67 of 69 people found the following review helpful
A Wonderful & Complete Biography
, July 5, 2004
This review is from: Alexander Hamilton (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. When reading about American History in school, the Founding Fathers always seemed like a fairly cohesive group which was above the rough and tumble of politics. To the extent that this exists in your head (as it did in mine), it is dispelled once and for all. Many of the attacks against Hamilton dealt with the fact that he was a "bastard" born in the West Indies. Some politicians also, without proof, sought to spread rumors that Hamilton was, in fact, part Creole.
Chernow's book is expansive (going back in detail to Hamilton's childhood in the West Indies to the death of his wife Eliza on the eve of the Civil War who survived him by nearly 50 years), yet concise and does not dwell on any part of Hamilton's life for too long; giving sufficient detail without overwhelming the reader. To me, it reads much like a fictional novel though it is packed with facts, details and quotations. All of Chernow's assertions and facts are seemingly backed up with authority.
Indeed, one would have a hard time conjuring up a life as interesting as Hamilton's. He was clearly one of the brightest stars this nation ever had and we are all lucky that he decided to call America his home and lucky to have this biography to illustrate it so well.
P.S.: Anyone who thinks Hamilton whould be removed from the $10 bill, should be required to read this book first.
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