As I work my way through the biography of Alexander Hamilton (hopefully in advance of seeing Hamilton: An American Musical when it makes its stop in Salt Lake), I’ll be writing some thoughts about the book, or just thoughts about Hamilton in general. They won’t always be a direct critique of the book, but we’ll see what happens.
Alexander Hamilton wrote a lot. Three-quarters of the Federalist Papers. A report on public credit and the national bank. A pamphlet about an affair in an attempt to clear the air. Biographer Ron Chernow noted that Hamilton “must have produced the maximum number of words that a human can scratch out in 49 years.” If there were notes to be taken or thoughts about something, It was almost a guarantee that he wrote it down.
This was evidenced by his courtship of Elizabeth Schuyler. Granted, at the time, it wasn’t as if he could spend hours upon hours on the phone speaking with his future wife. For one, the telephone wasn’t yet invented; second, he was mostly away with the Army fighting the Revolutionary War as George Washington’s aide, so he didn’t really have a bunch of free time. Nevertheless, he wooed the young Eliza with his words on paper, sending her a letter nearly every day he was away (we know this because he chastised her for not keeping up with his prolific pace of letter writing). Continue reading
After over a year of the book sitting on my shelf, I’ve finally started reading the Ron Chernow biography of Alexander Hamilton. As I make my way through the book, I plan on stopping every now and then and sharing my thoughts about the man that might have become my second favorite person from American history (after Abraham Lincoln, obviously). This appreciation stems from the wonderful musical Hamilton, though I think that may have just reminded me of the things I previously knew about Hamilton from being a fan of history.
I think most casual fans of history pre-Hamilton musical remember him from mainly from his untimely death from a duel with Aaron Burr, as made famous in that one “Got Milk?” commercial:
But he was also a war hero, Founding Father, our first Secretary of the Treasury, helped establish the financial system of our country, and a lot of other things. He overcame huge odds to get to where he ended up in his life, which is why his life story served as a great inspiration for Lin-Manuel Miranda, despite being virtually ignored outside of discussions about the founding of our country.
I wrote the following on Facebook yesterday after writing the recent Ranking the Presidents series:
Writing just over 6,000 words recently about our presidents made me realize that our country still hasn’t really figured out our own governance. We swing wildly back and forth between extremes, or different versions of the extreme, and some perfectly capable leaders end up being neutered by forces inside and outside their personal control.
I’m not saying that we should give President Trump a chance or anything, I would just be cautious about trying to find the next person right now by looking as far left as possible. Sometimes, the most success is found by a person in the middle that can work with both sides of the political aisle.
Or we’re all doomed to this black/white, right/left cycle for perpetuity and we have reached the end of this Republic. Guess we’ll find out.
It prompted a quick back and forth discussion with a friend about how we have ended up in this position we are in and how we could possibly resolve it. He and I both had some great thoughts about a solid way forward, and despite it feeling awfully hopeless sometimes – especially for those currently in the minority party right now – there are a couple of things that can and should change for the better to restore a bit of luster to politics in the country. Granted, a lot of these changes will be hard and won’t happen overnight, but that doesn’t mean that we should just throw up our hands and stop resisting.
This part of the list should be the cream of the crop, and for the most part it is. It includes all four presidents featured on Mount Rushmore (though they aren’t the top 4 presidents) and the bulk of presidents from the 20th century (it helps when one of the guys served for 12 years). Unlike the previous entries in this series, these guys will be presented in my personal order, though there is plenty of room for discussion based on personal taste (or distaste, as is the case with Thomas Jefferson and my younger sister).
Below are my personal rankings of the Top 10 presidents in U.S. history, starting with the man that is held personally responsible for our country in the first place:
10. Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) – Thomas Jefferson was the man principally responsible for the drafting of the Declaration of Independence. But even that was not enough for him to be immediately elected president, something that seems to have irritated him. He finally became president in 1801, completed the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, and generally spearheaded the young country forward. He should be commended for keeping us out of the European wars so early in our country’s life, but he should also be held accountable for causing some of the early political divisiveness of our country, bringing about the political parties that George Washington had warned about. Continue reading