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Alexander Hamilton Paperback – March 29, 2005


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Building on biographies by Richard Brookhiser and Willard Sterne Randall, Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton provides what may be the most comprehensive modern examination of the often overlooked Founding Father. From the start, Chernow argues that Hamilton’s premature death at age 49 left his record to be reinterpreted and even re-written by his more long-lived enemies, among them: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and James Monroe. Hamilton’s achievements as first Secretary of the Treasury, co-author of The Federalist Papers, and member of the Constitutional Convention were clouded after his death by strident claims that he was an arrogant, self-serving monarchist. Chernow delves into the almost 22,000 pages of letters, manuscripts, and articles that make up Hamilton’s legacy to reveal a man with a sophisticated intellect, a romantic spirit, and a late-blooming religiosity.

One fault of the book, is that Chernow is so convinced of Hamilton’s excellence that his narrative sometimes becomes hagiographic. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Chernow’s account of the infamous duel between Hamilton and Aaron Burr in 1804. He describes Hamilton’s final hours as pious, while Burr, Jefferson, and Adams achieve an almost cartoonish villainy at the news of Hamilton’s passing.

A defender of the union against New England secession and an opponent of slavery, Hamilton has a special appeal to modern sensibilities. Chernow argues that in contrast to Jefferson and Washington’s now outmoded agrarian idealism, Hamilton was "the prophet of the capitalist revolution" and the true forebear of modern America. In his Prologue, he writes: "In all probability, Alexander Hamilton is the foremost figure in American history who never attained the presidency, yet he probably had a much deeper and more lasting impact than many who did." With Alexander Hamilton, this impact can now be more widely appreciated. --Patrick O'Kelley --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

After hulking works on J.P. Morgan, the Warburgs and John D. Rockefeller, what other grandee of American finance was left for Chernow's overflowing pen than the one who puts the others in the shade? Alexander Hamilton (1755–1804) created public finance in the United States. In fact, it's arguable that without Hamilton's political and financial strategic brilliance, the United States might not have survived beyond its early years. Chernow's achievement is to give us a biography commensurate with Hamilton's character, as well as the full, complex context of his unflaggingly active life. Possessing the most powerful (though not the most profound) intelligence of his gifted contemporaries, Hamilton rose from Caribbean bastardy through military service in Washington's circle to historic importance at an early age and then, in a new era of partisan politics, gradually lost his political bearings. Chernow makes fresh contributions to Hamiltoniana: no one has discovered so much about Hamilton's illegitimate origins and harrowed youth; few have been so taken by Hamilton's long-suffering, loving wife, Eliza. Yet it's hard not to cringe at some of Hamilton's hotheaded words and behavior, especially sacrificing the well-being of his family on the altar of misplaced honor. This is a fine work that captures Hamilton's life with judiciousness and verve. Illus.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 832 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (March 29, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143034758
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143034759
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (463 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #39,724 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Ron Chernow won the National Book Award in 1990 for his first book, The House of Morgan, and his second book, The Warburgs, won the Eccles Prize as the Best Business Book of 1993. His biography of John D. Rockefeller, Sr., Titan, was a national bestseller and a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist.

Customer Reviews

An incredible man and a great book.
Daniel MD
"Alexander Hamilton" by Ron Chernow is a fascinating, gripping biography of one of the most interesting and overlooked Founding Fathers.
crazyforgems
This was a very well researched and well written book.
lois barrish

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

278 of 291 people found the following review helpful By Gaetan Lion on April 26, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent biography on Alexander Hamilton, a formidable and sometimes controversial figure among our Founding Fathers. He is best known for being one of the main contributors to the Federalist Papers and being the first Secretary of the Treasury of the United States.
There is a lot to like and be in awe about Alexander Hamilton. There is also quite a bit to dislike. Was he a visionary and a genius? Or a power hungry and greedy autocratic figure reminiscent of the British the U.S. fought away at the time. Through the past decades his place in history has gone through several reincarnations of both positive and negative revisionism.
Ron Chernow is undoubtedly on the sides of the Hamilton fan. However, even though his portrayal of Hamilton may not be totally objective. It is nevertheless fascinating due to its breadth, and depth. Hamilton comes across as a brilliant individual sometimes centuries ahead of his time. Chernow develops a convincing case that Hamilton was without peers in his developing the necessary financial and economic infrastructure of what was going to become the modern U.S.

