Thursday, January 21, 2016

Hamilton: Chapter 10-14

Alexander Hamilton 

Hello, fellow Hamilton lovers. It's that time of the week again when we talk about the joys and sorrows involved in reading Ron Chernow's door stopper of a biography. 

I have to confess that this was the first week when reading felt like a bit of a slog for me. I don't know if it just my being tired, or the fact that these four chapters have a lot of political details with fewer witty remarks. 

So...let us review what happens in chapters 10 through 14!

Chapter 10 revolves mostly around the exploits of Alexander Hamilton, lawyer. We learn a little about Hamilton sticking up for what he thinks is right yet again, even to the detriment of his own reputation. In this case, he thought that the way Americans treated the defeated Tories said a lot about who Americans wanted to be. He defended people both through his writing and in court. One case involved a loyalist woman who had fled her home, but wanted back rent from the people who moved in during the war. All in all, he represented almost 50 similar cases. AHam certainly didn't worry about taking the unpopular stand, did he?

This is also the chapter where we get Aaron Burr's sad back story. Suffice it to say, it is almost as awful as Hamilton's. His parents and three grandparents all died in less than two years. Baby Burr was a sad orphan just like his fellow lawyer and future nemesis. 

The reading this week was also the first moment when I felt less than charitable towards our friend Ron Chernow. At the beginning of chapter 11, he writes, "In all, Alexander and Eliza produced eight children in a twenty-year span. As a result, Eliza was pregnant or consumed with child rearing throughout their marriage, which may have encouraged Hamilton's womanizing."

Hold up, Ron. Are you speculating Hamilton couldn't keep his pants on because Eliza was caring for their children? Because she had perhaps "let herself go?" 

No, no, Ron. Let's not go there. Especially when you go on to say how Eliza took care of all those kids, ran the whole household, and designed patterns for furniture in all her spare time. And also, she had a "perpetually busy husband."

Moving right along now. Now it's time to talk about slavery. Historians are fairly sure the Hamiltons did not have slaves, but Angelica and her husband and Eliza's parents most certainly did. So did George Washington. And so did many of the members of the New York Society for the Promoting the Manumission of Slaves, which Hamilton joined in 1785. It's fascinating and disheartening to see how many slave owners realized it was awful and tried to get rid of it gradually. They would get to keep their slaves, but maybe they could get rid of it in a generation or two.

In chapter 12, we learn about the long, slow road to the Constitutional Convention. Chernow does a really good job of conveying how little certain founders wanted a national government to have great power and how easily things could fall apart if the states had no responsibility to the country as a whole. The true miracle of the Constitution is that every signer made compromises for the good of their new nation. 

The last two chapters are about The Federalist Papers. As we all know, Hamilton was non-stop and wrote the 51 of the essays. Then Chernow covers all the drama of the ratification of the Constitution. Hamilton was doing his best to convince his fellow New Yorkers while hoping to hear that Madison had succeeded in Virginia. When the Constitution was ratified, Hamilton hit the apex of his fame and fandom. In fact, "admirers wanted to rechristen the city "Hamiltonia."" How sad are you that NYC isn't named Hamiltonia?

The last chapter is mainly about Washington becoming the first president and Hamilton becoming the treasury secretary. The best moment, as usual, isn't really about Hamilton. Instead, the Schuyler sisters shine again. Apparently Angelica dropped her garter (is that easy to do?) on the dance floor. Hamilton picked it up and gave it back. Angelica teased him that he wasn't a Knight of the Garter. Peggy shot back that he would be a Knight of the Bedchamber, if such a thing existed.

Can you possibly wait for next Thursday, girls and boys? Stay tuned for more history, scandal, and sass.


  1. Ron Chernow can step ALL THE WAY OFF as regards Eliza being too pregnant to do it with Hamilton thus causing him to stray. I cut my eyes at him over that remark.

    I LOVE sassy Schuyler sister anecdotes. More of those please!

    1. Yup. That was the end of my reading for that night. No, no, Ron.

  2. The only thing that sustained me through these chapters was all the times Hamilton spoke for a ridiculously long time and people were like "WTF is he going on about?"

    That Knope gif regarding Hamilton and womanizing was pretty much the exact face I made when reading that.

    Yes to more sassy Schuyler sisters, please!

    1. It was helpful that even Ron thought he talked too long and wasn't really making sense...

      Leslie Knope just seemed so representative of how I felt.

  3. I am almost certain John Laurens would not have approved of the way the NY Manumission Society was functioning. I miss Laurens already.

    Hamiltonia was clearly the way to go, I can't believe they dropped the ball there.

    1. I think every time I hear about NYC from now on, I will be sad about Hamiltonia.

  4. I'm so glad I wasn't the only person feeling bogged down by this week's reading. I blame a total lack of LAURENS, LAFAYETTE, and HERCULES MULLIGAN for this. Also way too much political jargon. Really not feeling Chernow's constant defense of Hamilton's less-than-stellar behavior, OR the hypocrisy of the manumission society members who owned slaves. Where's Laurens when you need him?? Once again, loving how much everyone (including me) is loving the Schuyler sister anecdotes. Peggy is the best.

    1. Yup, there was a lot lacking in this section. I have high hopes for the next few chapters!!