Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton

Book - 2004
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Ron Chernow tells the story of a man who overcame all odds to shape, inspire, and scandalize the newborn America. Few figures in American history have been more hotly debated or more grossly misunderstood than Alexander Hamilton. Chernow's biography argues 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. 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.
Publisher: New York : Penguin Press, 2004
ISBN: 9781594200090
1594200092
9780143034759
0143034758
Characteristics: 818 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm

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lukasevansherman
Apr 05, 2021

"He was the clear-eyed apostle of America's economic future, setting forth a vision that many found enthralling, others unsettling, but that would ultimately prevail."
Well, I guess anything that gets Americans interested in their own history is good? The smash musical "Hamilton" was inspired by this doorstop of a biography by Ron Chernow, who has also written bios of Washington and Grant. He clearly has a thing for presidents, something that I, despite by interest in history, do not share. The flaw with this book, aside form its length, is his obvious admiration for Hamilton, even if he made plenty of enemies in his own time. Really, I just wanted to know more about the duel. What Lin-Manuel Miranda seized upon was his sketchy background and his immigrant story, although given that America was a colony when Hamilton arrived her, that immigrant narrative is a little unconvincing. Anyway, at least it was really long.

ChinesaR_KCMO Feb 06, 2021

I am totally obsessed with the Hamilton musical, so of course I had to get my hands on the book that inspired it. I was completely unprepared for the saga that was hidden within these pages. Chernow has done impeccable and extensive research to revive the life of this forgotten Founding Father. Chernow offers a new look at Hamilton and is wonderfully unbiased, portraying him as both brilliant but deeply flawed. I have personally learned more from this book than I have from any history class

a
anita2warmflash
Jan 23, 2021

i NEED THIS BOOK IN MY kINDLE RATHER THAN EBOOK. THANK YOU..

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pink_bee_876
Jan 14, 2021

I love this, but i would like if you made it a play away so i could lisen to it in class while i do ed fair

5
50reader65
Dec 22, 2020

What a read! I read every page of this amazing book, including the Acknowledgements. Extremely well-researched and exquisite writing. Excellent and never boring!

t
tro_0
Dec 20, 2020

I will admit that I picked up this book on an impulse after enjoying the musical adaptation. I however had no issue committing to finishing this massive biography. While I think it is much too dense to appeal to a non history lover, I found myself as engrossed in the story as any work fiction. A great look at a criminally underserved figure of American history.

l
Lennjamin
Oct 17, 2020

There was much less hip-hop than its broadway counterpart.
Still, an astonishing biography about an astonishing figure who is tragically underrepresented in our history classes.

d
dgiard
Aug 02, 2020

"In fact, no immigrant in American history has ever made a larger contribution than Alexander Hamilton"

Alexander Hamilton was born in the Caribbean and immigrated to New York City as a young man in 1772. The illegitimate child of a Scottish Laird and a divorced woman, his father abandoned him early and his mother died young. After his arrival, young Hamilton quickly aligned himself with the revolutionaries seeking independence from Great Britain. He rose to prominence as the George Washington's top aide-de-camp (effectively his chief of staff) during the Revolutionary War; then as a leader in battle; and finally, as a skilled politician and statesman in the newly-formed republic.

During the early days of the United States, Hamilton was arguably the most powerful man in the country, other than George Washington, who served as a father figure to his young aid for much of his career.

Hamilton was an integral part of the American Revolution, the Continental Congress, the Constitutional Convention, and the Washington administration. He founded the national bank, the Coast Guard, and the US Customs House.

He used his excellent skills as an orator and writer to persuade the passage of the US Constitution. James Madison was the primary author of the Constitution; but Hamilton was its most successful advocate, writing 51 of the 85 Federalist Papers - a set of pamphlets that were instrumental in convincing the public and the Congress to accept the guidelines for the new government.

As the first Secretary of the Treasury, he became a hero to the merchants of New York thanks to his ability to repeatedly avoid financial crises and maintain some degree of stability in the young economy. He was able to do so despite having no previous examples on which to draw.

Shortly after the formation of the United States, the country began to break into factions, forming the first political parties. People were divided between urban vs rural lifestyles; northern vs southern geography; slaveholders vs abolitionists; and those who believe power should be concentrated centrally or distributed among the states. Hamilton was a northern urban abolitionist, but he expended most of his energy fighting for a strong central government. As a result of his articulation of this principle, he became the leader of the Federalist Party.

