If you consider Hercules Mulligan, John Laurens and the Marquis de Lafayette to be three of your closest quarantine companions, you aren’t alone.
Now that the Broadway musical Hamilton is available to anyone for just $7 (the cost of a month of Disney+), this hip-hop history lesson is gaining an even wider audience. In a year of tough news, Hamilton is one bright light we can enjoy “Non-Stop.”
Hamilton, rated PG-13 (parental guidance is strongly recommended for Scouts under 13), uncovers the complicated histories of Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and other Founding Fathers in a way that no textbook can.
The show has turned legions of people into Hamilton fans — or, because four syllables is one too many, Hamilfans. Are you a Hamilfan? To prove it, you’ll need to start by earning the five merit badges below.
“His enemies destroyed his rep, America forgot him.”
Well, Aaron Burr, sir, that’s not true of Alexander Hamilton anymore.
But as informative as Hamilton is, there’s so much more to the $10 Founding Father than can be told in 160 minutes — no matter how densely packed those minutes may be. For further study, Scouts should turn to the American Heritage merit badge.
A surprising number of the merit badge’s requirements can be met by watching Hamilton, reading the biography that inspired the show and doing additional research into the musical’s many characters.
Bonus points to Scouts who complete any of those written requirements in rhyme.
Alexander and Elizabeth Hamilton had eight children. With her husband away fighting battles (literal or otherwise), Eliza did much of the parenting herself. This despite her pleas to Alexander to “let me be a part of the narrative.”
As it turns out, she wrote her own narrative just fine. Eliza outlived Alexander by 50 years. In that time, she started New York’s first orphanage, which is still around today. She helped care for more than 750 children who would’ve had no place to call home.
Speaking of, home is at the heart of the Eagle-required Family Life merit badge, which includes such requirements like “plan a family meeting,” “plan a project that would benefit your family” and “list several reasons why you are important to your family.”
Eliza wasn’t just important to her family; she was essential to the founding of our country.
In the song “Non-Stop,” Hamilton tells Aaron Burr that “you’re a better lawyer than me.”
It’s a rare moment of self-deprecation for the self-assured Hamilton, but it’s arguably untrue. Hamilton was no slouch in the courtroom. He was, according to the Ron Chernow biography that inspired the musical, “regarded as one of the premier lawyers of the early republic.”
Hamilton argued that truth should be a defense against claims of libel (People v. Croswell), mounted a successful defense in the country’s first murder trial (People v. Levi Weeks) and set a precedent for the concept of judicial review (Rutgers v. Waddington).
Any of those high-profile cases would make great fodder for requirement 2C of the Law merit badge (discuss two famous trials in history) and go a long way toward proving your Hamilfandom.
Combined, the four speeches Scouts must give to earn the Public Speaking merit badge will total no more than 22 minutes.
On June 18, 1787, Hamilton spoke for six hours straight at the Constitutional Convention. He proposed a new form of government — which was not adopted, but still. Six hours!
Though the written word was Hamilton’s weapon of choice, he was a convincing speaker and skilled speechwriter. He helped write George Washington’s farewell address, parts of which are quoted verbatim in the song “One Last Time.”
But he didn’t do it alone. Elizabeth Hamilton helped her husband write many of those speeches, including Washington’s farewell.
“Hamilton’s skill with a quill is undeniable.”
He wrote letters, political rebuttals and 51 of the 85 essays in the Federalist Papers, which defended the fledgling U.S. Constitution. Hamilton’s search for ever-larger venues for his powerful words led him in 1801 to start the New York Evening Post. That paper became the New York Post and is today the oldest continuously published daily newspaper in the country.
Hamilton pumped $1,000 of his own money (more than $15,000 in today’s dollars) into the newspaper, which initially gave him a public way to attack then-President Thomas Jefferson and his Democratic-Republican Party.
Creating your own newspaper isn’t a requirement for the Journalism merit badge, though writing two newspaper articles is one option. But nothing’s stopping a Scout from establishing the Troop 3 Times or the Troop 12 Tribune. Hamilton would be proud.
What’d I Miss?
What other merit badges belong on this list?
Remember the rule: This is a Top 5 list, not a Top 6 or Top 7. If you add one, you must say which one you’d remove and why.
What Comes Next?
Click here for more “Top 5 merit badges” fun.