Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
Publisher: Penguin Books
Genre: Non-fiction, history
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

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.
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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.

There are many books out about Alexander Hamilton, and Ron Chernow’s is an engaging and informative one. It is a thick book, but it is an easy read, not a dry textbook. Readers follow Hamilton’s life from the beginning and learn about his humble beginnings. That puts his achievements in an even brighter light than one may have done before.

The settings are well drawn, and readers will be able to picture those places, from an island to New York etc. Details not only help us to see and feel the surroundings but also play a part in shaping Hamilton’s views. What he saw impacted him, and this would play a role in his activities later on.

Readers get to see other famous historical figures through Hamilton’s eyes, and this is particularly interesting if one has read about Hamilton’s opponents. The comparison is enlightening. Though the book is written with obvious admiration for Hamilton by the author, it is done fairly, as would be expected of such a respected historian. Readers will learn more than just Hamilton’s past; they will discover or review important events in the nation’s history. Some of those things will be familiar, but others will be new. This book is well worth the read whether or not you are a fan of Hamilton.

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