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Alexander Hamilton [Format Kindle]

Ron Chernow

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Building on biographies by Richard Brookhiser and Willard Sterne Randall, Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton provides what may be the most comprehensive modern examination of the often overlooked Founding Father. From the start, Chernow argues that Hamilton’s premature death at age 49 left his record to be reinterpreted and even re-written by his more long-lived enemies, among them: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and James Monroe. Hamilton’s achievements as first Secretary of the Treasury, co-author of The Federalist Papers, and member of the Constitutional Convention were clouded after his death by strident claims that he was an arrogant, self-serving monarchist. Chernow delves into the almost 22,000 pages of letters, manuscripts, and articles that make up Hamilton’s legacy to reveal a man with a sophisticated intellect, a romantic spirit, and a late-blooming religiosity.

One fault of the book, is that Chernow is so convinced of Hamilton’s excellence that his narrative sometimes becomes hagiographic. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Chernow’s account of the infamous duel between Hamilton and Aaron Burr in 1804. He describes Hamilton’s final hours as pious, while Burr, Jefferson, and Adams achieve an almost cartoonish villainy at the news of Hamilton’s passing.

A defender of the union against New England secession and an opponent of slavery, Hamilton has a special appeal to modern sensibilities. Chernow argues that in contrast to Jefferson and Washington’s now outmoded agrarian idealism, Hamilton was "the prophet of the capitalist revolution" and the true forebear of modern America. In his Prologue, he writes: "In all probability, Alexander Hamilton is the foremost figure in American history who never attained the presidency, yet he probably had a much deeper and more lasting impact than many who did." With Alexander Hamilton, this impact can now be more widely appreciated. --Patrick O'Kelley

Extrait

On the night of April 18, 1775, 800 British troops marched out of Boston to capture Samuel Adams and John Hancock and seize a stockpile of patriot munitions in Concord, Massachusetts. As they passed Lexington, they encountered a motley battalion of militia farmers known as Minutemen, and in the ensuing exchange of gunfire the British killed 8 colonists and then 2 more in Concord. As the redcoats retreated helter-skelter to Boston, they were riddled by sniper fire that erupted from behind hedges, stone walls, and fences, leaving a bloody trail of 273 British casualties versus 95 dead or wounded for the patriots.

The news reached New York within four days and a mood of insurrection promptly overtook the city. People gathered at taverns and street corners to ponder events while Tories quaked. The newly emboldened Sons of Liberty streamed down to the East River docks, pilfered ships bound for British troops in Boston, then emptied the city hall arsenal of its muskets, bayonets, and cartridge boxes, grabbing a thousand weapons in all.

Armed with this cache, volunteer militia companies sprang up overnight. However much the British might deride these ragtag citizen-soldiers, they conducted their business seriously. Inflamed by the astonishing news from Massachusetts, Alexander Hamilton, then a student at King’s College (later Columbia University), was that singular intellectual who picked up a musket as fast as a pen. Nicholas Fish recalled that “immediately after the Battle of Lexington, [Hamilton] attached himself to one of the uniform companies of militia then forming for the defence of the country by the patriotic young men of this city under the command of Captain Fleming.” Fish and Robert Troup, both classmates of Hamilton, were among the earnest cadre of King’s College volunteers who drilled before classes each morning in the churchyard of nearby St. Paul’s Chapel. The fledgling volunteer company was named the Hearts of Oak. The young recruits marched briskly past tombstones with the motto of “Liberty or Death” stitched across their round leather caps. On short, snug green jackets they also sported, for good measure, red tin hearts that announced “God and our Right.”

Hamilton approached this daily routine with the same perfectionist ardor that he exhibited in his studies. Troup stressed the “military spirit” infused into Hamilton and noted that he was “constant in his attendance and very ambitious of improvement.” Never one to fumble an opportunity, Hamilton embarked on a comprehensive military education. With his absorbent mind, he mastered infantry drills, pored over volumes on military tactics and learned the rudiments of gunnery and pyrotechnics from a veteran bombardier. There was a particular doggedness about this young man, as if he were already in training for something far beyond lowly infantry duty.

