Character Development

Context:

Cabinet Battle #2 portrays discussion in the cabinet of administration of George Washington between the Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, and Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, with Representative James Madison occasionally assisting Jefferson. Jefferson and Hamilton and discussing whether or not to give aid to France during the beginning of the French Revolution in 1789 and their potential war with Britain. They must persuade George Washington to agree with their perspective, as he is the one who will be making the final decision.

Jefferson starts the discussion by questioning the cabinet as to who aided the American Revolutionaries during their time of need; Madison answering France. Furthermore, Jefferson strongly believes that the Americans must stay loyal to the Franco-American Alliance, therefore they are legally required to give aid to the French. He then insults Hamilton, accusing him of being greedy and stating that he is disloyal. Jefferson also notes that he is Secretary of State, not Hamilton, implying that he should have more influence on this decision thatn the Secretary of Treasury.

Hamilton responds with a furious statement asserting that Washington would never agree with Jefferson because the new found United States are so young and are already unstable without involvement in international affairs. Hamilton then discredits Jefferson’s wish to uphold the treaty with France by arguing that the United States is not beholden to France because the king that signed the agreement, King Louis XVI, had been killed in the revolution.

Hamilton is cut short by Washington, who publicly denounces Jefferson’s idealistic approach to the problem. Jefferson is furious, and confronts Hamilton. He accuses himof abandoning Lafayette, who had aided the Americans during the American Revolution. Hamilton responds quickly, but Jefferson leaves the fight while he warns Hamilton that he is powerless without Washington’s support.

Washington’s decision to support Hamilton’s opinion seems to be the straw that broke the camel’s back as leads directly into Washington on Your Side. In this song, Aaron Burr, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison’s frustration over Hamilton’s increasing power and influence leads them to search for evidence that implicates Hamilton on charges of speculation. It also demonstrates the frustration of the Democratic Republicans as Washington, who is supposedly non-partisan, favours the Federalists.

 

Character Development:

The characters included in Cabinet Battle #2 are Alexander Hamilton, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

From Left to Right: Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson

From Left to Right: Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson

Alexander Hamilton is arguing for neutrality in the French Revolution and France’s battle against Britain. He recognizes that it is extremely dangerous to supply military aids to France when they do not have an established monarch. Furthermore, he does not feel obliged to comply with the previously established treaty because King Louis XVI has passed away. Hamilton wants to put a plan into place that puts America’s safety and stability first. America has offered Hamilton an environment in which he is able to rise above his station and become a powerful influential man. I believe that it is for this reason that he is bias towards ensuring the protection of America over helping their allies and values self-preservation over a promise of questionable validity.

Hamilton fears trying to provide funds and military aids to France and as a result becoming too weak as a nation to sustain and protect themselves. When Hamilton says “If we try to fight in every revolution in the world, we never stop. Where do we draw the line,” he is expressing this fear and explaining that America needs to pick their battles wisely due to their fragility. As Jefferson states in the songs, Hamilton is ‘desperate to rise above his station’. He has fought to survive and improve his whole life, and because of this his wants and fears may be slightly self-centered. Jefferson accuses Hamilton of being selfish and disloyal in his wants and fears when he states “You accumulate debt, you accumulate power Yet in their hour of need you forget”.

Thomas Jefferson wants to support France in revolution and their fight against Britain through military aid. He believes that it is morally right to provide funds just as France supported America in their time of need. Jefferson fears losing France’s trust and breaking the Franco-American alliance. Jefferson was once an ambassador to France, therefore he has more of a personal connection with the country itself and the people in it. Furthermore, Jefferson was in Paris during the early stages of their revolution and believes that the French people were inspired to rebel by the Revolutionary War. This has given him a more personal experience in the French revolution and has led him to believe that it is only fair that they lend a hand. This personal connection to the French can be seen when Jefferson states “And revolution is messy but now is the time to stand. Stand with our brothers as they fight against tyranny”. On a larger scale, Jefferson fears Hamilton’s motives and increasing power in making decisions. He believes that Hamilton is self-centered and impulsive and is so desperate to improve his lot in life that he tends to be disloyal. When Jefferson says, “I’ll remind you he is not Secretary of State” He is trying to remind the cabinet that Hamilton should have less power in decision making than he does, because he fears Hamilton’s growing influence.

