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Alexander Hamilton has been, and continues to be, a controversial figure in American history. Some have viewed him as a visionary statesman without whom the United States may not even have come into existence. Others have regarded him as a pernicious advocate of big government and even a closet monarchist.
In Hamilton's own time, George Washington evidently held him in high esteem, whereas President John Adams referred to him as the "bastard brat of a Scotch pedlar".
The nature of Hamilton politically and personally will undoubtedly continue to be a subject of debate but, at the end of the day, it is simply a matter of perception. However, what is difficult to deny is that he was a man of high intelligence and ability who was exceptionally diligent in the performance of his public duties.
In this biography, Henry Jones Ford (1851-1925), professor of politics at Princeton University, while acknowledging Hamilton's flaws and errors, provides ample evidence of the capabilities and prodigious work-rate of the man.
There is also an obvious admiration for Hamilton's apparent disregard of popular opinion. He would meditate deeply on an issue, formulate a plan for what he believed to be the best practical outcome then, in faith that it was perfectly sound, state and adhere to it irrespective of how it was received by the majority:
"The peculiar heroism of his statesmanship is his utter fearlessness of unpopularity. Public men are apt to shrink from that, and face it only when brought to bay; but Hamilton seems never to have hesitated to brave it whenever a political issue appeared to him to involve the honor of his country. That is not a trait by which American politicians get ahead, and it worked against Hamilton's personal success in public life. His achievements were all accomplished by sheer force of intellect; his career owed nothing to popular favor."
Ford is equally impressed by Hamilton's ability to actually achieve, and without blowing his own trumpet, another rarity among politicians both past and present:
"It was one of Hamilton's characteristics all through life that his interest was in getting things done, not in celebrating the doing of them."
Although written in the early part of the twentieth century, Ford's biography of Alexander Hamilton is still very accessible today and provides a thoughtful perspective on an historic figure whose career and achievements were for many years in sore need of rehabilitation.
This new edition, with reset text, includes a biographical note on the author, an introduction, and additional footnotes.