Alexander Hamilton, American

Richard Brookhiser, Author Free Press $25 (240p) ISBN 978-0-684-83919-6
Brookhiser (Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington) rediscovers another founding father. Hamilton was one of the epochal figures of the Revolutionary period--he collaborated with Madison on the Federalist papers, served as secretary of the treasury under Washington and, along with Jefferson, is largely responsible for the modern two-party system--but he was also one of the most controversial. John Adams called Hamilton a ""bastard"" and a ""foreigner"" (both charges held some degree of truth); Jefferson thought he was secretly ""against the liberty of the country,"" an accusation Brookhiser emphatically disproves. Hamilton's death only increased his infamy; he fell in a duel with then Vice President Aaron Burr, an event that remains one of the most bizarre in American history. (""Imagine Al Gore shooting Donald Regan,"" Brookhiser writes.) In this slim but rewarding book, Brookhiser traces the entire course of Hamilton's professional and personal life. Though he doesn't shrink from the more unsavory episodes, such as Hamilton's adulterous affair with a married woman and her subsequent blackmail of him, the author clearly admires his subject. The only blemish is Brookhiser's occasional use of bubblegum psychology, as when he writes of Hamilton's desire to ""be his father"" as a driving force behind Hamilton's infidelity. Although he doesn't provide a substantive analysis of Hamilton's work (just four pages are given to the Federalist papers, arguably the most important contribution of Hamilton's career), Brookhiser gives us a valuable, incisive portrait both of Hamilton's character and of the character of young America. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/29/1999
Release date: 04/01/1999
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 454 pages - 978-0-7862-1987-2
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-0-684-86331-3
Ebook - 256 pages - 978-1-4391-3545-7
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