Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Chernow presents a landmark biography of Alexander Hamilton, the Founding Father who galvanized, inspired, scandalized, and shaped the newborn nation.In the first full-length biography of Alexander Hamilton in decades, Ron Chernow tells the riveting story of a man who overcame all odds to shape, inspire, and scandalize the newborn America....

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Title:Alexander Hamilton
Author:Ron Chernow
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Edition Language:English

Alexander Hamilton Reviews

  • Darwin8u

    - Inscription on an envelope to Eliza Hamilton from her husband Alexander.

    I have read many political biographies in my 41 years, but few better. Chernow is able to walk that narrow, tricky trail between scholarship and narrative storytelling without tripping over hagiography. He presents the largeness and improbableness of Alexander Hamilton without leaving out Hamilton's excesses and flights of paranoia and inflexibility. I think Chernow gets i

    - Inscription on an envelope to Eliza Hamilton from her husband Alexander.

    I have read many political biographies in my 41 years, but few better. Chernow is able to walk that narrow, tricky trail between scholarship and narrative storytelling without tripping over hagiography. He presents the largeness and improbableness of Alexander Hamilton without leaving out Hamilton's excesses and flights of paranoia and inflexibility. I think Chernow gets it right that

    He was a man who was infused with genius and energy, but also often tone-deaf to the political realities of his time. He was a man who knew government but was often ungovernable himself.

    His talents built the frameworks that would later create both our nation's economic, government and military capacity as well as the Federalist party, however, those same skills would also help to tear down the Federalist party because of Hamilton's inability to bend or just shut up. Like those prophets that seem to gain strength and honor as the world shifts and slides into alignment with their oracle-like vision, the modern world seems able to identify and honor Hamilton because in many ways HE made it.

    Chernow's biography paints the details of Hamilton's life with a vision of just how incredible a figure Hamilton was, and how his talents often unsettled those around him. Chernow also frames Hamilton around those important founding fathers that contributed to Hamilton's rise (Washington), fall (Jefferson, Madison, Adams), and death (Burr) while also showing how Alexander Hamilton also contributed to his own rise, fall, and death.

    One of my favorite easter eggs from this tome was a remark Burr once made after shooting Alexander Hamilton. Chernow relates that "Only once did Burr betray any misgivings about killing Hamilton. While reading the scene in Laurence Sterne's

    [an amazing book, which I recommend everyone read, btw] in which the tenderhearted Uncle Toby picks up a fly and delicately places it outside the window instead of killing it, Burr is said to have remarked,

    Anyway, an amazing man is never really captured, but this biography comes pretty close.

    * Saw Hamilton the Musical on July 12 (so after Lin-Manuel Miranda and Leslie Odom, Jr left, but before Daveed Diggs left) and it was kinda amazing.

  • Ashley *Hufflepuff Kitten*

    "...the world was wide enough for Hamilton and me." -Burr

    This book is utterly exhaustive in its scope. Dry and dull in a few places, exhilarating and taut and heartbreaking in others. This feels like a life done justice, although I am also curious about the biography that Eliza started and her son finished after she was gone. I loved the framing with Eliza in the prologue and epilogue. Loved piecing together where the book and musical met, loved the bits where they diverged. Loved stumbling upon

    "...the world was wide enough for Hamilton and me." -Burr

    This book is utterly exhaustive in its scope. Dry and dull in a few places, exhilarating and taut and heartbreaking in others. This feels like a life done justice, although I am also curious about the biography that Eliza started and her son finished after she was gone. I loved the framing with Eliza in the prologue and epilogue. Loved piecing together where the book and musical met, loved the bits where they diverged. Loved stumbling upon the actual historical lines from letters and writings that made it into the musical's brilliant score. Shout out to Scott Brick for bringing this book to life for my ears the way few could.

    "I am so tired. It is so long. I want to see Hamilton." -Eliza

  • Sean Gibson

    I’ve been wracking my brains literally for months trying to figure out who I can compare Alexander Hamilton to on the modern politocelebrity scene (or “to whom I can compare” him, if you douchey grammar wonks prefer).