If Adam Smith was the Scottish genius who invented modern economics, Hamilton was his American counterpart who actually applied modern economics principles in the governing of a new nation. His understanding in such matters far surpassed his more famous political opponents such as Madison and Jefferson.

Chernow mentions several examples of Hamilton's unique foresight. One was Hamilton's successful defeat of the discrimination bill. This was a nonsensical concept that proposed that capital gains on sales of treasury securities should flow back to the original investor.
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128 of 131 people found the following review helpful By Harvey Ardman on March 11, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's hard to add anything new to the praise other readers have offered here, but...

1. This book is FUN to read. You will become emotionally involved with the people, and privy to their thoughts and motives. You will cheer for some and hope others lose. I'm reminded, in a way, of Puzo's The Godfather. The characters are at least as vivid.

2. Although a couple of people here have given the book single star ratings, reflecting their own current political points of view, I find that the central antagonists of this book, Hamilton and Jefferson, cannot easily be fit into today's liberal and conservative ranks.

3. Today's political junkies will find many of these 18th century battles remarkably familiar, although there are no exact analogues to today's political players.

4. If you're like me, you won't be able to keep quiet about the book. You'll find yourself reading passages to your spouse and telling stories about Hamilton to your friends.

This is a thoroughly involving book. It is long, yes, but so is a good NFL game with a couple of overtimes. Unless you're a scholar of the period, you'll learn a great deal about what made America what it is today. And you'll wish, at least for a moment, that you were alive when Hamilton was and that you could have shared a dinner with him.
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64 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Eric Crusius on July 5, 2004
Format: Hardcover
If I were able to give this book greater than 5 stars, I would. Here is why:
Chernow writes a complete biography, which while covering an immense amount of ground, still manages to be thoroughly interesting and provide numerous anecdotes and tidbits of information. Though we all know the result, Chernow's treatment of the duel with Aaron Burr offers readers many "can not put the book down" moments which would explain the dark circles under my eyes one morning at work. Still more amazing is Chernow's attention to the the (until now) little talked about reprocussions to the life of Aaron Burr (who was indicted for murder and on the lam while Vice President) and others around Hamilton including his seemingly amazing wife, Eliza.
Besides being a supreme story on the life of the man who literally shaped this country's financial and trading system (despite strong opposition from Jefferson and his Federalist Paper co-hort Madison), Chernow reveals Hamilton's talents as an attorney and his explouts as a revolutionary war hero. What was also startling was how much Washington relied on Hamilton's talents and advice during the war and thereafter to the point where Washington began to view Hamilton as his equal. Further, Hamilton's push for the adoption of the US Constitution is clear despite opposition from many of those in this country including Jefferson himself who viewed this country as an agricultural society (which would have always doomed the US to always be Britain's dark sheep) and would have left the strongest powers with the states and not a central government.
What was particularly amazing is how dirty and bruising politics was back in the late 18th and early 19th century.
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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Irish reader on January 6, 2006
Format: Hardcover
As an Irish reader who has always been interested in history, I have been interested in the American Civil War for a long time. Only recently has my interest in American history broadened to the revolutionary period. After reading this biography, I regret that I didn't acquire this interest much sooner. This book is engrossing from the first page. It is also an 'honest' biography. Although Chernow clearly believes in Hamilton's preeminent status among the founding fathers, he is not shy in criticising Hamilton's actions where it is merited. This book is pure joy from start to finish. Not only does Chernow give a superb overview of Hamilton's importance to the development of the United States but he also presents an excellent picture of the historical period. At the end of it one has new respect for a hugely important and controversial historical figure. What pleasure awaits those who have not yet read this book!
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