1-Sentence-Summary: Alexander Hamilton will inspire you to boldly use your strengths to change the world as it tells the story of a poor orphan who grew to become one of the most intelligent, ambitious, and influential people in American history.
Read in: 4 minutes
Favorite quote from the author:
As a hugely important figure in American history, Alexander Hamilton has not always gotten the credit he deserves.
But today, he is finally getting some of the attention he should, thanks to the smash-hit Broadway musical, Hamilton. It might not be historically accurate to every detail, but it highlights some of his impressive accomplishments and gives a picture of his fascinating life, both personal and political.
If you’re ready for the in-depth exploration of his life, look no further than Ron Chernow‘s biography, Alexander Hamilton. This book, in fact, was the inspiration for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical Hamilton.
Hamilton came from almost nothing, and against all odds made a name for himself in American history. After reading this book you will have even more appreciation for him.
The 3 best lessons this book gave me about Hamilton’s life are:
- Hamilton started out with nothing but by his gift for writing and intellect he was able to get an education and rise to the center stage of the American Revolution.
- He was a central figure in founding America by helping in the Revolution, ensuring the Constitution was ratified, and saving the economy by starting the first national bank.
- His personal life and abrasive personality made people dislike him, which was the cause of his untimely death.
Are you ready to discover why we should appreciate Hamilton more? Let’s begin!
Lesson 1: Hamilton’s wit and gift in writing helped him escape poverty and become an important figure in the American Revolution.
Hamilton was born on the Caribbean island of Nevis, far from where he would eventually be making history. His mother wasn’t married and because of this, he was poor. He also suffered a lot of stigmatization for being illegitimate. His father left his life when he was 11. Two years later, his mother passed away, leaving him and his brother orphaned.
But this didn’t stop him from pursuing his passion for reading and writing. Because of his intellect, he got a job as a clerk for a trading firm. This is where he learned about trade and monetary policies. He continued to read and write, and soon his talent was recognized. After some of his work was published, the people of Saint Croix were so impressed that they helped fund his moving to the American colonies to get an education.
Once in America, he studied law. After the Boston Tea Party. Hamilton became a star of the revolution when he gave a powerful speech to the people about how the colonists should unite and boycott British goods. He also wrote articles refuting the idea that a revolution would be bad for the colonists, helping the push toward rebellion.
George Washington was so impressed with his wit and writing that he made him his right-hand man. He wrote letters for the general and formed a close relationship with him. He became a war hero when he led a small battalion at Yorktown. This helped position him for politics after the war.
Lesson 2: Hamilton’s contributions included helping defend and ratify the Constitution and starting the first national bank and currency.
After winning the Revolutionary War, the US was in bad shape. Under the Articles of Confederation, the federal government was weak and the colonies lacked unity. To make matters worse, soldiers who had fought in the war weren’t getting paid. The government had no money to pay them, and they were starting to revolt.
As a member of the Continental Congress, Hamilton didn’t back away from these challenges. He was a firm believer in a strong central government and called for the ratification of the Constitution. The only problem was convincing all 13 states to agree.
Working with James Madison and John Jay, Hamilton began to draft the Federalist Papers. They laid out and defended the new Constitution to convince the states of the need for it. The collection of essays was hailed as a masterpiece, and all historians can agree that they played a key role in the ratification of the Constitution.
After the government was established, Hamilton was appointed to be the first Treasury Secretary. In this, he tackled the debt problem by having the government shoulder the costs of the war instead of the states. He also established the US Coastguard to ensure imported foods were being taxed, which increased revenue.
Next, he created a national bank and established a uniform currency for every state. This necessary action allowed businesses to thrive because they could now work across state lines.
Lesson 3: Unfortunately, because of his strong personality and rocky personal life, he rubbed some people the wrong way, which resulted in his death.
Hamilton had many clashes with his colleagues, including Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. He favored a stronger government, while Jefferson and Madison wanted states rights. He and Jefferson were lifelong political adversaries.
His reputation was damaged when he had an affair that became public after a journalist published the details. He responded by way of pamphlet confessing to the affair, but the damage was already done, and it humiliated his wife Elizabeth.
Another long-time enemy of Hamilton’s was Aaron Burr, who he believed was an unprincipled opportunist. He even sided with Jefferson when it came down to Jefferson vs. Burr for president. He believed Jefferson, though he disagreed with his politics, was more principled. This only stoked the anger between them.
When Burr ran for New York governor, Hamilton gave speeches to in an attempt to dissuade voters from choosing him. It made Burr so angry that he wrote a letter challenging Hamilton to a duel. Not being one to back down, he accepted, but in a letter made clear he intended to fire in the air rather than kill Burr. Even after Hamilton fired his shot into the air, Burr didn’t hesitate to shoot Hamilton fatally.
Alexander Hamilton Review
Wow, what a wild ride! I wasn’t familiar with Hamilton’s history and this book was really enlightening. Alexander Hamilton is a great read that I highly recommend, which says a lot coming from someone who isn’t that into history books!
Who would I recommend the Alexander Hamilton summary to?
The 52-year-old who loves the Hamilton musical, the 24-year-old that loves history, and anyone that wants to know more about the exciting life and powerful influence of one of the greatest people in history.