Friday, March 31, 2017

Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, 818 pages.

I read Chernow's Washington several years ago, and loved it, but for some reason I lacked strong enough interest in the Hamilton bio to pick up the massive tome. I knew that he was the only man killed by an American VP (at least the only acknowledged one--we've all heard the stories about the Indiana contingent, 5 vps from "the Crossroads of America," each of them, according to the state's bizarre election rules, having to kill a man in unarmed combat to be eligible to take office).
Since my younger son has had a strong interest in the 2015 musical, and since we listen to the cd, and the mixtape cd frequently (and watch various videos of the cast and Lynn Manuel Miranda frequently, too), and since my son asked for the book, I decided to read Chernow's work. It is very well written, and, no surprise, tells a compelling story. Chernow tells of this incredibly intelligent founding father who was a soldier, lawyer, financial innovator, abolitionist, writer, politician, and ladies man. Pretty much every part of the story is fascinating, and (far more often than I anticipated) surprising. From the songs in the musical I knew about the Coast Guard connection, and I had heard before about the banking system, but I didn't remember him as a commander of Washington's force sent to put down the Whiskey Rebellion, or that Adams had him as one of the commanders in the Army set up to repel an anticipated per-Napoleonic French invasion. His complicated relationships with Jefferson, Madison, Adams, and Burr made for great reading. His behavior regarding Maria Reynolds and the "Reynolds pamphlet" were more bizarre than I would have thought from the musical. His ability for self-harm was also extraordinary. Really fascinating.

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