“Who does he mean by the people?” asks Astrid Crookshank, visiting from Maryland with her college-age son. “Women? Slaves? Or white landowners?”
Light answers by quoting “The Hamilton Mixtape” about the nature of history: “The reality is messier and richer, kids.”
As the tour approaches the dining room, a visitor begins to sing “The Room Where It Happens,” a showstopper from the play.
Light explains the famed meeting actually occurred in New York, where Hamilton, Jefferson and James Madison agreed the nation would assume states’ debts in return for placing the capital in Washington, D.C. As the song says, Jefferson likely “arranged the menu, the venue and the setting” — with the help of his slave, Paris-trained chef James Hemings.
Tonight’s tour ends in the recently restored Dome Room, where Light brings up the 1800 presidential election. Surprisingly, Hamilton played a crucial role in helping Jefferson defeat his running mate, Aaron Burr. “Jefferson has beliefs,” Hamilton explains onstage. “Burr has none.”
As the evening sun streams through circular windows, Light asks his visitors their opinion: Are we living in Hamilton’s nation today or Jefferson’s? After some discussion, Crookshank speaks up.
“I think the country won,” she says, “because we have both.”
The roughly 90-minute tours cost $40 and are offered select Fridays and Saturdays through May, and in September; www.monticello.org.
(Larry Bleiberg is a freelance writer.)