*Editor’s Note: This is a pretty specific reference to the song, Aaron Burr, Sir from the musical Hamilton by Hollywood’s Lin Manuel Miranda. If that sentence makes no sense to you, go ahead and close this blog right now.
An Open Letter from the Bursar at Princeton College to Alexander Hamilton
Dear Mr. Hamilton,
I am at a loss. It has been 19 long days since you attacked me at the Bursar’s office of Princeton College and I have yet to receive any word from you in the way of apology or even the slightest indication of remorse or contrition. I am forced to accept that our dispute over your desire for an accelerated course of study was no mere misunderstanding, but a brutal assault whose purpose I still struggle to ascertain.
Let us start with the facts. August 1st, 1776 was a muggy day in Princeton, New Jersey, the air thick with humidity and the spirit of mainly peaceful protests from American subjects. As I sat at my desk in the financial office of my beloved college, I found myself buried under a sea of paperwork, par for the course during the enrollment window, but a growing burden nonetheless. And then…crash! The door slammed open and you stormed into my sanctuary, demanding ‘an accelerated course of study.’ I looked up bewildered, as not only was I in the middle of signing some parchments with a quill (this is what we do during this time period), but this was an unusual request and I had honestly thought my door was locked. You began rambling that you had clerked for your late mother’s landlord, run a fishing charter at age 14, and your uncle had recently committed suicide. While those are impressive achievements and I am truly sorry for your loss, (my own uncle has passed from smallpox and his absence is still felt in our household) as I told you at the time, none of that is particularly relevant to a college education. Instead of understanding and moving on, you unfortunately grew incensed.
You ranted and raved and insisted that you were not throwing away your shot (I am still confused by what you meant by this.) I’ll admit, I was impressed by your gusto, but that does not change the facts – at Princeton College, we do not offer abridged educations. We are a 4 year institution that specializes in immersive, on-campus experiences that foster a community of free thought and intellectual curiosity. If you had done any research, you would know this (we have several pamphlets nailed to blacksmith shops around the town that I am sure you’ve seen.) We are not a place where you ‘graduate in two and join the revolution’ (maybe try King’s College?)
To be clear, this is not even my decision. A bursar is a mainly administrative position. I am about 7 steps removed from having any influence on academic courses or university policies (believe me, it is an immense source of frustration for me, a frustration I fear I often burden my loving wife Abigail with. Like she doesn’t have enough on her plate, what with churning butter and stitching trousers for my 3 young boys all day long, forced to stretch a meager bursar’s wage across 5 mouths! I digress.) I barely had a chance to explain this to you before you punched me across my face, shattering my jaw in 11 places.
Need I remind you that it is 1776 – medicine basically does not exist. There is no way to cure a fever, much less fix a broken jaw. My mouth will forever be crooked and give me trouble eating anything besides corn porridge. When people ask what happened, I will be forced to explain that a bastard, orphan, son of a whore punched me in the jaw for doing my job. I have a wife and 3 young boys. Do you think I will ever get their respect again?
I was willing to write this all off as a tragic misunderstanding until I heard from my dear friend Aaron Burr that you were putting the blame on me, insisting that I ‘looked at you like you were stupid.’ I assure you that any ‘look’ I gave you was rooted out of confusion at the situation and potentially an unfortunate side effect of my lazy eye, which again, cannot be fixed since the only medicine is amputating legs in battle.
I am starting to think the only reason you punched me was that the word ‘Bursar’ rhymes with ‘Aaron Burr, sir’ and you thought it might sound nice in a musical in 250 years. While this is an impressive wordplay, I implore you to examine the pain you cause everyday people on your path to success. I fear that you will never be truly satisfied.