09 August 2016

BOOK REPORT: Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

TL;DR: I read this because I’m hooked on the musical. An excellent biography about the ten-dollar founding father and the building of America. Made me realize our nation is a miracle.

If you love the Hamilton musical, read this:

I couldn’t help but underline words that I heard in the play. It was like playing HAMILTON BINGO. (There are a lot more than these, but I won’t bore you here.)

“Hamilton carried a heavy dread of [OH!] anarchy and disorder that always struggled with his no less active love of liberty.”

“He... soon made his first friend: a fashionable tailor with the splendid name of Hercules Mulligan [UP IN IT; LOVIN’ IT].”

“President Cooper also looked askance [HE’S PENNILESS] at the political protests mounted nearby.”

“Thus, Hamilton’s mission was [THE SITUATION IS] fraught with a multitude of perils.”

“Though he did not endorse Gates [OUTRAGE] outright, Adams fretted that idolatry of Washington might end in military rule.”

“Tens of thousands of onlookers gaped in amazement as the shattered British troops marched out of Yorktown and, to the tune of an old English ballad, “The World Turned Upside Down,” moved between parallel rows of handsomely outfitted French soldiers and battered, ragged American troops.”

“Hamilton inhabited two diametrically opposed [FOES] worlds.”

“Adams’s wrath against Hamilton was understandable, but he immediately stooped to personal insults and called Hamilton a ‘Creole bastard.’ ”

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.”

Penned by Hamilton: “Adieu best of wives and best of women. Embrace all my darling children for me. Ever yours, A H”

If you love the founding fathers, read this:

A passage where Chernow describes Washington’s heroism:

America’s idolatry of George Washington may have truly begun at the battle of Monmouth. One of America’s most accomplished horsemen, Washington at first rode a white charger, given to him by William Livingston, now governor of New Jersey, in honor of his recrossing of the Delaware. This beautiful horse dropped dead from the heat, and Washington instantly switched to a chestnut mare. By sheer force of will, he stopped the retreating soldiers, rallied them, then reversed them. “Stand fast, my boys, and receive your enemy,” he shouted. “The southern troops are advancing to support you.” Washington’s steady presence had a sedative effect on the flying men.

Two bold quotes from Jefferson:

“I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing… and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.”

“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

Hamilton’s words on government debt:

“[I] ardently [wish] to see it incorporated as a fundamental maxim in the system of public credit of the United States that the creation of debt should always be accompanied with the means of extinguishment.”

“[Progressive accumulation of debt] is perhaps the NATURAL DISEASE of all Governments. And it is not easy to conceive anything more likely than this to lead to great and convulsive revolutions of Empire.”

“To attach full confidence to an institution of this nature, it appears to be an essential ingredient in its structure that [a federal bank] shall be under a private not a public direction, under the guidance of individual interest, not of public policy.” In short, he was a libertarian, ha ha.

Fisher Ames added an insight on well-meaning people who don’t understand economics: “A gentleman may therefore propose the worst of measures with the best intentions.”

Chernow’s words on our two-party government:

“The Federalists saw themselves as saving America from anarchy, while Republicans believed they were rescuing America from counterrevolution.”

“Where Hamilton looked at the world through a dark filter and had a better sense of human limitations, Jefferson viewed the world through a rose-colored prism and had a better sense of human potentialities. Both Hamilton and Jefferson believed in democracy, but Hamilton tended to be more suspicious of the governed and Jefferson of the governors.”

I find myself clinging to both of these perspectives.

On Hamilton’s Christian faith:

“For Hamilton, religion formed the basis of all law and morality, and he thought the world would be a hellish place without it… [In his later years,] he experienced a resurgence of his youthful fervor, prayed daily, and scribbled many notes in the margin of the family Bible.” — Chernow

Hamilton believed in a happy afterlife for the virtuous that would offer “far more substantial bliss than can ever be found in this checkered, this ever varying, scene!”

“I have examined carefully the evidence of the Christian religion,” Hamilton told one friend, “and if I was sitting as a juror upon its authenticity, I should rather abruptly give my verdict in its favor.” To Eliza, he said, “I have studied [Christianity] and I can prove its truth as clearly as any proposition ever submitted to the mind of man.”

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