Tag Archives: US Presidents

Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow

Summary

  1. Chernow’s goal is to make Washington as close to the living, breathing figure he was to his contemporaries, rather than the lifeless role model he is today to most people. He was only able to achieve so much because he could bottle and funnel his intense emotion to his noble cause
Key Takeaways
  1. Washington always sought to conceal his feelings and not express too much emotion. He was a master at controlling his emotions but when he cracked, he was full of great wrath. Opacity was his means for influence and shaping events. He commanded respect from all because people knew how emotional and passionate he was, yet how well he managed these emotions. He possessed the gift of listening and self command but only after work hard at attaining these traits
  2. Washington’s great grandfather was a successful military man who later came to possess thousands of acres in Virginia and this wealth would be eventually passed down to George. Washington’s father remarried to Marry Ball after his first wife died and she would have a tremendous influence on George. She was a very moral woman who stood strong in times adversity but had a temper. Washington’s father died young and forced Washington to take much responsibility at a young age. His mother was tough and they did not have a loving relationship. She made George uneasy with criticism and emotionally closed. His older brother Lawrence was a great influence on him and pushed him to pursue a military career
  3. Washington is an incredible case of self improvement as he had little to no formal education but was self taught through books and experience. Washington is a story of self construction. Washington was also a physical specimen – taller than 6′ with almost comically large hands and feet, athletic, graceful and a good dancer
  4. Washington’s first job was as a land surveyor and this would influence his future love of land and land speculation
  5. Already by the age of 22 Washington had distinguished himself militarily and politically but a skirmish with the French almost ruined his reputation. However, he acted bravely and his reputation was soon restored. He learned early on the effectiveness of guerrilla type warfare that the Native Americans fought. Washington had to learn to mask his ambition as he too often butted heads with more senior leaders. He often felt slighted by the British military traditions and was sometimes passed for deserving promotions
  6. Early on Washington decided it was of utmost importance to have a loyal and well trained army. He was able to take a ragtag group and instill some training and order into this already courageous group. He came to love his men and through his leadership and courage on the battlefield, his men came to love him too – was able to get the most out of his men 
  7. Washington married Martha Dandridge Custis, a short, wealthy widow with a warm, even temperament. She had two children, Jackie and Patsy, who Washington adopted. The oldest son, Jackie, was a jet setter and ignored the education Washington so badly wanted as a youth. Patsy died young and caused her parents much grief but it gave Washington a sizable inheritance which helped a lot with his large debt and to expand Mt. Vernon. He had no children of his own
  8. Washington was strict but relatively fair and humane with his slaves
  9. Washington was extremely prompt and believed a judicious and efficient use of time was a sure path to success
  10. The Tea Party was a seminal moment as it furthered the colonists’ aversion to taxation without representation. Washington, having been out of the military since his glory days of the French and Indian War, took an important political position at this time and much frustration with the British began bubbling over in him and advocated a petition of British goods and perhaps even military action. Washington was soon elected to the First Continental Congress. He was soon after unanimously elected to be the commander in chief of the continental army once it was assembled. His wealth and self command made him a popular choice. His ragtag army from every corner of the colonies was difficult to unite and train but they showed more courage and will than any other army. There were many other obstacles too such as lack of gunpowder, fewer fit men than he had anticipated and much more. His self command was vital at this time in order to keep his men optimistic even though he knew how dismal the situation looked. Secrecy and deception were key tools he used throughout the war. Washington saw the war as a struggle of good vs evil and urged his men to treat POW humanely and to be a model citizen for all the colonies. Creating a draft was not politically possible at this time and Washington eventually decided to bar slaves from serving but free blacks were allowed in
  11. Washington was careful but a bit unorthodox in his selection of high ranking generals. General Greene had almost no military experience and General Knox was very overweight. Washington bucked his aristocratic streak and gave promising men the opportunity to rise and learn although they didn’t seem to have the credentials. Nearly all the men he chose performed admirably. Washington excelled as a leader because he was able to select the men he saw as most able and then get the most out of them. After the war, Washington assembled one of the most impressive and effect cabinet members in history, notably Hamilton as Secretary of Treasury and Jefferson as Secretary of State
  12. Thomas Paine’s Common Sense energized a demoralized American army and the populace for American independence
