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Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

Alexander Hamilton

by Ron Chernow

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A straight-forward biography of General Washington's right-hand man, Constitutional crusader, and founder of American finance as first secretary of treasury. It does not shy away from Hamilton's failings such as an ill-tempered tongue and poor decisions, but mostly presents him as a honorable person who set the United States on the course to greatness before his own fall from grace (followed by his being felled by a dueling pistol). Chernow relies on the unnuanced history that presents Aaron Burr as pure villain, but Burr did kill the book's protagonist, so I suppose it's only fair. If you're looking for an introduction to one of the United States' overlooked but fascinating founders, this is it. ( )
  Othemts | Dec 12, 2015 |
Read it for the obvious reason; enjoyed it as a companion to the musical and as a corrective to the necessary compression of events in the musical. The main thing I noticed: American politics has a long history of totally asinine disputes; sometimes I thought very little had changed. Also, as I’ve noted before, American political pundits are terrible. I particularly loved the one who declared, before Washington’s second term ended, that John Adams was finished in politics. ( )
1 vote rivkat | Nov 12, 2015 |
I am almost finished with this book and it has taken awhile. After reading Chernow's biography on Washington - which was excellent - I was really excited to read about someone I didn't really "know" but this book drags a bit. ( )
  jpb355 | Nov 2, 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. ( )
2 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 |
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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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