Hamiltrash Tuesday: The Cabinet Battles

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(L-R): Jefferson (Daveed Diggs) gets all up in Hamilton’s (Lin-Manuel Miranda) face

I AM GOING TO SEE HAMILTON IN CHICAGO THIS FRIDAY, I AM SO EXCITED THAT I’M GOING TO PUKE!

So there are actually two of these, and I can’t remember which one specifically the screenshot is from, but probably the first one, if I had to guess. And it’s exactly what it looks like. The Cabinet Meetings are essentially just Jefferson and Hamilton shouting insults at each other while Washington (in the back on the far left, played by Chris Jackson) and the others present watch those sick burns.

*These have bad language in them, this is your warning*

SCENE SYNOPSIS:

Cabinet Battle #1: (Lyrics)

“Cabinet Battle #1” is the second song in Act 2 and comes just before “Take a Break,” which we analyzed last week. Essentially, this scene is supposed to be set up as a rap battle with Washington serving as the MC while Jefferson and Ham are rapping at each other into microphones. Ham wants to set up the national bank, but Jefferson isn’t having it so he takes this opportunity to get as nasty as he possibly can. So Hamilton flips it and makes it nastier until Washington calls a recess. Jefferson and Madison taunt Ham and tell him that his plan will never work without Congressional approval anyway. The scene ends with Washington telling Ham to get his stuff together.

Cabinet Battle #2: (Lyrics)

“Cabinet Battle #2” is the seventh song in Act 2 and once again, we see Jefferson and Hamilton at each other’s throats. France and England are about to be at war and the Cabinet is debating whether or not they should get involved. Jefferson points out that France was the one who helped them during their own revolution and that they owe it to the French to come to their rescue. (He also says that Ham “Smells like new money, dresses like fake royalty” while Jefferson is wearing a purple velvet suit… okay.) Hamilton argues that America is still recovering from its own revolution and it’s too soon to fight another war. Washington takes Ham’s side and that is the end of the matter, which Jefferson protests.

ANALYSIS!

I just really appreciate all the word play that goes on in these Cabinet Battles. We imagine 1700s Cabinet meetings as all these stuffy dead white dudes sipping tea and I think this show just brings so much fun and life to it.

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At the beginning of “Cabinet Battle #2,” Jefferson starts off with a well constructed argument, gets a little personal, and then adds with the casual, “And if ya don’t know, now ya know, Mr. President.” Actually, this last line was originally from Biggie’s song, “Juicy” minus the Mr. President part. Lin is a big fan of incorporating classic rap into his work. Also Jefferson does a mic-drop here, but unfortunately you can’t see that while listening to it. It’s such a relatable show that does such a good job of mixing pop culture with history that you don’t even feel like you’re learning anything, but you definitely are.

But what I really love about these Cabinet Battles is that the rhyme schemes are so original and interesting. I haven’t really been exposed to a lot of rap battles, but it blows my mind how people can think of these rhymes on a whim and make them work. Try saying a couple of the lines out loud. They roll off the tongue and are really fun. One of my favorites is,

“Madison, you mad as a hatter, son, take your medicine! Damn, you’re in worse shape than the national debt is in!”

And of course,

“Such a blunder sometimes it makes me wonder why I even bring the thunder.”

Whether you’re into the whole rap thing or not, you have to admit that Lin does a phenomenal job with packing punches into these rhymes and emphasizing how much Hamilton and Jefferson hated each other in real life. It takes a lot of effort to get such powerful meaning into just a few words, any English major will tell you that.

Fun little tidbit that adds to the drama, in reference to The Revolution on page 193, Lin makes a note that the end of the Cabinet Battle #2 was originally an exchange about Angelica, a mutual friend of Ham and Jefferson. Historically, we know that Angelica really was friends with both of them and as we learned last week, comma sexting was totally a thing. The note on page 193 reads,

“Originally, this was an exchange about Jefferson and Hamilton’s mutual friend Angelica (Jefferson met her in Paris). It didn’t serve our transition into the next song, but it was definitely soapy and fun:

HAMILTON: She’s never mentioned you.

JEFFERSON: She’s not the type who shares. But since you’re so interested in foreign affairs…”

Since the next song is “Washington On Your Side,” I agree with Lin that the current end of “Cabinet Battle #2” fits better but I would love to see Ham get riled up about Jefferson sleeping with Angelica, knowing that there isn’t really anything he can do about it because once again for the people in the back, HAM IS MARRIED TO HER SISTER.

Also I need this picture to remind myself that Jefferson may be a jerk, but Daveed Diggs is a cinnamon roll. Fun fact, it’s also his birthday. (You should check out his guest appearance on Sesame Street.)

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