  13. Washington was able to win back Boston from the British by setting up cannons in the middle of the night and scaring the British. This was a great victory with no deaths and Washington was praised the country over
  14. The American army were getting beat early but Washington pulled some military magic and got some much needed victories at Trenton and Princeton. Washington portrayed a mystique and energy which won him over the admiration and respect of every man under his command
  15. Hamilton was very young when he became Washington’s aide de camp and helped extensively with any written correspondence. They made a great team but their very different personalities often clashed
  16. Horatio Gates rose through the military ranks and while he won several important battles, he butted heads with Washington as he tried to blacken his name and remove him from his position as general
  17. Marquis de Lafayette became Washington’s protege and one of the key commanders of the American Revolution. Baron Von Steuben introduced order and uniformity across the army
  18. It is to Washington’s credit that he studied England’s weaknesses but also her strengths in order to determine what practices to exploit and which to emulate. With Hamilton’s influence, Washington established the national debt and national bank
  19. Washington had full faith in Benedict Arnold and was shaken and distraught when he found out he had a betrayed his country
  20. Washington greatest achievement laid in cobbling together unifying and motivating a dove verse group of people who had to come over substantial odds to be the British army
  21. Washington’s view on abolition softened over his tenure and throughout the war
  22. After the United States Britain the prospect of keys was difficult for Washington too. He was worried about exerting his own influence and speaking his mind on what he used to be the correct course of action for the United States after gaining independence. Washington ceding his power after the war was one of his most important and meaningful acts. He understood his power to be “on rent” and returned it as soon as it was appropriate to do so. Washington had a very busy public life, entertaining thousands of people who wanted to see and meet this great hero. Washington was nominated to be president a couple years later which again but him in a non partisan role
  23. Washington left Martha and Mt. Vernon for over 4 months to join the Constitutional Convention which drew up the Constitution. As the Constitution was ratified, Washington was expected to put it into action as the first President. This expectation was likely a major cause for the great support the Constitution received. That Washington willingly gave up his military power after the war, was seen as reluctantly accepting the presidential nomination and the fact he had no children added to people’s desire for him to lead. His no children made it less likely that power would simply be handed down
  24. Washington never lost his stylish desire and lived quite lavishly although he faced significant financial worries
  25. Washington saw the VP as the head of the legislature which diminished Adam’s role and influence
  26. After having the capital in Philadelphia for a temporary 10 year stint, Washington, Jefferson and L’enfant chose the site and designed America’s new capital in Washington DC
  27. It was vital that Washington serve as president although he was reluctant to step back into the public light. He was sure he’d retire after his first term but there was much fraction and his continued tenure was necessary for the success of the new nation
  28. Washington rose even higher in people’s minds when he willingly gave up political power after his second term. Washington’s farewell address touched on many important political points and took a clear Federalist stance. He thought there should be commercial over political ties and that a strong central government was important for the future success of the country. His just actions and influential decisions forever shaped the presidential role and proved that a republic could be run without absolute authority and that the leader is an extension of the people. His biggest failings lay in not abolishing slavery and the poor dealings with Native American uprisings 
  29. Adams became the second president and Jefferson the VP
  30. Washington was able to put his conscience at ease once he revised his will and freed all the slaves he owned once he passed away
What I got out of it
  1. Learning about Washington the man was really interesting to me. His desire to keep learning, his like of English fashion and at times extravagant spending, how indebted he became during the war, his relationship with Martha which was more friendly than loving and the raging temper which was buried beneath his icy interior

Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham

Summary
  1. Interesting biography on the philosopher/politician who was responsible for writing the Declaration of Independence, the Louisiana Purchase, instilling a belief in America of continuous improvement and more
Key Takeaways
  1. Can be considered one of the most successful political figures of The first 50 years of the American republic (1743-1826). His dynasty of similar thinking presidents was unmatched and their goal was the development and furtherance of a popular government – the will of an enlightened majority should prevail. The public is the hope and savior of the republic – opposite the view of the Federalists
  2. The greatest leaders are not dreamers nor dictators but those who understand the mechanics of influence and know when to change their minds. People are always torn between the ideal and the real. The true leaders know how to balance this tension. Jefferson’s combination of philosopher and politician is what helped make him so powerful
