. >> rose: are you an admirer of aaron burr? >> no. i think one had more sympathy with burr than i. lynn has great dramatic instings so he presents burr as an opportunist in the show. there is a way that leslie does it that there are touching and poignant moment with burr even attend after the duel, the villain in your history books. i can remember discussing with lynn early on saying to him, you know, lynn, burr being a villain will wear thin over two and a half house. >> rose: so make him interesting. >> maybe a lit more human. >> rose: what happened to burr after that? >> well, burr was charged with murder in two states, new york and new jersey. so what happened , he fled for
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sanctuary in the united states senate because he was still vice president, hence president of the senate. and while he was wanted for murder in two states, aaron burr presided over an impeachment trial of the supreme court justice in the u.s. senate. a lot of senators said what's wrong with this picture? the man presiding over this trial is wanted for murder in two states and sitting in summit on the supreme court justice and people think this style is politics is rough today. knot nearing those -- nothing near those days. >> rose: but to say alexander hamilton was suicidal would be wrong. he expected to survive. >> he expected to survive. >> rose: he had a lunch date. he actually had a legal appointment not long after the duel. he was argue ago landmark case anded ha a plan to write a whole series of books on history,
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political institutions. he said that series of books would be to the federalist papers what wine is to water. this was a man burning with projects. hamilton was also very depressed. his son had died in a duel, was damaged by the reynolds sex scandal. he wrote not that long before the duel, he said the shadows thicken around us as the days get older. you look at paintings of hamilton in the final years and he looks very somber and ravaged. i'm not saying he wasn't depressed, but i don't think that he was suicidal unless on some subconscious level he was. >> rose: in the play musical, women play an important part. >> a very important part. >> rose: did they play an important part in his life other than the reynolds affair in. >> i think women were always an important part in hamilton's life. remember the father had abandoned the family and father james hamilton, i think, was a
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feckless ner-do-well. his mother was a great influence on hamilton and you can see with his wife and his sister in law, he needed companionship but he needed different kinds of women. eliza good and spyre. angelica worldly and sophisticated. >> rose: was angelica the love of his life or not? >> we don't know. lynn kept the ambiguity in relationship. everyone saw the fascination and the closeness in hamilton. eliza was not interested in politics, whereas engel cay loved to talk politics. she was much more intellectual. >> rose: she was also ambitious. >> she was ambitious, socially ambitious. so i think there was a way in which she entered much more into his political world.
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eliza obviously presided over the family life. they ended up having eight children. >> rose: so here you have a man with this big brain and even bigger pen. >> yeah. >> rose: he's dead at age... by my count, 49. by others' 47. >> rose: so he's dead. everything is over. >> yeah. >> rose: did america forget him? >> well, when i tell you, charlie, his main political enemies were john adams, thomas jefferson, james madison, james monroe, i'll even throw in john quincy adams and andrew jackson, what do you notice about that list? the quickest road to white house was to be a political opponent of alexander hamilton. so history written by the victors. hamilton's party disaspears and
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hamilton disappears in 1804. so jeffersonsons were in charge of politics leading up to the civil war. a period of history that was more sympathetic to jefferson and madison and demonized hamilton. >> rose: even though his ideas about a strong federal government and an international monetary system of which the u.s. would be a part prevailed. >> absolutely, and i think he rescued us from bankruptcy. at the time the federal government started, american debt was selling for so, 15 cents on the -- for 10, 15ients on the dollar. by the time hamilton leaves as treasury secretary five years later american credit was as great as any other country in the world, our interest rates were lower than anywhere in the world. rescues us from bankruptcy, creates the first fiscal system,
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monetary system, coast guard, customs service, central bank and on and on. >> rose: his wife's death, -- his wife spent her life, 50 years, trying to make sure people don't forget alexander. >> eliza has a beautiful cuplet in the show -- i stop wasting time on tears, i live another 50 years. she lived till 97. she spoke out against slavery, roseman mony for the washington monument. gathered papers, interviewed people who had known her husband. in 1848, she attended the washington monument and in the crowd were eliza hamilton, dolly madison and one-term congressman from illinois named abraham lincoln and you could see actually the founding generation and the civil war generation at that one moment, they meet and
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touch. >> rose: wow. so you know your history and your president and your founding fathers. >> yes. >> rose: and you are a recorder of the american experience. what do you know about rap music? >> i think it's safe to say when i first med lynn i was a completeig no ray mouse about hip-hop and rap. >> rose: and about him. lynn monroe? >> rose: yeah. he invited me back late in 2008. i found out from a mutual friend lynn read the book, it made an impression on him. >> rose: what was he to you? i was vaguely aware of his name but had not seen the show. so i heard this hip-hop artist was interested in my work and i said -- >> rose: so what did you think? >> i was a little skeptical. >> rose: you are a pulitzer prize recipient. >> i was a little skeptical. he invited me to a matinee in
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the heights one day, went back stage. >> rose: what did you think of in the heights. >> i loved the show. i was very charmed by lynn as a person and said to him, i godfathegatheri made a big impr, he said as i was reading the book in mexico, a hip-hop song started rising off the page. i was flabbergasted. at that point he told me he wanted to do an album and maybe his next show would be on hamilton. >> rose: and he thought hamilton was a rapper. >> yeah. i didn't see at first, as lynn so brilliantly did, this secret subterranean connection between the life of alexander hamilton and the standard hip-hop narrative people writing their way out of poverty and kind of being combative and everything else, and i think there is something about the speed and the intensity and the volatility of alexander hamilton's life that's just uncannily writes
