A New York Times Bestseller, and the inspiration for the hit Broadway musical Hamilton!
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Chernow presents a landmark biography of Alexander Hamilton, the Founding Father who galvanized, inspired, scandalized, and shaped the newborn nation.
In the first full-length biography of Alexander Hamilton in decades, Ron Chernow tells the riveting story of a man who overcame all odds to shape, inspire, and scandalize the newborn America. According to historian Joseph Ellis, Alexander Hamilton is “a robust full-length portrait, in my view the best ever written, of the most brilliant, charismatic and dangerous founder of them all.”
Few figures in American history have been more hotly debated or more grossly misunderstood than Alexander Hamilton. Chernow’s biography gives Hamilton his due and sets the record straight, deftly illustrating that the political and economic greatness of today’s America is the result of Hamilton’s countless sacrifices to champion ideas that were often wildly disputed during his time. “To repudiate his legacy,” Chernow writes, “is, in many ways, to repudiate the modern world.” Chernow here recounts Hamilton’s turbulent life: an illegitimate, largely self-taught orphan from the Caribbean, he came out of nowhere to take America by storm, rising to become George Washington’s aide-de-camp in the Continental Army, coauthoring The Federalist Papers, founding the Bank of New York, leading the Federalist Party, and becoming the first Treasury Secretary of the United States.Historians have long told the story of America’s birth as the triumph of Jefferson’s democratic ideals over the aristocratic intentions of Hamilton. Chernow presents an entirely different man, whose legendary ambitions were motivated not merely by self-interest but by passionate patriotism and a stubborn will to build the foundations of American prosperity and power. His is a Hamilton far more human than we’ve encountered before—from his shame about his birth to his fiery aspirations, from his intimate relationships with childhood friends to his titanic feuds with Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Monroe, and Burr, and from his highly public affair with Maria Reynolds to his loving marriage to his loyal wife Eliza. And never before has there been a more vivid account of Hamilton’s famous and mysterious death in a duel with Aaron Burr in July of 1804.
Chernow’s biography is not just a portrait of Hamilton, but the story of America’s birth seen through its most central figure. At a critical time to look back to our roots, Alexander Hamilton will remind readers of the purpose of our institutions and our heritage as Americans.
“Nobody has captured Hamilton better than Chernow” —The New York Times Book Review
Ron Chernow's other biographies include: Grant, Washington, and Titan.
|Publisher:||Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group|
|Edition description:||Abridged 3 CDs 720 Minutes|
|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 5.90(h) x 1.20(d)|
About the Author
RON CHERNOW is the Pulitzer prize-winning author of five previous books. His first, The House of Morgan, won the National Book Award. His two most recent books, Alexander Hamilton and Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr., were both nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award in biography. Washington: A Life received the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Biography. Chernow lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Date of Birth:March 3, 1949
Place of Birth:Brooklyn, NY
Education:Yale University; Cambridge University
Read an Excerpt
On the night of April 18, 1775, 800 British troops marched out of Boston to capture Samuel Adams and John Hancock and seize a stockpile of patriot munitions in Concord, Massachusetts. As they passed Lexington, they encountered a motley battalion of militia farmers known as Minutemen, and in the ensuing exchange of gunfire the British killed 8 colonists and then 2 more in Concord. As the redcoats retreated helter-skelter to Boston, they were riddled by sniper fire that erupted from behind hedges, stone walls, and fences, leaving a bloody trail of 273 British casualties versus 95 dead or wounded for the patriots.
The news reached New York within four days and a mood of insurrection promptly overtook the city. People gathered at taverns and street corners to ponder events while Tories quaked. The newly emboldened Sons of Liberty streamed down to the East River docks, pilfered ships bound for British troops in Boston, then emptied the city hall arsenal of its muskets, bayonets, and cartridge boxes, grabbing a thousand weapons in all.
Armed with this cache, volunteer militia companies sprang up overnight. However much the British might deride these ragtag citizen-soldiers, they conducted their business seriously. Inflamed by the astonishing news from Massachusetts, Alexander Hamilton, then a student at King’s College (later Columbia University), was that singular intellectual who picked up a musket as fast as a pen. Nicholas Fish recalled that “immediately after the Battle of Lexington, [Hamilton] attached himself to one of the uniform companies of militia then forming for the defence of the country by the patriotic young men of this city under the command of Captain Fleming.” Fish and Robert Troup, both classmates of Hamilton, were among the earnest cadre of King’s College volunteers who drilled before classes each morning in the churchyard of nearby St. Paul’s Chapel. The fledgling volunteer company was named the Hearts of Oak. The young recruits marched briskly past tombstones with the motto of “Liberty or Death” stitched across their round leather caps. On short, snug green jackets they also sported, for good measure, red tin hearts that announced “God and our Right.”
