Hamilton – An American Musical: The Facts Behind the Music Part 17: “Blow Us All Away,” “Stay Alive (Reprise),” and “It’s Quiet Uptown”

Part seventeen will cover songs thirty-nine, forty, and forty-one: “Blow Us All Away,” “Stay Alive (Reprise),” and “It’s Quiet Uptown.”

The first line of “Blow Us All Away” is sung by Philip Hamilton: “Meet the latest graduate of King’s College.”  He then sings, “I’m only nineteen but my mind is older.”  Philip, the Hamiltons’ eldest child, graduated in 1800, although by that time King’s College had been renamed to Columbia College.[1]  He was born in January 1782, which would place this song sometime in 1801.  (This is entirely possible – he died in November of that year.)

Philip sees some women in the street and sings, “Ladies, I’m lookin for a Mr. George Eacker, made a speech last week, our Fourth of July speaker. He disparaged my father’s legacy in front of a crowd.”  George Eacker was a New York lawyer about a decade older than Philip.  Eacker, who was a supporter of Aaron Burr and of Thomas Jefferson, gave a 4th of July speech at Columbia College at the request of the Officers of the Brigade of the City and County of New York and of the County of Richmond.  In the speech, Eacker criticized the Federalist Party, and attacked their financial and military policies, which were largely Alexander Hamilton’s ideas.[2]  Chernow wrote that Philip probably wasn’t looking for Eacker, rather it was likely that he saw him by chance.[3]

One of the women told Philip, “I saw him just up Broadway a couple of blocks. He was goin’ to see a play,” and Philip says, “Well I’ll go visit his box.”  On the evening of Friday, November 20, 1801, Philip did meet Eacker at the Park Theater in New York City.  Chernow wrote that, ironically, the theater was showing a comedy entitled The West Indian.[4]  With a friend (named Price), Philip entered the box where Eacker was watching the show with a male friends and two women.[5]  Another account stated that Philip and his friend loudly ridiculed Eacker and his speech just outside of the box, hoping Eacker would overhear.  Either way, Eacker and Philip met in the lobby.  In the musical, after Philip calls out Eacker, the latter responds, “I didn’t say anything that wasn’t true. Your father’s a scoundrel, and so, it seems, are you.” Depending on which account you take as true, Eacker either attempted to ignore the men and muttered under his breath as he walked away, or Eacker agitatedly approached Philip.  Either way, the insulting word used was “rascal” and not scoundrel.[6]

In the musical, Philip tells Eacker, “See you on the dueling ground.”  According to the account given by Eacker’s friends, he told Philip and Price, “You had better make less noise; I shall expect to hear from you.”  Price soon after asked Eacker to “appoint the time and place of meeting.”  According to Philip’s friends, Eacker declared as they departed, “that he should expect to hear from them, and that if he did not, he should treat them as blackguards,’ and they assured him that he should not be disappointed.”  Philip’s friends note that Price immediately sent an invitation to Eacker.[7]

And so it was Price who first met Eacker on the dueling ground, on November 22nd, and fought a duel in which neither was injured.  They exchanged four shots and declared the matter closed.  The matter with Philip and Eacker, however, was not yet settled.  In the musical, Philip asks Alexander for advice, and the father responds, “Did your friends attempt to negotiate a peace?” John Church (Angelica’s husband and Philip’s uncle) and David Jones (a lawyer) attempted to negotiate a truce with Eacker’s second, but, according to Chernow, “Since Eacker blamed Philip Hamilton more than Price for the theater incident, he would not retract the word rascal even if Philip apologized for his rudeness.”[8]

When the father asks the son where the duel will take place, Philip replies, “Across the river in Jersey.”  Since dueling was illegal in New York, almost all participants rowed to the New Jersey side of the Hudson to fight.  This particular dueling ground was located near present-day Jersey City on a sandbar that was connected to the mainland only at low tide.[9]

In the musical, Alexander tells Philip, “Alright. So this is what you’re gonna do: Stand there like a man until Eacker is in front of you. When the time comes, fire your weapon in the air. This will put an end to the whole affair,” claiming that Eacker will “follow suit if he’s truly a man of honor.”  This is confirmed in a letter written by one of Philip’s former classmates after the duel.  Thomas Rathbone wrote to his sister: “On Monday before the time appointed for the meeting between E, & H, General Hamilton heard of it and commanded his Son, when on the ground, to reserve his fire ’till after Mr E, had shot and then to discharge his pistol in the air.”

