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Hamilton College Professor explores Alexander Hamilton – Doug Ambrose

In February 2015, the musical Hamilton exploded onto Broadway. In November 2016, Doug Ambrose delivered a talk at TEDxBeaconStreet about Alexander Hamilton, the man whose story drives the $1.9 million a week Broadway spectacular generates.

It’s obvious that Hamilton was an incredibly influential historical figure.  Hamilton’s legacy lives on through Lin-Manuel Miranda’s depiction of him and those around him, but what makes the musical especially interesting is that it depicts some of the less admirable aspects of Hamilton’s life. Pride of the Hamilton College history department, Doug Ambrose, digs deep into the life of Hamilton and focuses on one of the most notorious episodes in that life.

Ambrose explores the Hamilton-Reynolds Affair, perhaps the most infamous sex scandal in American history. Ambrose states that understanding the love affair is rather easy, but explaining the pamphlet Hamilton wrote in response to it requires us to use our historical imagination. Ambrose believes that Hamilton’s obsession with posterity—of his need to be remembered by future generations as a public servant who did not abuse his public office—led him to confess his adultery to the entire world.  Better to be remembered as an unfaithful husband than as a corrupt statesman. Ambrose looks closely at Hamilton’s words and phrasing from the pamphlet to explore with the audience the complexity of a mind that, above all, wanted posterity to remember him as a man of integrity who contributed to the public good and did not violate the people’s trust.

Passionate and full of energy, Ambrose mixes quirky humor with historical information to help the audience understand the implications and significance of Hamilton’s affair. One of the very few historical talks from TEDxBeaconStreet, and TED in general, Ambrose sets the tone for more history-focused talks to come. 

If you are interested in watching the whole talk, please click here.