Hamilton approached this daily routine with the same perfectionist ardor that he exhibited in his studies. Troup stressed the “military spirit” infused into Hamilton and noted that he was “constant in his attendance and very ambitious of improvement.” Never one to fumble an opportunity, Hamilton embarked on a comprehensive military education. With his absorbent mind, he mastered infantry drills, pored over volumes on military tactics and learned the rudiments of gunnery and pyrotechnics from a veteran bombardier. There was a particular doggedness about this young man, as if he were already in training for something far beyond lowly infantry duty.
On April 24, a huge throng of patriots massed in front of city hall. While radicals grew giddy with excitement, many terrified Tory merchants began to book passage for England. The next day, an anonymous handbill blamed Myles Cooper, the Tory president of King’s College, and four other “obnoxious gentlemen” for patriotic deaths in Massachusetts and said the moment had passed for symbolic gestures. “The injury you have done to your country cannot admit of reparation,” these five loyalists were warned. “Fly for your lives or anticipate your doom by becoming your own executioners.” A defiant Myles Cooper stuck to his post.
After a demonstration on the night of May 10, hundreds of protesters, armed with clubs and heated by a heady brew of political rhetoric and strong drink, descended on King’s College, ready to inflict rough justice on Myles Cooper. Hercules Mulligan recalled that Cooper “was a Tory and an obnoxious man and the mob went to the college with the intention of tarring and feathering him or riding him upon a rail.” Nicholas Ogden, a King’s alumnus, saw the angry mob swarming toward the college and raced ahead to Cooper’s room, urging the president to scramble down a back window. Because Hamilton and Troup shared a room near Cooper’s quarters, Ogden also alerted them to the approaching mob. “Whereupon Hamilton instantly resolved to take his stand on the stairs [the outer stoop] in front of the Doctor’s apartment and there to detain the mob as long as he could by an harangue in order to gain the Doctor the more time for his escape,” Troup recorded.
After the mob knocked down the gate and surged toward the residence, Hamilton launched into an impassioned speech, telling the boisterous protesters that their conduct, instead of promoting their cause, would “disgrace and injure the glorious cause of liberty.” One account has the slightly deaf Cooper poking his head from an upper-story window and observing Hamilton gesticulating on the stoop below. He mistakenly thought that his pupil was inciting the crowd instead of pacifying them and shouted, “Don’t mind what he says. He’s crazy!” Another account has Cooper shouting at the ruffians: “Don’t believe anything Hamilton says. He’s a little fool!” The more plausible version is that Cooper had vanished, having scampered away in his nightgown once Ogden forewarned him of the approaching mob.
Hamilton knew he couldn’t stop the intruders but he won the vital minutes necessary for Cooper to clamber over a back fence and rush down to the Hudson. Of all the incidents in Hamilton’s early life in America, his spontaneous defense of Myles Cooper was probably the most telling. It showed that he could separate personal honor from political convictions and presaged a recurring theme of his career: the superiority of forgiveness over revenge. Most of all, the episode captured the contradictory impulses struggling inside this complex young man, an ardent revolutionary with a profound dread that popular sentiment would boil over into dangerous excess.
