Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton

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....

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Title:Alexander Hamilton
Author:Ron Chernow
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Edition Language:English

Alexander Hamilton Reviews

  • Darwin8u

    - Inscription on an envelope to Eliza Hamilton from her husband Alexander.

    I have read many political biographies in my 41 years, but few better. Chernow is able to walk that narrow, tricky trail between scholarship and narrative storytelling without tripping over hagiography. He presents the largeness and improbableness of Alexander Hamilton without leaving out Hamilton's excesses and flights of paranoia and inflexibility. I think Chernow gets i

    - Inscription on an envelope to Eliza Hamilton from her husband Alexander.

    I have read many political biographies in my 41 years, but few better. Chernow is able to walk that narrow, tricky trail between scholarship and narrative storytelling without tripping over hagiography. He presents the largeness and improbableness of Alexander Hamilton without leaving out Hamilton's excesses and flights of paranoia and inflexibility. I think Chernow gets it right that

    He was a man who was infused with genius and energy, but also often tone-deaf to the political realities of his time. He was a man who knew government but was often ungovernable himself.

    His talents built the frameworks that would later create both our nation's economic, government and military capacity as well as the Federalist party, however, those same skills would also help to tear down the Federalist party because of Hamilton's inability to bend or just shut up. Like those prophets that seem to gain strength and honor as the world shifts and slides into alignment with their oracle-like vision, the modern world seems able to identify and honor Hamilton because in many ways HE made it.

    Chernow's biography paints the details of Hamilton's life with a vision of just how incredible a figure Hamilton was, and how his talents often unsettled those around him. Chernow also frames Hamilton around those important founding fathers that contributed to Hamilton's rise (Washington), fall (Jefferson, Madison, Adams), and death (Burr) while also showing how Alexander Hamilton also contributed to his own rise, fall, and death.

    One of my favorite easter eggs from this tome was a remark Burr once made after shooting Alexander Hamilton. Chernow relates that "Only once did Burr betray any misgivings about killing Hamilton. While reading the scene in Laurence Sterne's

    [an amazing book, which I recommend everyone read, btw] in which the tenderhearted Uncle Toby picks up a fly and delicately places it outside the window instead of killing it, Burr is said to have remarked,

    Anyway, an amazing man is never really captured, but this biography comes pretty close.

    * Saw Hamilton the Musical on July 12 (so after Lin-Manuel Miranda and Leslie Odom, Jr left, but before Daveed Diggs left) and it was kinda amazing.

  • Sean Gibson

    I’ve been wracking my brains literally for months trying to figure out who I can compare Alexander Hamilton to on the modern politocelebrity scene (or “to whom I can compare” him, if you douchey grammar wonks prefer).

    There are two reasons that process has taken months: 1) I’m currently operating with the mental processing power of an old Radio Shack TRS-80 (on the plus side, I guess that means I can run awesome software like Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing!) and 2) Alexander Hamilton was one unique

    I’ve been wracking my brains literally for months trying to figure out who I can compare Alexander Hamilton to on the modern politocelebrity scene (or “to whom I can compare” him, if you douchey grammar wonks prefer).

    There are two reasons that process has taken months: 1) I’m currently operating with the mental processing power of an old Radio Shack TRS-80 (on the plus side, I guess that means I can run awesome software like Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing!) and 2) Alexander Hamilton was one unique son of a Scottish laird.

    Put Kanye West, Noam Chomsky, Donald Trump, and Steve Martin into a blender and what do you get?

    Well, probably a pretty disgusting slurry of liquefied body parts.

    Let me rephrase: put the personalities, intellects, and quirkiest components (not to mention the thin skin, in some cases) of Kanye, Noam Chomsky, Donald Trump, and Steve Martin into a personality, intellect, and quirk-blending processor and what do you get?

    Something that comes out looking, but hopefully not smelling (given that gents of that vintage probably didn’t smell so fresh after a hot summer day traipsing about in heavy, unwashed woolen garments), a little bit like Alexander Hamilton. (I’d be willing to wager that’s the first time anyone anywhere ever has used both Noam Chomsky and Donald Trump as a comparison for an individual; that’s how singular Hamilton was. And how much of a trailblazer I am.)

