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Alexander Hamilton, American Paperback – April 12, 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st Touchstone edition (April 12, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684863316
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684863313
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #677,140 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The man on the $10 bill is probably the most overlooked Founding Father. This book--not a names-and-dates biography, but an appreciation and assessment in the tradition of Plutarch--should help change that. Richard Brookhiser is an outstanding writer well known for his previous books (especially the wonderful Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington) and journalism (in National Review and the New York Observer); Hamilton could not have asked for a better advocate. A signer of the Constitution and author of roughly two-thirds of the Federalist Papers, Hamilton became the first secretary of the treasury at the age of 32. In this capacity, Brookhiser argues that the scrappy Caribbean native gave birth to American capitalism by developing the country's financial system. Brookhiser also reveals the sex and violence of Hamilton's life: he survived personal scandal but was shot down by Aaron Burr in an 1804 duel. The end came too soon for Hamilton--and it also helped elevate the reputation of his nemesis, Thomas Jefferson. Alexander Hamilton: American is by turns learned, funny, and inspiring. A model of popular biography, it convinces us why we should care deeply about a remarkable man who lived two centuries ago. --John Miller --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Brookhiser (Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington) rediscovers another founding father. Hamilton was one of the epochal figures of the Revolutionary period?he collaborated with Madison on the Federalist papers, served as secretary of the treasury under Washington and, along with Jefferson, is largely responsible for the modern two-party system?but he was also one of the most controversial. John Adams called Hamilton a "bastard" and a "foreigner" (both charges held some degree of truth); Jefferson thought he was secretly "against the liberty of the country," an accusation Brookhiser emphatically disproves. Hamilton's death only increased his infamy; he fell in a duel with then Vice President Aaron Burr, an event that remains one of the most bizarre in American history. ("Imagine Al Gore shooting Donald Regan," Brookhiser writes.) In this slim but rewarding book, Brookhiser traces the entire course of Hamilton's professional and personal life. Though he doesn't shrink from the more unsavory episodes, such as Hamilton's adulterous affair with a married woman and her subsequent blackmail of him, the author clearly admires his subject. The only blemish is Brookhiser's occasional use of bubblegum psychology, as when he writes of Hamilton's desire to "be his father" as a driving force behind Hamilton's infidelity. Although he doesn't provide a substantive analysis of Hamilton's work (just four pages are given to the Federalist papers, arguably the most important contribution of Hamilton's career), Brookhiser gives us a valuable, incisive portrait both of Hamilton's character and of the character of young America.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

A good read can be a bad book.
Scamp Lumm
Richard Brookhiser's, "Alexander Hamilton American," was a thoroughly researched, well written look at the life of a most interesting man.
Seaotter
If that sounds too simplistic, then you might find the book similarly shallow.
Greg Jones

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By John B. Maggiore on May 27, 2000
Format: Hardcover
What a wonderful book! "Alexander Hamilton, American" manages to pack quite a bit into 217 pages: the story of Hamilton, a plausible version of his essence and personality, and a survey of the clashes of Revolutionary War generation titans. Richard Brookshiser accomplishes all this beautifully in this brief, highly readable book.
Brookshiser is not interested in all the little details of Hamilton's life and times. He is not interested in reproducing volumes of Hamilton's writings, letters to Hamilton, or articles about Hamilton. He is interested in telling a story, and then making points about the role of words, rights, and passion in Hamilton's character.
I'm guessing that most Americans don't know the story of Alexander Hamilton, the relatively poor immigrant who became one of this nation's most important founders. Hamilton today is respected, but not always revered as some of his opponents like Jefferson and Madison are. Brookshiser reveres him. But he writes with a kind of awe for many who did not share the same feelings for each other. "It is impossible not to love John Adams," (p. 130) Brookshiser writes. Really? Who loved him back then? Not Hamilton, not Jefferson. Hamilton and Jefferson were, of course, at odds with each other, too. But not enough so as to prevent them from joining forces against Aaron Burr in 1800, who eventually killed Hamilton in a duel four years later.
The soap opera intrigue of the founders as highlighted by this book stands out as more severe than any product of current politics.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By M. Allen Greenbaum HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on August 6, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I think some of the criticism leveled here is from people with expertise on Hamilton: In only 217 pages, much detail is necessarily left out. For the newcomer, however, Brookshiser sheds light on one of the most interesting on the "Founders," a self-made man who became the leading exponent of Federalism and brought economic structure to the foundling (and sometimes floundering) country.
Brilliant, visionary, and enormously articulate, Hamilton was quick to argue his positions, most notably in "The Federalist Papers," in a series of anonymous letters to newspapers, and in the courtroom. His belief in a strong central government drew him into conflict with other luminaries, including Virginia Thomas Jefferson. His politics and simmering rivalry with Aaron Burr culminated in a famous duel. Today, when we think of Jefferson et al. as apolitical "statesmen," it is instructive to view the ferocious politics of the era.
Brookshiser's non-academic, breezy style enlivens the characterization of the people, the times, and the economic issues. Unfortunately, this style sometimes works against him: Describing the Hamilton/Burr communiques preceding the duel, Brookshiser merely states "It would dignify the mummeries that followed to describe them in detail." Still, Brookshiser's book is a welcome addition to the literature on the Revolution and early American politics. Recommended.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Gerard W. Langton on January 29, 2001
Format: Paperback
Richard Brookhiser's "Alexander Hamilton, American" ultimately fails to convince the reader that this book was well researched or written. The vagueness and ambiguity of the author's language on the man who is the least understood, most important and inspiring of the founding fathers does not give Hamilton his due. Brookhiser simply gives the basic facts about Hamilton, but unfortunately does not offer any real concrete scholarly insights. When compared to earlier works such as Clinton L. Rossiter's "Alexander Hamilton and the Constitution," Brookhiser's account will soon be forgotten. For those students who wish to get a more comprehensive study on Alexander Hamilton's life and philosphy, the definitve book is "Alexander Hamilton and the Constitution" if it can still be found in print! Also, two recent books seemingly capture Hamilton at his best. The first is "Duel: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr and the Future of America" by Thomas Fleming and "Founding Brothers," by Joseph J. Ellis. Both books are well written and researched, and describe Hamilton in the context of his time with new scholarly insight.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By "brocious" on April 10, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book is long overdue. While our bookstores are glutted with books on Jefferson, we had only McDonald's bio of Hamilton left in print. Flexner's odd "Young Hamilton" was recently rereleased, not much of a comfort to Hamiltonians. Michael Lind's "Hamilton's Republic" gave me hope that perhaps Alexander was finally being dragged out of obscurity into the much deserved limelight he always craved. I've read most of the biographies on Hamilton and I'd rate Brookhiser number one on readability and vivid portrayal. If you're looking for more detail, try to track down Hendrickson's long out of print two volume work. It's a tad eccentric but a hell of a good read. Forrest McDonald's bio is excellent as is John Miller's. If you stumble onto Frederick Scott Oliver's 1921 bio, gobble it up. It's way too worshipful but it illustrates excellently how an earlier generation held Hamilton in much higher esteem than they did Jefferson. Broadus Mitchell shows you don't have to be conservative to find Hamilton an inspiration. When you finish with Mr. Brookhiser, if you have time to read only one more book on Hamilton, without a doubt the one to read is Clinton Rossiter's "Alexander Hamilton and the Constiution." A brilliant, brillaint study. After reading Rossiter I was a Hamitonian for life. I hope Brookhiser has a similar effect on a new generation of readers. Sadly, as stated above, most of these books are out of print so Brookhiser's work is very much appreciated.
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