A: Character Development
“Cabinet Battle #1” is a depiction of the issue and controversy over the idea of establishing a national bank. This discussion is administrated and facilitated by George Washington while the two opposing parties are Secretary of Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, and Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson with the occasional backing and support of Representative James Madison.
This song is extremely relevant and significant because it is the deciding point of the future of America’s financial plan. The issue stems from the severe debt issue in the American government. After the American Revolutionary War, the federal government was $54 million dollars in debt while there was $25 million dollars owed by the individual states.
Due to this large amount of debt, Alexander Hamilton comes up with the idea of having the nation assume state debt and creating a national bank. Alexander Hamilton went on to create the First Report On Public Credit which was subsequently sent to the congress for approval. Alexander Hamilton continuously fought for the idea of state debt become part of federal debt by pooling it all together.
However, Thomas Jefferson strongly disagrees with this idea. As Thomas Jefferson and James Madison are both from Virginia they strongly disagree with this idea since Virginia had already paid off its debts. Thomas Jefferson does not like the idea of Virginia bearing the debt of other states. When he says “If New York’s in debt— Why should Virginia bear it?,” he is clearly expressing his desire to keep state debt separate from federal debt. Thomas Jefferson also goes to the point where he criticizes Alexander Hamilton’s idea as a ploy to earn more money. Thomas Jefferson also attacks Alexander Hamilton on things like his 40,000 word document, whiskey tax, and movement of finances.Alexander Hamilton must continuously fight for his goal even through Thomas Jefferson and James Madison’s taunts. This leads him to defending his idea even more ardently which also leads him to be a bit too proactive about it. Not only does he criticize Thomas Jefferson’s vast amount of slaves, he also attacks him for irresponsibly fooling around with the French. He exposes Thomas Jefferson for missing out on most of the recent events and claims that he is behind the times. When Alexander Hamilton says “Your debts are paid cuz you don’t pay for labour,” he is directly attacking Thomas Jefferson’s vast amount of slaves as well as the fact that Virginians are the main reason why slave trade has not been abolished as they have ardently fought against it.
The song ends when Alexander Hamilton’s attacks go too far which leads George Washington to call a recess. This gives the Thomas Jefferson and James Madison to rub in the fact that Alexander Hamilton doesn’t have enough votes and congressional approval. This is a big problem and George Washington is aware of it. He brings Alexander Hamilton over and discusses a method to fix it. The only way Alexander Hamilton can get the votes is if he allies with Thomas Jefferson and James Madison or else congress will request for his removal. This idea directly relates to the song “The Room Where it Happened” because it ends on the note that Alexander Hamilton must come to a compromise with Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and that is the plot of that song.
“Cabinet Battle #1” has 4 characters that are significant: Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and James Madison.
Alexander Hamilton’s want and desire in this song is to establish the national bank. He wants to build a national public credit and abolish all state debt to create the national debt. He knew this was a good idea because in past scenarios bailing out those in debt gave an economic boost. When Alexander Hamilton says “How do you not get it? If we’re aggressive and competitive, the union gets a boost,” he is directly referencing the wondrous effect on the economy of America as a whole. His plan would have states like Virginia and other states that have paid off their debt aid in boosting the economy of other states who have not. This would directly involve creating a public credit which was Alexander Hamilton’s plan.
In this song, Alexander Hamilton’s main fear is not getting votes and congressional approval. This fear directly leads to many more issues. If he does not get those votes, that means his financial plan would cease to exist and America would have a totally different financial plan now. He also fears that without his economic plan, America’s economy would also fall. This would lead to a recession or even an economic collapse which is not what Alexander Hamilton wants to see.
Thomas Jefferson’s want is to keep Virginia above the other states. His plan is to have Virginia at the top and keep it at the top. He intends to do this by fighting Alexander Hamilton’s debt plan because Thomas Jefferson doesn’t want Virginia’s money to go to the other states. When Thomas Jefferson says, “Uh! Our debts are paid, I’m afraid, don’t tax the South cuz we got it made in the shade,” he is claiming that Virginia and other Southern states are doing very well economically and they don’t want to share their wealth with the other states.