On April 24, a huge throng of patriots massed in front of city hall. While radicals grew giddy with excitement, many terrified Tory merchants began to book passage for England. The next day, an anonymous handbill blamed Myles Cooper, the Tory president of King’s College, and four other “obnoxious gentlemen” for patriotic deaths in Massachusetts and said the moment had passed for symbolic gestures. “The injury you have done to your country cannot admit of reparation,” these five loyalists were warned. “Fly for your lives or anticipate your doom by becoming your own executioners.” A defiant Myles Cooper stuck to his post.

After a demonstration on the night of May 10, hundreds of protesters, armed with clubs and heated by a heady brew of political rhetoric and strong drink, descended on King’s College, ready to inflict rough justice on Myles Cooper. Hercules Mulligan recalled that Cooper “was a Tory and an obnoxious man and the mob went to the college with the intention of tarring and feathering him or riding him upon a rail.” Nicholas Ogden, a King’s alumnus, saw the angry mob swarming toward the college and raced ahead to Cooper’s room, urging the president to scramble down a back window. Because Hamilton and Troup shared a room near Cooper’s quarters, Ogden also alerted them to the approaching mob. “Whereupon Hamilton instantly resolved to take his stand on the stairs [the outer stoop] in front of the Doctor’s apartment and there to detain the mob as long as he could by an harangue in order to gain the Doctor the more time for his escape,” Troup recorded.

After the mob knocked down the gate and surged toward the residence, Hamilton launched into an impassioned speech, telling the boisterous protesters that their conduct, instead of promoting their cause, would “disgrace and injure the glorious cause of liberty.” One account has the slightly deaf Cooper poking his head from an upper-story window and observing Hamilton gesticulating on the stoop below. He mistakenly thought that his pupil was inciting the crowd instead of pacifying them and shouted, “Don’t mind what he says. He’s crazy!” Another account has Cooper shouting at the ruffians: “Don’t believe anything Hamilton says. He’s a little fool!” The more plausible version is that Cooper had vanished, having scampered away in his nightgown once Ogden forewarned him of the approaching mob.

Hamilton knew he couldn’t stop the intruders but he won the vital minutes necessary for Cooper to clamber over a back fence and rush down to the Hudson. Of all the incidents in Hamilton’s early life in America, his spontaneous defense of Myles Cooper was probably the most telling. It showed that he could separate personal honor from political convictions and presaged a recurring theme of his career: the superiority of forgiveness over revenge. Most of all, the episode captured the contradictory impulses struggling inside this complex young man, an ardent revolutionary with a profound dread that popular sentiment would boil over into dangerous excess.

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 1993 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 860 pages
  • Pagination - ISBN de l'édition imprimée de référence : 1594200092
  • Editeur : Penguin Books (29 mars 2005)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B000QJLQZI
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
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  • Word Wise: Activé
  • Composition améliorée: Non activé
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°84.447 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.7 étoiles sur 5  583 commentaires
168 internautes sur 172 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 This is as good as biography gets 11 mars 2005
Par Harvey Ardman - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
It's hard to add anything new to the praise other readers have offered here, but...

1. This book is FUN to read. You will become emotionally involved with the people, and privy to their thoughts and motives. You will cheer for some and hope others lose. I'm reminded, in a way, of Puzo's The Godfather. The characters are at least as vivid.

2. Although a couple of people here have given the book single star ratings, reflecting their own current political points of view, I find that the central antagonists of this book, Hamilton and Jefferson, cannot easily be fit into today's liberal and conservative ranks.

3. Today's political junkies will find many of these 18th century battles remarkably familiar, although there are no exact analogues to today's political players.

4. If you're like me, you won't be able to keep quiet about the book. You'll find yourself reading passages to your spouse and telling stories about Hamilton to your friends.