As president of America, George Washington was the only man that Hamilton and Jefferson had to convince to agree with their perspective. Because of this, his wants and fears played a significant role in the outcome of this discussion. After listening to both sides of the argument, Washington agreed with Hamilton’s plan and asked for a statement of neutrality to be drafted. George Washington wants to protect America by choosing a plan that is best for his nation. That being said, as a battle field general, the process of thinking an issue through for a long period of time was not a desired quality. Because of this, Washington had very strong acumen which allowed him to make his decision quite quickly. This can be seen when he cuts off Hamilton in the middle of his argument to declare his final decision. This reliance on ‘gut instincts’ to make decisions may have led Washington to be bias in his decision. One of Washington’s strongest, personal wants is to see Hamilton succeed. This may have impacted his decision to agree with Hamilton so abruptly in this discussion. Furthermore, Washington’s bias against Jefferson can be seen when he accuses him of being naïve by stating “frankly it’s a little disquieting you would let your ideas blind you to reality”. Washington fears making a decision that will negatively impact America. He understands that the United States are still weak, after just getting out of a revolutionary war. Furthermore, America was already in large debt to may foreign countries. Washington realizes this, and his understanding of this instability is evident when he states, “We’re too fragile to start another fight”.

Connections to Historical Elements:

Historical Events and Ideas:

There are many historical events that are referenced throughout Cabinet Battle #2. An understanding of the significance of these events is crucial in fully understanding the meaning of the song. The major historical event that Cabinet Battle #2 is about is the French Revolution. The French Revolution began in 1789 due to the people’s anger over the French monarchy and the poor economic policies of King Louis XVI. This revolt led to the redesign of the country’s political landscape and the uprooting of century old feudal traditions. The relationship between the American Revolution and the French Revolution is a quintessential example of how revolutions can impact more than just the country they occur in. The American Revolution didn’t only affect America, but it also affected France. Many French citizens saw the Americans as an example of a successful rebellion. This new idea that people with little to no power could come together to fight for their rights and freedoms inspired the French citizens to start their own revolution.

The French Revolution

The French Revolution

 

the Franco-American Alliance

the Franco-American Alliance

One of the most significant reasons that Jefferson believes that America should provide military aid to France was because they signed a treaty. There were actually two treaties signed between France and America on February 6, 1778. The Treaty of Amity and Commerce recognized the Unites States as an independent nation and promoted trade between the two countries, while the Treaty of Alliance established a military pact. Negotiated with the help of Benjamin Franklin, the Treaty of Alliance stated that if a war broke out between France and Great Britain during the War between the United States and England, France and the United States would aid each other as “good and faithful Allies”, as according to Article 1 of the treaty. The treaty also guaranteed that neither side was to stop fighting Britain or sign a peace treaty without the consent of the other nations. The Treaty of Amity and Commerce and the Treaty of Alliance are very historically significant as four days after Britain learned that France had recognized the United States as an independent nation, they declared war on France. After the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783, there was debate over whether the Treaty of Alliance still applied. Hamilton argued that the French Revolution, in which the monarchy had originally signed the treaty was overthrown, rendered the treaty null and void. Hamilton’s opinion represents an interesting idea that when a sovereign ruler dies or is overthrown, their rules and agreements are insignificant and may be annulled. This seems ironic because much of Hamilton’s goal throughout his life and throughout the musical is to leave a legacy.

 

Proclamation of Neutrality

Proclamation of Neutrality

Last, After hearing both Jefferson and Hamilton’s opinions, Washington agrees with Hamilton and asks for a statement of neutrality to be drafted. The Proclamation of Neutrality was announced by George Washington in 1793. It stated that America would be neutral in the conflict between France and Great Britain. It also placed legal proceeding against any Americans who provided assistance to the feuding sides. However, the treaty wasn’t officially absolved by both parties until the Convection of 1800. Interestingly, in the beginning of the song, George Washington clearly states, “Remember, my decision on this matter is not subject to congressional approval. The only person you have to convince is me.” However, according to Artice I, Section 8 of the US Constitution, it is congress’ ability to call upon an army or military forces and declare war. This directly opposes Washington’s statement, and many people objected Washington’s decision because of this. In an attempt to mollify the people and defend Washington, Hamilton wrote a series of essays as Pacifus, that defended the Proclamation of Neutrality.

