Gr 5-8A solid introduction to a complex man. Whitelaw begins with Hamilton's birth on the Caribbean island of Nevis, as the illegitimate son of a British nobleman who eventually abandoned his family. His mother died when he was 11, and young Alex went to work as an apprentice clerk. At 16, he emigrated to New York; by 19, he was involved in the anti-British movement and served as Washington's personal aide during the Revolutionary War. He eventually became the first Secretary of the Treasury, before his personal financial situation forced him to retire from public life and work as a lawyer. He was an outspoken critic of all public figures, which is how his trouble with Aaron Burr began, trouble that ended on the dueling field. The text includes many quotes from Hamilton's writings and citations to their sources. The black-and-white illustrations, mostly reproductions of portraits, help give further life to this Founding Father. Although this biography is a bit dry, it will be well used by students.Elizabeth M. Reardon, McCallie School, Chattanooga, TN
This volume in the Notable American series details with exceptional clarity the talent and complex life of Alexander Hamilton, born out-of-wedlock in the British West Indies. Whitelaw (Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1996, etc.) chronicles how Hamilton's perseverance, intelligence, and hard work came to the attention of a Presbyterian minister, who sent him to college in America at age 16 where "in two years, he completed five years of college work" at King's College (now Columbia). Hamilton joined the fight for independence and became a well-regarded officer in the Continental Army, where commander-in-chief George Washington made him his aide-de-camp at age 19. Instrumental at the Constitutional Convention, Hamilton was the country's first Secretary of the Treasury, but Whitelaw delineates how his self-destructive tendencies thwarted his talent and eventually led to his death in an unlawful dual with Aaron Burr. This is an evenhanded portrait of a brilliant leader who fell victim to his human frailties, but it also illustrates the conflicting forces that are manifest in many leaders today.