Well, I suppose you could read this whether you've read PRESIDENT HAMILTON or not, but be warned, there are some spoilers below! What follows was originally going to be a note from the author tacked onto the end of PRESIDENT HAMILTON, but my beta reader and my publisher both thought it intruded into the narrative a bit too much - better, they said, to let the novel's ending stand on its own, and frankly, they were right. The story has more punch ending, as it does, with the inscription on the Hamilton Monument in Washington DC. At the same time, I addressed a number of the reasons why I wrote this book in the proposed author's note, and answered (in advance) some questions I thought I might encounter. So now that my novel of alternative history has been out for a couple of months (and enjoyed such a warm reception, for which I thank you all!), I decided to publish my Author's Note here on my blog for you all to read. I hope you enjoy it, and, as always, I thank you for your time, attention, and support!
FROM THE AUTHOR:
This story is, of course, a work of fiction. The real Alexander Hamilton died on July 12, 1804, of the wound sustained in his duel with Aaron Burr the day before. America did fight a bloody Civil War over slavery from 1861 to 1865, killing a generation of young men from North and South, and a hundred and fifty-five years later, we are still dealing with the fallout from that war as we strive to achieve the principles set forth in our Declaration of Independence. The evil legacies of slavery and Jim Crow continue to color our political discourse and poison our national good will here in the twenty-first century. It didn’t have to be like this.
I have always been fascinated by Alexander Hamilton, long before Lin-Manuel Miranda immortalized him in the Broadway musical that took the world by storm in 2015. For a man who came from such an impoverished background to rise as far and fast as Hamilton did was a uniquely American story; he was indeed an immigrant who got the job done! Many historians have speculated as to what might have happened if Hamilton’s life had not been cut short by Burr’s deadly pistol. In 1804, Hamilton was something of a has-been, but would he have remained such? Could he have resurrected his political career if he tried? Might he have become President, and if so, what kind of President might he have been? I had considered that question before, but after seeing the musical for the first time, I decided it was a scenario I wanted to explore.
The real Alexander Hamilton was not an ardent abolitionist, but he was a man who detested slavery and believed its influence was pernicious. (I have read some recent research which suggests Hamilton may have bought and sold slaves after his marriage to Eliza, as well as articles arguing against that conclusion, and I will say the evidence appears flimsy and I am not convinced the accusation is true. I'm in good company here; America's leading Hamilton scholar Michael Newton pretty well eviscerated the charge that Hamilton was a slave owner in his "Discovering Hamilton" blog, which I highly recommend.)
But what might Hamilton have done if he had indeed been given a glimpse of the future, and seen the horrors slavery would wreak on America in the next generation? What might he have done if only he had more time? I can't help but think that he would have done all within his power to spare the nation the horrors that would come. His deathbed declaration - "If they break this Union, they will break my heart!" - gives ample testimony to his love for the nation he helped create. How far would he have gone to save it from civil war? That question provided the genesis of this novel.
I know some will say that this is just another “white savior” story, and in a way, I suppose it is. But I would argue that blacks in America in the early 19th century were so thoroughly and brutally oppressed that they needed a white savior; their would-be black rescuers, like Nat Turner and Denmark Vesey, were brutally and quickly snuffed out. They needed a champion who could wield the full powers of the Executive Branch to lift them from bondage, and few Americans were more adept in the use of political power than Alexander Hamilton.
Some might also say argue that this story slanders certain Southern leaders, most notably John C. Calhoun. I’ll remind you of what I said in beginning this essay: it is a work of fiction, and every story needs a villain. Calhoun always seemed to thread the narrow precipice between passion for a cause and outright fanaticism; in the end, he was willing to sacrifice the Union itself on the altar of slavery and nullification in our own timeline. Under the circumstances I created in my story, he might well have acted as I portrayed him acting as a much younger and less restrained man.
Some might also say that I have made Hamilton too religious, but from what I have read, Hamilton was always a practicing Christian, and he turned to his faith for comfort after the death of his son Philip. The comment I had him make to Madison about the evidence for God standing up in a court of law is a paraphrase of a real Hamilton quote. It is worth noting that his greatest concern, as he lay dying, was that he might receive communion and pass from this world in a state of grace.
Could the unlikely turn of events I envisioned in this novel have ever come to pass? I don’t know, but I wish they had. An America where the Civil War was never fought, where slavery was snuffed out before it had a chance to extend its malign influence over such a vast area, would be an America where the Black Lives Matter movement was never necessary, and where Dr. King never had to shame the white majority into belatedly keeping its promises of legal equality.
What I have written here is above all, MY story – my own wishful thinking about a history that was never written, a vision of an America that might have been. It is a tragic vision, in places, but it is fundamentally a HOPEFUL vision - a glimpse of what could have happened if the principles of liberty had been more universally applied sooner than they were in our timeline. If you don't like the way I portrayed Hamilton and the other Founders, by all means, write your own tale! There's always a market for good historical fiction. I hope that you have enjoyed reading this book as much as I have enjoyed writing it, and if I could leave all my readers with one last thought, it would simply be this:
Be kind to one another. Life is too short for meanness.
Thank you for purchasing and reading my book. If you liked it, feel free to check out my other titles, and please drop by Amazon and leave me a review! Now, this journey into alternative history is done. Thank you for joining me, and I hope that the story of the greatest President that never was has brought you some happiness. Feel free to follow my Facebook author page, or my Twitter account. I also have a blog that I update once a month or so, which I’d be delighted for you to read. Until next time, faithful readers!
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OFFICIAL WEBSITE: www.lewisbensmith.com
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