The Hour Before the Duel
Money Man is set in the early morning of July 11, 1804, the hour before the duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. He has called friends into his office to tell them things he has kept to himself for thirty years and to try and explain to them, and himself, how it is he has come to the point where he feels he must face death in this “interview.”
Of all the “Founding Fathers” Hamilton was the only one born outside the Thirteen Colonies, the only one from the bottom rungs of society, and the only one born out of wedlock.
The practice of slavery on his native island of Nevis, in the Caribbean, was even more brutal than in the American colonies. Yet somehow the young Hamilton developed the values that were to make him the most passionate Abolitionist of all the heroes of the American Revolution.
His father abandoned the family when he was eleven and his mother died of a tropical fever two years later. She left him one essential legacy: a library of 34 books, classics of history and poetry, that nourished his mind in a brutal outpost of European colonization.
At fourteen he found employment in the import/export business of Nicolas Cruger and here his genius could flourish. When Hamilton was sixteen Cruger had to seek medical treatment in America and the young man was left functionally in charge of an international business. His success in this bolstered his conviction that he could succeed at anything.
He would develop the most advanced understanding of the essential nature of money in a modern nation, and would lead his adopted country toward a functioning banking system through which America could create an industrial/commercial base and become a player on the world stage.
When Cruger returned he helped Hamilton emigrate to the American Colonies just as the spirit of revolution was sweeping the country. Early in the Revolutionary war he joined Washington’s general staff which provided an intense on-the-job education in the management of power, the economics of war, and the incessant strife between the higher-ups of the American war effort.
After the War, Hamilton was a key figure in the creation of the Constitution. Washington agreed with Hamilton’s insistence that the young Republic needed a strong banking system and so appointed him the first Secretary of the Treasury, and thus began our nation’s eternal struggle between those who want a strong federal government with sovereign power to regulate trade and finance, and those like Madison and Jefferson who believed that states’ rights were supreme.
For all his genius, Hamilton was not an expert at playing the game of politics. His power declined with the end of Washington’s presidency. The states’ rights people were unstoppable in their efforts to disempower the central government.
Hamilton’s assertive personality and his high ethical standards for public servants won him many friends, and many enemies, resulting in his fatal duel with Vice President Aaron Burr.
By the time of his death he knew his work would be undone. But only ten years later, during the War of 1812, President Madison learned the hard way that The United States was in no position to defend itself without the Hamiltonian institutions that he and Jefferson had worked so hard to destroy. With no national military, the states could not hold off the British invasion. With no central bank they could not borrow the money to fund the war effort. President Madison had, reluctantly, to begin rebuilding the banking system and recreating a national military.
At 4:00 am on July 11, 1804, some friends have gathered in Hamilton’s office in lower Manhattan. He knows that he may be killed in the duel that he has agreed to fight later in the morning. There are things he has to tell his friends, things he has not talked about in public for the thirty years he has been in America.
He tells his story, and then he departs to meet with Aaron Burr.
Money Man is the first of our productions to be created for video production. We did two performances at Stage 3 Theatre in Sonora, during which the show was videoed with live audiences, employing a 3-camera set-up (two with operators and the third overhead). Editing will be finished by early Spring 2016. Meanwhile we offered the show gratis to high schools and eighth grades in Tuolumne County.