  3. His escape was Monticello and he was very well read and multidimensional in his talents and studies.
  4. Foes thought of him as an atheist, dreamer, womanizer, Francophile.
  5. Responsible for the rise of individualism, Louisiana purchase and the opening of the west, Lewis and Clark expedition, democratic move in America to check the power of established forces, gave the nation the idea of American progress and the future will be better than the past. Thought of as the designer of America
  6. Jefferson was very worried and perhaps paranoid about Britain and anything remotely resembling monarchy. He considered America in a perennial war and nothing in America to be secure
  7. Jefferson’s father was a rich and powerful farmer who taught him how to wield and handle power effectively. His father died when he was 14 but his mother was very impressive and held down the home
  8. Jefferson headed to William and Mary where he was exposed to the world of politics
  9. Jefferson considered sloth and indolence a sin and was known to spend 15 hours per day studying and reading. Believed history is philosophy teaching by example and spent a lot of time studying history to know how to respond when it repeats itself
  10. Jefferson married Martha Wales Skelton in 1772 when he was 28. His first daughter Jane died before her second birthday and was devastating for him and his wife
  11. Jefferson played a critical role in the second continental congress which was charged with prepping the country for war against Britain
  12. Jefferson was elected governor of Virginia at a very unstable time where Britain was threatening to attack and abolish slavery. Jefferson was not a great leader during this time and failed to react quickly enough to stave off Benedict Arnold, Cornwallis and the English. Soon after he retired from his post and spent much time at Monticello in an almost secluded manner. Although many were fascinated and awed by Jefferson, he considered himself a failure at this point in his life
  13. His wife died when he was only 39 and it caused him severe depression
  14. Jefferson took the post of US Minister to France and moved to Paris with his eldest daughter, Patsy. His goal was to study and adapt the best European inventions, designs and other ways of life for American use. He was enamored with the French culture and later criticized for being a Francophile. He was Franklin’s successor and promoted a strong and united America for Europe. He lived quite lavishly and became close friends with John Adams and his family until e moved back to the US to become Secretary of State
  15. After a contentious bill to abolish slavery was not passed, Jefferson decided it was not worth his political reputation to fight for an idea who’s time he believed had not yet come
  16. Sally Hemings was the slave Jefferson had sexual relations with and was in fact his wife’s half sister
  17. Jefferson butted heads with Alexander Hamilton who was Secretary of the Treasury and who wanted to fund a national debt, charter a national bank, absorb state debts and raise funds from tariffs on imports and liquor. They had a lifelong rivalry that would shape the nation      Republican vs Federalist. Populist vs monarchist
  18. The meeting of principles must often be undertaken away from the public eye
  19. Jefferson retired as Secretary of State but soon returned and won the VP nomination. He was instrumental during the quasi war with France which never escalated to full out warfare
  20. Jefferson was elected as the third president of the US with Aaron Burr as his VP
  21. Although a populist and widely believed in the will of the people, Jefferson was very aware of how important it was to have differing opinions and public discourse. To try to minimize that would lead to tyranny
  22. Tensions with Spain arose as Jefferson expanded and explored the continent westward. However, he decided a stance of neutrality would best serve the nation and did not sign any treaties with Britain
  23. Jefferson, like nearly all politicians, was forced to moderate and compromise his political ideals once he was actually in office
  24. Aaron Burr posed a bug threat for some time as he was thought to be building a militia in the west with possible hopes of either attacking or splitting off from America to form his own empire
  25. Time often resolves the problems of the hour
  26. An attack by a British ship on an American ship almost lead to war and in this time of crisis Jefferson greatly expanded the power of the executive branch. He enacted a very controversial embargo
  27. Jefferson retired after his second term to Monticello where he spent much time with family and studying. He eventually made amends with Adams and corresponded with him regularly
  28. Jefferson fought through old age and illness to make it to his last Fourth of July in 1826
What I got out of it
  1. After reading Hamilton and John Adams, I wanted to get a different perspective and Meacham provided that. Jefferson was a politician/philosopher who believed in the common people and instilled in the nation a sense of progress where the future can always be better than the past

John Adams by David McCullough

Summary

  1. Good biography on John Adams, his contributions, life, personality
Key Takeaways
  1. Adams was a lawyer and a farmer, was brilliant, extremely hard working, self absorbed, prone to depression, proud, quick to anger, stubborn, ambitious, an early revolutionary and supporter of American rights and liberties who would become one of the most powerful and influential of the founding fathers
  2. His wife, Abigail, was also very politically involved and influential. They were equals in many respects and marrying her was one of the best decisions he made. She was very smart, candid, and hard working. They were very close and loving and their constant separation due to the war and other political matters caused both a lot of anxiety