This is a thoroughly involving book. It is long, yes, but so is a good NFL game with a couple of overtimes. Unless you're a scholar of the period, you'll learn a great deal about what made America what it is today. And you'll wish, at least for a moment, that you were alive when Hamilton was and that you could have shared a dinner with him.
297 internautes sur 311 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 The best Alexander Hamilton biography. 27 avril 2004
Par Gaetan Lion - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
This is an excellent biography on Alexander Hamilton, a formidable and sometimes controversial figure among our Founding Fathers. He is best known for being one of the main contributors to the Federalist Papers and being the first Secretary of the Treasury of the United States.
There is a lot to like and be in awe about Alexander Hamilton. There is also quite a bit to dislike. Was he a visionary and a genius? Or a power hungry and greedy autocratic figure reminiscent of the British the U.S. fought away at the time. Through the past decades his place in history has gone through several reincarnations of both positive and negative revisionism.
Ron Chernow is undoubtedly on the sides of the Hamilton fan. However, even though his portrayal of Hamilton may not be totally objective. It is nevertheless fascinating due to its breadth, and depth. Hamilton comes across as a brilliant individual sometimes centuries ahead of his time. Chernow develops a convincing case that Hamilton was without peers in his developing the necessary financial and economic infrastructure of what was going to become the modern U.S.

If Adam Smith was the Scottish genius who invented modern economics, Hamilton was his American counterpart who actually applied modern economics principles in the governing of a new nation. His understanding in such matters far surpassed his more famous political opponents such as Madison and Jefferson.