Table of Contents
Prologue: The Oldest Revolutionary War Widow
One: The Castaways
Three: The Collegian
Four: The Pen and the Sword
Five: The Little Lion
Six: A Frenzy of Valor
Seven: The Lovesick Colonel
Nine: Raging Billows
Ten: A Grave, Silent, Strange Sort of Animal
Twelve: August and Respectable Assembly
Fourteen: Putting the Machine in Motion
Fifteen: Villainous Business
Sixteen: Dr. Pangloss
Seventeen: The First Town in America
Eighteen: Of Avarice and Enterprise
Nineteen: City of the Future
Twenty: Corrupt Squadrons
Twenty-Two: Stabbed in the Dark
Twenty-Three: Citizen Genet
Twenty-Four: A Disagreeable Trade
Twenty-Five: Seas of Blood
Twenty-Six: The Wicked Insurgents of the West
Twenty-Seven: Sugar Plums and Toys
Twenty-Eight: Spare Cassius
Twenty-Nine: The Man in the Glass Bubble
Thirty: Flying Too Near the Sun
Thirty-One: An Instrument of Hell
Thirty-Two: Reign of Witches
Thirty-Three: Works Godly and Ungodly
Thirty-Four: In an Evil Hour
Thirty-Five: Gusts of Passion
Thirty-Six: In a Very Belligerent Humor
Thirty-Eight: A World Full of Folly
Thirty-Nine: Pamphlet Wars
Forty: The Price of Truth
Forty-One: A Despicable Opinion
Forty-Two: Fatal Errand
Forty-Three: The Melting Scene
Selected Books, Pamphlets, and Dissertations
What People are Saying About This
"...[N]obody has captured Hamilton better than Chernow..." —The New York Times Book Review
"...[A] biography commensurate with Hamilton's character, as well as the full, complex context of his unflaggingly active life.... This is a fine work that captures Hamilton's life with judiciousness and verve." Publishers Weekly
"A splendid life of an enlightened reactionary and forgotten Founding Father. Literate and full of engaging historical asides. By far the best of the many lives of Hamilton now in print, and a model of the biographer’s art."Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"A robust full-length portrait, in my view the best ever written, of the most brilliant, charismatic and dangerous founder of them all." Joseph J. Ellis, author of Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation
"A brilliant historian has done it again! The thoroughness and integrity of Ron Chernow’s research shines forth on every page of his Alexander Hamilton. He has created a vivid and compelling portrait of a remarkable manand at the same time he has made a monumental contribution to our understanding of the beginnings of the American Republic.” Robert A. Caro, author of The Power Broker and The Years of Lyndon Johnson
"Alexander Hamilton was one of the most brilliant men of his brilliant time, and one of the most fascinating figures in all of American history. His rocketing life-story is utterly amazing. His importance to the founding of the new nation, and thus to the whole course of American history, can hardly be overstated. And so Ron Chernow's new Hamilton could not be more welcome. This is grand-scale biography at its bestthorough, insightful, consistently fair, and superbly written. It clears away more than a few shop-worn misconceptions about Hamilton, gives credit where credit is due, and is both clear-eyed and understanding about its very human subject. Its numerous portraits of the complex, often conflicting cast of characters are deft and telling. The whole life and times are here in a genuinely great book." David McCullough, author of John Adams
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow, published in April of 2004, is by far the most engaging and informative biography of any founding father I have ever read. Irrespective of your knowledge regarding Alexander Hamilton's life story, this remarkable book reads like a classic novel and is virtually impossible to place mark, I could not put it down. Cernow brilliantly raises Hamilton from the grave, as if you were present at Hamilton's very conception as well as his premature death at the hand of his antithesis, Aaron Burr, the once Vice President of Thomas Jefferson. The bastard child of a tenacious woman of questionable character for her time, the sparks of Alexander Hamilton's genius became evident to his earliest benefactor when as a boy his first poem was published, to the brain trust of George Washington, in war and throughout Washington's entire administration. In addition to his sense of honor, generosity, successes, failings and tragedies, Ron Chernow's biographical masterpiece expresses Hamilton's great passions, glory, pride, genius, vision, devotion and love of family and of his adopted nation, America. This book is so truthful that it will enthrall and provoke within you a gamut of emotions and enlighten you beyond measure. James J Reis
Ron Chernow provides a well-reasearched and vivid picture into Hamilton's life. The man is often overlooked and overshadowed by the accomplishments of other founders such as Jefferson. This book tells Hamilton's life story as an immigrant from the West Indies. He was one fo the first to acheive what we now consider the American dream. Hamilton almost single handledly formed the treasury as well as the Bank of the United states despite obection from political enemies. Hamilton was arguably the most brilliant founder and this book is arguably the best biography on him. The downside with this is the length, about 731 pages(not including index, references, etc). It also is rather negative towards other political figures. Madison seems almost traitorous, Washington aloof, Adams crazy, Burr conniving. etc On Hamilton himself though, no other biography is better. Highly reccomended!
