David A. Schwinghammer
· Soldier's Gap
· Fisher of Men, Chapter 8
· Honest Thief, Tender Murderer, Chapter Eight
· Mengele's Double, Chapter Eight
· Bereavement Blues
· Fisher of Men, Chapter 7
· Speed Dating With 'Janeane Garofalo'
· The Cynic
· Honest Thief, Tender Murderer - Chapter Seven
· Mengele's Double, Chapter 7
· Mengele's Double, Chapter Six
· Norse Mythology, book review
· Capitalism, Is This the Best We Can Do?
· Bookworm (book review)
· Band of Brothers (book review)
· WWII Nurses (book review)
· Glory Fades Away (book review)
· Denial Is Not a River in Egypt, George!
· Thomas Jefferson, book review
· The Hairstons (book review)
· Brothers (book review)
· Alumni Game
· Girls Who Wear Glasses
· The Do Drop Inn
· Ode to Neve Campbell
· Jacks or Better 101
· Never My Love
· 3 O'Clock
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According to Chernow, Hamilton was even more important as a founding father than we'd been taught.
The most intriguing aspect of Chernow's biography for me was its relevance to modern presidential campaigns. No one can read this book without being reminded of the Swift boat veterans political ads. Sparks flew almost as soon as Washington took office. Jefferson, his secretary of state, advocated a weak executive with most of the authority in the hands of Congress and the individual states. Hamilton argued for a strong central government and, as secretary of the treasury, pushed through such programs as assumption of state debt incurred during the Revolution and a national bank. Jefferson objected, claiming the constitution did not convey this kind of executive authority. Both men took up opposite sides during the French Revolution and this led to more fireworks. Today, Fox news promotes conservative issues; in those days, Federalist and Republican newspapers served the same purpose. And this ultimately led to the Hamilton/Burr duel.
Chernow seems to be trying to rehabilitate Hamilton's reputation. Most Americans remember he fought a duel and most recognize his picture on the ten dollar bill; some even know that he was the author of fifty-one of the eighty-five essays in the Federalist Papers. What they probably don't know is that he was the first to address "implied powers" in the Constitution and as a lawyer he defended one of the above mentioned papers when President Jefferson sued for libel, arguing that truth was a valid defense providing the suspect articles were not malicious in intent.
Although Chernow is a definite Hamiltonian (as opposed to a Jeffersonian) he does not sugar-coat Hamilton's many flaws. Hamilton had an affair with a woman named Maria Reynolds (Can you say Monica Lewinsky?) an apparent con woman. He wrote a political pamphlet condemning John Adams just prior to the election, effectively handing the election to Jefferson, and when Burr challenged him to a duel, he refused to admit he'd said anything slanderous, although he'd been vilifying Burr for years. He was a proud, narcissistic man, who left 22,000 pages of writing. Chernow also uses such words as "windbag" and "prolixity" to refer to Burr. He weaves excerpts of Hamilton's writing into the narrative. Hamilton's overblown style is offensive to the modern ear. "What the heck did he just say?" I asked myself on numerous occasions and had to reread a particular passage again and again.
Chernow wrote this biography to be published on the two hundredth anniversary of the duel, which occurred on July 11, 1804. Chernow refers to Hamilton as the father of our government and implies that he was also the father of our capitalistic system.
Dave Schwinghammer's published novel, SOLDIER'S GAP, is available on Amazon.com.
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