Review of Michael E. Newton’s Alexander Hamilton: The Formative Years

Alexander Hamilton: The Formative Years by Michael E. Newton provides a comprehensive account of Hamilton’s life from 1757 to 1782, including his birth, childhood, education, participation in pre-Revolution politics in New York, and service in the Revolutionary War, both as Washington’s aide-de-camp and as a military leader.

The book takes the reader on a detailed journey through the first half of Hamilton’s life.  While many historians have lifted some accepted details of Hamilton’s life from past biographers, Newton has taken 4 years to exhaustively research both primary sources and the existing historical record and thus has the perspective to compare contradictions in the record and uncover new information.  Newton’s extensive research efforts enable the reader to understand the historiography behind each of the well-known Hamilton legends he covers, and on some occasions, debunks.  During the course of his research, Newton has made several new discoveries, some of which are outlined on his website, including information about Hamilton’s arrival in New York, studies at King’s College, and militia service. Newton’s painstaking devotion to the details of Hamilton’s life is apparent in the extensively footnoted text, and the reader is able to come away with a fresh understanding of Hamilton’s early life.  Newton takes the time to explain his research and discovery process to the reader, making it clear where sources disagree with each other so that the reader can form her own opinion.  Hamilton’s early life was complex, filled with nuances and conflicting motivations that contributed to his later political and personal decisions.  AHTFY lays out these events in a way that provides illumination to the reader on the development of Hamilton’s character.

The book’s synopsis states, in part:

“Despite being orphaned as a young boy and having his birth be “the subject of the most humiliating criticism,” Alexander Hamilton used his intelligence, determination, and charisma to overcome his questionable origins and desperate situation. As a mere child, Hamilton went to work for a West Indian mercantile company. Within a few short years, Hamilton was managing the firm’s St. Croix operations. Gaining the attention of the island’s leading men, Hamilton was sent to mainland North America for an education, where he immediately fell in with the country’s leading patriots. After using his pen to defend the civil liberties of the Americans against British infringements, Hamilton took up arms in the defense of those rights. Earning distinction in the campaign of 1776–77 at the head of an artillery company, Hamilton attracted the attention of General George Washington, who made him his aide-de-camp. Alexander Hamilton was soon writing some of Washington’s most important correspondence, advising the commander-in-chief on crucial military and political matters, carrying out urgent missions, conferring with French allies, negotiating with the British, and helping Washington manage his spy network. As Washington later attested, Hamilton had become his “principal and most confidential aid.” After serving the commander-in-chief for four years, Hamilton was given a field command and led the assault on Redoubt Ten at Yorktown, the critical engagement in the decisive battle of the War for Independence. By the age of just twenty-five, Alexander Hamilton had proven himself to be one of the most intelligent, brave, hard-working, and patriotic Americans.

Alexander Hamilton: The Formative Years tells the dramatic story of how this poor immigrant emerged from obscurity and transformed himself into the most remarkable Founding Father. In riveting detail, Michael E. Newton delivers a fresh and fascinating account of Alexander Hamilton’s origins, youth, and indispensable services during the American Revolution.”

Alexander Hamilton: The Formative Years is being published in June 2015, and can be pre-ordered via Kickstarter.

 

2 thoughts on “Review of Michael E. Newton’s Alexander Hamilton: The Formative Years

  1. […] It’s Hamiltime!, a blog written by Pooja Nair, associate and litigation lawyer in the Los Angeles office of Foley & Lardner LLP and a Hamilton expert who has spoken on various aspects of Hamilton’s legal career at Federal Hall National Memorial, Morris-Jumel Mansion, Hamilton Grange National Memorial, and the Museum of American Finance, has posted the following review of Alexander Hamilton: The Formative Years: […]

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