An elegant dual study resurrects Alexander Hamilton as one of George Washington’s most valued advisers.
Though it is difficult to add any new information to the history of the framers’ relationships to each other, Knott (National Security Affairs/United States Naval War Coll.; Rush to Judgment: George W. Bush, the War on Terror, and His Critics, 2012, etc.) and Williams (The Jamestown Experiment: The Remarkable Story of the Enterprising Colony and the Unexpected Results that Shaped America, 2011, etc.), the professional development director at the Bill of Rights Institute, attribute the ratification of the Constitution, among other key events, to the professional, enduring friendship between these two key players. Of vastly different backgrounds and ages, Washington and Hamilton were nonetheless ambitious men of the Enlightenment who cared deeply about honor at all cost. Both men’s personalities and careers were defined by war; as Washington’s aide de camp, Hamilton distinguished himself for his bravery under fire. Although the two were somewhat estranged immediately after the war, they both came to the conclusion during the Continental Congress that “the common good necessitated a stronger national government instead of a government controlled by the narrow, self-interested states.” Re-energized by their shared vision, they both threw their weight behind ratification—Washington by his sheer dignity and authority, Hamilton through his Federalist Papers. Indeed, Hamilton’s insistence that Washington become the first president, as well as his essays on the office itself, would allow Washington to embody that “indispensable” role. Although not Washington’s first cabinet choice for secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton would masterly define the role through his creation of a national bank, among other accomplishments. The authors move chronologically, carefully sifting the evidence of Hamilton’s indispensability to the president and his loyalty in the face of increasing partisanship by Thomas Jefferson’s Republicans. Washington repeatedly called on Hamilton’s advice—e.g., regarding the Jay Treaty—and enlisted him to assist with the crafting of his farewell address.
Knott and Williams expertly show how Hamilton was often attacked because Washington was untouchable.