Hamilton's success and strong opinions attracted the ire of numerous rivals - many of whom spread false rumours, accusing him of embezzling or attempting to create a monarchy in the US. Many of Hamilton's enemies accused him of benefitting financially from his role in government, even though no proof has ever been found to substantiate claims of professional impropriety.

But Alexander Hamilton was not without his faults. He was arrogant, short-tempered, and prone to hold a grudge. These characteristics became more pronounced after Washington's retirement. Washington and Hamilton remained close friends; but when Washington retired from public life, he no longer held the same calming influence over his protege. Hamilton's public disputes with Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and James Madison became increasingly hostile as both sides resorted more frequently to personal attacks against the other.

And, although he was faithful in his professional duties, he was a faithless husband and famous for his womanizing. This despite having a beautiful, loving, and faithful wife. One of his greatest mistakes was an affair with a married woman who later conspired with her husband to successfully blackmail Hamilton. When this became public, it damaged Hamilton's reputation greatly.

The last years of Hamilton's life were marked with tragedy. His eldest and favourite son was killed in a duel; his political influence diminished, along with the popularity of the Federalist Party; and he worked to remove himself from debt. Ultimately, his disagreements with Aaron Burr (Jefferson's Vice President) resulted in Burr blaming him for his own po

k
kwylie04
Jun 26, 2020

An excellent biography that did amazing things in the realm of Hamiltonia. A) It returned Hamilton to the interest of people other than scholars who have devoted their careers to the man (like the esteemed Dr. Joanne Freeman). B) It served as the inspiration for Lin-Manuel Miranda's cultural phenomenon, 'Hamilton: An American Musical' (just one week to go before the film version airs on Disney+ at the time of writing this review!).

Now, some things have changed since this biography was written and a few things have been found by subsequent research that put paid to some of the things Chernow asserted in the book, but that does not change the fact that this is still an excellent biography in most respects. It's written very well, allowing for most people to follow along (provided they have the patience to stick with it - it is 800+ pages, afterall!).

Possibly my only real quibble for it is the treatment of Eliza, and the implication that it took both her *and* her sister, Angelica, to be the 'ideal' woman for Hamilton. I know that we have Hamilton's letters to Angelica that show him writing about his political battles and such, but that doesn't necessarily mean that Eliza was not aware of these things as well. We just don't have a written record of them because, more often than not, Eliza was with Hamilton. She was there on the ground, supporting him in his career and not just being his baby momma. And she was the one who did the bulk of the work in preserving his legacy after he was gone. He wrote these things to Angelica because for many years she was on the other side of a damn ocean, away from the events that were happening here in America. But that's just my own take on the matter.

Overall, I absolutely loved this biography! A fascinating man who has now taken his place in the pantheon of Founding Fathers. Washington was the Father of His Country, Jefferson the writer of the Declaration, Madison the Father of the Constitution, but Hamilton was the Father of the American Government. It is because of him that we have so many institutions that are still with us today (the Treasury, the Coast Guard, etc). He too deserves to be remembered. His enemies may have tried to ruin his rep and make America forget him, but Eliza Hamilton (and her son and all the other subsequent biographers and scholars) kept his story alive until it could finally be sealed within the public consciousness for good.

1
1tarheel
Apr 13, 2020

Staggering to see how solidly anchored to Hamilton and Jefferson our current political discussions are. 243 years later, and we, as a nation, still struggle with these two, very distinct narratives about "America" that they championed. In the middle of it all, Hamilton himself was this 'out of his era' genius; Chernow does such a great job describing the guy, this human being. I found the last 50 pages hard to read, because I'd become such a fan by then. Nothing to do at that point...just watch the thing sail off the cliff. Heartbreaking.

Also putting in a plug for Chernow, of whom I am also a huge fan. His gift for story-telling based on (what must be) every surviving scrap of paper from the time is on full display here. Difficult to comprehend how he keeps track of it all.

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magalydominguez
Jul 28, 2016

Taunted as a bastard throughout his life, Hamilton was understandably reluctant to chat about his childhood- "my birth is the subject of the most humiliating criticism," he wrote in one pained confession and he turned his early family history into a taboo topic, alluded to in only a couple of cryptic letters.

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