David Brooks writes a splendid review of what he calls the best biography of Alexander Hamilton to date. In "’Alexander Hamilton’: Rich Uncle of His Country",
Brooks gives a synopsis of Hamilton’s life, interspersed with Chernow’s insights and observations. A few excerpts follow.
Brooks comparing Chernow’s bio to other noteworthy ones:
"Other writers, like Forrest McDonald, Liah Greenfeld and Karl-Friedrich Walling, have done better jobs describing Hamilton’s political philosophy, but nobody has captured Hamilton himself as fully and as beautifully as Chernow (who is perhaps best known as the author of ’Titan,’ a biography of John D. Rockefeller). Hamilton, we now see, was a dark thicket: aspiring and optimistic, but also pessimistic about human nature and often depressed. He was a modern striver, but also an archaic man with a deeply self-destructive lust for aristocratic honor. He was devoted to his heroic wife, but he was uncontrollable at times, and easily manipulated by his incomprehensibly stupid mistress, Maria Reynolds."
Chernow on Hamilton’s political economy:
"Hamilton dreamed of a vibrant economy that would allow aspiring meritocrats like himself to rise and realize their full capacities. He sought to smash the aristocratic fiefs enjoyed by Southern landowners like Jefferson and to replace them with a diversified marketplace that would be open to immigrants and the lowborn. Their vigor, he felt, would drive the nation to greatness. ’Every new scene, which is opened to the busy nature of man to rouse and exert itself, is the addition of a new energy to the general stock of effort,’ he wrote."
Chernow on Hamilton’s distinctively American mind and motivations:
"Hamilton, whose life, as Chernow notes, was ’a case study in the profitable use of time,’ absorbed Plutarch, Bacon and the Bible and emerged onto the public stage as a pamphleteer for the American Revolution. ’The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records,’ he wrote in 1775 at 20. ’They are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature by the hand of the divinity itself and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.’"