  3. Adams was instrumental in getting Washington elected to lead the American army
  4. Adams entered Harvard to become a minister but soon changed his mind to become a lawyer. He lost a case early on which was embarrassing to him and his family and after that he devoted much more time and energy to his profession
  5. Adams was one of the key actors in both the First and Second Continental Congresses
  6. Adams was one of the first and strongest supporters of independence. Him, more than any other member of th Congress, helped unify the colonies and sell the vision for independence. He also was an early advocate for slave’s and women’s rights
  7. Jefferson and Adams were key allies and friends in the Continental Congress and throughout the early parts of the American Revolution. Him and Jefferson were instrumental in drawing up the Declaration of Independence
  8. Adams was sent to Paris to serve as US Envoy to France. He was woefully unprepared for this post but his ambition and duty compelled him to accept. He spent much time with Franklin who was universally adored in France, especially for his scientific prowess
  9. Adams, after coming back from France and rejoining his family, was selected to write the Constitution for Massachusetts which was one of the most successful ever written. It is the oldest functioning constitution in the world
  10. Adams was soon called back to France again but due to a leak in the ship, he had to stop in Spain and make the rest of his way to Paris over land. He soon butted heads with French politicians and even Franklin himself and made his way to Amsterdam to see if he could secure a large loan for America. He met a lot of resistance in France and the Netherlands but finally got backing from the Dutch when it was quite clear the Americans would win the war with Britain
  11. Abigail and the rest of the family eventually moved to Paris to be with John and the sons who had come with him. Abigail at first detested Paris and the pretentious people but soon came to love the opera and some of the people including the Lafayettes. During their time in France, the Adams and Thomas Jefferson became very close
  12. Adams and his family soon moved to London as Adams was named the American ambassador to the UK. Once this stint was over, the family moved back to the US where they found a very different America from they had left years earlier. Adams would eventually become VP, behind George Washington and then President and then lose the presidency to Jefferson and the Republicans
  13. Adams’ son, John Quincy Adams, traveled extensively with his father and was very well read and ambitious. He was eventually assigned to be minister to the Netherlands, later a senator, then ambassador in Russia and would later become the sixth president of the US
  14. There was much worry about the French Revolution and America almost entered into a war with France but Adams was able to take a long term view and kept the peace between the two nations which helped Jefferson later be able to acquire the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon
  15. Soon after Jefferson was elected president, a sex scandal with one his slaves, Sally Hemings, broke and hurt his reputation
  16. Jefferson and Adams stopped talking for a while but made amends towards the ends of their lives
  17. Jefferson and Adams lived very long lives and both fought through their old age to make it to one last 4th of July. Both died July 4, 1826. Adams left a modest estate and Jefferson in quite a lot of debt
What I got out of it
  1. Wanted to read after getting through Hamilton by Chernow and found it helpful to get Adam’s point of view on many of these events

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

Summary
  1. The life and work of Alexander Hamilton told in a way that only the masterful Chernow can do. An incredible, multidimensional view on the influential and controversial Founding Father
Key Takeaways
  1. Hamilton’s influence is hard to understate. He took over a bankrupt country and turned it into a country with a credit rating as high as any European nation, turned the presidential role into an active policy maker instead of a passive one, wrote the majority of the Federalist Papers, helped set the foundation for a liberal democracy, founded the central bank, rolled the state’s debt after the war into the federal government and much more. He was given a blank slate and can be considered the father of the American government. Hamilton, although the most influential policy maker in American history, never gained even a single presidential vote. He was a moral absolutist, bad at compromise, had little sympathy for the every day voter – overall, not a great politician
  2. Hamilton was shot by VP Adam Burr in a duel when he was only 49 years old
  3. Hamilton’s wife, Eliza Schuyler, was from a powerful and wealthy NY/Dutch family. She outlived him by more than 50 years and was devoted to preserving his image from opponents such as Jefferson, Adams, Madison and others and from the country’s first major political sex scandal
  4. Few figures illicit more love or hate than Hamilton. He was demonized as a monarchist by opponents because of his desire to make states subordinate to a strong central government. He believed that the state’s sovereignty made the nation inherently weaker. He was extremely hard working, self motivated, intelligent, confident, insecure about his humble and immigrant beginnings and a visionary on many fronts