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hip-hop. lynn saw this all in a great blinding flash and made a believer of me. but i can remember the very first question i said was can hip-hop be the vehicle for telling this kind of story? and he said to me, ron, i'm going to educate you about hip-hop. he pointed out two very important things. he said, number one, you can pack an enormous amount of information into the lyrics and this show has so much history, it's like an advanced placement course in american history. he also pointed out how much word play there is, how much internal rhyme there is. and there is a great linguistic richness at that time and i think lynn really captured it in this idiom that combines standard 18th century english with 21st century slang. amazing. >> when you heard this as long as song, you must have been -- >> he used to send me the songs by email and he would have this psychedelic screen and i would
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key in at the key word and actually he came over to my house and sang the very first song of this show, the bastard orphan son of -- he came over to my house, sat on my couch, started snapping his fingers and sang the first song from the show. >> rose: he had you. when he finished, he said, what do you think? i said that's the most extraordinary thing i've ever heard in my life, you just condensed accurately the first 40 pages of my book into a four and a half minute song. he spent the first year just writing that first song buzz that song established this style that i think revolutionized american musical theater. he spent almost a year opened sect song. i am the sande alexander hamiltn song. >> rose: what was your role? he asked me to be the
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historical advisor so i said to him i'm here to tell you when something is in error. >> rose: he said yes, i want the hi historians to take it seriously. that was music to my ears. this show has integrity because sometimes when you see american history done by broadway or hollywood, they think it's boring. lynn monroe is smart enough to know that the best way to dramatize the story is to stick as close to the facts as possible. you can't improve on this. as time went on, we would talk about hamilton's psychology, the portraits of the different characters and relationships and i think that i had a good relationship with lynn. so i wasn't like a finger-wagging peasant standing there saying this is wrong. >> rose: a sounding board. and a life-long theater lover. so i would be looking at things not only as a historian but as a
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theater. there are so many layers of meaning in the show because lynn's writing and acting are extraordinary. but tommy's staging, andy's choreography. there's so much happening simultaneously on the stage that the first few times i saw it, i was concentrating on the principals in the foreground. as i repeated viewings, i started watching these beautiful vignettes tommy and andy created in the middle and background, commenting on all this going on on the stage. i think more than everything that's been done on hollywood or broadway, this app chiewrs, the fire, the energy, the idealism and the passion of the revolutionary era. >> rose: all actors of color. this is the extraordinary thing. i remember the first time lynn invited me to the rehearsals. i walked in, eight actors standing in front of eight music stands and the first thought are
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they're all black and latino. i sat down -- >> rose: sander cairn. and jefferson and madison. they started singing and voices were exquisite. in manhattan or two i forgot what race or ethnicity they were. >> rose: and in a minute or two you thought you were listening to jefferson and burr and hamilton -- >> and with a passion i had never seen before. i went from thinking what is lynn dining to becoming a militant in this idea of having this young multiracial cast do it. the show is simultaneously showing us who we were as a country and who we are now and these young people seem to have a feel for the founding era that no actors have had perhaps because historically blacks,
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latinos, eurasians, biracial people felt excluded. this is a history, dead white males, a lot of whom own slaves, and i think this is why this show is such a phenomenon. zits greatest advertisement for diversity we've ever had. >> rose: so in fact it's not just another musical. >> not just another -- no, this is not only a theatrical phenomenon, this is a social and political phenomenon. we've had the obamas come to see it, the clinton, cheneys, people from the political world have been flocking to it because i think it announces the arrival of a new generation not just on the stage but in american life. you know, i remember when obama was reading an article that tried to explain his selection saying more than 40% of births in the united states now are to people black, hispanic, yiewngs
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or biracial. that's the cast we see on the stage. this is the new face of america. the beautiful thing is this new face of america, people who might have felt excluded from this history before, have embraced it. i can't describe the pride this cast has felt, you know, in doing these roles. leslie who plays aaron burr said brilliantly, now my people get a piece of this history, only i don't think anyone expressed it better than he did in saying that so it's been deeply touching, to me not just to love the cast members but to see how they have embraced this piece of american history. >> rose: thank you, ron. thank you. ♪ every action the creation ♪ someone thinking past tomorrow ♪ ♪ ♪
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♪ ♪ >> rose: for more about this program and earlier episodes, visit is online at and captioning sponsored by
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rose communications captioned by media access group at wgbh >> rose: on the next charlie rose, a continuation of our conversation about politics, about america and about books and movies that may interest you. >> welcome to cuba. >> rose: thank you. you have been here a few times. >> rose: i have, several times. > >> rose: why did you want to come? >> the main reason is because we were able to come. the idea is it opened up to do a concert here. we've done concerts throughout the caribbean. i've always been fond of cuba. i have been here before and saw other persons perform.
