Monday, January 30, 2017

Hamilton by Ron Chernow

My book for January was Hamilton by Ron Chernow. Until this fall, I had finished a book every month for the last twenty five years. This streak was broken in October. There were just too many things going on; more on this in a future post... Although Alexander Hamilton was not a president, this book fits nicely into my long term project to read books about all of the presidents. Hamilton played a major role in Washington and Adams' administration.

Born on a Caribbean island, Hamilton had an amazing life. During the revolutionary war, he served for four years as Washington's chief of staff. After the war, Hamilton served as assemblyman from New York County in the New York State Legislature and was chosen as a delegate for the Constitutional Convention. Hamilton recruited John Jay and James Madison to write a series of essays defending the proposed Constitution, now known as The Federalist Papers.

President George Washington appointed Hamilton as the first United States Secretary of the Treasury. As the treasury secretary Hamilton was a whirlwind. He created the National Bank, established the mint, and built the infrastructure to collect import tariffs. The establishment of the National Bank is often blamed for creating two political parties.

While John Adams was president, Hamilton served as inspector general of the United States Army, second in command to George Washington. Hamilton aided in all areas of the army's development, and after Washington's death he was by default the Senior Officer of the United States Army.

I was surprised at the largely negative picture painted of the Adams' presidency. While I read a Adams' biography years ago, I am going to have to go back and read another one.

Hamilton was also a little crazy. He got involved in a number of feuds and affairs, including a noteworthy sexual scandal. It is somewhat hard to believe that he was killed in a duel with the the sitting Vice President of the United States, Aaron Burr!

Although it is a load at 760 pages, this is a very good book. I recommend it. The Broadway musical Hamilton is inspired by the biography. I would love to have a chance to see Hamilton on Broadway!

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