  5. Hamilton is perhaps the most influential political figure who never was president and he had yet a deeper impact than many who did. No other politician had such a grand yet accurate vision of America’s future and the mechanisms necessary to bind the nation together
  6. Hamilton came from a very modest background and rose up to the zenith of politics in the late 1700s, only behind George Washington himself. He was often the center or catalyst of uproars around race, class, geography and more. Hamilton was very ashamed of his childhood and upbringing (in the West Indies) and refused to discuss it. His mother had to flee the island in order to escape from a difficult and abusive marriage. His mother later met his father but were never married and this tinged Hamilton’s life in many ways. Hamilton was born in 1755 (debated)
  7. From a young age Hamilton was a prodigious poet and essayist and it brought him fame and an eventual scholarship to America after one of his poems received great acclaim
  8. Hamilton quickly progressed up the social and educational ladder when he reached America due to his self confidence, incredible work ethic and newly found connections (William Livingston, Lord Sterling and Elias Boudinot especially). These mentors influenced Hamilton’s political stances, notably his desire for social change but not revolution. And, at least for a time, leaned toward monarchism
  9. Hamilton ended up at King’s College (later Columbia) which provided an ideal education and environment for the future Treasury Secretary
  10. Hamilton was influenced as a youth by Hume’s dark take on human nature. Government must not try to stop man’s selfish actions but harness them for the common good
  11. Hamilton was a stickler for meritocracy and when he was a leader in the army, he treated all men fairly and was known as a tough but just leader who commanded one of the best trained units in the whole army. He quickly gained a reputation as a boy genius and would eventually become Washington’s aide de camp. The relationship between these two men was so important America’s early history that it’s hard to imagine the country without them. They were an excellent team and far more than the sum of their parts. There are rumors that Hamilton was Washington’s surrogate son but the author does not believe this is the case. Hamilton used and developed his excellent writing skills and over time became Washington’s alter ego to the point that he could not be replaced. However, one of the Revolution’s most important and influential partnerships ended towards the end of the war due to conflicts in personality and Washington not allowing Hamilton to move on, get field action or get promoted. They eventually reconciled and worked again very closely
  12. Hamilton was born without a family name or honor and therefore went to drastic measures to protect his reputation and engaged in many duels
  13. Hamilton was a financial savant and quickly grasped many financial intricacies. He realized that military and financial strength are deeply intertwined and this influenced him his whole life (American Revolution was causing severe inflation and he constantly thought about how to remedy it)
  14. Hamilton developed nearly all his political, economic, financial and other beliefs by his mid 20s. He was one of the first to realize they could beat Britain more by reducing their creditors belief in them than an outright win on the battlefield
  15. Hamilton eventually got field action and performed very bravely at Yorktown and gained legendary status which would help him a lot politically post war
  16. After the war, amongst other things, Hamilton practiced law and was very successful. Him and Aaron Burr had a friendly but competitive relationship at their law firm
  17. Hamilton had incredible vision for what America could be as a country and understood the big picture. He knew that how they acted at that time and the laws passed would reverberate through history. He opted to take a lenient stance against Tories and Loyalists as this would show the new country’s mercy and desire for a lawful and just system of government. All mankind had its eyes on this republic experiment
  18. Hamilton established the Bank of New York and wrote up its charter which was used as a model for most new banks and served as the rudiments for the American banking system. One of the main goals was the stabilize and normalize the currency
  19. Hamilton had accomplished so much in so little time that by age 30 he was already part of America’s pontifical and financial elite
  20. Hamilton was staunchly anti-slavery and had the enlightened view for the time that blacks and whites were equal in all respects
  21. Hamilton was always very optimistic on the future of America but was pessimistic on the ability of typical Americans
  22. Nobody did more than Hamilton to bring life into the constitution and make it the working mandate of the country. The new Constitution created great uproar and divided most people between the Federalist and the anti-Federalist
  23. Hamilton organized and did a vast majority of the work and writing of the Federalist papers along with James Madison. The Federalist Papers are the best defense of the constitution ever written
  24. The constitution was ratified by an extremely narrow vote. Having Washington as the first president was absolutely crucial to tie the nation together at this difficult time. He would embody the ideals of this new country and system of government