Once again, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton take opposing roles. Thomas Jefferson’s fear is also Alexander Hamilton’s want. Thomas Jefferson doesn’t want to see Alexander Hamilton’s candidacy or his financial plan coming to fruition. When he says “And pray to God we never see Hamilton’s candidacy,” Thomas Jefferson is directly attacking Alexander Hamilton and his ideals. Thomas Jefferson also references the Declaration of Independence and claims that Alexander Hamilton’s financial plan is disregarding ideals that America fought for.
George Washington’s wants are focused mainly on Alexander Hamilton. George Washington seems inclined to supporting Alexander Hamilton’s financial plan, but he is also aware that the congress does not support him as much as he does. George Washington wants Alexander Hamilton’s plan to go through and become realized, but he is also prepared to give up if it becomes a lost cause. When George Washington says “I imagine they’ll call for your removal,” he is showing that he acknowledges the consequences of these actions but is also prepared to work with them.
George Washington’s fear is the opposite of his want. He fears that Alexander Hamilton will not be able to garner enough votes and that Thomas Jefferson and James Madison will have control over Virginian debt and state debt remains separated. George Washington also insists on Alexander Hamilton trying to reconcile with Thomas Jefferson and James Madison to see if they can come to some sort of compromise because George Washington wants to see the idea of national debt come to realization.
James Madison’s want is very similar to Thomas Jefferson since his presence in this song serves as a sort of hype man for Thomas Jefferson. Just like Thomas Jefferson, James Madison wants to see a world where Virginia is sitting comfortably without debt and with a booming economy. When Alexander Hamilton says “James Madison won’t talk to me, that’s a nonstarter,” he is indirectly pointing that James Madison sits on an opposing side to him. It also shows his disinterest to discuss terms with Alexander Hamilton as he doesn’t want to help him.
James Madison’s fear is also similar to Thomas Jefferson’s as he also does not want to see Alexander Hamilton’s financial plan ruin his Virginian economy. As the representative of Virginia, the last thing he wants is Alexander Hamilton sticking his hands into their wealth.
B: Connections to Historical Elements
Historical Events and Ideas:
“Cabinet Battle #1” references a lot of important historical events and artifacts since it is a full discussion on the future of American economy. It brings in many important cultural events and ideals that contribute to the depth and meaning of the song.
The first major historical connection is to the First Report on Public Credit. This is a very important concept to understand as this was on of the big implications behind the general idea of “establishing a national bank.” Although the First Report on Public Credit was not mentioned by name in the song, it remains a crucial component to the background of the song. The First Report on Public Credit was a report submitted to the congress which outlined and describe Alexander Hamilton’s idea to pool together a national credit system. When George Washington says “The issue on the table: Secretary Hamilton’s plan to assume state debt and establish a national bank,” he is indirectly referencing the First Report on Public Credit which was previously submitted to the congress before the discussion. This First Report on public Credit ended up becoming a revolutionary idea for America and becoming the catalyst for the American economy and financial system we see today.
Another big historical event is the slave trade and treatment of slaves. When Alexander Hamilton says “Your debts are paid cuz you don’t pay for labour,” he is directly attacking Thomas Jefferson’s extreme amount of slaves as Thomas Jefferson owned over 100 slaves. This is also extremely relevant to the song because one of the reasons why the abolishment of slavery was so late in America was because the Southern states fought extremely ardently to push back the abolishment date since they were making lots of money from having the slaves work in the cotton industry. However, this also shows that in this time, slave trade was still an acceptable concept and there were even factions that ardently supported the idea of owning and using slaves. This also shines some light on the American values at the time because the American idea of freedom didn’t include these slaves.