In the play, Philip promises his father to follow his directions.  Philip’s friends, in their account, wrote that Philip “came to the determination to reserve his fire, receive that of his antagonist, and then discharge his pistol in the air.”  This was done, according to his friends, “to submit to Mr. Eacker, to decide for himself whether he would still proceed in the affair; with the intention, on the part of Mr. Hamilton to let it end there, if Mr. Eacker should then see fit to make a suitable reparation for the violent effects of his resentment.”[10]

The song ends with Philip saying “slowly and clearly aim your gun towards the sky,” and the two men readying and counting to ten.  A gunshot rings out after they reach seven.  Historically, Eacker did not fire early.  In fact, Chernow wrote, “Philip Hamilton heeded his father’s advice and did not raise his pistol at the command to fire.  Eacker followed suit, and for a minute the two young men stared dumbly at each other.  Finally, Eacker lifted his pistol, and Philip did likewise.”

Eacker shot Philip above the right hip, the bullet going through the body and lodging in his left arm. (Philip was standing sideways so as to minimize the available target for Eacker’s bullet.)  Philip’s friends wrote of him, “In the shock of the wound, his pistol went off in the air, evidently without deviation from the original resolution,” with both sides agreeing that Philip’s “dignity and poise had been exemplary.”[11]

With that, “Stay Alive (Reprise)” begins.  In this song, Philip is attended to by a doctor and his parents before his death.  Historically, Philip was “rowed with the greatest rapidity” to New York, and was brought to the home of Angelica and John Church.  Here he was attended to by a prominent physician, Dr. David Hosack.[12]

In the musical the doctor gives his opinion and Alexander asks, “Can I see him please?”  The father and son then talk.  After Alexander saw Philip’s face and tested his pulse, Hosack later wrote, “he instantly turned from the bed and, taking me by the hand, which he grasped with all the agony of grief, he exclaimed in a tone and manner that can never be effaced from my memory, ‘Doctor, I despair.’”[13] Eliza soon arrived, pregnant with their eighth child.  In the musical she asks, “Is he breathing? Is he going to survive this?”  Philip lived through the night.  Rathborne, who visited Philip, wrote to his sister, “On a Bed without curtains lay poor Phil, pale and languid, his rolling, distorted eye balls darting forth the flashes of delirium—on one side of him on the same bed lay his agonized father—on the other his distracted mother.”

By the end of the song, Philip dies, with his parents at his side in unspeakable grief.  Robert Troup wrote to Rufus King some days later, “Never did I see a man so completely overwhelmed with grief as Hamilton has been. The scene I was present at, when Mrs. Hamilton came to see her son on his deathbed…and when she met her husband and son in one room, beggars all description! Young Hamilton was very promising in genius and acquirements, and Hamilton formed high expectations of his future greatness!”

In the next song, “It’s Quiet Uptown,” “The Hamiltons move uptown and learn to live with the unimaginable;” the Hamiltons move to their home on the northern end of Manhattan Island and attempt to put their lives back together.  In reality, the Hamiltons rented a country house somewhere in Harlem Heights in the fall of 1799.  They liked the area, and between 1800 and 1803, Hamilton purchased 35 acres in Harlem.[14]  Their house was completed in 1802.  He named this country estate the Grange, which was the same as his family’s ancestral home in Ayrshire, Scotland, and of his uncle James Lytton’s plantation in St. Croix. [15]

In the musical, Hamilton sings, “I spend hours in the garden.”  To Richard Peters, a Philadelphia lawyer, judge, and the founder and first president of the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture, Hamilton wrote, “A disappointed politician you know is very apt to take refuge in a Garden.”  He asked for assistance and recommendations as well, writing similarly to Charles Cotesworth Pinckney (a South Carolinian planter, politician, and Revolutionary War veteran), “A garden, you know, is a very usual refuge of a disappointed politician. Accordingly, I have purchased a few acres about 9 Miles from Town, have built a house and am cultivating a Garden. The melons in your country are very fine. Will you have the goodness to send me some seed both of the Water & Muss Melons?”  Hamilton grew flowers, trees, fruits and vegetables.[16]

Hamilton later sings, “I take the children to church on Sunday.”  Whether or not he took them to church, Hamilton did spend more time with his children, and Chernow wrote that Hamilton liked to gather “the family in the gardens on Sunday mornings to read the Bible aloud.”[17]  Hamilton was connected to the church, although it may have been only because Eliza was more devout.  Hamilton attended Trinity Church in New York City.  He also assisted them with legal issues.  He wasn’t considered a true member, however, because he did not receive communion.  Eliza did though, and the Hamiltons did have a pew at the church.

In the musical part of the cast sings, “They say he walks the length of the city.” Manhattan Island, at its longest, is about 13 miles.  It was probably nine or ten miles from the Grange to Trinity Church.  If Hamilton walked 20-minute miles, it would take him over three hours to walk in each direction.  It’s possible for sure, but I haven’t found anything that says he did it. (Please share if you find anything.)

This song ends with “Alexander by Eliza’s side. She takes his hand.”  And forgiveness.  It will lead us to the end of the story.  The next part will cover the rest of Alexander’s short life –  “The Election of 1800,” “Your Obedient Servant,” “Best of Wives…,” and “The World Was Wide Enough,” followed by one more part covering the last song.