    There are two reasons that process has taken months: 1) I’m currently operating with the mental processing power of an old Radio Shack TRS-80 (on the plus side, I guess that means I can run awesome software like Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing!) and 2) Alexander Hamilton was one unique

    I’ve been wracking my brains literally for months trying to figure out who I can compare Alexander Hamilton to on the modern politocelebrity scene (or “to whom I can compare” him, if you douchey grammar wonks prefer).

    There are two reasons that process has taken months: 1) I’m currently operating with the mental processing power of an old Radio Shack TRS-80 (on the plus side, I guess that means I can run awesome software like Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing!) and 2) Alexander Hamilton was one unique son of a Scottish laird.

    Put Kanye West, Noam Chomsky, Donald Trump, and Steve Martin into a blender and what do you get?

    Well, probably a pretty disgusting slurry of liquefied body parts.

    Let me rephrase: put the personalities, intellects, and quirkiest components (not to mention the thin skin, in some cases) of Kanye, Noam Chomsky, Donald Trump, and Steve Martin into a personality, intellect, and quirk-blending processor and what do you get?

    Something that comes out looking, but hopefully not smelling (given that gents of that vintage probably didn’t smell so fresh after a hot summer day traipsing about in heavy, unwashed woolen garments), a little bit like Alexander Hamilton. (I’d be willing to wager that’s the first time anyone anywhere ever has used both Noam Chomsky and Donald Trump as a comparison for an individual; that’s how singular Hamilton was. And how much of a trailblazer I am.)

    Smarter people than I have written at great length about this book and its subject, so I shan’t prattle on for pages and pages. Suffice it to say, Alexander Hamilton is as influential a person as there is when it comes to shaping U.S. political history and the institutions that affect our lives every single day, and he was, perhaps, even more unique than he was influential. Sure, this book could replace the candlestick in the game of Clue just as easily as it can be an educational tool (“It was Colonel Mustard in the library with his copy of Hamilton that bludgeoned poor Professor Plum to death!”). But, there are few biographies of recent vintage that can match the immense scope, mind-boggling level of detail, and compulsive readability of this one. If you’re a history buff in any way (or just want to see what all the Broadway hubbub is about), you’ll want to give this book a whirl.

    (A couple of words of warning, however: first, if you’re a Thomas Jefferson acolyte, you might want to brace yourself; Mr. Chernow does not treat our country’s second Vice President—and lifelong Hamilton rival—kindly, styling him a scheming, Francophile bon vivant of the most pernicious kind (though, really, if you’re going to be a scheming bon vivant, you might as well be of the most pernicious kind—otherwise, you’re just half-assing it, and if I believe anything, it’s that anything worth doing is worth whole-assing). Second, if ever a man was on another man’s (metaphorical) nuts, it is Ron Chernow on Alexander Hamilton’s. There are a few instances in which Mr. Chernow attempts to maintain a façade, or at least a veneer (do we think a veneer is thinner than a façade?), of scholarly distance and objectivity, but, by and large, his Hamiltonian hard-on is of such obvious and epic proportions that, I’m told, the Washington Monument has expressed concerns to the Mayor of Washington, DC, that when Chernow visits our nation’s capital, he’s in violation of the Height of Buildings Act of 1910. The Mayor has thus far refused comment, though a source indicates that he has, at the very least, asked that Mr. Chernow not wear sweat pants when he visits the District, and has asked him to, and I quote, “try to tuck it into his belt.”)

    We’ll call this a strong 4.5 stars.

  • Jon

    It had a lot less hip-hop than I was expecting, but I still really liked it.

