In July 2018, I began a series of articles for the National Association of Scholars (NAS) that described the spread into common American society of higher education’s theories and beliefs that human beings are defined by their skin color, sex, and sexual preference, making discrimination and oppression based on those characteristics (especially racial) our driving force. Much of higher education declared such a society to be “systemically racist” based on the discredited but still widely influential concept of “implicit bias.” Heterosexual white males, in particular, are seen to be especially guilty of denying opportunity to everyone else, necessitating policies that implement racial equity and social justice rather than equal opportunity.
After more than four years of such actions in society, I had indicated in my articles that both progressives and woke activists would be relentless in implementing their ideas, but I hoped that adverse consequences and incompetence would restrict their influence. However, it has become necessary to highlight a few recent developments that illustrate their continued advancement.
Madison and the Founding
On July 20, 2018, in “The Misappropriation of Madison and Montpelier,” I wrote that progressivism had begun a transmogrification of American history by installing exhibits at Montpelier that described James Madison primarily as a slaveholder, suggested that slavery was rooted in and protected by the U. S. Constitution, and purported to illustrate how that legacy is manifested in America today. The new exhibits at Montpelier were entitled “The Mere Distinction of Colour.”
On August 5, 2022, in “The Woke Conversion of Montpelier,” I showed that a new progressive Montpelier Board, installed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, had turned to reimagining James Madison to make him appear to be a supporter of slavery in early America. The work of the National Trust and its advisor, the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, is financed by the George Soros Open Society Foundation and other leftist luminaries.
In similar but more detailed coverage of those developments, an article by Quin Hilyer, “Madison’s Foundation, Destroyed from Within,” detailed how a left-wing coup threatens America’s heritage and history. Moreover, in a follow-up article on September 26, 2022, Hilyer further wrote that “Woke Montpelier leaders envision a massive land grab in Virginia” and concluded that
The left-wing cabal that engineered a hostile takeover of James Madison’s Montpelier estate is officially planning a massive “heritage area and trail” that encompasses an area 70% the size of Rhode Island. The person hired to plan this unprecedented project also will be tasked with an educational role not on Madison and the Constitution, but “to plan and implement educational programs that address the legacies of slavery and racism in our state and nation.” …
The project, called the Arc of Enslaved Communities …[declares that] “enslaved communities formed the socioeconomic, cultural, and intellectual backbone of an ecosystem that produced, amongst other things,” the Constitution … and the Declaration of Independence. …
The original idea was to turn the entire region into a United Nations World Heritage site.
The above ideas came from James French, the new Montpelier Board Chairman installed by the National Trust in May 2022. According to Hilyer, French believes that “the enslaved communities provided the underpinnings to the Constitution” and that “the slaves were the people upon whom [Madison] relied for everything, including his ideas.”
The nation still merely watches as the privately funded National Trust continues to direct the conversion of America to support the 1619 Project. That Trust was congressionally chartered to the Historic Sites Act of 1966, as amended in 1992, which is intended to “preserve” the past, not create a new racial America based on a private institution’s biased views, which are not shared by our people as a whole.
1776 and the Founding
In July 2022, the Washington Post announced in an article headline that “‘1776’—not ‘Hamilton’—is the musical that best portrays the Founders.” Could the Post have been referring to the Tony-award-winning 1969 Broadway musical 1776, which I enjoyed—with a cast of mainly older white men singing classical-style music to an accepted founding narrative?
No, the Post was praising a brand-new Broadway production of 1776, which another Post article called “DEEPLY MOVING AND INSPIRATIONAL! An exhilarating and touching embrace of the possibilities of the future.” One thing new was a diverse 1776 cast composed entirely of female, nonbinary, and transgender actors. The New York Times and other Broadway reviewers all praised the new hit musical, except the New York Post. But they also reflected some version of Variety’s opinion that “at times the results are somewhat crude, clunky, and overdone.” The New York Post commented that the musical “is bogged down by cartoony, dishonest impressions of dudes” and condescension toward the audience and that the “awful orchestrations” mangle a beautiful original score for tenors and baritones into formless contemporary pop.
After observing the cast’s criticism of the Declaration of Independence for not addressing women and people of color, the Guardian observed that
The moral of the original musical suggests that no change is possible without compromise, but this new version argues … that some compromises are unworthy, that they pervert the cause itself. Here that compromise is removal of a clause condemning slavery … This casting and a searing final image reject the compromise outright, leaving open the question of whether independence, fought and won in just this way, was worth it.
The new 1776 will open at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, on June 27, 2023, advancing the “We See You White American Theater” activist movement spurred by the murder of George Floyd by further dismissing the white male founders and founding portrayed in “Hamilton.”
Hamilton and the Founding
On October 17, 2018, in an article for NAS titled “Hamilton: An American Musical—Its National Influence as Art,” I concluded:
“Hamilton” is great art and unparalleled entertainment. It inspires interest in our founding by all our citizens. It lionizes the Founder who created the basis for our current economy and supported our Constitutional governing institutions. Its most important national influence may well be the wisdom—the founding concept of “prudence”—that a masterly work of art showcases for dealing with the issue of racism that divides America. For that we should all thank a brilliant young artist—Lin Manuel Miranda.
In the article, I showed that Miranda and “Hamilton” were supported by citizens from the far left to the far right of the political spectrum. However, Miranda was criticized for highlighting bootstrap success, immigrants, and patriotism—but not racism, slavery, and reparations. While the musical “Hamilton” remains popular with the American public, Miranda himself became unpopular after 2020 for not denouncing racism.
On September 30, 2022, Congress finally took some action. But ironically, it was Hamilton’s statue that was banished from the Capitol Rotunda—relegated to the floor below, between some unknown state figures. The action was directed by the U. S. Senate Rules Committee, led by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)—and reported by only the New York Post, not the Washington Post or New York Times. Such action, led by the Democrats, coincides with the replacement of the old 1776 with the new nonbinary version—while ignoring the reinvention of an America based on slavery that is occurring nearby in Virginia with the misappropriation of Madison and Montpelier.
Congress needs to restore Alexander Hamilton to his rightful place in the Rotunda, which at the same time will recognize the continued importance of Miranda’s “Hamilton” to understanding the founding and development of our nation as seen by the vast majority of all Americans.
Congress should also remind the National Trust that it is not chartered as a political entity to reimagine America as a “systematically-racist” nation based on the 1619 Project, but to preserve the past. It should also direct the Trust to cease its misappropriation of Madison and Montpelier—its attempt to demonstrate that a Virginia state slave community and Madison established a Constitution based on slavery and racism rather than civic equality.
This is one of an occasional series of articles applying the lessons of Western Civilization to contemporary issues relevant to the academy.
The Honorable William H. Young was appointed by President George H. W. Bush to be Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy and served in that position from November 1989 to January 1993. He is the author of Ordering America: Fulfilling the Ideals of Western Civilization (2010) and Centering America: Resurrecting the Local Progressive Ideal (2002).