 

 

 

[1] The name was changed to Columbia College in 1784 after the American Revolutionary War was won.  The name changed again to Columbia University in 1813.
[2] The American Citizen, a New York City newspaper, was among the papers that reprinted extracts from Eacker’s oration.  They printed parts of the speech in their July 24th edition.  Eacker said of financial dealings, “A monied influenced, distant from the general interests of the community was created; and to prevent the murmurs of popular indignation from increasing to open complaints, a doctrine, that a public debt is a public blessing, was industriously circulated.  The specious arguments of refined sophistry gave currency to the proposition and a plan is now made, of which human reason cannot foresee all the consequences.” Of the military he said, “To suppress all opposition by fear, a military establishment was created, under pretended apprehension of a foreign invasion.  This [unreadable word], the most inauspicious to Republicanism, and hostile to Liberty, was adopted under the unfavorable crisis of public panic.”  These may sound rather mundane, but by 1801 Hamilton had endured countless attacks from all angles, and mindful of his father’s political legacy, Philip didn’t want to let it go unchallenged.
[3] Chernow 651.
[4] Chernow, 651-2.
The theater was opened in 1798 and was located at 23 Park Row.  It burned down in 1848.
[5] Chernow said that Philip and Price “barged into” the box, 652.  A note at this link states that Price may be Stephen Price, a 1799 graduate of Columbia College.
[6] Chernow wrote that “rascal was a loaded word and often the prelude to a duel” (652).
On November 30th, less than a week after Philip’s death, his “friends” published an account in the Commercial Advertiser, a New York City Newspaper.  On December 1st, Eacker’s “friends” published their side of the story in the American Citizen.  In the account given by Philip’s friends, “Mr. Eacker seized Mr. Hamilton by the collar and exclaimed, ‘I will not be insulted by a set of rascals.’ Mr. Hamilton and Mr. P[rice] severally demanded an explanation to whom he applied the epithet; no positive reply was then made.”  Upon removing to a tavern to continue the discussion, however, “Mr. Eacker avowed his meaning to be that Mr. Hamilton and Mr. P. were both ‘Rascals.’ The disputants shortly after separated.”  Eacker’s friends claimed that he was trying to ignore Philip and Price, but when their agitation did not cease, Eacker stepped into the lobby saying, “It is too abominable to be publicly insulted by a set of rascals.”  When asked “Who do you call damn’d rascals?” repeatedly by the men, Eacker apparently responded with his address, letting the men know where he could be found.  The men continued to insist on Eacker explaining himself as to who the rascals were that he referred to, and Eacker finally responded, “Well then you are both rascals.”
[7] The quotes are taken from the same two newspapers as above.
[8] Chernow, 652.
[9] Chernow, 652.
[10] Quotes are from the Commercial Advertiser, mentioned above.
[11] Chernow, 653.  The quote from Philip’s friends comes from the Commercial Advertiser.  As a side note, Eacker died a couple of years later of consumption and is buried in St. Paul’s Churchyard in New York City, blocks away from the Hamiltons.
[12] Chernow, 653.  Hosack also attended to Alexander after his duel with Burr.
[13] Chernow, 653.
[14] Chernow, 641.
[15] According to the link in the text, “The land on which Hamilton built the Grange is located between the present-day Edgecombe Avenue and Hamilton Place, and it extends from 140th Street to 147th Street.”  John McComb, Jr., a New York City architect and builder, who also designed New York City Hall and Castle Garden on the Battery, designed the building.  By 1889, Manhattan’s street grid moved north, and 143rd St. was destined to go through Hamilton’s home.  It was moved that year next to St. Luke’s Church, which purchased the building (“Hamilton’s Trees To Go,” New York Times, November 27, 1899).  The porches were removed before it was moved.  By 1900, the State of New York voted to appropriate funds to purchase the building and a plot of land that had belonged to Hamilton on Convent Ave. between 143rd and 144th Streets, near a group of elm trees planted by Hamilton (“To Buy Hamilton Grange,” New York Times, February 20, 1900).  In 1962 the National Park Foundation purchased the house and Congress authorized the Hamilton Grange National MemorialBy 2006, the Grange was closed for architectural research so that it could be moved to a new location at nearby St. Nicholas Park, on land that was once owned by Hamilton. That was done in June 2008.  Work wasn’t completed until 2011, when the Grange was reopened to the public as a museum.
Image from the New York Times, July 12, 2006
[16] Chernow lays it out in some small detail on page 643.
Hamilton also planted a group of 13 elm trees on his property, on Convent Ave., near 141st St., to commemorate the union of the thirteen colonies.  By 1899, the property once owned by Hamilton had been broken up, and the trees were in different states of decay (“Hamilton’s Trees To Go,” New York Times, November 27, 1899).
[17] Chernow, 644.

 

Image credit: Alexander Hamilton, painted by John Trumbull. National Portrait Gallery

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