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Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

Alexander Hamilton

by Ron Chernow

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Ch 15 ( )
  Alli.Broad | Jun 5, 2015 |
Just (finally) finished listening to a digital recording of the book. Hamilton comes across as brilliant, ambitious, and driven by an incredibly rigid sense of superior self-worth. That sense of self allowed him to triumph over the difficult circumstances of his birth to become a vital force in the Revolutionary and Federalist periods, laying the foundation for a growing and financially sophisticated national economy. But, that desperate pride also damaged his reputation (because he couldn't just let the scandal of the Reynolds affair lie), destroyed his political standing when he personalized his disagreements with party leader and sitting President John Adams, and led to his death in a duel at the hands of Aaron Burr. Arguably, all duels are pointless and unnecessary; but this one seems exceptionally stupid, even by the standards of the time.

Chernow does a fine job explaining the historical context of Hamilton's life and works. For readers (or listeners) who do not know the period, this is a fine place to start; for those who already do, it is fascinating to follow Hamilton's thread through these turbulent times. ( )
1 vote bezoar44 | Feb 4, 2015 |
Chernow is a Hamilton partisan, but amply justifies his regard for this much maligned founding father. I did not think I would enjoy this tome but it is fast-paced and fascinating. I knew Hamilton had written some of the Federalist Papers, but didn't know he had written the majority of them; I knew he created the Treasury, but not that he founded the Coast Guard, led the United States' first standing army and created its navy; he was a successful attorney and banker, to boot. ( )
2 vote nmele | Jul 10, 2014 |
Ron Chernow is the master architect when building biographies. His reconstruction of Alexander Hamilton's life is as detailed as it is complete. Chernow had plenty to work with as Hamilton's early years were as rich with intrigue as his later political years. But, Chernow doesn't stop there. Besides given a thorough snapshot of the political and historical times, he dips into the biographies of the influential people around Hamilton as well: John Adams, George Clinton, Elizabeth Schuyler, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and of course, Aaron Burr, to name a few. As an aside, I was surprised to learn that Hamilton enjoyed settling disputes with duels. He was quick to suggest them, enough so that his encounter with Burr was not the first, but definitely his last. ( )
2 vote SeriousGrace | Feb 25, 2014 |
180 people have already said this book rocks...: I am #181. This biography blew me away. Athough the duel and outcome were not a surprise to say the least (I live in Weehawken, for one), I found myself crying my eyes out for Hamilton in the end. Add a half a star to the 5 if you've been a New Yorker -- because your enjoyment will be that much greater.

My only problem was not with Chernow -- it was that the print was small and the huge paperback unwieldly. As I read this while pregnant, I found reading this particular book physically challenging and would take breaks with other books. But as the book was amazing and I vowed I'd finish it before I launched, I reached the finish line in month 9.

Hurrah for Hamilton and Chernow!
2 vote mugwump2 | Feb 5, 2014 |
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In the early 1850s, few pedestrians strolling past the house on H Street in Washington, near the White House, realized that the ancient widow seated by the window, knitting and arranging, was the last surviving link to the glory days of the republic.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0143034758, Paperback)

Building on biographies by Richard Brookhiser and Willard Sterne Randall, Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton provides what may be the most comprehensive modern examination of the often overlooked Founding Father. From the start, Chernow argues that Hamilton’s premature death at age 49 left his record to be reinterpreted and even re-written by his more long-lived enemies, among them: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and James Monroe. Hamilton’s achievements as first Secretary of the Treasury, co-author of The Federalist Papers, and member of the Constitutional Convention were clouded after his death by strident claims that he was an arrogant, self-serving monarchist. Chernow delves into the almost 22,000 pages of letters, manuscripts, and articles that make up Hamilton’s legacy to reveal a man with a sophisticated intellect, a romantic spirit, and a late-blooming religiosity.

One fault of the book, is that Chernow is so convinced of Hamilton’s excellence that his narrative sometimes becomes hagiographic. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Chernow’s account of the infamous duel between Hamilton and Aaron Burr in 1804. He describes Hamilton’s final hours as pious, while Burr, Jefferson, and Adams achieve an almost cartoonish villainy at the news of Hamilton’s passing.

A defender of the union against New England secession and an opponent of slavery, Hamilton has a special appeal to modern sensibilities. Chernow argues that in contrast to Jefferson and Washington’s now outmoded agrarian idealism, Hamilton was "the prophet of the capitalist revolution" and the true forebear of modern America. In his Prologue, he writes: "In all probability, Alexander Hamilton is the foremost figure in American history who never attained the presidency, yet he probably had a much deeper and more lasting impact than many who did." With Alexander Hamilton, this impact can now be more widely appreciated. --Patrick O'Kelley

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:16 -0400)

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Publisher's description: In the first full-length biography of Alexander Hamilton in decades, National Book Award winner Ron Chernow tells the riveting story of a man who overcame all odds to shape, inspire, and scandalize the newborn America. According to historian Joseph Ellis, Alexander Hamilton is "a robust full-length portrait, in my view the best ever written, of the most brilliant, charismatic and dangerous founder of them all." Few figures in American history. have been more hotly debated or more grossly misunderstood than Alexander Hamilton. Chernow's biography gives Hamilton his due and sets the record straight, deftly illustrating that the political and economic greatness of today's America is the result of Hamilton's countless sacrifices to champion ideas that were often wildly disputed during his time. "To repudiate his legacy," Chernow writes, "is, in many ways, to repudiate the modern world." Chernow here recounts. Hamilton's turbulent life: an illegitimate, largely self-taught orphan from the Caribbean, he came out of nowhere to take America by storm, rising to become George Washington's aide-de-camp in the Continental Army, coauthoring The Federalist Papers, founding the Bank of New York, leading the Federalist Party, and becoming the first Treasury Secretary of the United States. Historians have long told the story of America's birth as the triumph of Jefferson's democratic. ideals over the aristocratic intentions of Hamilton. Chernow presents an entirely different man, whose legendary ambitions were motivated not merely by self-interest but by passionate patriotism and a stubborn will to build the foundations of American prosperity and power. His is a Hamilton far more human than we've encountered before-from his shame about his birth to his fiery aspirations, from his intimate relationships with childhood friends to his titanic feuds with. Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Monroe, and Burr, and from his highly public affair with Maria Reynolds to his loving marriage to his loyal wife Eliza. And never before has there been a more vivid account of Hamilton's famous and mysterious death in a duel with Aaron Burr in July of 1804. Chernow's biography is not just a portrait of Hamilton, but the story of America's birth seen through its most central figure. At a critical time to look back to our roots, Alexander. Hamilton will remind readers of the purpose of our institutions and our heritage as Americans.… (more)

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