The Corner

Hamiltonian Lunch and Night Cap with Brookhiser

Cancel any other plans tonight. You want to watch Rick Brookhiser walk you through the life of Alexander Hamilton — with the help of some gang members from Baltimore! He talks with the Corner a bit for your Monday lunch:

KJL: What did you enjoy most about putting together the documentary that airs tonight?

RB: Shooting on location. We spent ten days in St. Croix and Nevis. Don’t think sun and rum, it was twelve-hour days all the way. But it was very interesting to get to know, however briefly, some very different place. Best of the best: prompting Doc Peterson (one of the calypso singers) to make up a song about Hamilton’s death, which he did on the spot.

KJL: Why did you take the non-Burnsian approach you did, filming at such contemporary venues?

RB: The Burns brothers approach is beautiful, but it is both familiar and best done by themselves. Michael Pack and I wanted to show that this dead man and his dead allies and rivals are still alive; what they did still touches us, and the ambitions and passions they felt are still ours.

KJL: Did you watch The Wire? You make use of it early on in your Hamilton show.

RB: My director Michael did. I saw the point as soon as I saw the clip.

KJL: Would Hamilton relate to the gang members you brought in, or would he just realize the folly that got him killed?

RB: As a struggling white kid in the islands, he probably had different interactions with black people than other young Founders. He would certainly understand their sense of honor; he shared it. The tragedy of his death is that he believed two contradictory codes: the gentleman’s, and the Christian’s. He made his final choice as he lay dying.


KJL: What would Hamilton say about Friday’s near government shutdown and subsequent deal?

RB: Been burning through that revenue, haven’t you? What Hamilton would least understand is Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, and Obamacare. He was not big on government support of individuals: One reason he liked the new factory system was that it pulled women and children out of the home and put them to work. He had gone to work in Nicholas Cruger’s merchant house when he was ten, why not everybody else?

KJL: What surprises are in store for Brookhiser fans next?

RB: I am crossing party lines — Federalist to Republican — for a new biography: James Madison, out in October from Basic Books.

Read Rick’s book on Hamilton, too, if you haven’t! 

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

Strzok by a Farce

An investigation is one of two things: a search for the truth, or a farce. The House is conducting a farce. That fact was on full display during ten hours of testimony by Peter Strzok, the logorrheic lawman who steered the FBI’s Clinton-emails and Trump–Russia probes. The principal question before the ... Read More

Democrats Are Dumping Moderates

The activist base of the Democratic party is lurching left fast enough that everyone should pay attention. Activists matter because their turnout in low-turnout primaries and caucuses almost propelled leftist Bernie Sanders to victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016. Last month, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez unseated New ... Read More
Film & TV

Stalin at the Movies

Toward the end of The Death of Stalin, two Communist Party bosses size up Joseph Stalin’s immediate successor, Georgy Malenkov. “Can we trust him?” one asks. “Can you ever really trust a weak man?” his comrade answers. Good question. Last week brought the news that the head of Shambhala ... Read More

‘The Warning Lights Are Blinking Red Again’

One of President Trump’s outstanding appointments has been Dan Coats, his director of national intelligence. Coats is a former House member, former senator, and former ambassador to Germany. He is a Hoosier (i.e., from Indiana). Whether he plays basketball, I don’t know. At Wheaton College, he played soccer. ... Read More


Dear Reader (Especially everyone who got ripped off ordering that giant blimp online), Imagine an alien race that built its civilization on the fact it literally defecated highly refined uranium, or super-intelligent and obedient nano-bots, or simply extremely useful Swiss Army knives. Now imagine one of ... Read More