American elites’ views on immigration issues are just the gift that keeps on giving if you suspect that way too many of the nation’s leading lights have lost more than a few screws lately. The latest evidence of a notable’s enthusiasm for Open Borders spurring trafficking in not only alternate facts but in alternate history was just presented by Forbes contributor Ralph Benko. In an April 29 post, the author made clear that Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator and original cast star of the mega-hit show “Hamilton,” based his hip-hop paean to mass immigration and to the related leftist idolatry of multiculturalism-uber-alles on the life of a Founding Father who would have been nothing less than appalled by this message.
It’s no disrespect to “Hamilton’s” musical and theatrical value to note that Miranda, the son of a Puerto Rican immigrant, clearly views it as a work of propaganda. In the words of two Cornell University scholars writing in The New York Times, its central aim is to “lionize” Alexander Hamilton “as the exemplar of America’s immigrant ideal.” Further, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and the rest of Hamilton’s partners-in-revolution are portrayed as “merely self-involved politicos out to feather their own nests and keep upstart immigrants such as Alexander Hamilton from becoming successes in their own right.”
But don’t take the critics’ word for it. When asked in 2015 how he thought his “interpretation of Hamilton and this period will shape the way people understand the man and his era?” Miranda responded:
“Well, I think it’s a particularly nice reminder at this point in our politics, which comes around every 20 years or so, when immigrant is used as a dirty word by politicians to get cheap political points, that three of the biggest heroes of our revolutionary war for independence were a Scotsman from the West Indies, named Alexander Hamilton; a Frenchman, named Lafayette; and a gay German, named Friedrich von Steuben, who organized our army and taught us how to do drills. Immigrants have been present and necessary since the founding of our country. I think it’s also a nice reminder that any fight we’re having right now, politically, we already had it 200-some odd years ago. The fights that I wrote between me and Jefferson, you could put them in the mouths of candidates on MSNBC.”
Nor was this a one-time venture into politics. Here’s the Associated Press’ description of a passage in his May, 2016 commencement speech at the University of Pennsylvania:
“Miranda, speaking Monday at the University of Pennsylvania commencement, said even as politics traffics in ‘anti-immigrant rhetoric,’ there is a musical ‘reminding us that a broke orphan immigrant from the West Indies built our financial system.'”
“‘Since the beginning of the great unfinished symphony that is our American experiment, time and time again immigrants get the job done,’ he said.”
And let’s not forget the lecture on diversity – and a raft of other issues – delivered right after last year’s election to Donald Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, by a Hamilton star after a performance the Vice-President-elect had attended:
“We, sir — we are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights. We truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.”
All of which would be perfectly justifiable if Hamilton had ever expressed views on immigration remotely comparable to Miranda’s. But he didn’t.
The Cornell scholars mentioned above had already noted last year that Hamilton was a strong supporter of the Alien and Sedition Acts passed under President John Adams. Their purpose? To make it “harder for immigrants to become citizens while allowing their deportation if they were suspected of disloyalty.”
But Benko’s findings are nothing less than devastating. For example, in 1802, the former Treasury Secretary wrote this in response to a call for a massive expansion of immigration by President Thomas Jefferson – one of the play’s villains. It’s worth quoting at length:
“[F]oreigners will generally be apt to bring with them attachments to the persons they have left behind; to the country of their nativity, and to its particular customs and manners. They will also entertain opinions on government congenial with those under which they have lived; or, if they should be led hither from a preference to ours, how extremely unlikely is it that they will bring with them that temperate love of liberty, so essential to real republicanism? … The influx of foreigners must, therefore, tend to produce a heterogeneous compound; to change and corrupt the national spirit; to complicate and confound public opinion; to introduce foreign propensities. In the composition of society, the harmony of the ingredients is all important, and whatever tends to a discordant intermixture must have an injurious tendency.
“The United States have already felt the evils of incorporating a large number of foreigners into their national mass; it has served very much to divide the community and to distract our councils, by promoting in different classes different predilections in favor of particular foreign nations, and antipathies against others. It has been often likely to compromise the interests of our own country in favor of another. In times of great public danger there is always a numerous body of men, of whom there may be just grounds of distrust; the suspicion alone weakens the strength of the nation, but their force may be actually employed in assisting an invader.”
Hamilton was by no means insisting on an immigration ban. As he also wrote:
“[T]here is a wide difference between closing the door altogether and throwing it entirely open; between a postponement of fourteen years and an immediate admission to all the rights of citizenship. Some reasonable term ought to be allowed to enable aliens to get rid of foreign and acquire American attachments; to learn the principles and imbibe the spirit of our government; and to admit of at least a probability of their feeling a real interest in our affairs. A residence of at least five years ought to be required.”
In other words, Hamilton believed that large-scale immigration could benefit the United States on net only if they were assimilated adequately into American life. Promoting “diversity” could not be the penultimate goal of a successful nation. Just as important, he believed in nuance, not sloganeering and virtue-signaling.
The main reason, of course, is that Hamilton was a political leader, and Miranda is an entertainer. In fact, he seems to be a great entertainer. But no one should mistake him for a source of wisdom on history or on current public issues – at least until he demonstrates he knows something worth hearing.