- Publish Date: 2004-04-26
- Binding: Hardcover
- Author: Ron Chernow
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The inspiration for the hit Broadway musical Hamilton!
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. Chernows biography gives Hamilton his due and sets the record straight, deftly illustrating that the political and economic greatness of todays America is the result of Hamiltons 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 Hamiltons 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 Washingtons 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 Americas birth as the triumph of Jeffersons 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 weve encountered beforefrom 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 Hamiltons famous and mysterious death in a duel with Aaron Burr in July of 1804.
Chernows biography is not just a portrait of Hamilton, but the story of Americas 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.
Ron Chernow's new biography, Grant, will be published by Penguin Press in October 2017.
One fault of the book, is that Chernow is so convinced of Hamiltons excellence that his narrative sometimes becomes hagiographic. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Chernows account of the infamous duel between Hamilton and Aaron Burr in 1804. He describes Hamiltons final hours as pious, while Burr, Jefferson, and Adams achieve an almost cartoonish villainy at the news of Hamiltons 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 Washingtons 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