When I visited my family in New Jersey this summer, I found that my 10-year-old nephew and 12-year-old niece knew a whole lot more about the Battle of Monmouth and the Presidential Election of 1800 than they had when I’d last seen them.
That’s because, like a shocking number of American children, Jack and Julia have memorized the soundtrack to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. As any loving uncle would, I immediately started devising ways to transform this new, innocent pleasure of theirs into clickable online content.
Jack and Julia agreed to list each of the songs from the soundtrack for me, from best to worst, and after their dad sent me the results, I called to ask them a few questions about Hamilton, about their lists, and, most fun of all, about each others’ lists.
City Pages: Was it hard to make these lists?
Julia: Not really. It took kind of long because I’d start making it and then I’d think of another song and I’d have to go back.
Jack: Yeah I’d think of a song and then I’d I have to erase everything and start over.
Julia: That’s why I did mine on the Chromebook.
CP: Who’s your favorite character in this musical?
Jack: Aaron Burr.
Julia: Angelica. Or Eliza. I don’t know which. I don’t like Hamilton that much. He cheated on his wife and then he was like [whiny voice] “It’s not my fault.” And he just always thinks his opinion is the best.
Jack: Well, he is the son of a whore and a Scotsman.
CP: Do you agree with Hamilton’s arguments in the two cabinet battles?
Julia: I agree with him in the first one, but not in the second. They were all like “Oh, we love the French” and then when they asked for help they were like “You know what? You guys can fight this yourself.”
CP: But you agree with Hamilton that the federal government was right to assume the states’ debt?
Jack: [enthusiastically but unconvincingly] Sure.
CP: Are there any songs that you hate?
Jack: “Say No to This.” [Ed. note: Jack is not a fan of “smooching.”]
Julia: “The Story of Tonight,” the first one. “A Winter’s Ball.””Farmer Refuted.”
Jack: I like “Farmer Refuted” a lot. Because they make fun of him.
Julia: It’s kind of boring.
CP: I have another question when you’re ready?
CP: Are you more interested in history now because of Hamilton?
[Their father makes a skeptical sound in the background.]
Jack: [Protesting] We learned where Yorktown is. And we learned what a bursar is. I didn’t even know that was a thing.
CP: What’s a bursar?
Jack: [Quoting “Aaron Burr, Sir.”] “He handles the financials.” Hamilton didn’t actually punch the bursar, you know. [Ed. note: I do know this because I looked it up and told him when I was visiting.]
CP: If you were writing a musical about a historical figure, who would you pick?
Julia: Malala would be a good person for a musical to be about, I think.
Jack: George Washington.
Julia: He seems kind of boring.
Jack: He did all the things.
Julia: Big deal, he chopped down the cherry tree. He was president for eight years and then he just stopped.
CP: What’s the wrongest thing about the other person’s list?
Julia: He likes “Cabinet Battle #2” better than “#1.”
CP: Why do you like the first one better?
Julia: In the second one Hamilton’s like “I just don’t have time for this.” But in the first one they’re both really into it.
Jack: [rapping] “We signed a treaty with a King whose head is now in a basket/ Would you like to take it out and ask it?/ ‘Should we honor our treaty, King Louis’ head?’/’Uh… do whatever you want, I’m super dead.’”
CP: Jack, what do you think of Julia’s list?
Jack: It’s wrong and her opinion’s not good.
Julia: Jack doesn’t like the slow-paced songs so much.
Jack: That’s not true. I like “Dear Theodosia.”
CP: I was a little surprised you two liked that one so much.
Julia: It’s sweet because they’re singing to their kids. [To her dad] Though if you sang about us it would be weird. [To me] It would be weird if he started singing to us.
CP: You know, making lists like this is a big part of my job. Do you think that’d be fun?
Jack: Not really. [Ed. note: Jack, unimpressed, once described my job as "So you go to concerts and then write book reports about them?"]
Julia: It wasn’t exactly entertaining.
CP: Yeah but it’s my job. I’m getting paid to do it. I’m getting paid for doing this interview.
Jack: You’re getting paid to talk to your niece and nephew?
CP: Yeah. Would you want to get paid to talk to each other about Hamilton?
Jack: [unenthusiastically] Maybe.
CP: So, finally, here’s the last and hardest question. I have to decide whose list should go first on the website. So you can have your own cabinet battle and try to convince me yours should be first.
Julia: Mine is better because it’s mine. I’m older than you so I obviously know better.
Jack: Mine is better because it’s mine.
Julia: You can’t even think of your own argument.
CP: Julia, you’re not really helping your argument by saying mean things. You should take Aaron Burr’s advice.
Jack: “Talk less. Smile more.”
Julia: Jack’s not even smiling. He’s just sitting there awkwardly.
Jack: Put mine first.
Julia : “Do whatever you want, I’m super dead.”
1. Aaron Burr, Sir
2. Right Hand Man
4. Cabinet Battle #2
5. My Shot
6. Cabinet Battle #1
7. Dear Theodosia
8. Guns and Ships
9. You’ll Be Back
10. I Know Him
11. The Schuyler Sisters
12. Wait For it
13. Take a Break
14. Washington on Your Side
15. Your Obedient Servant
16. Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story
17. What Comes Next?
18. One Last Time
19. History Has Its Eyes On You
20. The Story of Tonight
21. Farmer Refuted
22. The World Was Wide Enough
23. Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)
24. What’d I Miss
25. The Room Where It Happens
26. The Adams Administration
27. It’s Quiet Uptown
28. The Story of Tonight (reprise)
29. Stay Alive (reprise)
30. Alexander Hamilton
31. The Election of 1800
32. Ten Duel Commandments
33. The Reynolds Pamphlet
34. Schuyler Defeated
35. We Know
36. Blow Us All Away
37. Best of Wives and Best of Women
40. A Winter’s Ball
43. Stay Alive
44. Meet Me Inside
45. That Would Be Enough
46. Say No to This
3. The Schuyler Sisters
4. That Would Be Enough
5. My Shot
6. Aaron Burr, Sir
9. The World Was Wide Enough
10. Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story
11. Your Obedient Servant
12. Blow Us All Away
13. Dear Theodosia
14. Take a Break
15. It’s Quiet Uptown
16. The Election of 1800
17. Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)
18. One Last Time
20. The Room Where It Happens
21. Cabinet Battle #1
22. Alexander Hamilton
23. You’ll be Back
24. Stay Alive (reprise)
25. Wait for It
26. History Has Its Eyes on You
27. Guns and Ships
28. Right Hand Man
29. Cabinet Battle #2
30. What’d I Miss
31. Washington on Your Side
32. The Adams Administration
33. The Reynolds Pamphlet
34. Meet Me Inside
35. Best of Wives and Best of Women
36. Ten Duel Commandments
37. I Know Him
38. What Comes Next
39. We Know
40. Say No to This
41. Farmer Refuted
42. The Story of Tonight (reprise)
43. A Winter’s Ball
44. Stay Alive
45. Schuyler Defeated
46. The Story of Tonight