    Smarter people than I have written at great length about this book and its subject, so I shan’t prattle on for pages and pages. Suffice it to say, Alexander Hamilton is as influential a person as there is when it comes to shaping U.S. political history and the institutions that affect our lives every single day, and he was, perhaps, even more unique than he was influential. Sure, this book could replace the candlestick in the game of Clue just as easily as it can be an educational tool (“It was Colonel Mustard in the library with his copy of Hamilton that bludgeoned poor Professor Plum to death!”). But, there are few biographies of recent vintage that can match the immense scope, mind-boggling level of detail, and compulsive readability of this one. If you’re a history buff in any way (or just want to see what all the Broadway hubbub is about), you’ll want to give this book a whirl.

    (A couple of words of warning, however: first, if you’re a Thomas Jefferson acolyte, you might want to brace yourself; Mr. Chernow does not treat our country’s second Vice President—and lifelong Hamilton rival—kindly, styling him a scheming, Francophile bon vivant of the most pernicious kind (though, really, if you’re going to be a scheming bon vivant, you might as well be of the most pernicious kind—otherwise, you’re just half-assing it, and if I believe anything, it’s that anything worth doing is worth whole-assing). Second, if ever a man was on another man’s (metaphorical) nuts, it is Ron Chernow on Alexander Hamilton’s. There are a few instances in which Mr. Chernow attempts to maintain a façade, or at least a veneer (do we think a veneer is thinner than a façade?), of scholarly distance and objectivity, but, by and large, his Hamiltonian hard-on is of such obvious and epic proportions that, I’m told, the Washington Monument has expressed concerns to the Mayor of Washington, DC, that when Chernow visits our nation’s capital, he’s in violation of the Height of Buildings Act of 1910. The Mayor has thus far refused comment, though a source indicates that he has, at the very least, asked that Mr. Chernow not wear sweat pants when he visits the District, and has asked him to, and I quote, “try to tuck it into his belt.”)

    We’ll call this a strong 4.5 stars.

  • Aimee Meester

    At what point do you realize that you're in too deep because right now I'm crying actual tears over A. Ham and gosh dang it this is powerful you guys.

    ALLOW ME TO EXPLAIN TO YOU A THING.

    Yes, the Broadway musical Hamilton lead me here. I can't say I'd have such a rabid interest in all things Alexander Hamilton/founding fathers if not for that weird collection of hip-hop musical numbers. But the more I read this the more I loved it for itself and the story it tells. Dang, but I need to read more

    At what point do you realize that you're in too deep because right now I'm crying actual tears over A. Ham and gosh dang it this is powerful you guys.

    ALLOW ME TO EXPLAIN TO YOU A THING.

    Yes, the Broadway musical Hamilton lead me here. I can't say I'd have such a rabid interest in all things Alexander Hamilton/founding fathers if not for that weird collection of hip-hop musical numbers. But the more I read this the more I loved it for itself and the story it tells. Dang, but I need to read more biographies -- hopefully there's more written like this.

    This paints a very vivid picture of one of the most underrated historical figures (that I'm aware of). It puts you right in the middle of his childhood, lets you laugh and be impressed by his non-stop (see what I did there) ambition, ramps up the tension, brings you to an achingly raw conclusion that had me in tears at 1 in the morning because it's so bitter and so beautiful all at once. Judging by this, Lin-Manuel Miranda captured these men and women perfectly in his musical. The American Revolution was full of eccentric, larger-than-life characters. I never knew that before.

    Like, heck, when do you ever hear that Thomas Jefferson was a France-loving cocky jerk? That Hamilton literally could. not. shut. up.? That George Washington had a temper and wasn't that great to be around? This was a fascinating study of human nature and people and opened up a whole world I never heard about until now. I think that's a shame.

