Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

  • “Hamilton was the supreme double threat among the founding fathers, at once thinker and doer, sparking theoretician and masterful executive” (4).
  • A great overview of Hamilton’s life from the prologue: “The magnitude of Hamilton’s feats as treasury secretary has overshadowed many other facets of his life: clerk, college student, youthful poet, essayist, artillery captain, wartime adjutant to Washington, battlefield hero, congressman, abolitionist, Bank of New York founder, state assemblyman, member of the Constitutional Convention and New York Ratifying Convention, orator, lawyer, polemicist, educator, patron saint of the New-York Evening Post, foreign-policy theorist, and major general in the army. Boldly uncompromising, he served as catalyst for the emergence of the first political parties and as the intellectual fountainhead for one of them, the Federalists. He was a pivotal force in four consecutive presidential elections and defined much of America’s political agenda during the Washington and Adams administrations, leaving copious commentary on virtually every salient issue of the day” (5)
  • “Hamilton was the messenger from a future that we now inhabit…Today, we are indisputably the heirs to Hamilton’s America, and to repudiate his legacy is, in many ways, to repudiate the modern world” (6)
  • George Washington: “With me it has always been a maxim rather to let my designs appear from my works than by my expressions.” (89)
  • "While on Washington's staff, he filled up 120 pages of notes from his extracurricular reading. Hamilton fit the type of self-improving autodidact, employing all his spare time to better himself. He aspired to the eighteenth century aristocratic ideal of the versatile man conversant in every area of knowledge…While other Americans dreamed of a brand-new society that would expunge all traces of effete European civilization, Hamilton humbly studied those societies for cues to the formation of a new government” (110)
  • "The first great skeptic of American exceptionalism, he refused to believe that the country was except from the sober lessons of history” (627)
  • "Only once did Burr betray any misgivings about killing Hamilton. While reading the scene in Lawrence Sterne's Tristram Shandy in which where the tenderhearted Uncle Toby picks up a fly and delicately places it outside a window instead of killing it, Burr is said to have remarked, ‘Had I read Sterne more and Voltaire less, I should have known the world was wide enough for Hamilton and me.’”

  • Words:

    • effete (adj.)