Thursday, September 29, 2011

Alexander HamiltonAlexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had this book on my 'to-read' list for a couple of years now. Initially, I was drawn to learn more about this man who was the illegitimate son of a bankrupt farmer living in the culturally rancid West Indies where more slaves were imported than the entire 13 American Colonies combined. To think about what Alexander Hamilton overcame to become the man he was is quite inspirational. He was an autodidact of the classical type who worked with indefatigable passion and expediency. He was courageous on the battlefield, and became the singular friend and confidant of General Washington in the revolution and during the 8 years of Washington’s presidency. In his time of service as the Secretary of Treasury he single-handedly designed and erected the largest branch of the federal government at the time which would, within a generation, place the United States on an economic footing that would rival that of the major world powers and eventually help propel the United States to become the manufacturer and bank of the world. Hamilton was also instrumental, with the help of Madison, in the establishment of our federalist system of government that endured the crucible of the War between the States and has since proven to be one of the most stable, free, and prosperous forms of government of a virtuous people ever created.

It was a bit painful reading about Hamilton’s affair with the unscrupulous Maria Reynolds, but it is also instructive to see how men of such talent and capacity fall from grace—as a caution to others. In the end, Hamilton was undone by a political foe who killed him in cold blood during a duel after Hamilton refused the first shot. It was an amazing life and a personality that was precisely situated to in a key role to midwife the creation of the greatest nation in history, and the last best hope of Man.

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