#HamAlong: Chapters 6-9

I'll be participating in Reading Rambo's Hamilton Readalong for the next two months, so expect weekly (if I can keep up) posts on the book from now through the end of February. Because the story of Hamilton's life is generally known from history books and the musical, I will not be avoiding spoilers in these posts (in other words: if you're planning to read Hamilton and want it to be a surprise, skip along).

YOU GUYS THIS BOOK IS SO GOOD. Seriously, if you like well-written, interesting, engaging, incredibly thoroughly researched books that unexpectedly spawned viral musical hits... why are you not reading Hamilton right this very instant?

After the action-packed, insane adventures of the first few chapters, I expect every moment of Hamilton's life to be absolutely jam-packed with unimaginable, unbelievable, entirely real events--and Chapters 6-9 didn't disappoint. Though this span of nearly 100 pages doesn't yet move the United States fully out of the Revolutionary War, Hamilton as an individual matures beyond the upstart young soldier/aide-de-camp we came to know in Chapters 1-5. Chernow alludes to the changes we can expect in reviewing Hamilton's pay book early in Chapter 6:

For anyone studying Hamilton's pay book, it would come as no surprise that he would someday emerge as a first-rate constitutional scholar, an unsurpassed treasury secretary, and the protagonist of the first great sex scandal in American political history. (112)

Hot damn, is that a lot to pack into a pay book (also, excellent use of the Oxford comma there, Mr. Chernow). But in just these few chapters, we're seeing the beginnings of all of this: Hamilton becomes a practicing (much respected) lawyer; writes a bunch of political whatsits and whosits (that's the technical term for those, right?) that Chernow posits are the precursors to The Federalist Papers; studies (and writes about) the economy; and, oh yeah, falls in love with (and gets married to) the daughter of a wealthy New Yorker.

via Emily Wright on Pinterest

All of that is fascinating, but what I found most interesting in this section was watching Hamilton the boy grow into the post-war man history remembers most keenly: a brilliant, outspoken, well-written economist-philosopher-leader-voice whose opinions were never in question (as Miranda writes, "I will not equivocate on my opinion / I have always worn it on my sleeve").

By dint of his youth, foreign birth, and cosmpolitan outlook, he was spared prewar entanglements in provincial state politics, making him a natural spokesman for a new American nationalism. (157) 

To a peculiar extent, his mind was already [by twenty-five] focused on the problems that were to dominate the post-war period. (158)
Some other scattered thoughts:

  • I absolutely loved Hamilton's moment of "completely unnecessary bravado," doing parade-ground drills in the midst of besieging the British Army.
  • Major props to Chernow for using "poppycock" in a sentence completely unironically.
  • Maybe it's just because I'm listening to the end of the Hamilton soundtrack as I write this, but can we talk about sad some of this is getting? I was disproportionately upset by the growing rift between Washington and Hamilton over the course of the War. And Laurens' death was fairly soul-crushing. And the increasingly persistent references to duels and dueling! Just, stay away from dueling, Hamilton. I'd like to reach back into history and shake you. 
  • Hamilton's views are almost terrifyingly applicable to the political landscape of the United States today:
    • "The inquiry constantly is what will please, not what will benefit the people. In such a government there can be nothing but temporary expedient, fickleness and folly."
  • I think Hamilton's a pretty cool dude, but was fairly annoyed by his insistence that Eliza bear him a son. Like there's something wrong with (eldest) daughters. Pssh.
So, yeah, that's a lot. And we still have 600 pages to go.

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