  • Kemper

    Like a lot of people I’ve been listening to the

    musical album non-stop and read this because it was the source of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s inspiration to create the brilliant Broadway show. The idea that a dense biography of an American Founding Father who was probably best known to the general public as the guy on the the ten dollar bill and the subject of a pretty funny

    commercial would someday lead to the creation of an incredibly popular musical that blends show tunes with hip

    Like a lot of people I’ve been listening to the

    musical album non-stop and read this because it was the source of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s inspiration to create the brilliant Broadway show. The idea that a dense biography of an American Founding Father who was probably best known to the general public as the guy on the the ten dollar bill and the subject of a pretty funny

    commercial would someday lead to the creation of an incredibly popular musical that blends show tunes with hip-hop is only a little less likely than the life of Alexander Hamilton himself.

    (And if you’re interested in reading a great account of the impact the show has on people I highly recommend

    that sportswriter Joe Posnanski wrote about taking his daughter to see it.)

    The circumstances of Hamilton’s birth on a Caribbean island as the illegitimate son of a divorced woman and a fortune seeking Scotsman were the first strike against him, and things only got worse when his father abandoned him and his mother died. As an orphan with no money and an embarrassing social status for the time young Alexander probably should have lived a short, hard life and been forgotten by history. However, he also had a brilliant mind, a talent for writing, and an enormous appetite for work that was fueled by relentless ambition. After a hurricane devastated his island Hamilton wrote an account of the tragedy so moving that a collection was taken up to send him to America to attend college.

    Hamilton arrived in New York just as the American Revolution was about to start, and his talents landed him a pivotal position on George Washington’s staff as well leading troops in the field and playing a key role during the Battle of Yorktown that essentially won the war. Hamilton’s role in the writing of

    with James Madison and John Jay along with his political maneuvering was critical in getting the Constitution ratified. HIs biggest contributions to the United States probably came from his bold actions as the first secretary of the treasury when he not only got the young nation on sound economic footing but also used money as a tool to link the fates of the frequently bickering states together as a way of achieving unity and promoting a strong federal government. As Washington’s most trusted advisor Hamilton was critical in shaping the future of the country he did so much to help create.

    All of this should have meant that Hamilton would be remembered as one of the most important figures in American history but he also made powerful enemies including Thomas Jefferson. The struggle between those who believed power should reside in the federal government or with the states became a bitter fight in which Hamilton was the victim of relentless political attacks that slandered his reputation and made him a perpetual lightning rod of controversy. The conflict would lead to the creation of the two party political system as well as a constant tug of war between factions about how much authority the American government should have that continues today.

    Hamilton frequently didn’t do himself any favors with his outspoken nature, and his insecurities about his illegitimacy caused him to be hypersensitive to insults. His basic cynicism and mistrust of people made him wary of popular trends and leaving the fate of America in the hands of the general public who he felt could be too easily swayed by a mob mentality and demagogues. (Geez, where could he have gotten that idea?) This left him vulnerable to attacks by his enemies who smeared him as an elitist at best or a schemer plotting to return America to English control or set up an American monarchy at worst. He badly hurt his own political party by feuding with President John Adams who became another enemy who would smear Hamilton long after his death. Hamilton also had the distinction of being one of the first American politicians to be caught up in a sex scandal, and his reaction to it by publishing a tell-all memoir called

    was a miscalculation that severely damaged his public image.

    Propaganda from his enemies and his own combative nature and thin skin hurt his standing during his life and limited his political prospects. When his long and complex relationship with Aaron Burr ultimately led to Hamilton’s death after their infamous duel his enemies would continue to slander his reputation while his widow Eliza would spend the rest of her life defending it and try to make sure his accomplishments weren’t forgotten.

    What Chernow has done with this sympathetic portrait of a brilliant but flawed man is illustrate how America owes so much to Hamilton’s genius. By detailing Hamilton’s collaborations and battles with the other Founding Fathers it shows that they weren’t saints with some glorious vision of what America should be. They engaged in compromises and accepted contradictions in the interests of getting things done, and they were consumed by the fears of all the ways the country could fail. They were also just as capable of acting in short-sighted, mean spirited, and despicable ways as any politician today, Thomas Jefferson in particular comes across as a hypocritical sneaky jerkface that I would never vote for.

    After reading this it’s easy to understand how Hamilton the remarkable person inspired

    the remarkable musical.

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