Jefferson and Hamilton
This history covers the lives of two founding fathers from the 1740s into the 19th century. When I saw that here “J” precedes “H,” I knew where the bias would fall.
The first chapters, concerning the childhood of the soon-to-be political rivals, are straight reporting. As the narrative enters the Revolutionary War years, the author’s preference surfaces. For instance, Jefferson doesn’t “own slaves,” he has “chattel.” On the other hand, Hamilton is “vain” and a “self-promoter.” Particularly unconvincing is the author’s attempt to directly link modern political movements to them. Attaching “monarchist” or its modern version, “plutocrat,” to Hamilton sheds no light on anything besides the persistent appeal of mud-slinging. Hamilton, who was illegitimate, brilliant and self-made, nevertheless emerges as a natural pragmatist. Getting our financial house in order was the way he knew to establish the Republic. On the other hand, the privileged, classically educated and equally brilliant Jefferson was an idealist, author of the forward-thinking Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence, although he did not practice the “liberty and justice for all” he preached. In a small, post-Revolutionary arena, with such incompatible styles, they were bound to come to blows. There are better books on both.