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Alexander Hamilton: A Biography Paperback – September 17, 1982
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From the Back Cover
About the Author
Forrest McDonald is Distinguished University Research Professor of History at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa. He is the author of many books on American history including A Constitutional History of the United States, E Pluribus Unum, and Novus Ordo Seclorum: The Intellectual Origins of the Constitution.
Top Customer Reviews
Although George Washington has been described as the "indispensible man" of the Revolution, the title "indispensible man of the first administration" rightly belongs to Hamilton. He faced major issues that would define how the government operated and whether or not our fledgling nation would rest upon a sound financial system.
Hamilton succeeded brilliantly. Against long odds, he dealt with the assumption issue (state debts incurred during the revolution), coinage, taxation and the establishment of the nation's credit. This was after effective adminstrative service during the Revolution as Washington's aid (as well as other important posts such as leading the storming of Redoubt No. 10 at Yorktown), writing the Federalist Papers with Madison and Jay, and pushing the ratification of the Constitution through a reluctant New York General Assembly.
The book also provides fascinating glimpses of political manuvering among the founders. Although brilliant when establishing our plan of government and enshrining ideals into our framework of governance, they plotted and schemed like the best Tammany Hall politicos. Jefferson is shown to be an idealist even in dealing with current issues.Read more ›
But Mr. McDonald's fascinating review of Alexander Hamilton's life added texture to the stereotype and a sympathetic understanding of Hamilton's character and intellectual brilliance.
Perhaps it was because he had few intellectual peers that Hamilton was feared and disliked by the likes of Madison and Jefferson. Perhaps it was precisely for that reason Hamilton became a favorite of George Washington and served as his aid and advisor. As General and as President, Washington maintained an Olympus view of the men of his times. He appreciated Jefferson and Madison for what they offered to our young nation. But he seems to have valued Hamilton more.
Hamilton's view of government, money and banking, his integrity and his admirable regard for honor have never really been accurately nor fully told in school room history.
But thanks to Mr. McDonald, they are easily discovered in this well-written effort, a book which is highly recommended.
The Short Answer
McDonald's work clearly is favorable to Hamilton. However, it is not biased in the sense of presenting unsubstantiated statements as facts. Nor is it biased in the sense of glossing over negative facts in order to maintain a favorable image. Rather, McDonald's biography of Hamilton focuses on Hamilton's theories of government and public finance rather than on his personal life and personal short comings. (See my review of Chernow's Hamilton which describes five aspects of Hamilton's negative side.) McDonald alludes to these personal shortcomings but they are not the primary focus of his book. Perhaps this focus on Hamilton's public role is the basis for the charges of "bias" in McDonald's book by some reviewers. If you want a broader biography that addresses Hamilton's private life as well as his public contributions, read Chernow's biography. It is an exelent presentation of both sides of Hamilton's life.
Summary of McDonald's High Points
1. Philosophy: David Hume influenced Hamilton to seek to exploit the self-interest of citizens, channeling it to support national ends.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I have read several books about Hamilton and this is by far the best. McDonald was not interested in portraying Hamilton's personal life -- for that, Chernow's popular biography... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Kindle Customer
Alexander Hamilton emerges in this book as a profound thinker who mixed intellectual prowess with genuine political skill. Read morePublished on April 8, 2014 by Roman
It was a brave decision. Historian Forrest McDonald was well into writing a biography of Alexander Hamilton when he realized that a conventional telling of Hamilton's life wasn't... Read morePublished on May 29, 2012 by Ricardo Mio
THE SHORT REVIEW: According to McDonald: "In sum, Hamilton was right on all counts." The quote was extracted from the chapter on the Adams years, but is reflective of just about... Read morePublished on November 6, 2010 by rdv
Hamilton is often cast as a villain in most treatments of America's founding. Why? Well, because the authors are often so in love with Jefferson that they cannot be fair and... Read morePublished on May 10, 2010 by Dr. Jones
McDonald seems to have set out to write a book emphasizing Hamilton's political and financial/administrative contributions to the new republic and that is what he did. Read morePublished on March 3, 2008 by J. Moran
This biography focuses heavilty on Hamilton's fiscal policies, particularly in his role as Secretary of the Treasury. It is well written and relies heavily on primary sources. Read morePublished on June 25, 2006 by Henderson
Forrest McDonald wrote this book out of a profound knowledge of the legal, financial, and economic environment of the world of late-colonial America that Alexander Hamilton came... Read morePublished on March 30, 2005 by James R. Mccall
Though this biography is about 25 years old now, it's one on Hamilton that I will not part with. Forrest McDonald has written many books on early colonial American history, on the... Read morePublished on December 29, 2004 by Scamp Lumm