66 pages 2 hours read

Ron Chernow

Alexander Hamilton

Nonfiction | Biography | Adult | Published in 2004

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Important Quotes

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“The American Revolution was to succeed because it was undertaken by skeptical men who knew that the same passions that toppled tyrannies could be applied to destructive ends.” 

(Chapter 4, Page 79)

Hamilton is the book’s best example of the wisdom of being skeptical of humanity, but most of the founding fathers shared his views on the unreliability of people. Passion can work against logic and rationality, and it has the power to corrupt ideals in those who cannot control their appetites and emotions. Those who orchestrated the war planned with this view in mind.  

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“Prejudice and private interest will be antagonists too powerful for public spirit and public good.”

(Chapter 6, Page 150)

After Laurens’s initiative to free the slaves is rejected, Hamilton is despondent. He knows that freeing slaves is the moral thing to do. However, the fact that the proposal gets dismissed with such haste is a sign to him that private interests and greed will always have the potential to override what is decent and ethical. He spent his life working against those who sought personal glory while in public office. 

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“As too much power leads to despotism, too little leads to anarchy, and both eventually to the ruin of the people.” 

(Chapter 8, Page 190)

Hamilton believed that the conditions during a revolution were markedly different than those of peacetime. Anarchy was the result when the conditions of revolution overshot the end of a rebellion, and peacetime was still treated, in more minor ways, as a time of reduced warfare. One of his central themes would always be that power must be balanced, or it will harm the country.