The musical Hamilton‘s explosive success provides Americans with an opportunity to consider their peculiar fascination with their nation’s founders. Charles Zug argues that the Founders are legends because, above all, they were first rate thinkers.
The World Turned Upside Down
Americans have a unique obsession with theFoundinfir founding fathers. The United States is perhaps the only country in the world where biographies, musicals, TV shows, and movies about the founding generation proliferate year after year. So it is perhaps no surprise that on both sides of the American political aisle, “Hamilton” the musical has attained—and retained—overwhelming popularity. As President Obama quipped, “Hamilton, I’m pretty sure, is the only thing that Dick Cheney and I agree on.”
What made the Hamilton phenomenon peculiar, however, was the musical’s particularly warm reception by progressive American intellectuals. Normally staunchly anti-founder-hagiography and always happy to debunk the framers as exploitative capitalist oligarchs, they evidently had a soft spot for The Federalist Papers’s primary author all along.
Charles Zug is a graduate student in political philsophy at the University of Texas at Austin. His research interests include demagoguery in the American presidency, American political thought, and Western political philosophy. His article, “Could Political Science Become Diagnostic? Restoring a Forgotten Method,” was published in Perspectives on Political Science.
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