    I want to take a moment to talk about the duel between Burr and Hamilton. The tension between the two men rose through the entire book, until it got to the point where even in a non-fiction work I could FEEL the tension, the honor, and rising emotion. It was inevitable that they would have to duel -- Hamilton just kept pushing buttons, and brought everything to a head. Burr snapped. The way the duel is written here paints it in such a way that I could SEE it, the details, Hamilton's glasses, the cold look on Burr's face, everything. I knew it was coming but it still hurt. I just can't even, guys.

    Alexander Hamilton is one of the more interesting historical figures I've ever read about, now that I look at it. He kept screwing up, kept fighting, kept talking. He was INCREDIBLY flawed. To watch him work so hard, work himself to the point of being ill most of the time, to see him try and fail and never stop, had me rooting for him even though he made some of the most questionable decisions possible in the process. To see that man repent and be saved on his deathbed made me cry harder than ever, because that so perfectly sums up life and what I believe. I never realized it before and it was such a bittersweet way to end. And then, of course, we have Eliza, who you NEVER hear about despite the fact that she was pretty freaking hardcore, y'all.

    Even if you don't have any interest in the musical Hamilton, you should definitely read this. I do believe this is pretty important, as biographies go.

  • Trudi

    If anybody had told me a year ago that I would be delving into an 800 page biography on arguably America's least known Founding Father, first Secretary of the Treasury and he of ten dollar bill fame, I would have said they were crazy. But like so many people who will read this book in the coming years, it all started with a mad love affair for the

    . It's

    all I've been able to think about (or listen t

    If anybody had told me a year ago that I would be delving into an 800 page biography on arguably America's least known Founding Father, first Secretary of the Treasury and he of ten dollar bill fame, I would have said they were crazy. But like so many people who will read this book in the coming years, it all started with a mad love affair for the

    . It's

    all I've been able to think about (or listen to) since April. It's consumed my waking hours in the oddest, most unpredictable,

    of ways. Having now read Chernow's impressive, meticulously researched book, I am no longer surprised how it was able to inspire Lin-Manuel Miranda to write his extraordinary, beautiful, emotional, smart, searing, perfect musical (and that's all I'm going to say about the musical), because I really want this review to focus on Chernow's accomplishment and his fascinating subject -- Alexander Hamilton.

    One of the things that really jumped out at me while reading this, is how easily Hamilton's remarkable life and stupendous achievements could have been erased and lost to history for good. He had many enemies -- many people who wanted to re-write history minimizing his role in it, and deny his many staggering contributions. Hamilton died relatively young as well (just 49), way younger than many of the other Founding Fathers who outlived him by decades (except George Washington of course). When you don't survive to live and tell your story, you are really at the mercy of others. Remember this line from Braveheart? "History is written by those who have hanged heroes."

    Was Alexander Hamilton a hero? I think by most definitions he most certainly was. Flawed for sure, but nevertheless an extremely intelligent man, with confounding reserves of energy and ambition, and a deep, abiding inner moral compass of what was ethical and right. He also possessed an unsurpassed, formidable ability to synthesize large, complicated ideas into accessible tracts and tangible plans to build meaningful and lasting governments and institutions. And oh yeah, he also wielded his pen in a terrible and mighty way that would have made Shakespeare quiver in his breeches, producing mountains of passionate and fiercely written letters and pamphlets and essays.

    I also have to believe Hamilton was truly a good man, because two very intelligent women, remarkable in their own rights (his wife Eliza and his sister-in-law Angelica Church), loved him beyond measure and sang his praises for a lifetime. How do you avoid getting written out of history by those who have hanged heroes? Write brilliantly like a maniac non-stop, leaving behind some of the most important historical tracts ever penned, and be survived by a loyal and dedicated wife who will outlive you by 50 years and spend most of that time fighting for your reputation and the preservation of your rightful place in history.

    Reading

    whilst the

    of the upcoming American election rages in all its frightful rhetoric and bitter partisan vitriol has made for quite an echo chamber of America's shaky, fledgling, post-Revolutionary days and just how tenuous the fabric that binds all the States together really is. It was never a marriage made in heaven, oftentimes held together by duct tape, threats and sheer iron will. America was a walking contradiction, with its State vs Federal, rural vs urban, North vs South, slaveholding vs free divides. Nobody knew (and feared) these fractures more than Hamilton himself. But he also knew a United States would be stronger and better than a dissolute nation of independents jockeying for power and control and consumed with self-interest.

