Let's Digress

Independence Day 2023

I saw this video on Instagram the other day that was playing over a backdrop of the Hamilton musical. It was talking about how young Alexander Hamilton was at the time of the Revolution and signing of the Declaration of Independence and how “he wasn’t an old white guy” like the other signers.

Firstly, I liked the Hamilton musical. I don’t generally do musicals, but I liked this one. I wrote an article about it here.  

Secondly, Alexander Hamilton wasn’t the only young person involved with the Revolution. 

Thirdly, Alexander Hamilton didn’t sign the Declaration of Independence as the video said. 

Fun fact, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, James Madison, and George Washington are all widely considered to be Founding Fathers and none of them signed the Declaration. 

After seeing that video, I did a casual search on the World Wide Web to see just how old the “old white guys” actually were around July 4th, 1776. 

According to the National Archives website and All Things Liberty

John Adams was 40.

Samuel Adams was 53. 

George Clymer was 37. 

Benjamin Franklin was 70 (definitely old). 

Eldridge Gerry was 32. 

John Hancock was 40. 

Joseph Hewes was 46.

William Hooper was 34. 

Francis Hopkinson was 38.

Thomas Jefferson (who wrote the Declaration) was 33.

Thomas Lynch Jr. was 26.

Arthur Middleton was 34.

Thomas Nelson Jr. was 37.

George Read was 42.

Dr. Benjamin Rush was 30.

Edward Rutledge was 26.

Roger Sherman was 55.

Thomas Stone was 33.

William Whipple was 46.

James Wilson was 33.

This is only a handful of the 56 signers, but the average age between all 56 of them is 44, which is a far cry from “old white guys.” 

Some additional names are often lumped into the “old white guy” camp of the founding, but they were all pretty young, too. 

Marquis de Lafayette was 18. 

James Monroe was 18. 

Aaron Burr was 20. 

Nathan Hale was 21.

Alexander Hamilton was 21.

Benjamin Tallmadge (who spearheaded the Culper spy ring) was 22. 

Betsy Ross was 24.

James Madison was 25.

Abraham Woodhull (who was Mr. Culper from the Culper spy ring) was 26.

John Jay was 30.

Abigail Adams was 31.

Nathanael Greene was 33.

Benedict Arnold was 35.

Hercules Mulligan was 36.

Thomas Payne was 39.

Paul Revere was 41.

George Washington was 44.

James Rivington was 52.

This is just astonishing to me. Thomas Jefferson was one year older than I am currently when he wrote what is arguably the best—certainly one of the most impactful—documents in history. 

Nathan Hale, Abraham Woodhull, and Ben Tallmadge were all well under 30 when they were doing super dangerous spy stuff that we only really started to unearth within the past couple of decades. Their efforts and the work of the others in the Culper Ring are directly responsible for the newly-founded United States winning the Revolution.

Also of note, the Hamilton musical has some historical inaccuracies and definitely took artistic liberties (the adversarial relationship portrayed between Hamilton and Jefferson doesn’t have any supporting historical evidence; the love triangle between the Schuyler sisters and Hamilton lacks supporting evidence; and Hamilton wasn’t the progressive slavery abolitionist he was portrayed to be, as unfortunate as that is, to name a few). But one thing it does get right is the cast all appear to be in the proper age bracket for the people they’re playing, i.e., the cast doesn’t just portray a bunch of old white guys.

Questions? Comments? Concerns? Opinions? Comment below or shoot an email to Adam@LetsDigress.com!

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