Wednesday, January 20, 2016
Review of "Alexander Hamilton" by Ron Chernow - The Book That Inspired The Broadway Musical "Hamilton"
I was inspired to read this book because of my strong interest in the Broadway musical "Hamilton." I knew that Lin Manuel Miranda had been prompted to think about the life and legacy of Alexander Hamilton as he browsed the bookstore at JFK Airport prior to flying off to vacation in Mexico. So I decided to recapitulate that process and read the book before seeing the show on Broadway.
Mr. Chernow's style is clear and compelling. The enigmatic figure of Hamilton - orphaned bastard son of a Scotsman and a woman of low reputation in the Caribbean - becomes more comprehensible as the author explores the motivations and moods of the man who single-handedly invented the foundation of the present U.S. government Treasury Department. He was a strong defender of the fragile Constitution. and feuded famously with three of our Founding Fathers and Presidents: Jefferson, Madison and Adams. He made himself indispensible to George Washington, both during the Revolution and as the new government was being formed and the new country was being birthed.
His tragic early death in a duel with Vice-President Aaron Burr is one of the darkest chapters in the early history of our republic. Burr is quoted - in this book and in the musical - as saying "I should have realized that the world was wide enough for both Hamilton and me."
This comprehensive biography fills in many holes that existed in my understanding of the early days of our country. It also caused me to see Washington, Jefferson, Adams and Madison in a different light, and to appreciate the strong role that the woman in Hamilton's life played, particularly Eliza, Angelica and Maria Reynolds.
I am giving away copies of this book to friends who are fellow fans of Hamilton - the man and the musical.