    I do believe Chernow has proven that no other Founding Father worked as determinedly with every cell in his body (and top-notch brain), to preserve the Union, and uphold the Constitution. There were many compelling forces, and influential personalities, with the capability to topple this marvelous enterprise with a single huff, and one good blow. But it was Hamilton standing vigilant, it was Hamilton who roared, and cajoled, and screed, not on my watch, and here's why. It's also no wonder then that on his death bed, surrounded by his family and friends, that Hamilton should utter with such deep feeling: "If they break this Union, they will break my heart."

    Hamilton's life (all 49 years of it) reads like a Dickensian novel. More than once while I was reading I couldn't help but smack my forehead at the stranger than fiction details, and uncanny coincidences and twists of fate both tragic and ironic. That he began his life as a poor orphan in the Caribbean only to help fight for and build a nation an ocean away is something out of a movie plot. As is his infamous death by duel, at the hands of (then Vice President) Aaron Burr (sir).

    Who dies in a duel?!! Hamilton does. And a few years prior to that fateful meeting in Weehawken, his eldest son Philip (using the same pistols!) would die the same stupid way. There were many times when I wanted to shake Hamilton, and kick him, especially when he was tomcatting around and cheating on Eliza with Maria Reynolds, but this final decision to duel with Aaron Burr absolutely infuriated me. It was SO UNNECESSARY, especially given the fact Hamilton still had a wife and young children who depended on him. Of course, it was a dueling era, and duels were pretty commonplace, and Chernow makes a strong case that Hamilton wasn't suicidal, and really believed he could survive the duel with Burr (as most participants do). However, there was also a part of him that knew he could die, since he was so thorough and conscientious in his handling of his affairs. And writing a poignant, final letter to Eliza (which if I had been her I'm sure I would have pulled my hair out).

    Alexander

    how utterly devastated Eliza was to lose their son Philip -- so HOW COULD HE DO THAT TO HER AGAIN??? Eliza should have been crushed by the grief -- losing her mother, her sister, her son, her HUSBAND, all in a very short time span. Yet she persevered and would survive to accomplish many remarkable things in her own right, not the least of which was to ensure her husband's rightful, prominent place in the history books.

    And now I'm off to listen to the Broadway cast album AGAIN. Because I can't stop.

  • Jon

    It had a lot less hip-hop than I was expecting, but I still really liked it.

  • Jessica

    I have now read the Hamiltome. (I know that's what people call the book Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote about the musical, but seriously, this thing could stop bullets.) I wouldn't have picked this book up if it weren't for the musical, and it wasn't exactly light reading, but I'm glad that I did. Before I did, I was kinda sure that Hamilton was the guy who was shot by Aaron Burr, and pretty sure he'd never been president, and if I thought for a second I'd remember that he was on the $10 bill.

    Now I kn

    I have now read the Hamiltome. (I know that's what people call the book Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote about the musical, but seriously, this thing could stop bullets.) I wouldn't have picked this book up if it weren't for the musical, and it wasn't exactly light reading, but I'm glad that I did. Before I did, I was kinda sure that Hamilton was the guy who was shot by Aaron Burr, and pretty sure he'd never been president, and if I thought for a second I'd remember that he was on the $10 bill.

    Now I know so much more. Like that he founded the Coast Guard, and the first national bank. That he wrote most of Washington's speeches as president, and dispatches during the war. I know how influential he was to politics, to industry and banking, and to the law. And he did it all by the time he was killed at 49 by Aaron Burr, who, frankly, was an asshole. (Anybody who writes detailed letters about his sexual conquests to his own daughter is an asshole. And that's not all he did.)

    This was an excellent, and exhaustingly thorough biography. I didn't give it five stars because, well, it's not exactly light reading. I wouldn't pick it up again, and I will recommend it to hardcore history buffs and not necessarily your average reader. But it shed a lot of light on the early days of our country, it gave me a new appreciation for Hamilton, Washington, and others. And a healthy dislike of Jefferson, as well as John Adams, who I swear to Odin had to have been bipolar. I have no regrets about reading it, am in fact very glad that I read it. It did make me yearn for a book all about Eliza Hamilton, though. Honestly, a book just about Alexander and Eliza's family life would be fascinating, but impossible, since she really did burn all her letters.

