HAMILTON II (1789-1804) by Robert Hendrickson

HAMILTON II (1789-1804)

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The second volume of this large, lively biography deals with sex and scandals. The Treasury Secretary's love affair with his sister-in-law Angelica Church tapers off, supplanted by a nasty intrigue--Hamilton's enemies (possibly including Jefferson) set him up for a liaison with Mrs. Maria Reynolds, whose husband, bribed by Hamilton with a Treasury job, made illicit use of his post. Jefferson also pops up arranging a deal to trade Hamilton's proposal for federal assumption of war debt for the Potomac as the capital site. Oddly enough, however, the final scandal--Hamilton's fatal duel with Aaron Burr--just somehow happens. In the midst of these attacks and maneuvers, Hamilton managed to write his ""Report on Manufactures""--here Hendrickson repeats his glib Hamilton I (p. 366) glosses on the man's works, calling this report a harbinger of John Kenneth Galbraith and the soaring Sixties. Hamilton also created an American military establishment, having retained Washington's confidence through all his travails: ""As much as any man who lived he had the soldier's temperament,"" according to his son. Around the bitter party conflicts of 1800, Hamilton had what the biography describes as a ""manic"" or ""paranoid"" episode and tried to fix the New York electoral results. Otherwise, Hendrickson finds his record admirable, and the reader will be drawn by his enthusiasm; the book does not convey Hamilton's passion ""to cherish and stimulate the activity of the human mind,"" but it captures the virtually Pepysian level of infighting in the new state along with the excitement of its new diplomacy.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1976
Publisher: Mason/Charter