Act Two of Hamilton introduces Thomas Jefferson, who (aside from Aaron Burr) serves as Hamilton’s principal antagonist. Their contentious debates are handled through a pair of cabinet battles performed in the style of rap battles.
These cabinet battles capture the essence of what makes Hamilton so special. The subject matter is important American history but the narrative vehicle is as modern as it gets. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s central premise is that the Founding Fathers were the original gangsters and telling their story in that style will make it accessible to modern audiences.
Mission accomplished, I’d say.
Ladies and gentlemen, you coulda been anywhere in the world tonight, but you’re here with us in New York City. Are you ready for a cabinet meeting???
The issue on the table: Secretary Hamilton’s plan to assume state debt and establish a national bank. Secretary Jefferson, you have the floor, sir
‘Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’
We fought for these ideals; we shouldn’t settle for less
These are wise words, enterprising men quote ‘em
Don’t act surprised, you guys, cuz I wrote ‘em
But Hamilton forgets
His plan would have the government assume state’s debts
Now, place your bets as to who that benefits:
The very seat of government where Hamilton sits
Ooh, if the shoe fits, wear it
If New York’s in debt—
Why should Virginia bear it? Uh! Our debts are paid, I’m afraid
Don’t tax the South cuz we got it made in the shade
In Virginia, we plant seeds in the ground
We create. You just wanna move our money around
This financial plan is an outrageous demand
And it’s too many damn pages for any man to understand
Stand with me in the land of the free
And pray to God we never see Hamilton’s candidacy
Look, when Britain taxed our tea, we got frisky
Imagine what gon’ happen when you try to tax our whisky
Thank you, Secretary Jefferson. Secretary Hamilton, your response
Thomas. That was a real nice declaration
Welcome to the present, we’re running a real nation
Would you like to join us, or stay mellow
Doin’ whatever the hell it is you do in Monticello?
If we assume the debts, the union gets
A new line of credit, a financial diuretic
How do you not get it? If we’re aggressive and competitive
The union gets a boost. You’d rather give it a sedative?
A civics lesson from a slaver. Hey neighbor
Your debts are paid cuz you don’t pay for labor
“We plant seeds in the South. We create.”
Yeah, keep ranting
We know who’s really doing the planting
And another thing, Mr. Age of Enlightenment
Don’t lecture me about the war, you didn’t fight in it
You think I’m frightened of you, man?
We almost died in a trench
While you were off getting high with the French
Thomas Jefferson, always hesitant with the President
Reticent—there isn’t a plan he doesn’t jettison
Madison, you’re mad as a hatter, son, take your medicine
Damn, you’re in worse shape than the national debt is in
Sittin’ there useless as two shits
Hey, turn around, bend over, I’ll show you
Where my shoe fits
Excuse me? Madison, Jefferson, take a walk! Hamilton, take a walk! We’ll reconvene after a brief recess. Hamilton!
You don’t have the votes
You don’t have the votes
You’re gonna need congressional approval and you don’t have the votes
Such a blunder sometimes it makes me wonder why I even bring the thunder
Why he even brings the thunder…
You wanna pull yourself together?
I’m sorry, these Virginians are birds of a feather
Young man, I’m from Virginia, so watch your mouth
So we let Congress get held hostage by the South?
You need the votes
No, we need bold strokes. We need this plan
No, you need to convince more folks
James Madison won’t talk to me, that’s a nonstarter
Winning was easy, young man. Governing’s harder
They’re being intransigent
You have to find a compromise
But they don’t have a plan, they just hate mine!
Convince them otherwise
What happens if I don’t get congressional approval?
I imagine they’ll call for your removal
Figure it out, Alexander. That’s an order from your commander