Book Review: Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

Merry Christmas! This is my favorite book this year!
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Title: Alexander Hamilton

Author: Ron Chernow

Genre: Non Fiction, History, American History, Biography, Politics, Historical, Memoir, Economics, Presidents

Publisher: Penguin

Published: March 29, 2005

Page Amount: 818 pages

Blurb From Goodreads: Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Chernow presents a landmark biography of Alexander Hamilton, the Founding Father who galvanized, inspired, scandalized, and shaped the newborn nation.

In the first full-length biography of Alexander Hamilton in decades, 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.”

Why Read: I think the answer to this is rather obvious, given my recent obsession with the musical currently sweeping across America… Hamilton. Once I Found out that the musical was, in fact, based off of this book (this whopping 800 pager) – I almost had to read it? At least that’s what I told myself.

Review: Sit back and prepare yourselves, because I have nothing but good things to say about this fantastic biography. Ron Chernow follows Alexander Hamilton from his childhood to his early death (Damn you Aaron Burr) in such an excruciatingly detailed manner – that you cannot help but get a sense for what kind of man, one of our Founding Fathers was. Hamilton’s early childhood story was one of being orphaned, and shipped to a cousin, who committed suicide until he found himself on the way to New York to try his chances at college in the Colonies.

Being Hamilton, he went to Kings (now: Columbia) College and found his way to the Revolution with other well-known revolutionaries like Hercules Mulligan. He was swept up in the fighting and didn’t even finish his schooling, instead opting to join the Army until he was on George Washington’s staff. I feel like the song “My Shot” is most apt here from the musical – because everything Hamilton did was to get someplace, to achieve something better and more.

The Revolution came and went, and Hamilton rose along with it to lead a battalion in the Battle of Yorktown and eventually attend the Constitutional Convention as one of its youngest attendees, and finally become the first Secretary of the Treasury. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before he became the Secretary of the Treasury, he had to spread the word about the new Constitution developed at the Convention. So it was he, along with James Madison and John Jay who wrote the Federalist Papers, which discuss the merits of a good government [Side Note: I am currently reading them and they are fantastically everything].

To spare you thousands of pages of me ranting on and on about all of Hamilton’s achievements – I shall shorten it to these couple points. He had eight children. He married Eliza Schuyler. He had an affair with Maria Reynolds, and upon being accused of embezzling Treasury funds – he published the Reynolds Pamphlet, admitting to the affair in lieu of embezzlement (which he was not doing). He established the public debt of the United States; he knew that neutrality in the French Revolution was the right call. Eventually, he and Aaron Burr got into a fight of honor, and Burr called Hamilton to a duel, which Hamilton lost (because he pointed his pistol at the sky).

This book is so exquisite. The writing is extraordinary, and caused even a speed-reader like me to slow down and appreciate each passage as it came. The characters of the Founding Fathers are colorful, and they seem now more relatable and flawed than as they were introduced to us in American History courses. It seems impossible that history can be so interesting (most specifically – American history).

The book is slanted inherently pro-Hamilton, but as I finish the book – I can see, there is a reason for that bias. Hamilton established so much of what we see as America today, that it is difficult to rationalize with the Democrat-Republicans, who thought of him as sly and not in touch with the needs of the people. Hamilton seemed to anticipate change in the air, something that the others particularly Thomas Jefferson could not do. Hamilton understood that farmers are the backbone of our economy but that America had to be ambitious to “make it.” Without him, it’s difficult to imagine our country now.

I want to take a moment and tell everyone who follows this blog to READ THIS BOOK. It is such an incredible piece of historical non-fiction, which feels like the most enjoyable read I have experienced in quite some time. It comes highly recommended from me – not only because I want someone to talk about my feelings with, but also because nonfiction can seem like a daunting task – but given the right subject together with a lovely author, it can be an unforgettable experience.

Rating: INFINITY/5 Stars 

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