  25. Washington named Hamilton as Treasury Secretary and Hamilton happily accepted, believing this was the role where he could do the most good. He had been reading up on economic policy for years before he was selected to the post. Hamilton used England, France and several other countries to help design and build out the American financial system and its policies. Hamilton recognized and implemented things like public credit and bonds to help bolster the government and its ability to build and grow. He wanted to use British techniques to beat Britain economically and reduce their reliance on foreign countries. Hamilton believed a well funded debt would help promote and secure a prosperous America. Washington and Hamilton made an incredible team and that they had very different personalities, strengths and weaknesses
  26. In every obstacle Hamilton tackled he is one of histories most incredible combinations of a thinker and a doer
  27. Hamilton appointed Dewer as assistant Secretary of the Treasury and this alliance severely hurt Hamilton as Dewer was corrupt, unethical and a gambler / market speculator
  28. Hamilton made the controversial decision to allow people to fully profit or lose on their securities trading although this would hurt people who had supported the US by buying bonds and later sold them to speculators at a loss. This set the precedent for securities trading in America and the fact that the people buying/selling took the risk and the loss/gain that comes with that
  29. Decided to roll up the national and state debt after the war into one like, Federal debt. This had pervasive repercussions as it made things more efficient, would shift allegiance to central government, states would not want to compete with central government for major revenue sources
  30. Due to Hamilton’s modest upbringing and the fact that he had to fight for everything he got led him to be extremely touchy and protective of his reputation. His volatile emotions plus this need to protect his reputation nearly lead to a duel of honor with a southern judge who accused him of being a liar. This was a telling and prescient event that would unfold later with Aaron Burr
  31. Jefferson was reluctant but eventually joined and supported the new government. Jefferson was extremely talented and hard-working in numerous different fields and became the populist’s spokesperson. Jefferson, like most people, had contradictory characteristics. He believed in the good of the common man but himself was a hedonist who loved the finer things in life. This dichotomy would help lead to the eventual rift which occurred between Hamilton and Jefferson
  32. The temporary and permanent sites of the capital were hotly contested issues but eventually the delayed agreed that Philadelphia would be the temporary site for 10 years and then an area on the Potomac (later to be known as Washington DC) would be the permanent site
  33. The concept of the federal government assuming state debts was a matter of huge contention and this along with the passing of Hamilton’s other reforms created an opposition party known as the Democratic-Republicans which would be center of American political struggles for decades. Hamilton created a strong central government by taking away a lot of the states’ powers but was spot on in advocating for a government which would embrace and foster the self-improvement and entrepreneurial spirit which America would become known for
  34. Hamilton spent an incredible amount of time focusing on customs as more than 90% of government revenue came from imports during this time. Good trade relations with Britain was absolutely vital to the financial and economic success of America at this point. To shore up public credit the country needed a second stream of income. Due to the population’s ingrained anathema to taxes, Hamilton decided to take the unpopular but necessary decision to tax liquor (eventually leading to the Whiskey Rebellion)
  35. Of all his reforms and programs, his advocation for a central bank raised the most constitutional questions. Jefferson, Madison and Adams were staunchly against Hamilton’s reforms but luckily they were not successful in stopping him as their fiscal beliefs were outdated and would have stifled America’s economy
  36. Hamilton took and fought for a liberal view of the constitution where the federal government could take appropriate action and not only vital action (strong central government, Federalist). This gave the government far reaching powers and has been influential since that day
  37. Hamilton had an affair with Maria Reynolds which became public knowledge and tarnished his reputation. Maria’s husband extorted Hamilton for money often. Hamilton’s indiscretion may not have been found out of Reynolds he not been arrested and tried to use his connection to Hamilton to be let free.
  38. Hamilton was aggressive in trying to replicate British manufacturing technology in order to help catapult the American economy from relying on agriculture to manufacturing
  39. The rivalry and feud between Jefferson and Hamilton reached great heights in the 1790s and shaped much of American politics and government policies at that time. Hamilton and Madison also butted heads often but not as frequently or ruthlessly as Jefferson and Hamilton. At this time, political parties were not established and the Founding Fathers wanted to be rid of them. Therefore, most politicians hid their partisan beliefs and colluding was kept secret at this point
  40. Burr and Hamilton butted heads because Hamilton thought of Burr as not having any principles whatsoever. He would do whatever was popular in order to gain power
  41. The French Revolution was a much followed and important topic in American politics. Jeffersonians were for it and believed the violent means were necessary to protect the free world where Hamiltonians were against it
  42. An excise tax on liquor caused the Whiskey Rebellion in West Virginia which ultimately forced Hamilton, Washington and the government to respond with military force. The widespread unpopularity of this tax helped get Jefferson elected as president several years later
