Other than George Washington, no other American leader was present at more turning points in the early years of the Republic than Alexander Hamilton. He was a rarity among the founding fathers: an outstanding thinker as well as excellent government visionary and executive. In his well-researched Alexander Hamilton, Ron Chernow contends that Hamilton was "the foremost political figure in American history who never attained the presidency, yet he probably had a deeper and more lasting impact than many who did."

Chernow received the National Book Award for The House of Morgan and is also the author of the best-selling Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. In Alexander Hamilton, we follow the subject from his illegitimate birth—which probably took place on the island of Nevis in the West Indies—to his roles as a close aide to General Washington and a military hero during the Revolution. He later became a member of the Constitutional Convention; the force behind the literary and political masterpiece The Federalist; the first secretary of the Treasury; and a fierce political polemicist whose writings helped define the political agenda during the Washington and Adams administrations.

Alexander Hamilton is a balanced portrait of the man and his many contradictions. For example, Chernow describes him as a man whose strong belief in the potential of America stood in stark contrast to his pessimistic views of human nature. Among the founders, it was Hamilton who "probably had the gravest doubts about the wisdom of the masses and wanted elected leaders who could guide them." Influenced by his contact with slaves in the West Indies, he was a staunch abolitionist.

There is much more, including Hamilton's role in establishing an American foreign policy, his part in the birth of the two-party system and of course, his death at age 49 in his famous duel with Aaron Burr. Admirers of David McCullough's John Adams or Walter Isaacson's Benjamin Franklin will thoroughly enjoy this excellent book.

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