Alexander Hamilton: A Life

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In the first full, one-volume biography of Alexander Hamilton in more than two decades, award-winning historian Willard Sterne Randall takes a fresh look at one of the most brilliant, conflicted, and elusive of our nation's founders.

Orphaned at thirteen and apprenticed in a counting house, the precocious Hamilton learned principles of business that helped him, as the first U.S. secretary of the treasury, to create the American banking system and invent the modern corporation. But first the staunch, intrepid Hamilton served in the American Revolution, primarily as aide-de-camp to General Washington, acting as Washington's spymaster. Forging a successful legal career, Hamilton coauthored The Federalist Papers and plunged into politics. Irresistibly attractive to women, he was a man of many gifts, but he could be arrogant and was at times a poor judge of character.

In this meticulously researched, illuminating, and lively account, Willard Sterne Randall mines the latest scholarship to provide a new perspective on Alexander Hamilton, his illegitimate birth, little-known military activities, political and diplomatic intrigues, and sometimes scandalous private life.

From his less than auspicious start in 1755 on the Caribbean island of Nevis to his untimely death in a duel with his old enemy Aaron Burr in 1804, Alexander Hamilton, despite his short and tragic life, left a huge legacy.

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About the Author:

Willard Sterne Randall is the prize-winning author of thirteen books, including Ethan Allen: His Life and Times; A Little Revenge: Benjamin Franklin at War with His Son; Thomas Jefferson: A Life; George Washington: A Life; and Benedict Arnold: Patriot and Traitor. A finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, he is a professor of history at Champlain College and lives in Burlington, Vermont.

From Publishers Weekly:

Biographer of Washington, Jefferson and Franklin, Randall is in his usual engaging form in dealing with the complex Hamilton, who in 1804 died in a duel with Aaron Burr. Creating a bigger-than-life hero, Randall sometimes strains credibility in the interest of color, and the evidence of occasional unreliability is exposed by gaps in documentation or in attributions like "according to tradition." One quotation credited to a Tory historian of the Revolution describes an American gallows erected near Charleston harbor, where "twenty-four reputable Loyalists [were] hanged in sight of the British fleet, with the army and refugees on board." In Randall's pages the close of the quotation is altered incredibly to "the army and thirty-five thousand Loyalists looking on." Randall's restless Hamilton, illegitimate son of a West Indian Englishwoman, succeeds on his energy, industriousness and intelligence, and a little help from distant relatives, becoming the new nation's first Secretary of the Treasury at 34. As a New York lawyer, aided by a loveless but lucrative marriage, he scrambled for riches before becoming a power behind the scenes in the federal government, then by Cabinet appointment. Even after Hamilton's resignation at 40, he is described, too sweepingly, as "a sort of unpaid prime minister in absentia," even though he was disgraced by two adulterous affairs, one with his wife's sister. Most of Randall's narrative is vivid and accurate, but the rest should give the reader pause. Eight pages b&w illus. not seen by PW.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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9780060954666: Alexander Hamilton: A Life

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Henry ..., 2000
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