Chernow mentions several examples of Hamilton's unique foresight. One was Hamilton's successful defeat of the discrimination bill. This was a nonsensical concept that proposed that capital gains on sales of treasury securities should flow back to the original investor. Hamilton quickly saw that such a concept was operationally unworkable and would prevent the development of a liquid market in tradable government securities. It would affect the U.S. ability to issue new bonds and finance both government operations and other upcoming wars. He made his case convincingly and the discrimination bill was defeated 36 to 13. Another bold move by Hamilton was to enforce the assumptions of all States' debt by the Federal Government. Thus, the fragmented portfolio of U.S. debt formerly backed by the weak credit of each specific State was now fully backed by the U.S. This reassured foreign investors, and allowed the Treasury to refinance some of the bonds with much longer terms and at lower interest rates. This prevented the U.S. to become bankrupt under the mountain of debt it had amassed as a result of its wars to fight for its independence.
After reading this book, you will feel that we would be only so lucky as to have a Secretary of the Treasury of Alexander Hamilton's caliber and genius. He loved to tackle challenging, abstract financial problems that few others could conceive. He would have been a heck of a mind to apply towards resolving our potential fiscal crisis associated with the retirement of the Baby Boomers.
Chernow's book is a rich addition to the other already excellent biographies on Alexander Hamilton, including the ones written by Stephen Knott, Willard Sterne Randall, and Forest McDonald.
75 internautes sur 77 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A Wonderful & Complete Biography 5 juillet 2004
Par Eric Crusius - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
If I were able to give this book greater than 5 stars, I would. Here is why:
Chernow writes a complete biography, which while covering an immense amount of ground, still manages to be thoroughly interesting and provide numerous anecdotes and tidbits of information. Though we all know the result, Chernow's treatment of the duel with Aaron Burr offers readers many "can not put the book down" moments which would explain the dark circles under my eyes one morning at work. Still more amazing is Chernow's attention to the the (until now) little talked about reprocussions to the life of Aaron Burr (who was indicted for murder and on the lam while Vice President) and others around Hamilton including his seemingly amazing wife, Eliza.
Besides being a supreme story on the life of the man who literally shaped this country's financial and trading system (despite strong opposition from Jefferson and his Federalist Paper co-hort Madison), Chernow reveals Hamilton's talents as an attorney and his explouts as a revolutionary war hero. What was also startling was how much Washington relied on Hamilton's talents and advice during the war and thereafter to the point where Washington began to view Hamilton as his equal. Further, Hamilton's push for the adoption of the US Constitution is clear despite opposition from many of those in this country including Jefferson himself who viewed this country as an agricultural society (which would have always doomed the US to always be Britain's dark sheep) and would have left the strongest powers with the states and not a central government.
What was particularly amazing is how dirty and bruising politics was back in the late 18th and early 19th century. When reading about American History in school, the Founding Fathers always seemed like a fairly cohesive group which was above the rough and tumble of politics. To the extent that this exists in your head (as it did in mine), it is dispelled once and for all. Many of the attacks against Hamilton dealt with the fact that he was a "bastard" born in the West Indies. Some politicians also, without proof, sought to spread rumors that Hamilton was, in fact, part Creole.
Chernow's book is expansive (going back in detail to Hamilton's childhood in the West Indies to the death of his wife Eliza on the eve of the Civil War who survived him by nearly 50 years), yet concise and does not dwell on any part of Hamilton's life for too long; giving sufficient detail without overwhelming the reader. To me, it reads much like a fictional novel though it is packed with facts, details and quotations. All of Chernow's assertions and facts are seemingly backed up with authority.
Indeed, one would have a hard time conjuring up a life as interesting as Hamilton's. He was clearly one of the brightest stars this nation ever had and we are all lucky that he decided to call America his home and lucky to have this biography to illustrate it so well.
P.S.: Anyone who thinks Hamilton whould be removed from the $10 bill, should be required to read this book first.
38 internautes sur 39 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Engrossing reading from the first page 6 janvier 2006
Par Irish reader - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
As an Irish reader who has always been interested in history, I have been interested in the American Civil War for a long time. Only recently has my interest in American history broadened to the revolutionary period. After reading this biography, I regret that I didn't acquire this interest much sooner. This book is engrossing from the first page. It is also an 'honest' biography. Although Chernow clearly believes in Hamilton's preeminent status among the founding fathers, he is not shy in criticising Hamilton's actions where it is merited. This book is pure joy from start to finish. Not only does Chernow give a superb overview of Hamilton's importance to the development of the United States but he also presents an excellent picture of the historical period. At the end of it one has new respect for a hugely important and controversial historical figure. What pleasure awaits those who have not yet read this book!
35 internautes sur 36 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Flawed giant in History, who should not have been president 11 avril 2005
Par Anthony Sanchez - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
I found this book much more engaging than McCullough's bio of John Adams. Of the founding fathers' bios that I have read, Hamilton may be the one I would most like to have spent a long dinner listening to his ideas and political concerns. Part of his quality is his underdog status. A poor immigrant who was probably the only founding father to personify the American hope of rags-to-riches.

As with almost all the other founding fathers, whose biographies I have read, Thomas Jefferson played a significant role. As with some of these founding fathers, Jefferson played a villainous role. I am still trying to find enough reason to glorify Jefferson, but the guy needed a good kick in the rear.

Chernow provides excellent refutation of the Jeffersonian inspired negative images of Hamilton as an enemy of democracy and an aristocrat. In a manner that would have made Hamilton proud, the author seems to take pleasure in noting the hypocrisy of the aristocratic Jefferson, and Madison attacking Hamilton who actually put his life on the line to win independence from Britain, and who may have been the first to have called for the Constitutional Convention to make this land into an actual country. If the British ever saw Jefferson, it was only to glimpse the back of his horse as he fled to the hills at the first sight of a redcoat.

Less happy for Hamilton is the author's honest assessment of Hamilton's weaknesses, of which there were many. This is why any current day opponents of Hamilton (e.g., state rights exponents) would have to agree that this is a well-balanced treatment of its subject. After finishing this book, I concluded that Hamilton would have been the brightest, and hardest working president in history, but his temperament would have surely doomed his administration.

Hopefully, text book writers will incorporate the information in this book and give proper status for our students of this incredible, but flawed man.
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