What is a composer to do when his subject’s most dramatic actions were frequently . . . the writing of political pamphlets? Not exactly nail-biting action, right? “The Farmer Refuted” is a pamphlet Alexander Hamilton wrote in 1775 in response to a Tory named Samuel Seabury who had written a pamphlet of his own, under the nom de plume “A. W. Farmer”–A. Westchester Farmer, get it?–arguing for loyalty to the crown. Duelling pamphlets, the blogs of the day. Hot stuff. So Miranda moves it to a few years later, makes it an in-person debate, and with amazing contrapuntal wordplay, interposes the two men’s arguments to make a very funny duelling duet. Seabury gets the first word, then repeats his argument, while Hamilton now uses Seabury’s own words to counter him.

Seabury:                                 {Hamilton:}

Heed not the rabble              {He’d have you all unravel at the}
Who scream                          {Sound of screams, but the}
Revolution,
 they                    {Revolution is coming}


Have not
your interests       {The have-nots are gonna win this}
At heart . . .                             {It’s hard to listen to you with a straight face . . .}

We see Burr trying unsuccessfully to tamp down Hamilton and Co.’s open rebelliousness; we also see Hamilton’s belligerence, even arrogance, but because he’s so funny, we’re on his side–also, we get the feeling that if people had heeded Burr’s advice, the revolution would never have happened and we’d be fussing over the Duchess of Cambridge to this day. Oh wait, we are. Well, anyway, Hamilton wins the crowd with his charm and wit. And clever repartee is even better when carried out in clever rhyme and assonance, so check this out:

Seabury:                                                       {Hamilton:}

This Congress does not speak for me
.                                                                       {My dog speaks more eloquently than thee}
They’re playing a dangerous game          {Though strangely, your mange is the same . . .}

“Farmer Refuted” delivers one of my favorite lines: when Seabury says, “I pray the king shows you his mercy,” Hamilton cries “Is he in Jersey?” I assume, though I haven’t seen it staged yet, that he looks around in mock alarm as he does.

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