I have had some trouble formatting this DOL in a way that makes sense and isn’t repetitive, so I am trying to use a new way to lay out this information.
As the 18th song in the Hamilton Musical, “Guns and Ships” contributes to the overall understanding of the plot by explaining some of the underlying information and hidden motives of the characters.
As an aristocratic Frenchman orphan, Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette had quite a bit of ambition and opportunity available to him. Just like Hamilton, he could sense a potentially flourishing future in the ever-evolving 13 colonies, so he boarded a boat and traveled to Manhattan in hopes of pursuing the “American Dream”. He loved it. Because he was opulent in finance, family connections, and patriotism for his new nation, he traveled back to France in order to obtain more experience in the military and to kick-start his reputation. After going back and forth numerous times and establishing good relationships, he brought great potential into the economic and political bond between France and the Americans. When support was needed (such as in the Battle of Yorktown), Lafayette was granted an impressive amount of resources from the French military.
- “We rendezvous with Rochambeau, consolidate their gifts”
An army general, Rochambeau, 5500 of his soldiers, weaponry, and navy access played a HUGE role in how the American Revolution turned out.
- “Guns, and ships, and so the balance shifts”
*A key idea to keep in mind:
France, as the runner-up powerhouse nation at the time, was desperate to stir up conflict with England. After the French and Indian war and generally everything else that went up in the magical north (Canada), why would the French not take this wonderful opportunity to pair up with this revolutionary group of people to get back at the British? The colonists are also their descendants, which just makes the situation that many times worse.
Other than his resourcefulness, Lafayette was also known for how clever he was and his
- “practical tactical brilliance” .
Usually, he followed the principle of the Guerrilla method of attack which usually encompassed using a small group of troops to make the opposing team overestimate how dangerous they are, thus, completely distract them. Other small groups would be used to attack the enemy from all sides without allowing them notice (unlike in a standard war). While seeming to be nontraditional and unfair, it was highly effective. A prime example of this tactic is during the Battle of the Barren Hill (1778) when Lafayette sent a portion of his ambushed army to keep the British occupied while the rest got evacuated through an Iroquois trail.
At the time of Lafayette’s discussion with Washington about how they will plan to attack at Yorktown, Hamilton was reprimanded from being the commander’s “right-hand man” because he felt as though he wasn’t valued for more than just writing. He was eager to lead troops and fight in the war but opportunities to command were not given to him despite his vocalization, thus, he boycott from serving the government at all. It’s also important to mention that there were other contributing factors to Hamilton’s resignation, such as Eliza writing to the general that she was pregnant and needed the support of her husband, and Hamilton’s and Lauren’s duel plan against Charles Lee and Burr. Because the reason for this duel was that Lee disobeyed Washington and tarnished his name, Hamilton’s punishment from Washington for indirectly helping Laurens kill Lee isn’t as severe as it would have been in today’s standards. Duels were also considered to be a thing of the norm and very common. In the end, Hamilton’s ingenious mind, steadfast work ethic, loyalty to the general, language and literacy skills were highly missed, making Washington realize that Alexander’s job was inclusive of many more tasks than just drafting letters and the risk of sending his friend to his death in battle is worth it if he is able to get him back. If they wanted to use the resources obtained by Lafayette wisely, the best person to help them in the completion of the ambush was Hamilton.
- “what’s he going to do on the bench I mean?”
- “need my right hand man back”
Washington finally dipped into letting Hamilton lead his own troops, and desperately invited him back into the position but to be more than his just his right-hand man.
While this song encompasses many ideas, the most prominent and applicable one may be that collective identity is constructed, and can change over time. We see a direct reflection of this concept when we look at basically every historical figure in the musical and even the American Revolution as a whole. Starting off with –figuratively and literally- nothing, both the characters and the revolution catalyzed their potential for obtaining new opportunities (Hamilton’s hurricane testament and emerging and the colonies’ emerging ideologies). They kept on expanding their horizons, obtaining more experience, and structuring a greater societal rank. Eventually, Washington had as much hope in a poor orphan from the Caribbean as Lafayette had in a settlement of people who ran away from the tyranny of 17th century England.
Additionally to the previous quotes included as evidence, these are more important snippets that provide good contributions to the themes of this song:
- “How does a ragtag volunteer army in need of a shower somehow defeat a global superpower?”
As mentioned in basically every other Hamilton song, the theme of “work ethic” is one that has divine power over all the others in this musical. No matter how cliché and repeated the statement “you can do anything if you put your mind to it” is, the fact that the colonist’s militia (barely classifiable as an army) defeated one of the most powerful nation’s army is theoretically impossible. We may love this musical so much because the plot continues to be hit with impressive, positively unfounded events like this one.
- “And I’m never gonna stop until I make ’em
Drop and burn ’em up and scatter their remains, I’m”
Other than being a complete mouthful to say, this line exemplifies the lesson of perseverance. Although violence and war is not something that is socially acceptable nowadays, the idea of working though the barriers of something in order to get a good, globally beneficial outcome is incredibly important to living in a world of any time era. Lafayette was determined on fighting off the British troops to bring peace back into the city of Yorktown and to quiet the revolution’s conflict, so he went ahead with the necessary actions and sacrifices in order to make it happen.
- “You wanna fight for your land back? I need my right hand man back!”
Washington wasn’t the brightest kid and did not have a spectacular education, so he made sure to recruit intellectuals (like Hamilton) to work along with him and put his political power to proper use. It is admirable that he was able to recognize that make sure that he was getting the help necessary in order to govern a large country properly and not let pride or narcissism get in the way of that. Teamwork is very important.
- “I have soldiers that will yield for you
If we manage to get this right
They’ll surrender by early light
The world will never be the same, Alexander…”
Because Washington realized how important his “right-hand man” is to him, he made many sacrifices in order to get Hamilton back in the game. Hamilton was desperate to get field experience, and the only way that he was going to be won back was to give him the opportunity to command despite his lack of experience in the area and how much that could possibly cost the economy. In the end, the risky sacrifice of resources and sanity –to some extent- landed the Americans a splendid victory in history.
Putting aside this abundance of information, I chose to research this song purely because it was fun to listen to. As a matter of a fact, the 19-word passage of theme number two is the fastest phrase rapped in any Broadway musical; averaging at 6.3 words per second. Comparatively to all the other Hamilton songs, this one isn’t exactly superior or even my personal favourite. They’re all phenomenal, but I just happened to write all of this about this one.