Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Combining exhaustive research with cunning insight and a screenwriter's sense of dramatic rhythm, Ron Chernow crafted a brilliant biography that, along with the musical it inspired, solidified the legacy and stature of the most divisive of founding fathers.
Chernow's book is so excellent that any future biographers will have to replicate all the beats he hits and add some material that Chernow was unable to uncover. Not only do we get a complete portrait of Hamilton, his insecurities, flaws, genius and triumphs, but thoroughly nuanced portraits of the figures who surrounded him -- George Washington, John Adams, Aaron Burr, Thomas Jefferson, Angelica Church and Eliza Hamilton.
Hamilton seemed to be preternaturally aware that his time on earth would be short, and that he would light up with a fire fated to burn out before its time. He worked at a feverish pace as a writer, enterprising politician and general. He was also a slave to his ambitions and biases, unwise enough to leaven the relentless execution of his visions with moderation. As a result, he tortured himself and especially those who loved him, whom he left penniless in addition to heartbroken by the deception of his covert showdown with Burr.
A complicated man with unrelenting cravings, Hamilton embodied the revolutionary spirit of the infant nation he helped found. We have him to thank for the national bank and accompanying debt, the checks and balances of the federal government, the seeds of the abolitionist movement, the strength of the First Amendment and the Coast Guard. He put the needs of his country ahead of those of himself and his family and political prospects, and lived a life of frenzied raconteurism.
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