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i thought we have to do it when we have an opportunity. we have to come here and do it. >> rose: this is an interesting month in cuba. you, president obama and the rolling stones. >> rolling stones are coming later, yeah. we beat both of them. that was the goal. >> rose: you were kicking it off. >> the pre-party before obama and the rolling stones. >> rose: you were the opening act for the president. >> yeah. >> rose: you said this is the most important show you've ever done. >> i think the pressure is on it to do something, you know -- it's kind of an amazing opportunity. i think right now i've done so many concerts, i know we have fans all throughout the world. this is a show efor the people. we were invited through cooperation of the government. very dramatic, very important, especially now when the relationship between cuba and america is so unique for the first time in 50 years that we're able to come here and do something cultural as a bridge. because everything thinks everything is about politics here, but it's actually a lot
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deeper. >> rose: loot more about culture. >> yeah. >> rose: and you met young people today. what was their curiosity? >> we did an hour doing press conference with young musicians and i was amazing how specific their questions were about distribution, about sound crowd, releasing music, record labels, about mastering music, about the sounds i use. you know, it wasn't -- kids were specific and trying to do this as a living. having access to me is like having access to the internet because they don't have it very easily here so having me there to give them simple information and simple answers huge for them. >> rose: you were a way for them to find out about how music works. >> i was surprised how much they knew, how culturally aware kids are since there is a blockade of culture reaching cuba, these kids finding ways to find things themselves. >> rose: then you lean? lean on. i was surprised a girl was
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walking around with -- we had another interview earlier and she walked out of the boom box playing it. i thought they were scripted. i couldn't believe she was playing our song. >> rose: she walked by. she knew who we were. our music speaks for ourselves. i think who we are is kind of a mystery to cuban kids. >> rose: how much recognition is there? >> not much to kids today. they were aware of who i was. a lot of kids playing, it's distributed through the channels, but usb keys and packages but they don't know who we are, it's just the sound, the music, tomorrow they'll see the whole show and get the whole experience. >> rose: is that what makes electronic dance music so universal and global. >> that it's anonymous? >> rose: that there is a sound. it's not a song, a vocal, it's a sound. >> while pop music itself relies on the people, the culture around the artist, electronic music can be made by anybody.
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you don't need a huge team to build you up, to build your album, your marketing plan. electronic music can be made on one computer, one hour, upload it to the internet and goes to the world instantly. that's what creates demand for anybody. >> rose: your dad introduce dwrowd saxophone. >> yeah, music in general. he taught me to play music when i was three years old. >> rose: is he a musician. yeah. he played with me. >> rose: how is that to have your phat there are? >> it's beautiful. i grew up, you know, "dollizing him and his friends and i used to always wish other people could hear him, not just him, but him and his friends and that whole sound of l.a. that was around when i was coming up. >> rose: you say the beauty of music is in the search. >> yeah, absolutely. i mean, music is -- it's never-ending. you know, it's basically -- you know, when you're trying to create music, you're trying to
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re-create yourself. so, like, in that, when you create music you kind of look at yourself, and you end up advancing yourself in a way. >> rose: you have described writing a song as going into a dark room to look for an unexpected treasure. >> yeah, you know, because we would -- you know, people don't realize as a musician, we take the credit, but it comes from somewhere else. >> rose: funding for charlie rose is provided by the following: >> and by bloomberg, a provider of multimedia news and information services worldwide
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♪ superstar tenor andrea bocelli travels to hollywood to perform some of the greatest melodies from the silver screen. ♪ moon river relive oscar-winning songs... ♪ wider than a mile movie musicals... ♪ maria classic themes... [ singing in italian ] and epic songs... [ singing in italian ] join us when the stars come out...


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