  43. Hamilton resigned from his Treasury Secretary post with very little money to his name.
  44. The Jay Treaty caused an uproar and many Jeffersonians called for war with Britain over it. Hamilton took up the debate but exposed himself to debates with violent crowds
  45. Washington set the precedent and stepped down as president after two terms. John Adams was elected president and Jefferson received the second most votes and became VP. Adams completely cut out Hamilton from all his dealings which was devastating to Hamilton and ultimately to Adams himself and the Federalist Party as a whole
  46. Adams was a vain, paranoid man who grew up with a modest background. He didn’t have the social ease of Franklin and constantly worried about his place in history. Adams was not the defacto party head and often fell between the Republicans and Federalists
  47. Hamilton’s adultery with Reynolds was eventually outed and he decided to confess with extreme detail and while he was suspected of having many more affairs and was the most controversial figure of his time, there is little proof of other affairs (i.e., sleeping with his wife’s sister Angelica). James Monroe took a very adversarial stance and Hamilton and his wife Eliza would never forgive him for it
  48. Tensions with France reached a fever pitch due to the Jay Treaty, rise of Napoleon and the spread of revolution in France. Jefferson went behind Adams’ back and urged France to delay talks with Americans. An unofficial war with France was soon underway after the XYZ Letters were released. Hamilton was given a high post in the army to prepare for a potential war with France and while he trained his men well and he an encyclopedic knowledge of military practices, he made many poor decisions without Washington’s guidance
  49. Burr, normally very anti-bank, passed a bill for the Manhattan Company, a water company which in fact had loopholes so that it was in all but name a bank which would compete with Hamilton’s Bank of NY and national bank branch. This very much hurt Burr’s and the Republican’s reputation
  50. The feud between Adams and Hamilton got so nasty that Hamilton said he’d prefer Jefferson as president because it is better to have an honest enemy than a dishonest friend. Hamilton published an essay trying to show Adam’s deficiencies and ruin his political career. It was one of Hamilton’s biggest mistakes and he ended up ruining his own political career and helping Jefferson, Burr and the Republicans win the presidential nomination and the ultimate demise of the Federalist party. The Federalists also struggled by not appealing to the average voter and being seen as elitist. However, America owes the federalists a debt of gratitude as they helped establish America’s foundation – tax system, coast guard, central bank, funded debt, high credit rating and more
  51. Burr almost gained the presidency over Jefferson but Hamilton fought hard against Burr though he still very much disliked Jefferson. Burr’s push for presidency put him in political limbo forever after
  52. Hamilton’s oldest son Philip died in a duel when he was only 20 which left Hamilton and his wife extremely distraught
  53. Jefferson exercised a great act of executive power with the Louisiana Purchase. This new western frontier was mainly republican and every state that joined up to 1845 was a slave state which helped keep the republicans in power
  54. Burr was a sneaky politician with few principles and was accused every sin imaginable. His dislike for Hamilton was bubbling to the surface after years of Hamilton denouncing Burr and his scruples
  55. Some have hypothesized that Hamilton entered the duel with intentions of suicide as he was very depressed at this point in his life but the author disagrees. He contemplated not shooting at all and let Burr contemplate taking a second shot but felt like he had to show up to protect his honor. The man who organized the nation’s finances left his own family in massive debt at his death. Burr was in heavy debt too. Hamilton missed widely as planned but Burr shot to kill and managed a mortal shot. NY had lost its greatest citizen and the city shut down to mourn one of the country’s most important founders. Burr was indicted for murder and flew south for a while but he was safe in DC and still presided over the senate. Once he was no longer VP, he was immediately a political and social pariah
  56. Eliza outlived Hamilton by 50 years and deeply mourned his loss. She established an orphanage in his honor and finally received some recognition for her husband’s greatness under president Fillmore
What I got out of it
  1. Amazing how much Hamilton was able to accomplish (central bank, funding of debt, high credit for US, Federalist papers, Secretary of the Treasury and much more in such a short life!). His youthful insecurity of coming from a modest background with little money or honor behind his name spurred his ambition and his deep need to protect his new honor at whatever cost – eventually leading to his dual and death with Aaron Burr