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Summary and Critique of

Ron Chernow’s

Alexander Hamilton

by I.K. Mullins

Copyright©2016 I.K. Mullins. All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or retransmitted in any form or by any means without the written permission of the author.

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Alexander Hamilton, one of the most important of the nation’s Founding Fathers, was born into poverty in a Dutch Caribbean colony. Hamilton moved to the American colonies and over the course of twenty years, he served the United States in many different ways:

  • During the American Revolution, he fought against the British.
  • He led the effort to transform the Articles of Confederation into the U.S. Constitution, thus contributing to the design of the American government.
  • He secured the ratification of Constitution by writing the Federalist Papers.
  • He also served as the first and most prominent Secretary of the Treasury under George Washington.

Hamilton began his military career as the leader of a New York militia. He became an artillery captain and then served as an aide to General Washington. His military service helped him develop the leadership skills that he later used in his political career.

At the end of the revolutionary war, Hamilton came to the realization that the U.S. government structured in accordance with the Articles of Confederation was ineffective. At that time, the economy of the country had collapsed, and many states were squabbling with one another frequently, putting the Union in danger of dissolution. To address these problems, Hamilton invited leaders from every state to attend a meeting in Philadelphia in order to amend the Articles of Confederation.

At the convention, he convinced the other delegates that the Articles of Confederation needed to be replaced by a union of states ruled by a central government. As a result, the Philadelphia delegation created the Constitution, which included many of Hamilton’s ideas. Hamilton then wrote a series of papers, the Federalist Papers, intended to convince the nation that approval of the Constitution was necessary for the survival of the United States. Many historians think that the Constitution was approved under the influence of the Federalist Papers. The ratification of the Constitution led to the formation of the new government.

After being appointed by President George Washington as his Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton developed a new economic policy to solve such problems as high debt and inflation. Hamilton further shaped future American economic policy in various ways:

  • He created a national banking system intended to stabilize and monitor the country’s finances.
  • He created a strong currency that replaced the multiple valueless currencies circulating in the country.
  • He established and improved the country’s credit by assuming the debts of the individual states and promising to pay the principle and the earned interest back to the creditors.
  • He created the conditions for manufacturers to produce goods in the country, making it more industrious and wealthy.


Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton is a full-length biography of this Founding Father of the United States. Chernow presents a fascinating chronicle of the complicated life of Hamilton, beginning with his birth on Nevis Island to his swift rise as a coauthor of The Federalist Papers, his role as Washington’s confidant, and as the first Secretary of the Treasury.

Chernow‘s book relies on a tremendous amount of historical data to present a full biographical treatment of Hamilton’s life. The reader will find in Chernow’s book widely researched information about Hamilton’s family, as well as his relationship with such prominent politicians as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Aaron Burr.

In his book, Chernow calls Hamilton “the father of the American government” who envisioned the modern economic state of the country. Chernow emphasizes in his book that Hamilton set the conditions “for both liberal democracy and capitalism,” giving the presidency considerable powers and the country the potential to become a dominant world player.

Chernow’s book also reveals many contradictions in Hamilton’s life. For example, although Hamilton was a member of the Constitutional Convention, he nevertheless feared rule by the people and thought that the Constitution was flawed because it gave too much power to individuals and the states. Hamilton was a devoted husband and father, yet, he had two known affairs. Hamilton was opposed to dueling, but he was killed in a duel with Vice President Aaron Burr.


About Ron Chernow, the Author of Alexander Hamilton

Born in 1949 and educated at Yale and Cambridge Universities, Ronald (Ron) Chernow is an American journalist, writer and biographer. In his articles and books, Chernow focuses on exposés of historical political and business figures.

For example, in the beginning of his writing career, Chernow wrote about corruption in Chinatown for New York magazine. In the book The House of Morgan, Chernow examines J. P. Morgan’s financial empire and its impact on the American banking industry. In Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Chernow chronicles the life of the richest man in the USA in the beginning of the twentieth century. The New York Times called Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton “by far the best biography ever written about the man.”

More information about Ron Chernow is available at



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