    And, musical fans: Yes, Lin-Manuel has taken liberties with storyline and whatnot. And that's okay. If you really want to know the truth, here's the book for you. If you'd rather sit back and enjoy a cabinet battle all in rap, you know where to go.

    All hail the self-starter, the ten dollar Founding Father. HAMILTON!

  • Kemper

    Like a lot of people I’ve been listening to the

    musical album non-stop and read this because it was the source of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s inspiration to create the brilliant Broadway show. The idea that a dense biography of an American Founding Father who was probably best known to the general public as the guy on the the ten dollar bill and the subject of a pretty funny

    commercial would someday lead to the creation of an incredibly popular musical that blends show tunes with hip

    Like a lot of people I’ve been listening to the

    musical album non-stop and read this because it was the source of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s inspiration to create the brilliant Broadway show. The idea that a dense biography of an American Founding Father who was probably best known to the general public as the guy on the the ten dollar bill and the subject of a pretty funny

    commercial would someday lead to the creation of an incredibly popular musical that blends show tunes with hip-hop is only a little less likely than the life of Alexander Hamilton himself.

    (And if you’re interested in reading a great account of the impact the show has on people I highly recommend

    that sportswriter Joe Posnanski wrote about taking his daughter to see it.)

    The circumstances of Hamilton’s birth on a Caribbean island as the illegitimate son of a divorced woman and a fortune seeking Scotsman were the first strike against him, and things only got worse when his father abandoned him and his mother died. As an orphan with no money and an embarrassing social status for the time young Alexander probably should have lived a short, hard life and been forgotten by history. However, he also had a brilliant mind, a talent for writing, and an enormous appetite for work that was fueled by relentless ambition. After a hurricane devastated his island Hamilton wrote an account of the tragedy so moving that a collection was taken up to send him to America to attend college.

    Hamilton arrived in New York just as the American Revolution was about to start, and his talents landed him a pivotal position on George Washington’s staff as well leading troops in the field and playing a key role during the Battle of Yorktown that essentially won the war. Hamilton’s role in the writing of

    with James Madison and John Jay along with his political maneuvering was critical in getting the Constitution ratified. HIs biggest contributions to the United States probably came from his bold actions as the first secretary of the treasury when he not only got the young nation on sound economic footing but also used money as a tool to link the fates of the frequently bickering states together as a way of achieving unity and promoting a strong federal government. As Washington’s most trusted advisor Hamilton was critical in shaping the future of the country he did so much to help create.

    All of this should have meant that Hamilton would be remembered as one of the most important figures in American history but he also made powerful enemies including Thomas Jefferson. The struggle between those who believed power should reside in the federal government or with the states became a bitter fight in which Hamilton was the victim of relentless political attacks that slandered his reputation and made him a perpetual lightning rod of controversy. The conflict would lead to the creation of the two party political system as well as a constant tug of war between factions about how much authority the American government should have that continues today.

    Hamilton frequently didn’t do himself any favors with his outspoken nature, and his insecurities about his illegitimacy caused him to be hypersensitive to insults. His basic cynicism and mistrust of people made him wary of popular trends and leaving the fate of America in the hands of the general public who he felt could be too easily swayed by a mob mentality and demagogues. (Geez, where could he have gotten that idea?) This left him vulnerable to attacks by his enemies who smeared him as an elitist at best or a schemer plotting to return America to English control or set up an American monarchy at worst. He badly hurt his own political party by feuding with President John Adams who became another enemy who would smear Hamilton long after his death. Hamilton also had the distinction of being one of the first American politicians to be caught up in a sex scandal, and his reaction to it by publishing a tell-all memoir called

    was a miscalculation that severely damaged his public image.