Socials Curriculum:

I believe that the Big Idea that is best suited for Cabinet Battle #2 is disparities in power alter the balance of relationships between individuals and between societies. The first example of this big idea can be seen in the conflicts that are caused by Washington’s influence on decision making in America. Washington’s role as president make his opinions superior to any other members in the cabinet administration. Therefore, it is crucial that his impartiality is not swayed by biases or personal connections with other political figures. Washington’s strong, ‘father-son’ bond with Hamilton has become the catalyst of new biases in his decisions, which has significantly impacted his relationship with other members of congress. Important members such as Thomas Jefferson, Aaron Burr, and James Madison are beginning to feel animosity towards Washington as they notice his ‘favouritism’ of Hamilton. An example of this can be seen when Jefferson concludes the Cabinet Battle by telling Hamilton “Daddy’s calling”, referring to Washington asking for Hamilton’s assistance. Although it is unclear as to whether Washington’s decision to agree with Hamilton’s was influenced by their existing relationship, the decision also significantly impacted Hamilton and Jefferson’s relationship. Hamilton and Jefferson are both very outspoken, and because of this their opposing opinions greatly impact the people of America. Rising tensions between them caused by Washington’s supposed bias created new the frustration in the Democratic Republicans, who believe that Washington was favouring the Federalists. Overall, Washington’s possible bias towards Hamilton created significant problems in many relationships between important political figures and groups in America.

Thematic and Personal Connections

Personal Interest:

            There are many reasons for why I chose to analyze Cabinet Battle #2. First, I find the use of a ‘rap battle’ to be a very interesting and impactful representation of a heated discussion in the cabinet administration. I also found the interpolations and homages to other songs to be interesting. An example of this can be seen when Hamilton says “Uh… do whatever you want, I’m super dead”, which is an homage to Griffin McElroy from My Brother, My Brother and Me.

I also chose to study this song because I found it interesting to compare Cabinet Battle #1 to Cabinet Battle #2. Jefferson’s argument is far more substantive than his presentation in Cabinet Battle #1, whereas Hamilton seems far more emotional and personal in this rap battle than his strong intellectual arguments in the previous confrontation. It has been interesting to look deeper into Hamilton and Jefferson’s wants and fears and make inferences on how their different motives and background have impacted their opinions.

After listening to this song countless times, there are many passages that have resonated with me for many reasons. I believe that when Hamilton states, “if we try to fight in every revolution in the world we never stop, where do we draw the line?” he is expressing a prominent idea in both the American Revolution and modern society. In the context of the Cabinet Battle, America must be careful in choosing their battles because they are quite weak and from their revolution. However, this question is still relevant today with the United States’ involvement in political issues and wars around the world.

Another interesting passage in the song is said by Jefferson. While arguing against Hamilton he states, “Desperate to rise above his station, Everything he does betrays the ideals of our nation”. Jefferson means to say that Hamilton’s rise from poverty is at odds with the predominant governing ideology at the time; however, by looking at the words used in the line we can uncover a different meaning. The definition of betray is ‘to unintentionally reveal’. So, if we look at this passage as saying that Hamilton reveals and embodies the true national values, we see that Hamilton’s ability to rise above his station in life through grit and merit represents the basic narrative at the heart of any contemporary understanding of the ‘American Dream’.

Themes:

            There are many underlying themes within Cabinet Battle #2 that are essential to the meaning of the song. The first occurs in the introduction of the song, when George Washington introduces the conflict and declares “The only person you have to convince is me”. This line displays the importance of Washington’s opinion in this decision. Washington is the only person that Hamilton or Jefferson need to convince to agree with their opinion; however, Washington has a very strong bias towards Hamilton. Washington’s decision to agree with Hamilton highlights the theme that leaders with bias or personal opinions that conflict with their impartiality tend to cause bitterness in people or groups in power.

The next passage that represents an interesting theme is said by Hamilton in his argument. While explaining why it is best to remain neutral in the conflict, he calls the revolution “A game of chess, where France is Queen and Kingless”. Hamilton uses this analogy to explain that it is dangerous to send military aid to France because there is no monarch or sovereign ruler. This is a very interesting theme because it seems to relate directly to Hobbes’ idea that society should remain under one sovereign ruler, no matter how corrupt of a ruler they are, because people are naturally immoral. This line also shows the difference between Hamilton and Jefferson’s thought process. Jefferson is more loyal and focused on sustaining good relationship and alliances, while Hamilton thinks more logically and strategically makes decisions that will benefit himself and his people.

The last theme comes from a passage said by Jefferson. In an attempt to diss Hamilton he says, “He knows nothing of loyalty, Smells like new money, dresses like fake royalty”. This line shows that Jefferson believes that Hamilton should have much less power and prestige due to his difficult past and low social status from birth. Hamilton has worked his whole life to improve his social status and become successful. Despite this, many people, such as Jefferson, believe that he should doesn’t deserve his power. This line represents a theme that runs throughout the musical, which is the difference between ‘new money’ and ‘old money’. America represents a place where lower class citizens from Britain and other places in the world can come and improve their lot in life by working hard. This emerging idea and the possibility of ‘new money’ inspired many people. That being said, there was still a difference in how new money and old money were perceived. A person that came from a family of wealth and high prestige was still respected more than one that came from a poor family and earned wealth through hard work and determination.