A large, prosy, absorbing biography of Alexander Hamilton, from his West Indian birth to a mother who served a jail term for whoring, up until the 1789 inauguration of the general whose correspondence he had written as aide-de-camp during the Revolutionary War. Manager of a business at age 14, a prominent colonial rights advocate as a Kings College undergraduate, Hamilton grew up without confining sectional loyalties. He was prone to depression, but energetically sustained an 18th-century combination of casual affairs, a dynastic wife, and a morbid romance with his sister-in-law. Hendrickson denies at length that Hamilton was a fortune hunter, a reactionary monarchist, or a mouthpiece for ""the moneyed men."" The book's abundant summaries of Hamilton's actual ideas and accomplishments often remain shallow; it is unclear, for example, how Hamilton accomplished the feat of convincing recalcitrant New York to ratify the new Constitution. But the most obvious of Hamilton's political ploys do receive attention. Hendrickson plausibly attributes his advocacy of an ultra-Federalist position at the Constitutional Convention to an effort to force a compromise, noting that his peers' rejection of Hamilton's professed views is no gauge of his influence. Despite the book's fulsome comparisons of Hamilton to Lincoln and Solzhenitsyn and its protests against the 20th century, readers will end by looking forward to Hamilton II.