Odd Destiny Essay - Critical Essays

Analysis

Lomask has produced a sympathetic portrait of Hamilton, but he has also succeeded in avoiding the hagiography that characterizes so much of juvenile biography, especially that concerning American revolutionary leaders. The author emphasizes the greatness of Hamilton’s achievements, such as his drive to create the Constitution, his role in New York’s ratification of that document, and his capable stewardship of the new government’s finances. At the same time, however, the reader becomes painfully aware of Hamilton’s many character flaws, including vanity, arrogance, adultery, and reckless disregard for obvious danger. The overall effect will impress the reader with the “largeness” of Hamilton’s personality, or his inclination to exaggerate most of what he did, thought, and felt. Lomask also indirectly instructs his readers on the complexities and contradictions inherent to human behavior when he contrasts Hamilton’s rational political life and precise intellect with his unmanaged lust and indiscriminate physical courage.

Politically, the author succeeds in separating the “real Hamilton” from the Republican Party rhetoric of the 1790’s. Lomask thus aligns his biography with more recent historiographical trends concerning his subject. This approach may perhaps be his most important service to young readers, who will leave this book permanently disabused of several false notions about Hamilton that have become standard fare in secondary school history courses during the last two centuries—for example, that Hamilton was an enemy of democracy and desired to institute a monarchy in the United States. In the...

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