During the number, Non-Stop in Hamilton, Aaron Burr steps into the spotlight:
Alexander joins forces with James Madison and John Jay to write a series of essays defending the new United States Constitution, entitled The Federalist Papers. The plan was to write a total of twenty-five essays, the work divided evenly among the three men. In the end, they wrote eighty-five essays, in the span of six months. John Jay got sick after writing five. James Madison wrote twenty-nine. Hamilton wrote the other fifty-oneNon-Stop – Hamilton
It wasn’t until I learned the story behind how Lin-Manuel Maranda started reading the biography of Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, which was only sparked because he had written a paper on the man in high school. What he remembered from the paper was that his son died in a duel in 1801, and he died in a duel in nearly the exact same place 3 years later. Maranda’s curiosity was sparked with, how on earth did Hamilton end up there and wanting to find the answer. He brought it from a bookstore, to read on holiday and the rest is history.
What Maranda keyed in on in the biography was Hamilton’s relentlessness – no matter what he was doing. He was always doing something. Whether it be from financial policy work through to writing his own expose. Through the musical, I see Hamilton’s compulsive need to write everything down – no matter what it is, and since the pandemic, I am finding myself the grappling with the words on my screen, rather than with an ink and quill.
Since 2016, I have been working on a novel based on the life of Valentine Keating and the Crutchy Push. I have exhausted the research aspect of the man and the gang, I am now to the writing stage. Yet, I still find myself trying to reconcile what parts I will leave out, and also; what is interesting to me, may not necessarily be interesting for readers. Also, in the end – I am writing a story NOT a biography. My characters need to be compelling in order for readers to connect to them.
Every other founding father’s story gets toldWho Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story – Hamilton
Every other founding father gets to grow old
But when you’re gone, who remembers your name?
Who keeps your flame?
Who tells your story?
Who tells your story?
It is those words that make me attack my manuscript. Though the disabled gang were prolific in their day, they were quickly forgotten for the more outlandish characters. Because at the end of the day, all the research I have done doesn’t matter – if the characters aren’t engaging than the story is as good as a dead fish in water. One thing about Australia is that we have a colourful array of characters and crimes that have inspired an entire doco-drama series, called Underbelly.
The last mention of the Crutchy Push was written in 1954, in an article about push gangs in general. I, who likes reading about true crime, had never heard about them. I found Valentine through the mention of his girlfriend, Harriett Adderly in an article talking about the prison records that had been digitised.
As a member of the ‘disabled person’ ilk, I am always interested in the people that came before me. Particularly, if it is way back in history. What makes this story even more intriguing is that, instead of being locked up in an institution, Valentine found a community of like-minded and equally disabled people to form a gang. The more I looked into Valentine Keating – the more I was upset that no one had told his story.
Over the years I have researched and talked to people, the amount of people that had no idea this existed was disheartening. I felt he had been forgotten. Not a sole writer had thought to google his name and see what came up. Someone needed to take a match, light it and keep his flame burning.
What keeps me writing is knowing that I am the one who will tell his story.