6/15/17

Alexander Hamilton the biography review

Note: There are a lot of spoilers in this review, which shouldn't be surprising considering that it happened already.

source
Few figures in American history have been more hotly debated or more grossly misunderstood than Alexander Hamilton. Chernow’s biography gives Hamilton his due and sets the record straight, deftly illustrating that the political and economic greatness of today’s America is the result of Hamilton’s countless sacrifices to champion ideas that were often wildly disputed during his time. “To repudiate his legacy,” Chernow writes, “is, in many ways, to repudiate the modern world.” Chernow here recounts Hamilton’s turbulent life: an illegitimate, largely self-taught orphan from the Caribbean, he came out of nowhere to take America by storm, rising to become George Washington’s aide-de-camp in the Continental Army, coauthoring The Federalist Papers, founding the Bank of New York, leading the Federalist Party, and becoming the first Treasury Secretary of the United States.Historians have long told the story of America’s birth as the triumph of Jefferson’s democratic ideals over the aristocratic intentions of Hamilton. Chernow presents an entirely different man, whose legendary ambitions were motivated not merely by self-interest but by passionate patriotism and a stubborn will to build the foundations of American prosperity and power. His is a Hamilton far more human than we’ve encountered before—from his shame about his birth to his fiery aspirations, from his intimate relationships with childhood friends to his titanic feuds with Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Monroe, and Burr, and from his highly public affair with Maria Reynolds to his loving marriage to his loyal wife Eliza. And never before has there been a more vivid account of Hamilton’s famous and mysterious death in a duel with Aaron Burr in July of 1804.

Chernow’s biography is not just a portrait of Hamilton, but the story of America’s birth seen through its most central figure. At a critical time to look back to our roots, Alexander Hamilton will remind readers of the purpose of our institutions and our heritage as Americans.

- The more I read the biography, the more I realized that there are a lot of historical inaccuracies in the musical, like the fact that Burr wasn't Lee's second in the duel; Hamilton met Eliza before the ball; Angelica was already married before she met Hamilton; Hamilton was the only person at his wedding (his friends were busy dealing with the war and his family were too poor to get out of the West Indies); in the beginning, Hamilton wasn't entirely for the Constitution because of the 3/5's clause; he got sick a lot;  he wrote the infamous piece against President John Adams closer to the end of Adams' first term; Philip's duel happened after the election of 1800; Hamilton and Burr prepared their duel weeks in advance, giving them plenty of time to prepare wills, finish up their business, write letters, and just prepare for death in general; as well as, other inaccuracies. Overall, I would give the musical maybe a 60-75% chance of being historically accurate.

- I kept on hearing Hamilton lyrics whenever I'm reading the novel, like "Satisfied" when the prologue started talking about how Eliza won't ever be satisfied just by looking at her husband's bust; Jefferson comes home in "seventeen, suh, suh seventeen eighty nine"; "The World Was Wide Enough" when it came to the famous Hamilton Burr duel. In fact, almost all of the songs are used at some point, including the mixtape songs.

- Some small things about the musical make more sense now. For example, when Hamilton tells Lauren, "I like you a lot," it's supposed to imply Hamilton's bisexuality, and when Jefferson says, "Sally be a lamb darling," he actually had a slave named Sally, whom he impregnated. Also, fuck Jefferson when he says that he's for the common people and hates others for living a fancy life when he's also living a fancy life (he spent a fuck ton of money in France on furniture and wine, despite the fact that he's in debt.) He's also like, "I disapprove of the practice of slavery" yet he won't free his own slaves (which there were over one hundred of), and he was very against a strong federal government but when he became president he couldn't really undo what made the government what it was then without ruining everything (like getting rid of Hamilton's financial system, "his financial system is a / Work of genius."), he also twisted the Constitution a bit so he could have a justifiable reason as to why he should continue on with the Louisiana purchase, even though he was a strict constructionist in the past.

- Also, Hamilton reminds me more of the guy who just overshares everything and takes offense at anything that belittles his honor (he didn't have much when he was younger, so what he had then he protected very fiercely). That has gotten him into newspaper wars with many people, especially Jefferson (it got to the point where Washington was like please, both of you, just stop! And both Hamilton and were Jefferson were like, yeah, we'll stop, but then they continue doing it behind Washington's back). It also led Hamilton to write two of the most damaging pieces of his political career, the Reynolds Pamphlet and Letter from Alexander Hamilton, Concerning the Public Conduct and Character of John Adams, Esq. President of the United States, [24 October 1800] (basically much "An Open Letter" from the Hamilton Mixtape).

- Alexander also reminds me of me, we're both wordy. However, his wordiness was very eloquent that almost everybody couldn't help but love it. (Apparently, everyone had time to read 60 pages of Hamilton's work whether it was about the economy or the Federalist Papers).

- Overall, I had mixed feelings about him. He's overly ambitious, writes a fuck ton in a short amount of time (how much sleep did he get at night?), is easily hurt over his honor, had one known affair with another woman while his wife and children were "absent / On a visit to her father." Yet, he cares a lot. He cares very deeply about the nation, his friends, and family. During the affair, he would feel very guilty about what he did and try to make up for it by becoming even more of a loving father and husband. Even after Eliza forgives him, he's still very caring and tries his best to be the best he can be to his family by providing them the best education and housing and giving them his valuable time. He also turned back to God and started praying more, especially after his eldest son, Phillip, died. It got to the point where Hamilton insisted on having dying prayers said over him while he died so he could, hopefully, make it to heaven and see his son, Laurens, Washington, and his mother. Plus, he was a fucking genius when it came to designing our economic system, and how our government should run (albeit, some things probably wasn't that great of an idea like the Whiskey tax, but hey it worked.)

- I love how it starts and ends with Eliza. She's a forgiving person, and I wanted to hug her and protect her. She's also like her husband in some ways, good with running their household and a few volunteer organizations she was on the board of, and cares a lot about their family. Like Hamilton, she was also very determined whether it was helping set up the Washington Monument, making sure the orphanage worked, getting money from the U.S. government for Hamilton's pay during the Revolutionary War, or working on Hamilton's biography.

- Overall, the book does a great job of covering everything in Hamilton's life, even the gritty stuff. And the way Chernow writes, it wasn't that boring because it feels like a soap opera. He also writes it in a kind of easy to understand manner, even going so far as to change what the original document's words said (with a few exceptions) so that a modern audience could read it, while still keeping the context of the piece. So if you're definitely interested in knowing more about Alexander Hamilton as a person, not just distant founding father, a famous Broadway musical character, the guy who wasn't president but feels like he was (he did have a lot of influence during Washington's presidency and most of Adams' before he got kicked out), or "a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten Spot in the Caribbean" then definitely read this book. It's a lot of information, but it's definitely worth it.

- Fun fact Ron Chernow helped check the historical accuracy for the musical and every time something wasn't historically accurate Lin-Manuel Miranda had to defend his reason for doing so.

And now the weather:
The drunken history episode of Alexander Hamilton (Full episode costs about $2.00 plus tax).
This is: Hamilton playlist by Spotify
~ Stacy N.

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