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Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

This is going to be a rambling review because I learned so much and had an absolute blast listening to this behemoth that I cannot put my thoughts into anything resembling cohesiveness.

I know you won’t be surprised when I say this but history books are wrong, y’all. The founding fathers were not this noble group of leaders. Based on Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton, they were among some of the most egotistical, power-hungry people that I have ever read about. In fact, you have to wonder if a certain orange president models his own behavior after them because they were THAT. BAD.

For one thing, Thomas Jefferson was an asshat who ignored the truth for his entire life because to tell lies made him appear nobler than Hamilton. I mean, Hamilton sat through two different congressional reviews of his policies and actions while Secretary of the Treasury and was proved innocent of any wrongdoing both times, but Jefferson STILL told his followers that Hamilton misappropriated funds and continued to do so for the rest of his life! And that was only one example. Mr. Chernow includes so many other examples of Jefferson ignoring the truth to better his image for his followers.

One of the most egregious examples of this is the fact that Thomas Jefferson passed himself off as an everyman and accused Hamilton of being an elitist when Jefferson is the one with slaves and money and only hobnobbed with the crème de la crème of society while Hamilton frequently had money issues and was self-made. In fact, this is the image passed down to us by history because winners write the history books, and Jefferson had an additional twenty plus years to distort the truth about Hamilton after his death.

Plus, I have a sneaking suspicion that Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, and their Republican party, led to the Civil War. Mr. Chernow doesn’t tell us so in so many words, but there are a lot of steps Jefferson and Madison take that have a direct effect on the North versus the South fissure. It makes you rethink everything you learned about the founding of the country and the causes of the Civil War.

Other things I learned – Mr. Chernow loves Alexander Hamilton. There is no removal of bias in this biography. To be fair, he does present Hamilton with all his flaws, like freaking admitting to an affair in the newspaper. But there is no doubt he adores Hamilton with his use of words like remarkable, talented, extraordinary, genius, gifted, brilliant, and any other positive adjective one can use to describe a person. I say this with the belief that I do not feel Mr. Chernow vilified any one person in Hamilton’s favor. He corroborates his more defamatory descriptions of certain individuals with letters from peers or personal writings to show how others thought the same. He is so careful to prove his point that it serves to drive home the point that pretty much anything you learned about Hamilton in school was incorrect.

In addition, if you think Lin-Manual Miranda told the entire story and that reading or listening to Alexander Hamilton is redundant, you are wrong. Mr. Miranda, among other things, played with the timeline of certain events. He ignored Angelica’s husband. He barely touched the feud with John Adams, who was a whiny little cretin. He misled his audience into Aaron Burr’s reasons for challenging Hamilton to the duel. He downplayed Hamilton’s and Washington’s relationship over the years. Plus, there were plenty of other scandals and details that Mr. Miranda could not include in his musical, if only because it would have made it ten hours long. Still, it was a lot of fun to come across a line in the book that ended up becoming a song in the musical, as much fun as it was to find out where Mr. Miranda played with history to tell his version of the story.

I cannot remember when I last enjoyed such a lengthy audiobook. At thirty-six hours, it is a commitment, and some of the details of Hamilton’s life requires careful attention to details. Still, I enjoyed every minute of this experience, including the huge swath of fiscal policy Hamilton created. Scott Brick is a fantastic narrator in his own right, and you can tell he had a lot of fun narrating this one. In fact, I think Mr. Brick has a man-crush on Hamilton himself. It makes the whole thing even more fun to hear an unabashed admirer of Hamilton narrate his story.

The musical made me a fan, but Alexander Hamilton made me a true believer in the man’s genius as well as the unfair treatment he received at the hands of his foes during his life and after it. Mr. Chernow spares no detail in examining the life of this remarkable man. I only wish he had written it after the orange president took office because I would love to hear some of his comparisons between past and present now.

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