The 731-page behemoth is vanquished!
Suddenly, I’m very emotional about a long-dead Treasury Secretary. I’m sad the book is over. I’m sad for Hamilton’s legacy. What’s more, I’m sad for Aaron Burr‘s legacy. Whether it’s towards the theoretical protagonist or the theoretical antagonist, it’s hard not to feel some type of pity for Ron Chernow’s version of history’s finest.
I loved Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. I felt Hamilton’s losses and cheered for his successes. I flew through the pages of the Revolutionary War with insatiable hunger despite the fact that I know who wins the war (obviously). I mourned alongside Eliza as she received her last letter from her husband.
“With my last idea; I shall cherish the sweet hope of meeting you in a better world. Adieu best of wives and best of Women. Embrace all my darling Children for me. Ever yours, A H” – Alexander Hamilton.
But aside from the book’s overall effect, it is very well-written. As stated in my previous review, it isn’t a book you can afford to drift off in. You’ll get lost very quickly if you’re the type of reader who drifts off. However, if you’re someone who appreciates the beauty of language, you’ll definitely love this one.
With that said, the book does have one glaring flaw. Ron Chernow is a massive Hamilton fanboy – that is to say that he upholds Hamilton’s great qualities and plays off his bad qualities. For instance, Chernow likes to write Hamilton as though he were this great abolitionist, a die-hard equal-rights advocate who would have died rather than own a slave.
The reality is much different. In order to earn his father-in-law’s favor, Hamilton assisted with many slave purchases. In my opinion, Hamilton was against slavery but only in those instances in which it did not interfere with his personal goals. It’s a bit wishy-washy. You could make an argument for, “That’s just the time period he lived in,” and that’s valid. But it still stands.
But standing at the end of Alexander Hamilton is a heartbreaking conclusion. If you’re unfamiliar with the Burr-Hamilton duel, all you have to know is that Alexander Hamilton’s lifelong friend shot him in a duel over Hamilton’s political support. In the election of 1800, Hamilton supported Thomas Jefferson rather than Burr. Burr took this as a personal offense and challenged him. He won – but at a great cost.
Hamilton aimed his gun at the sky . He had no intention of shooting Burr.
His victory was marked by his own regret. He went into hiding for months over the duel, stewing in his own shame over the ordeal. He essentially shot a man in cold blood.
“My friend, Hamilton, who I shot.” – Aaron Burr
It’s hard not to feel bad for him. He felt the leagues of his mistake for the rest of his life.
In a way, Alexander Hamilton is about Aaron Burr as much as it’s about Hamilton. The two led very parallel lives – orphans with insane ambition, graduated early, sought out the presidency but faltered. The difference is in their actions. Where Hamilton is restless and impulsive, acting upon his own interest, Burr sought to wait. He waited for his opportunity and ended up wasting his chance. It all culminates in that final duel: the one time Hamilton threw away his shot and the one time Burr acted recklessly.
It all comes full circle, but it was always only a matter of time.