Outstanding. I really did not know too much about Hamilton. However, Mr. Chernow's book was fascinating. I could not put it down. Even after I had finished the book, I could not stop thinking about the role Alexander Hamilton played in the history of the country. Hamilton was brilliant. And Aaron Burr was a scoundrel. This should be a recommended book for all students who are studying history and the politics of the USA.
I haves always admired Hamilton. Thanks to Ron Chernow I know why. Excellent!
I read a lot of American history and yet this book told me tons that I never knew about Alexander Hamilton. Like everyone, he was far from perfect but he was a great patriot. Rising from humble beginnings in the West Indies, he was George Washington's right-hand man for most of the Revolutionary War. He was also Washington's most important and influential Cabinet member. Amazing descriptions of how he set up the US Treasury Dept. and got the American economy on a stable footing. Terrific book. Rather long (over 700 pages) but fascinating reading for people who really love American history. Highly recommended.
In many ways, Hamilton was a force of nature. He accomplishments were prodigious. Like a Greek tragedy, his life a doomed to end too early.
I could hardly put the book down. He was an amazing man. His life was one of total dedication to the American way of life as we now know it. It is right that his portrait be on our ten dollar bill. In my estiamton he ranks among the top five greatest men in America. If you are inclined to read about the America Revolution and its time frame, don't pass up the opportunity to get this book and read it. In our libray system in our state we have the unabridged book on tape of this man. I have listened to it twice. It has twenty nine CD'd. What an amzsing man. Once you have read it you may well feel the way I do.
Just wish he had provided many of the pictures he described. Otherwise very enjoyable!
Just read it!
Dear Mr. Chernow, Thank you for writing this book because without it there would be no Hamilton on Broadway and I would actually be doing my homework right now instead of fangirling. I love Lin and you are amazing. I want to play Eliza or Peggy/Maria. Sincerely, Hamilton and Overall Theatre Nerd and Fangirl
I am 300+ pages into this book and to say it is a page turner is an understatement!! all I want to do is read read read....I love it!!
Hamilton comes to life in this fabulous biography. Every step is so thoroughly documented that his life and letters bear testimony to more untold accomplishments that exist as true and astounding because they have just now come to light.
Comprehensive and in depth
Took me months to finally finish this & yes, I definitely want to see it on Broadway!
The elevated vocabulary suites the need for very explicit choice of words to alleviate misunderstsndings. Your extensive research is appreciated as well as your dedicstion to accuracy.
Even though it took me a long time to finish I loved learning about not only Alexander Hamilton but even more importantly the struggles our country faced as it was formed. Also, it's so true that history repeats itself. Found myself thinking that so many times. Highly recommend.
This serious study of Hamilton underscores his genius as well as his fallacies, some of which resulted in compromises in crafting the US Constitution. The political situation of 2017 note that democracy is based upon the shared-principles of politicians. We now know that we are living through a period that Hamilton feared: politicians who desire to exploit the weaknesses of that assumption. Thus, this book is a guidebook for understanding how to improve the philosophy of US democracy.
Fills in the gaps in Hamilton the musical. Can see why it inspired Lin Manuel Miranda.
Thanks to an opera about Hamilton inspired by this book, I undertook this reading. Though it dragged a bit about the 500's, I plowed on and was rewarded by this exhaustive biography. If you like to read about unsung heroes, this book is for you. Now in the autumn of my life, I am pleased to have set the record straight on this early hero of our country.
I knew little about Alexander Hamilton before buying this stellar biography. Now I have such admiration and respect for the man, even with his failings. Fascinating reading from beginning to end, due in equal parts to the subject and Ron Chernow's excellent prose.
Hamilton was a genius, but this book made him sound infallible. Even a genius can make a mistake, and he made the ultimate one that unfortunately cost him dearly. Men labeled as Republicans which we know was not established until mid 19th century. If not known, i would say this book was written by Alexander Hamilton himself.
Well written, reads like fiction, meticulouly researched and even handed. A great complement to his Washington biography.
This is the book that inspired Lin manuel Miranda to write the broadway musical Hamilton which is #1 on broadway right now ahhhh Lin Manuel Miranda read this exact book ahhh want to read it so badly
Magnificently detailed biography about major figure in early American history. I learned many facts and much background that I (a history major!) had not known or appreciated before. The book shows thorough research and is well indexed. Only "fault" might be that there are just a few too many detailed lists of people attending this or that meeting, etc. Well worth while reading for serious students of history!
Awesome, great writing. i was drawn into the life of Hamilton