Last Updated on August 6, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 536
Here are some quotes from Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow:
- "On both his maternal and paternal sides, Hamilton's family clung to the insecure middle rung of West Indian life, squeezed between plantation aristocrats above and street rabble and unruly slaves below. Taunted as a bastard throughout his life, Hamilton was understandably reluctant to chat about his childhood" (8). Chernow discusses Hamilton's class insecurities, as he was born into a white family in the West Indies that was not part of the plantation class. As a result, Hamilton had to prove himself and fight for his living. Hamilton was also reviled because his parents were not married when he was born, and the taint of his illegitimate birth stayed with him, making him unwilling to discuss his origins.
- "The folklore that Hamilton was mulatto probably arose from the incontestable truth that many, if not most, illegitimate children in the West Indies bore mixed blood" (9). Though Hamilton's mother was not of mixed race (despite the frequent claims that she was), many of the children born out of wedlock in the West Indies at the time were of mixed race.
- "From the outset, the young Hamilton had phenomenal stamina for sustained work: ambitious, orphaned boys do not enjoy the option of idleness" (30). Hamilton had to prove himself, as he was not born into money and his father abandoned his mother. Later, his mother died, leaving him an orphan.
- "Her absence from the pantheon of early American figures is unfortunate, since she was a woman of sterling character. Beneath an animated, engaging facade, she was loyal, generous, compassionate, strong willed, funny, and courageous. Short and pretty, she was utterly devoid of conceit and was to prove an ideal companion for Hamilton, lending a strong home foundation to his turbulent life" (130). Hamilton's wife, Elizabeth Schuyler, was an important figure in his life and provided him with a measure of stability to counteract the turbulence of his public life, but she has not left behind an extensive historical record.
- "Snatching an interval of leisure during the next three weeks, Hamilton drafted, singlehandedly, a constitution for the new institution—the sort of herculean feat that seems almost commonplace in his life. As architect of New York's first financial firm, he could sketch freely on a blank slate" (200–201). Hamilton was the architect of the first bank in New York, and he was vitally important in determining the financial structure of the early banking system in the US.
- "Chief Justice John Marshall traced the genesis of American political parties to the rancorous dispute over the Bank of the United States" (351). Hamilton's plans, as Secretary of the Treasury, to charter a federal bank was so contentious that Marshall believed it gave rise to the system of two political parties.
- "The final letters written by Hamilton and Burr provide an instructive comparison. As the two men contemplated eternity, Hamilton feared for America's future and the salvation of the union, while Burr worried about incriminating letters he had written to his mistress" (699). Chernow portrays Hamilton as sincerely committed to the welfare of his country, unlike Burr, as expressed in the letters Burr and Hamilton wrote before their duel (in which Burr mortally wounded Hamilton, who died the next day).