Review of ‘Alexander Hamilton’

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Alexander Hamilton, born out of wedlock in the West indies, came to the U.S. when it was still a colony. Handsome, intelligent, and possessed of a fiery temper, he quickly became caught up in the dispute between those in the colonies demanding greater freedom and the English crown.

Hamilton kept his brutal childhood walled off from public scrutiny, so most of what we know of it is conjecture based upon the few existing documents. His role in the war for independence, and the subsequent creation of an effective, strong central government has been more extensively documented, as has been his untimely death in his forties after a duel with the fiery vice president, Aaron Burr.

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow is an extensively-researched volume that traced Hamilton’s life from his birth to his death, with commentary on his contributions to America, including a central bank and his push for a strong central government. Ever a polarizing figure, he was loved by some, abhorred by many, including Thomas Jefferson, who was a strong proponent of a weak central government, with most of the power vested in the agrarian sectors of the country.

Hamilton was alone among the Founding Fathers in his vocal and public opposition to slavery, due perhaps to having witnessed the evils of the institution on the sugar plantations in the West Indies as he was growing up. This book goes into his duel with Burr in great detail, positing that, despite his fiery temper and support of dueling as a young man, his religious convictions had turned him against it, and he deliberately did not shoot at Burr, allowing his opponent to fire—Burr, as fiery tempered as Hamilton, obviously had no objection to going for a kill shot.

After reading this book, only the most jaded reader and confirmed anti-Hamilton person will fail to appreciate the contributions this man made to the nation we live in today. If you want to enhance your understanding of American history, this book is a must-read.

I received this book as a gift.

I give it five stars.

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