Reading Journal

What I'm reading

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

I want Ron Chernow to write my biography after I die. After reading his John D. Rockefeller biography Titan I came away with an enormous admiration for Rockefeller. Likewise, I was confirmed as a Hamilton fan after reading this biography. He depicts a man who was a firm abolitionist, a person who took orphans into his home, a foe of utopian schemes, a brilliant communicator, and brave to a fault (thanks, Aaron Burr, you scoundrel).

All his life he lived with people insulting his illegitimate birth and immigrant status. He died in a duel with Vice President Burr, intentionally firing his pistol into the air in order to avoid committing murder.

Through all that, he structured a functioning republic that has lasted over 225 years. The major stain on his record is of course his sex scandal as Treasury Secretary. I am able to forgive it, since afterwards, from all we can tell, he repented and focused all his devotion on his wife and children. His widow Eliza kept his memory sacred for the next 50 years.

On rich and poor.
Hamilton did not think the rich were paragons of virtue. They has as many vices as the poor, he noted, except that their "vices are probably more favorable to the prosperity of the state than those of the indigent and partake less of moral depravity."

Writing to a Frenchman during the early part of the French Revolution.
"I dread the reveries of your philosophic politicians who appear in the moment to have great influence and who being mere speculatists may aim at more refinement than suits either with human nature or the composition of your nation." 

Inertia and stability are built in to the structure of our Constitution.
"Whoever consider the nature of our government with discernment will see that though obstacles and delays will frequently stand in the way of the adoption of good measures, yet when once adopted, they are likely to be stable and permanent. It will be far more difficult to undo than to do."

Seems true.
"Perseverance in almost any plan is better than fickleness and fluctuation."

His temper was a major personality flaw.
Without Washington's guidance or public responsibility, he had again revealed a blazing, ungovernable temper that was unworthy of him and rendered him less effective. He also revealed anew that the man who had helped to forge a new structure of law and justice for American society remained mired in the old-fashioned world of blood feuds.

Wow, I didn't know that Thomas Paine hated George Washington. This was his reaction to the famous Farewell Address, which Hamilton largely wrote.
[Paine wrote an open letter] expressing the hope that Washington would die and telling him that "the world will be puzzled to decide whether you are an apostate or an impostor, whether you have abandoned good principles or whether you ever had any."

Aaron Burr also hated Washington.
[Burr replied that] "he despised Washington as a man of no talents and one who could not spell a sentence of common English."

Franklin on John Adams.
"He means well for his country, is always an honest man, often a wise one, but sometimes, and in some things, absolutely out of his senses." 

Now I need to listen to the rest of the musical, which was inspired by this book.



Post a Comment

<< Home