Stephen Knott, Professor, National Security Affairs Department, United States Naval War College

Alexander Hamilton: The Man, the Myths, the Musical

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway blockbuster Hamilton: An American Musical kept Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill and transformed this unlikely founding father into a Broadway celebrity. But while Hamilton is currently seen as a heroic figure, throughout much of the nation’s history he was seen as “un-American” — a closet monarchist who allegedly hated the people, the “great beast.”

Many 20th century historians and biographers repeated distorted accounts first circulated by Thomas Jefferson and his lieutenants, all of whom were determined to ruin Hamilton’s reputation. Franklin Roosevelt repeated these Jeffersonian myths in the midst of his campaign to erect a memorial to the “Sage of Monticello” in the nation’s capital. While Lin-Manuel Miranda restored Hamilton to his proper standing as a key founder, he too has misrepresented the real Hamilton. The real Alexander Hamilton was devoted to the rule of law and to moderation and possessed a healthy aversion to Utopian schemes.

Stephen F. Knott is a professor in the National Security Affairs Department. Prior to accepting his position at the War College, Knott co-chaired the Presidential Oral History Program at the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia. His books include Secret and Sanctioned: Covert Operations and the American Presidency, Washington and Hamilton: The Alliance That Forged America and Rush to Judgment: George W. Bush, the War on Terror, and His Critics. His most recent book is The Lost Soul of the American Presidency: The Decline into Demagoguery and the Prospects for Renewal (University Press of Kansas). He is currently at work on a book on the presidency of John F. Kennedy.

Knott is a regular presenter at History Camp Boston.