HAM Part 3: Forgiveness, Can You Imagine?

This will be the final addition to my HAM series. There are many things I learned from Hamilton that I wish I could write about, but, unfortunately, I am leaving to see the show in about an hour. Everything I have written so far could be entirely incorrect, but I’m hoping that seeing the show today will shed light on anything I have missed or misunderstood.

I am choosing to include forgiveness as the last topic in this series because I think it one of the most valuable takeaways from Hamilton.

The context of forgiveness in Hamilton is that of Hamilton’s wife, Eliza, forgiving him for his betrayal. After learning of an affair that Hamilton had while working on the Constitution, Eliza became distant and distrusting of Hamilton. To make matters inconceivably worse, Hamilton only divulged this information as a way to avoid being accused of embezzlement of federal funds. And he published the details of his affair in The Reynolds Pamphlet. I can only imagine the shame and extreme hurt Eliza must have felt, and I don’t blame her for reacting to Hamilton in the way she did.

If infidelity was not enough to completely destroy a marriage, Eliza lived through the death of her own son, who, as I explained in my last post (Don’t Throw Away Your Shot), died in a duel. Not only was Hamilton aware of Philip’s engagement, he did not share this information with Eliza. I am not sure if Eliza knew this, but the advice that Hamilton gave his son prior to the duel may have contributed to his death.

So here we have a woman who had sacrificed her husband to the American cause (in many ways, mind you), and what she got in return was infidelity and the loss of a child. The fact that Eliza could even press on without going insane is incredible enough for me.

They are going through the unimaginable.

However, because Alexander’s reputation had been stained, the Hamiltons moved out of the city. They discover It’s Quiet Uptown. During this time, Alexander and Eliza have to cope with their hurt, their losses, and figure out how to move forward.

In this number, Alexander recites an apology, and, in my opinion, this couldn’t have possibly been enough to repair the relationship they had. This song lasts only 4:30, but I assume the real time represented by those few minutes must have felt like an eternity.

At some point, Eliza finds a way to forgive Alexander.

Forgiveness, can you imagine?

This phrase almost always puts a lump in my throat. Because I honestly can’t imagine being in Eliza’s shoes and being able to forgive after that kind of pain. And it was caused by her own husband.

I take this amazing example and hope that I can find that kind of compassion and humility within myself. As Alexander heads off towards the duel that will become his fate, he says goodbye to Eliza, calling her the Best of Wives and Best of Women. After Alexander’s death, the rest of Eliza’s story is recounted in Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story. I am simply in awe of the things this woman accomplished in spite of what happened to her.

Although the narrative describes the forgiveness that Eliza gave to Alexander, it is clear that Hamilton had to come to terms with himself as well. He has to be able to forgive himself for the mistakes he has made, and, as one who has made mistakes and continues to make them frequently, this is something that speaks to me. At times, all I want to is to know that I can make someone happy, even if I am a garbage person the rest of the time. I like how Hamilton imagines this in It’s Quiet Uptown:

You would smile, and that would be enough.

There were several things that I learned from Hamilton, and these were only a few that meant a lot to me. I admire Alexander’s story; the courage he and others showed, the humility he learned, and the accomplishments they made. I guess, more than anything, I like to know that the rich kind of existence that these people had is possible for me, and to know that

In New York you can be a new man.

I have the honor to be your obedient servant,
K. Rigg