    Propaganda from his enemies and his own combative nature and thin skin hurt his standing during his life and limited his political prospects. When his long and complex relationship with Aaron Burr ultimately led to Hamilton’s death after their infamous duel his enemies would continue to slander his reputation while his widow Eliza would spend the rest of her life defending it and try to make sure his accomplishments weren’t forgotten.

    What Chernow has done with this sympathetic portrait of a brilliant but flawed man is illustrate how America owes so much to Hamilton’s genius. By detailing Hamilton’s collaborations and battles with the other Founding Fathers it shows that they weren’t saints with some glorious vision of what America should be. They engaged in compromises and accepted contradictions in the interests of getting things done, and they were consumed by the fears of all the ways the country could fail. They were also just as capable of acting in short-sighted, mean spirited, and despicable ways as any politician today, Thomas Jefferson in particular comes across as a hypocritical sneaky jerkface that I would never vote for.

    After reading this it’s easy to understand how Hamilton the remarkable person inspired

    the remarkable musical.

  • Nicole~

    4.5/5 stars

    4.5/5 stars

    (From

    , the musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda)

    Eleven Tony wins to Lin

    for a brilliant broadway score,

    inspired by this bio

    from author Ron Cherno'.

    From bastardy and poverty,

    a man of many flaws,

    still a visionary,

    genius and maker of laws.

    Driven by ambition, a financial wiz

    of a fledgling nation,

    controversial, tragic,

    sadly ironic,

    American icon,

    Alexander Hamilton.

    But...seriously,

    Hamilton's monument at Trinity Churchyard in New York City:

    Pulitzer Prize winning author Ron Chernow's sprawling, weighty biography was first published in 2004 and seems to be enjoying a much deserved popularity resurgence, basking in the limelight of Lin-Manuel Miranda's smashing, 11 Tony Award-winning broadway musical inspired by its subject.

    
Chernow's biographical treatment might be considered the most extensively researched to date of the life of Alexander Hamilton, nevertheless, it may be found slightly biased as the reader will note, even if his patience wanes and skimming parts becomes the only alternative to fleshing out the pertinent bits in this lifetime.

    Hamilton's story, in contemporary terms as Miranda has implied in his musical, is the immigrant story where dreams come true. Illegitimate, orphaned and impoverished, he never looked at his personal misfortunes as roadblocks to his future. Instead, his hard work, intelligence and drive to improve his circumstances got him noticed by benefactors who sent him to the U.S.

    Though a rebel at heart, he had "

    " Hamilton served in the American Revolution, and became aide de camp to George Washington who unreservedly had faith in him despite many who by nature distrusted foreigners, doubted his honesty and loyalty, and thought him a spy for the British.

    Truly a visionary, "

    " He exerted his brilliance in drafting plans for a new American government while war was still raging on, and as Washington was selected as the first president, Hamilton became his Secretary of the Treasury founding "

    " saw America as a great manufacturing nation and laid the foundation "

    " 


    Amid his genius capabilities however, Hamilton showed bewildering foolhardiness: among the most notorious was a scandalous affair to which he confessed in a 90+page letter, published it en masse and distributed it to the public. Hard to imagine that this blatant act of marital suicide didn't actually end that way.

    Hamilton had his share of ideological opponents who in turn had no great love for him, among them Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, with whom he exerted his quick tempered, hot headedness, verbal tongue lashing, character assassinations and nasty mudslinging (quite a familiar political climate at present, no?) His most incomprehensible act (in a manner of speaking, an unintentional suicide?), was agreeing to a duel with his political arch-enemy Aaron Burr, even after the death of his son by the same means.

    In these times, this example of hatred is very potent and thought provoking, that even the most intelligent in a crowd would stoop to resolve their differences in the most destructive, senseless, fatalistic manner, by point blank pulling the trigger. For a talented visionary as Hamilton who helped lay the groundwork for a country in which freedom, justice, harmony and equality among its citizens are paved, the manner of his death seemed very shortsighted. Furthermore, by that same sort of shortsightedness, base animosity and violence would the country that this founding father helped 'birth' come to the same demise?

    What would our Founding Father think of US now?

  • Ashley *Hufflepuff Kitten*

    I NEED THIS BECAUSE OF REASONS

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