Towards the end of Thomas Jefferson’s verse, he threatens Alexander Hamilton about his whiskey tax idea by referencing the historical event called the Boston Tea Party. When Thomas Jefferson says “Look, when Britain taxed our tea, we got frisky,” he is not only indirectly threatening Alexander Hamilton, he is also referencing the Boston Tea Party which was a very big event for the American Revolutionary War. The Boston Tea Party was one of the inciting events of the revolution as it brought on a lot of ire from Britain as this was considered an act of treason.
The bid idea I chose for “Cabinet Battle #1” is Disparities in power alter the balance of relationships between individuals and between societies. I chose this big idea because I feel like it is extremely relevant to the song. The main reason why this big idea is the most relevant to the song is because one of the conflicts in the song is the fact that Alexander Hamilton can’t get enough votes. This can be correlated to the big idea since people like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison have a lot of political influence. They are strong opposition to Alexander Hamilton’s financial plan which leads to many others supporting their decision. This leaves Alexander Hamilton outnumbered and lacking power which leads to his relationships with others to be worse than it could’ve been. Another example is the fact that congress can easily remove Alexander Hamilton from his position if he doesn’t satisfy them. This puts Alexander Hamilton in a very flimsy position and once again displays the effect of disparities in power altering relationships.
C: Thematic and Personal Connections
One of the main reasons why I chose to explore and dissect “Cabinet Battle #1” is because it is packed full of info in a short time. As all 3 Cabinet Battle songs are in the rap battle format, they are all very fast paced and share a lot of information quickly. This makes the song very interesting to analyze as there is bits of info splayed throughout the song which may seem insignificant but lead to major historical events.
This song is also intriguing because it has a sister song (as well as another sister song that was removed from the playlist) by the name of “Cabinet Battle #2.” This allows me to compare and contrast the difference between the songs and how the relate to each other. It is also interesting because the two songs do not come one after another but instead, there is a few sons in between them which allows me to analyze what happened between the two songs and how that may have influenced “Cabinet Battle #2.”
The Thomas Jefferson line that has really stuck out to me as not only important but also thought-provoking is “We create. You just wanna move our money around.” This line is very though-provoking because it brings up the idea of rights and freedoms. What right does the federal government have to move the state’s money around and who can stop this? It also demonstrates how some ideas may have a positive effect on some people while having a negative effect on others. It is also a very good defining line of the song as it portrays a good part of the song.
Another line that left an impact on me was when Alexander Hamilton says “Don’t lecture me about the war, you didn’t fight in it,” because he said this to attack Thomas Jefferson for leaving his country to go and hang out with the French. Not only does this line paint Thomas Jefferson as a lazy, untrustworthy person, it also brings up the idea that Thomas Jefferson is outdated and his ideas aren’t fresh because he had missed out on most of the revolution.
The first line I would like to dissect is one that brings up an important “American” ideal. When Thomas Jefferson says “‘Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ We fought for these ideals; we shouldn’t settle for less,” he is not only fighting back Alexander Hamilton’s ideals, he is also bringing up a point about what we fight for and how we shouldn’t let go of the ideals that America had just won after a tough battle. This theme continues for the whole song because it is important to consider that there was a bloody battle to fight for these rights and freedoms.
The second line theme I think is important and essential to the song is the idea that America is constantly innovating and developing. When Alexander Hamilton says “Welcome to the present, we’re running a real nation,” he is talking about how America is constantly moving forward and you have to keep up. This idea is crucial to the song because the main idea of the song is that Alexander Hamilton is bringing a new and innovative idea to the table and America should keep up with it. This is also an attack on Thomas Jefferson as he was away in Monticello instead of experiencing the revolution.
The final theme I’d like to discuss is the idea that America is still alive and fighting. Just because they have won the revolution doesn’t mean they are docile and weak. Instead, they will continue to fight to make sure they always have these rights and freedoms. When Thomas Jefferson says “Imagine what gon’ happen when you try to tax our whisky,” he is not only threatening Alexander Hamilton, but threatening everyone. He is saying that America will fight for what they want. The people will not sit and accept their fate because they are filled with the “American Dream.”