Jason Koivu's Reviews > Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
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Feb 13, 14

bookshelves: biography, history
Read in January, 2008

Hamilton's ability to rise above a bastard's upbringing and his unsure beginnings to one of the highest offices of the US is one of those "American dream" stories that our forefathers built the cliche upon.

Chernow handles the material, lived-out so many years ago, with a deft hand, keeping my interest even through the parts I would normally find boring, such as the country's financial structuring which Hamilton masterminded. Of course, it is Hamilton's battle of wits with Thomas Jefferson (and his nippy lap-dog Madison) that is the real draw of any true history lover's fascination with Hamilton's life, even if his almost-out-of-date-yet-still-impossibly-gallant duel with Aaron Burr that excites the masses.

Although Hamilton's politics don't exactly jive with mine, I've still got to respect the way the man carried himself. He stuck to what he believed in, his code of honor, even if it meant his own end...and what an end!
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message 1: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie Dray Are there insights on why he eventually preferred Jefferson to Burr?


Jason Koivu Stephanie wrote: "Are there insights on why he eventually preferred Jefferson to Burr?"

It goes into that some, but not much more than the usual, which is that the consensus at the time was that Burr was a self-serving jerk. Hamilton preferred a man he could trust and admire, even if he was on the other end of the political spectrum.


message 3: by Jim (last edited Sep 20, 2013 10:52AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim I read about 60% of Chernow's Hamilton. Good Stuff. Some impressions of that doorstopper (half-million words more or less):

1) Hamilton, having written the majority of the Federalist Papers, was perhaps the man most responible for geting the constitution ratified - actual legitimate nation-building.

2) Energy to burn - approaching (the first) President Roosevelt in this regard.

3) He and Jefferson were political rivals - but tied into this somewhat were their opposing visions. Hamilton was "modern" - he embraced the Industrial Revolution and was sympathetic to business. Jefferson was not so business-oriented, "agarian" and almost antiquarian. He did not embrace the future as it actually happened.

4) Hamilton won a crucial battle with his insistence that our new nation honor pre-Constitution war debt.

5) Chernow cited a Jefferson letter wherein he justified France's Reign of Terror. This reminded me that Robespierre and his Reign may not have compared to Stalin and his purges - but both had their apologists.


Jason Koivu Jim wrote: "I read about 60% of Chernow's Hamilton. Good Stuff. Some impressions of that doorstopper (half-million words more or less):

1) Hamilton, having written the majority of the Federalist Papers, was p..."


All correct, from what I recall.

Also, it might be added that Chernow's book paints Jefferson and his toady Madison as passive-aggressive backroom wheeler-dealers, especially Madison. Of course when I read a pro-Jefferson bio that wasn't the case. Certainly Jefferson is always portrayed as a quiet, meditative man and Hamilton as more of a brash, out-spoken man of action. But the finer points always seem obscured by bias.


message 5: by Jim (last edited Sep 20, 2013 12:12PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim the finer points always seem obscured by bias.

My son has a top-notch history/humanities teacher in high school. For some reaon we were talking about Hamilton in passing.

His comment "Hamilton was crazy" - my wife frowned when I recounted that comment.

Talk about "bias" - the late Gore Vidal wrote "Burr" - a first-person account by Burr.

Lots of criticism about Washington (a lousy general) and largely an apology for Burr.

My wife is fond of saying: "I spit upon Burr's grave" - of course for shooting Hamilton.

Anyway, I hope to remember to ask for clarification on "crazy" Hamilton - next time I see that teacher.


message 6: by Mara (new)

Mara When I'm done perusing the presidents I definitely want to read this one - Chernow sounds like he was up to his Washington par with this one.


Jason Koivu Mara wrote: "When I'm done perusing the presidents I definitely want to read this one - Chernow sounds like he was up to his Washington par with this one."

Considering Hamilton's youth has been obscured, that his career was cut short, and that he didn't rise to the level of fame a presidency would bring, this book does seem like a thorough and thoroughly well told story.


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways If I could meet a Founding Father, I'd pick Hamilton. What an interesting guy! And he's my political choice, too, since I abominate the illusory benefits of Jefferson's agrarian fantasy.

*ahem*

Not that I have an opinion, mind.


Jason Koivu Richard Reviles Censorship wrote: "If I could meet a Founding Father, I'd pick Hamilton. What an interesting guy! And he's my political choice, too, since I abominate the illusory benefits of Jefferson's agrarian fantasy.

*ahem*

N..."


You like him that much, even though he's got such a Republican stank about him?


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways I like his acceptance of modernity. I like his accommodation of the role of greed in human nature, accepting that it needs to be managed not ignored. And I like that he was a fan of a strong central gummint, since I view "states' rights" as a short trip to crazytown. I do not want the Voice of the People to be heard, I want the Voice of the Intelligent to order the people around.

Most people are too stupid to realize religion is a con game. Why should they be smarter about politics?


message 11: by Jim (last edited Feb 13, 2014 10:14AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Jason wrote:

You like him that much, even though (Hamilton has got) such a Republican stank about him?

My dim perception of our founders and late 18th-C Americans is that our stinkiest Republican is culturally and politically much closer to our supposed "extremists" of all colors than he is to them.

(and I know you're kidding at least a little)

I'll pithily throw out a few buzz words and let you make the inferences.

Judical Torture (more an English thing than American), Hanging, Deficit Spending, Free Love, Abortion, Slavery, Popular Vote, Conscription (first used in the US for the Civil War), Income Tax, Dueling, Weekends, Plantations....

RRC wrote: If I could meet a Founding Father, I'd pick Hamilton.


If he could bring a case of Bordeaux, I'd pick Jefferson.


Jason Koivu Richard Reviles Censorship wrote: "I do not want the Voice of the People to be heard, I want the Voice of the Intelligent to order the people around...."

Best political ideology ever!


Jason Koivu Jim wrote: "Jason wrote:

You like him that much, even though (Hamilton has got) such a Republican stank about him?

My dim perception of our founders and late 18th-C Americans is that our stinkiest Republican..."


Hamilton was a Federalist, not a Republican. In my comment to Richard I was using the modern day form of the word Republican.


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